This past season saw Marcus Mariota bring the Heisman Trophy back to the Pac-12 for the first time since 2005. Now that the league's top superstar is on his way to the NFL, focus shifts to the possibility of keeping the Heisman in the conference next season. Here's an early look at some Pac-12 candidates who may have a shot to succeed Mariota in 2015.

Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

He's only a sophomore, yet Wright finished the season leading the nation in tackles (163), tackles for loss (29), and forced fumbles (6). He was the only player who averaged more than two TFL per game (2.07), and second place in that category (Hau'oli Kikaha, also from the Pac-12) was way down at 1.79. Simply put, Wright dominated the stat sheet in 2014, and that's what a defensive player must do to have any shot of contending for college football's grandest individual prize. Wright was the only Pac-12 player besides Mariota to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman balloting. His 17 votes put him on the radar for 2015.

Cody Kessler, QB, USC

Kessler's 2014 season created a true rarity: A statistically impressive USC quarterback flew under the Heisman radar. With the Trojans actually early Vegas favorites in the Pac-12's bid to again send a team to the College Football Playoff, don't expect that to repeat itself in 2015. Kessler threw only five interceptions in 452 attempts (only Mariota's interception rate was better), and he completed 70 percent of his passes in a season that saw USC finish with two consecutive strong offensive performances. Kessler's performance against top-flight competition must improve in 2015, but he'll undoubtedly be in the way-too-early Heisman discussion because of his 2014 numbers.

[+] EnlargeScooby Wright
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsArizona linebacker Scooby Wright was the only Pac-12 player to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman voting besides Marcus Mariota.
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Seeing a true freshman succeed is by no means a college football rarity, but Freeman's bruising style of productivity was indeed unusual for a youngster. The 230-pounder is built like a senior, and he ran like one in 2014, becoming the first true freshman 1,000-yard rusher in Ducks history. Freeman led Pac-12 backs with 18 touchdowns -- scoring seems to be a Heisman prerequisite -- and his workload is likely to increase in 2015 when increased experience and Mariota's departure are both taken into account.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

Most of the UCLA glory went to Brett Hundley, but he's moving on. That means that Paul Perkins' eye-popping productivity will have more of a chance to shine in 2015. Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards this past season, and his average of 6.3 yards per carry was head and shoulders above other runners with at least 200 attempts. Perhaps Perkins' touchdown total hindered his visibility -- he rushed for only nine -- but with Hundley's 10 rushing touchdowns out the door, expect more end zone visits for the running back in 2015.

Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Booker's return to Salt Lake City is a major boost to the Utes' offense moving forward. The team' passing attack was inconsistent at best in 2014, and that made Booker's 1,500-yard season -- second-best in the Pac-12 -- essential to Utah's success. With the quarterback position remaining a question mark entering 2015, Booker is again set to be Kyle Whittingham's offensive centerpiece. Expect more big numbers in the 203-pounder's senior season.

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

It's extremely difficult to enter the Heisman conversation when playing on a team that went 1-11 the year prior. That was Goff's predicament in 2014, when he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and established a solid 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the Bears improved to 5-7. Fair or not, that record will still prevent Goff from being a popular preseason award candidate, but it certainly puts him in better position than he was in a year ago. Goff seems primed for another statistical jump, and that makes him an early candidate for some 2015 attention.

D.J. Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State

Foster was the only Pac-12 player to finish with more than 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in 2014. His 62 catches were second to only Jaelen Strong in Tempe, and the big receiver's departure to the NFL means that Foster should have more opportunities to score touchdowns in 2014 (he found the end zone 12 times in 2014). Todd Graham retains plenty of explosiveness at ASU: Foster has shown he can light up highlight reels, while Demario Richard averaged 5.7 yards per carry while playing almost all of 2014 as a 17-year old.

Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona

A healthy Anu Solomon may get some Heisman run in Rich Rodriguez's offense next season, but the true freshman Wilson delivered the most impressive 2014, so he's more prominent on our early radar. Wilson actually led all non-kickers in Pac-12 scoring, averaging 7.8 points per game. His power-speed combination fueled a 1,375-yard, 5.8 per carry, 17-touchdown season.

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

Hogan is the latest addition to the 2015 Heisman radar, yet it would only be fair to classify him as a long shot at this point. Still, the quarterback's impressive finish to the 2014 season merits at least a mention on this list. Hogan battled considerable adversity this past year: His father passed away in December after a battle with cancer. Hogan delivered sterling performances against UCLA and Maryland to round out the campaign. He passed precisely and rushed effectively in both contests. Stanford returns most of its offensive talent in 2015, so a continuation of that strong finish is possible — especially if explosive youngster Christian McCaffrey continues to emerge as a force to be reckoned with.
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ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark is down to Michigan and UCLA as his final two schools, and plans to announce his decision on signing day. The No. 4 ranked tight end only has a few weeks to make up his mind and weigh out the positives and negatives for each school.

There are similarities and differences, pros and cons of each school that stick out to Clark. To help wade through what he could be looking for, here are some of those aspects Clark will consider when making his choice.

Oregon's biggest challenge in 2015

January, 20, 2015
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Even with the loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Oregon Ducks can lay claim to being a perennial powerhouse. The Ducks have posted 10 or more wins in seven straight seasons and coach Mark Helfrich's 24-4 start to his coaching career is the best start by a Pac-12 coach in more than 60 years.

As impressive as those achievements are, this program still has to win a national title before it can truly take its place as an elite program.

Losing quarterback Marcus Mariota to the NFL draft will make it harder to reach that goal, but the reality of the situation is Mariota's departure is far from the biggest hurdle the Ducks will face in 2015. Without some significant defensive improvements, this team will be hard pressed to repeat as Pac-12 champions.

Read the full story here.
We continue our countdown of the top 25 players in the Pac-12 this year. Obviously, this list is subjective and though we spent a lot of time putting it together, there was a fair amount of debate in its creation. If you missed Nos. 21-25, click here.

Without further ado, the next five:

No. 16: USC RB Javorius Allen

Statistics: 276 carries, 1,489 yards (5.4 per carry), 12 touchdowns

Allen finished behind only UCLA's Paul Perkins and Utah's Devontae Booker in the race for the Pac-12 rushing crown. His 41 catches for 458 yards out of the backfield showcased versatility that should be an asset at the next level. In retrospect, Allen's most impressive performance of the season might have come when he racked up 154 yards on 6.7 yards per carry against Stanford's conference-best rush defense. That helped push USC to a huge early-season win, and more tough running in a 205-yard performance at Arizona was also vital in a critical Trojans victory. In all, Allen amassed nine 100-yard rushing performances this season, and he surpassed 100 all-purpose yards in every single game.

No. 17: Oregon OT Jake Fisher

Statistics: Anchored the No. 1-ranked offensive line in country, according to Football Outsiders

Oregon struggled only twice during the regular season, and it wasn't a coincidence that those two games were the ones that Fisher missed due to injury. Our Ivan Maisel even went as far as to suggest that the 6-foot-6, 300-pound left tackle may have been more valuable to the Ducks than Marcus Mariota. In Fisher's two-game absence (unimpressive performances against Washington State and Arizona), Oregon gave up 12 sacks and saw its scoring output dip over two touchdowns below its season average. Following his return, Fisher proved his mettle as a solid NFL prospect. The Ducks allowed six sacks per game without him, and only 1.5 sacks per game with him in the lineup. Fisher was a force in Oregon's course-correcting win at UCLA, and his campaign reached a crescendo in a dominant Rose Bowl manhandling of Florida State.

No. 18: Stanford DL Henry Anderson

Statistics: 65 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 9 QB hits

The 6-6, 290-pound Anderson might have been the most heralded star on Stanford's conference-best defense, but this spot in our countdown serves as acknowledgment of the Cardinal's entire suffocating unit. Anderson delivered a half-season's worth of production in one game against Utah in which he racked up 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, but outside of that, Stanford's remarkable defensive production was a truly balanced, team-wide effort. David Parry -- a 305-pound fire hydrant in the middle -- safety Jordan Richards, cornerback Alex Carter and linebacker A.J. Tarpley are all worthy of praise on this list. Along with Anderson, they formed the bedrock of a defense that led the Pac-12 in nearly every category.

No. 19: USC DB Su'a Cravens

Statistics: 68 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 12 passes defended

After a productive season during which he started at both strong safety and SAM linebacker, Cravens made a legitimate case to be considered the most versatile defender in the Pac-12. Checking in at 225 pounds, Cravens brought a much-needed physical presence to a USC secondary that badly needed it, particularly after losing cornerback Josh Shaw for most of the season. The Trojans' rush defense finished third in the Pac-12, and Cravens' physical support was certainly a major contributor there. He made plenty of plays in the passing game, too: three interceptions, nine breakups and 12 passes defended counts as serious damage -- especially for a player so capable of laying the wood in the box.

No. 20: Cal QB Jared Goff

Statistics: 3,973 yards, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 147.6 rating

For the second straight year, Goff's job at Cal wasn't easy. Though the Bears improved in 2014, he again had to deal with the pressures inflicted by his own team's bad defense. Those can often derail a quarterback and force him into a string of poor decisions, but Goff was undeterred. He demonstrated a strong command of Sonny Dykes' aggressive offense, finishing fifth nationally in passing yards while nearly doubling his 2013 touchdown output. Goff also cut his interception rate while increasing his average per attempt from 6.6 to 7.8 yards. Goff's upward trend should excite Cal fans for his 2015 junior season, which promises even greater aerial productivity from the Bears.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 20, 2015
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This past weekend was the first time since the middle of December that recruits and coaches could meet face to face and Pac-12 programs took advantage, as dozens of prospects took official visits to conference programs. With signing day rapidly approaching, recruiting fans got a sense of what the next two weeks could be like, as there were plenty of news and notes since Friday.


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Pac-12 morning links

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
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I was hiding under your porch because I love you.

Leading off:

Some interesting news out of California.

On Wednesday the governing board of the University of California campuses will meet to discuss a new incentive-pay policy approved by university President Janet Napolitano that will tie together how coaches and athletic directors are evaluated/compensated and the academic achievements of their student-athletes.
The new policy will apply to all coaches of intercollegiate sports and athletic directors going forward, both new hires and those whose contracts are up for renewal. The so-called "gatekeeper clause" establishing a minimum level of team-wide academic performance for coaches to receive any bonus pay will follow a formula the National Collegiate Athletic Association already uses to monitor student athletes.

Cal football coach Sonny Dykes already has a contract that links his bonuses to how his athletes perform in class, but he is the only coach that has that type of a contract. So, it should be interesting to see how this goes over on Wednesday.

News/notes/team reports:
  • Former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski is excited to return to the state where he played his college ball for the Super Bowl. Fun fact: It'll be the first time Gronk has returned to Arizona to play since his college playing days.
  • Arizona State is getting a lot of interest from a three-star defensive end that looks like he'd be a pretty good Devil-backer. "There's a lot going on there," he told Doug Haller. "They're on the rise."
  • There's some movement in the world of Cal football recruiting. A wide receiver who was committed to Illinois has decommitted and has a visit to Cal planned for next weekend, plus some other offers and info on recruits.
  • Oregon coach Mark Helfrich announced on Monday afternoon that there will be three transfers (at least) away from the program. Helfrich said that it's "just guys looking for an opportunity or a better fit."
  • The Oregonian's Gina Mizell is going through Oregon State's new staff, giving each new member a closer look. On Monday she caught up with running back coach Telly Lockette. This is her sixth piece in the series and the links to her others are on the page as well.
  • Can Stanford actually be an offense-first team in 2015? There's very little turnover on the offensive side of the ball so signs point to "yes they should be able to" but does that mean that yes, they will be able to? Rule of Tree takes a closer look.
  • UCLA's success has been tied to its quarterback's consistency. Over the past three seasons Brett Hundley has been that and more for the Bruins, but, who is the next guy up -- Josh Rosen? Jerry Neuheisel? Asiantii Woulard?
  • A quick look at the five biggest goals for USC football this spring.
  • It was a good news-bad news type of day for the Utes on Monday when it came to their recruiting.
  • NFL analyst Mike Mayock believes that Washington defensive lineman Danny Shelton could be a top-10 pick in this year's NFL draft. "When you put the tape on, he's quick. He gets up and down the line of scrimmage and plays forever at 350 pounds," Mayock said of Shelton.
  • Connor Halliday was nominated for the 2015 MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Award. Halliday is up against two Seattle Sounders, a Seattle Mariner, a Seattle Seahawk and Washington football linebacker Shaq Thompson.
Just for fun:

Before Saturday night's Arizona-Utah basketball match up, Wildcat coach Rich Rodriguez gave some love to the students in the form of ... chicken sandwiches. Rich, the form was pretty good. But if you're going to be out there tossing things, you have a pretty decent QB you could use to really get that Chick-fil-A to the students in the higher seats.



Also, according to TMZ, UCLA defensive back Justin Combs -- son of P Diddy -- had a birthday party this weekend and Justin Bieber was in attendance. So, you know, just put that in your back pocket.
One of the biggest success stories in the 2015 recruiting class has been Arkansas with its in-state recruits. The Razorbacks were 10-for-10 on players they had offered in Arkansas, but that changed Sunday when ESPN 300 receiver K.J. Hill backed off his pledge.


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Season review: Washington

January, 19, 2015
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Our 2014 season Pac-12 team-by-team grades continue. If you want to check out last season's reviews, click here.

Washington Huskies

Offense: First-year head coach Chris Petersen is widely considered one of the most creative offensive minds in the nation, but the Huskies offense struggled in 2014 under coordinator Jonathan Smith, the one-time overachieving Oregon State quarterback. While Washington QB Cyler Miles did a good job of protecting the football, the Huskies didn't produce much in the downfield passing game and ended up ranked eighth in passing efficiency, 10th in yards per play (5.4) and ninth in points per game (30.2) in the conference. The Huskies entered the season with high expectations on offense -- a veteran line and promising skill players -- but the production just wasn't there. Grade: D

Defense: The defense started the season with four bona fide superstars: LB Shaq Thompson, DT Danny Shelton, OLB/DE Hau'oli Kikaha and CB Marcus Peters. While the secondary after Peters was a significant question, owning one of the nation's most talented front sevens is a heck of a way to start. Yet Peters got kicked off the team for a poor attitude, and the defense ended up solid but not dominant. Shelton and Kikaha put up huge numbers and rightfully earned All-America honors. Thompson, despite also seeing significant time at running back, also earned postseason notice. As a unit, yielding 24.8 points per game (third in conference) and 5.4 yards per play (fifth in conference) is solid but certainly not elite. Grade: B-

Special teams: Kicker Cameron Van Winkle and punter Korey Durkee were above average, while the coverage teams and return teams were mostly mediocre, though it's worth noting the speedy John Ross returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Grade: B

Overall: Petersen's first season certainly fell short of expectations. He inherited a talented roster and, well, he's Chris Petersen. The thought was his detail-oriented management would be a key ingredient in getting the Huskies over the good-but-not-great hump. Didn't happen, at least in Year One. It's possible -- likely? -- that such a drastic change in management styles from Steve Sarkisian to Petersen requires more than a year of acclimation. No one is seriously doubting Petersen's abilities, but an 8-6 finish that included a horrible effort against an inferior team in the bowl game was pretty deflating after the euphoria folks felt upon Petersen's hiring. Grade: C-

Other Pac-12 reviews:

Washington State
So, the Pac-12 Blog is no Miss Cleo.

But even so, we went out on a limb and made 10 fearless predictions at the beginning of the season. Now, we look back on those predictions.

1. A Pac-12 team will win the national championship. We were close. A Pac-12 team got to the national championship game. It didn't deliver quite as much as we thought it might, but it got there. Not a perfect prediction but a nearly correct one. Meanwhile, we're still looking for the person who predicted that a Big Ten team, behind a third-string quarterback, would win the national championship. Bueller? Bueller?

2. A Pac-12 player will win the Heisman Trophy. Got it. Congrats, Marcus Mariota. It was a fun season to watch this special player and he more than deserved this trophy.

3. No Pac-12 coach will be fired at season's end. We got this one, too. Though, like the Ohio State/third-string QB prediction, no one really saw the Mike Riley departure coming. However, Gary Andersen infuses some new blood into this conference that also saw a fair number of coordinator changes. But as far as a coach being fired? The Pac-12 is in the clear. And your humble blog got this one right.

4. Cal and Colorado will be good enough to deliver a major upset this fall. Cal won five games this year. The Bears' wins at Washington State and Oregon State can certainly be put into this category. And the Buffs came close ... so, so close. But no cigar. We'll count half credit for this one.

5. The USC-UCLA game will be a battle of top-10 teams. Not top 10, but top 20. The 19th-ranked Trojans fell to No. 9 UCLA, 38-20.

6. Oregon will cover the spread against Michigan State in Week 2. Yup. Got 'em.

7. The Pac-12 will go 3-0 against Notre Dame. The conference went 2-1 against the Irish but as of Oct. 4, 2014, we knew this prediction wouldn't come true because someone (C'mon, Stanford) didn't get stuff done on the road. But Arizona State's 55-31 thumping and USC's 49-14 statement certainly made a 2-1 feel as good as a 2-1 can feel for the Pac-12.

8. Whoever starts at quarterback for Arizona will pass for more than 3,000 yards. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon passed for 3,793 yards, finishing fifth in the league.

9. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will be the Pac-12's most improved player. This was a whiff. If we're talking about most improved quarterbacks the award would probably go to Cal's Jared Goff. If we're talking most improved player, the field is wide open. We'll have more on that in the next few weeks. But one thing is for sure -- it wasn't Hogan.

10. Six teams will be ranked in the final top 25 at the end of the season. Though it might not have been the six teams we expected to be in the top 25 or the specific order, we did nail this one. The Pac-12 finished with six teams in that top 25 -- Oregon, No. 2; UCLA, No. 10; ASU, No. 12; Arizona, No. 19; USC, No. 20; Utah, No. 21.

Season review: Washington State

January, 19, 2015
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Today we start our team-by-team review of the Pac-12 with Washington State. If you want to check out last season's reviews, click here.

Offense: Washington State was very Mike Leach-esque this season, which we all expected. Quarterback Connor Halliday (who we're wishing a speedy recovery to) made some major strides in his passing from last season to this season. His completion percentage improved from 62.9 to 67.3 and he cut his interceptions in half (22 to 11). Just as impressively, when Halliday went down, freshman Luke Falk stepped in and played like he had been starting all season. In the four games in which he saw major time (plus his two passes against Portland State), Falk threw for 1,859 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Yes, his third-of-a-season statistics put him just about 200 yards behind Taylor Kelly and Travis Wilson for total yardage. But giving this offense a grade is always difficult. Statistically, the Cougars were insane, leading the nation in passing (477.7 yards per game), and from Leach's perspective there was a run game since the Cougs averaged 39.8 rushing yards per game. But it wasn't all roses -- when you lead the conference in interceptions (18), are second in interception-to-pass-attempt percentage (2.3 percent) and are in the bottom third in sacks given up (36), your grade is going to take a bit of a hit. Grade: B

Defense: The Cougars' defense had its highlights this season. Its performance against Oregon -- though it was eventually a loss -- was quite promising. But the only thing that game did was show that, yes, this group could be productive and get to opposing quarterbacks. So, where was that the rest of the season? The upset of Oregon State was also big -- the Cougars held the Beavers to just 4-of-12 third-down conversions. But there were far more lowlights than highlights with this group. The Cougs were near the bottom of the Pac-12 in all of the yardage categories, but more troubling was the fact this group really didn't make much happen. The Cougars only forced seven fumbles all season. They only recorded three interceptions all season. They were one of four Pac-12 teams to not record a single defensive touchdown all season. And at year's end, Leach fired defensive coordinator Mike Breske. Honestly, if your offense gets up in the 30s (or 50s -- cough, cough), you'd think that'd be enough to seal a win. But plenty of times this season we saw that simply wasn't true. Grade: D

Special teams: Oy. Where to start? Maybe that missed 19-yard field goal against Cal? Maybe the continued punt and punt coverage issues throughout the season? Maybe the time Leach fired special-teams coach Eric Russell midway through the season? On kickoffs, the Cougars gave their opponents the best field position in the Pac-12. They were the worst in the conference when it came to net yards per punt. They were also second worst in kickoff returns and No. 9 in the Pac-12 in punt returns. Grade: F

Overall: A season removed from being bowl eligible, the Cougars took a big step back as they only managed to win three games in 2014. At the beginning of the season there was serious talk about Wazzu going 3-0 leading into that big matchup with Oregon. Yes, the Cougars picked up big wins over Utah and Oregon State, giving the fan base something to cheer about. But it wasn't nearly enough. This team had a lot of talent. Yes, there was a lot of youth, specifically on the defensive side of the ball, but expectations were higher and this season was a big disappointment. Grade: C-
Considering we pretty much nailed our fearless predictions for 2014, it seems like it's never too early to get bold with projections for 2015.

Here are five bold -- bold I say! -- predictions for the offseason:

[+] EnlargeGoff
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesCal quarterback Jared Goff flew under the radar in 2014 and is primed for a breakout season.
A South team will win the Pac-12 for the first time: Since the Pac-12 split into divisions in 2011, Oregon and Stanford have split four Pac-12 championships, meaning no team from the South Division has won the conference. That will change in 2015, as the South looks like it will be the roughest division in college football, with five teams likely to start off ranked in the preseason, as they finished the 2014 season. Whoever emerges -- either Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC or Utah (yes, we are leaving our options open) -- will have survived a gauntlet that will give it a steel-hones-steel edge in the title game against Oregon.

Oregon will again finish ranked in the top 10: Oregon will romp to the North crown again in 2015, so don't believe the first prediction writes the Ducks out of national relevance. In fact, when the Ducks lose the Pac-12 title game, we still suspect they will be attractive enough to get invited to a major bowl game. The Ducks' case could be helped greatly by the Pac-12 champ earning another berth in the College Football Playoff.

Two true freshmen will start at quarterback: Considering we pretty much know who will start behind center for Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Stanford, USC and Utah (at least it won't be a freshman), we're obviously opining that two of Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State will start a freshman, true or redshirt. Considering the impressive, late-season showing by redshirt freshman Luke Falk for the Cougars, this really comes down to the other four schools. It once was rare for players in their first year of eligibility to sit in the cockpit of an FBS offense, but not any longer. We suspect that will hold true in the Pac-12 in 2015.

California's Goff will be first-team All-Pac-12 QB: While he received little national fanfare while putting up huge passing numbers, Jared Goff was perhaps the conference's most improved player in 2014. He ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in Total QBR, but that also was good enough for 12th in the nation. Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, the top two Pac-12 quarterbacks in 2014, are off to the NFL. Enter Goff, who if he sustains his current improvement trajectory should be due for a national breakout in 2015. After throwing 18 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions as a true freshman starter in 2013, Goff threw 35 TD passes vs. seven picks this fall. He has NFL ability and a strong supporting cast coming back, particularly at receiver. While USC's Cody Kessler will top many preseason Heisman Trophy lists, don't be surprised if Goff puts up huge numbers, leads the Bears to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 and nips Kessler for first-team All-Pac-12.

There will be two coaching changes at the end of the season: If not for Oregon State's Mike Riley making a surprising jump to Nebraska, the Pac-12 would have had no coaching changes after the season. That sort of stability is not typical, and we suspect that there will be changes after the 2015 season, either from coaches bolting on their own or getting pushed out the door. You could see a coach or two get a wandering eye for the NFL or an athletic director might decide to make a change, but we're predicting that only 10 of the 12 2015 head coaches will be the same in 2016.
This week we'll be counting down the top 25 players in the Pac-12 this year. Obviously, this list is subjective and though we spent a lot of time putting it together there was definitively a fair amount of debate (specifically with this first list) as to who should and shouldn't make the list or where a certain player should be.

With that, here's Nos. 21-25.

No. 21: Arizona State RB D.J. Foster
Statistics: 194 rushing attempts, 1,081 rushing yards, nine touchdowns

Coming into the season, the question was whether anyone could fill the shoes of running back Marion Grice. Enter Foster. The junior led ASU in rushing and surpassed Grice’s season rushing total from 2013 (996 yards). He converted 52.6 percent of his third-down rushing attempts and displayed some major ball security as he lost just one fumble all season (tied for second among top 10 Pac-12 running backs).

No. 22: UCLA RB Paul Perkins
Statistics: 251 rushing attempts, 1,575 rushing yards, nine touchdowns

Perkins led the Pac-12 in rushing yards per conference game (121.2) and Perkins was second in yards per rush (6.27, with a minimum of 100 carries). Of the Pac-12’s top 10 running backs Perkins led the group in his percentage of rushes that went for at least 10 yards (18.3). Nationally, he almost single-handedly pushed the Bruins into the top 25 for team rushing yardage, even when UCLA’s offense appeared to be far more one-dimensional than some might've anticipated.

No. 23: Oregon RB Royce Freeman
Statistics: 252 rushing attempts, 1,365 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns

The freshman beat out Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall to be the Ducks' starter en route to the first 1,000-yard rushing season for a freshman in Oregon history. His athleticism and sheer power (seriously, he’s built like a truck) demolished opponents as he rushed for 5.51 yards per carry against Pac-12 opponents. In conference play, Freeman converted 46.4 percent of his third-down rushes and 100 percent of his fourth-down rushes. Only 24 of his 202 Pac-12 rushes went for zero or negative yardage.

No. 24: UCLA LB Myles Jack
Statistics: 28 rushing attempts, 113 yards, 3 touchdowns; 88 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 interception, 7 pass breakups, 2 QB hurries

The sophomore followed up his two-way Pac-12 Freshman of the Year accolades with an impressive season that saw him play more on the defensive side of the ball. But despite being more relegated to the defense, he was just as valuable to the Bruins as he was when he was playing both ways. Jack was the team’s second-leading tackler and proved that he can basically cover anyone on the field: tight ends, running backs, wide receivers -- go for it, guys.

No. 25: Colorado WR Nelson Spruce
Statistics: 106 receptions, 1,198 yards, 12 touchdowns

This last spot was kind of difficult to pick but we went with Spruce because, more than any other contender at this spot, he was most connected to the success of his team. Spruce more than doubled the Buffs’ second-leading receiver in receptions, yards and TDs, and his junior year was good enough to make fans fear he might forgo his senior year. Fear not, Buffs, Spruce will be back in 2015, and with another year of chemistry with Sefo Liufau under his belt, he’ll surely rise in these rankings.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
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Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power -- in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes.

Frank's coming ...

But Monday's links are here first.

Leading off

If it wasn't for the East-West Shrine game (where both Taylor Kelly and Austin Hill fared well) and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, this past Saturday would have been the first since August without any football.

Sunday was a far more heralded day on the gridiron, as several former Pac-12 players made prominent contributions in both of the NFL's conference championship games. California product Marshawn Lynch powered his way to bragging rights over former Golden Bear Aaron Rodgers in Seattle's win over Green Bay, all while Washington's own Jermaine Kearse scored the game-winning touchdown in Seattle. Stanford alumnus Andrew Luck didn't fare as well in the AFC title game, but Oregon's LeGarrette Blount and Cal's Shane Vereen left that one with Super Bowl tickets in hand.

News/notes/team reports
  • Arizona leveraged basketball success to their football benefit. The Wildcats hosted several of their prized recruits this past weekend, and the visits coincided with the basketball team's resounding 69-51 win over Utah inside the electric McKale Center.
  • According to a Wall Street Journal study, the value of the Arizona State football program on the open market would be $277 million -- good for 27th in the country.
  • The Oregonian's Andrew Greif shadowed Marcus Mariota on his epic awards tour up the East Coast -- a trip which included Disney World and ended with the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City. Here's the full article, including pictures. And here's an early prospectus of life after Mariota in Eugene.
  • In a critical recruiting weekend for new coach Gary Andersen in Corvallis, Oregon State netted the commitment of an under-the-radar safety.
  • You may have already guessed that recruiting was a central theme of the weekend. Stanford also hosted the majority of their 2015 class. Here's a tracker of what went down on the Farm.
  • Their big matchup happened yesterday and Lynch's team got the best of Rodgers' crew in dramatic fashion, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer looked back at their Berkeley past before the NFC championship.
  • Former USC defensive back Josh Shaw is catching up on missed reps, and he recorded an interception in the East-West Shrine game.
  • Given extremely high expectations, a number of big wins, and a trio of disappointing losses, it's tough to judge UCLA's season. This article attempts to peg the 2014 Bruins' place in program history.
  • Six Washington official visitors took recruiting trips to Seattle this weekend.
  • Mike Leach continues to construct his new defensive staff. Washington State hired former Michigan assistant Roy Manning as its outside linebackers coach just days after naming new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
  • As Colorado aims to rise from the Pac-12 cellar, the Buffs' strength and conditioning program under Dave Forman takes center stage in this feature.
  • Here are some terms and details of Kyle Whittingham's four-year contract extension at Utah.
Just for fun

Colorado punter Darragh O'Neill has drawn at least one comparison to Odell Beckham Jr. for his catching ability. OK, the degree of difficulty on O'Neill's snag in the East-West Shrine game didn't quite match Beckham's sensational grab earlier this year, but it is morning link-worthy.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

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The first weekend back from the recruiting dead period saw dozens of prospects taking official visits to Pac-12 campuses. While programs such as Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State all put together solid weekends, no program’s recruits (and parents) were better about documenting the events than Stanford’s, where Big Visit Weekend seemed to go over extremely well with everybody in attendance.

Here is a look through the eyes of recruits on social media at this weekend’s Pac-12 recruiting visits.

Big visit weekend at Stanford

Everything is better when you start off with dessert, and defensive tackle Ross Donelly probably agrees with that sentiment after being welcomed to his visit by two Stanford cupcakes.


From there, the visit got a little more interesting for the recruits. The parents of offensive line commits Brian Chaffin and Nick Wilson snapped shots of their sons hitting the road.


Later, Chaffin summed up the first day of the visit, while fellow commit Mustafa Branch provided some visual proof.


Stanford also made sure to introduce prospects to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has become a recruiting staple for the Cardinal. After his cupcakes, Donelly, a four-star uncommitted prospect, made sure to snap a quick photo.


Of course, no official visit anywhere would be complete without the gear, shown here by defensive tackle commit Wes Annan ...


Or the bling, worn here by ESPN 300 running back target Bryce Love.


And at least one Stanford commit received some especially good news during the trip, as wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside announced.


And Nick Wilson’s father provided one final look at the committed prospects who took their official visits to Stanford over the weekend.

Utah lands another juco prospect

The Utes had several intriguing visitors on campus for official visits and came away with another junior college wide receiver commitment, bringing their total to three juco receivers in this class. Deniko Carter made the call during this visit, and he joins Kyle Fulks and Brandon Snell.

Arizona’s final push

There aren’t many spots left in Arizona’s recruiting class, but the Wildcats are hoping they can finish things off with a couple of teammates in three-star outside linebacker Arthur McGinnis and wide receiver Darrell Clark.

Trojans host stars

USC was scheduled to have nearly every one of its commitments on hand this weekend, as five early enrollees are already there and 10 commitments were taking official visits. But three huge uncommitted prospects were slated to be in attendance as well, in defensive tackle Rasheem Green, inside linebacker John Houston and athlete Porter Gustin. Here is Green, along with defensive line coach Chris Wilson and his son, Caleb Wilson.

Visitors to Oregon State

Oregon State coaches have been furiously trying to rebuild the Beavers class after several formerly committed prospects flipped following the departure of Mike Riley. This weekend, Oregon State welcomed a number of visitors, including some position help in the secondary, in cornerback Jay Irvine and safety Treston Decoud.

Future Dawgs

Washington had several official visitors on campus, including wide receiver commit Andre Baccellia and tight end Ricky McCoy, who apparently hit it off with big-time Washington target Benning Potoa’e, who is down to the Huskies and UCLA, and will likely make his decision shortly following this trip.

UCLA looks at 2016

The Bruins had a number of 2016 prospects on campus, as UCLA coaches look to get a head start on next year’s class while finishing this one off strong. One of those in attendance was Camilo Eifler, an outside linebacker who already holds Pac-12 offers from Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington.

ASU’s sweet finish

It only makes sense to bookend this post with dessert, and uncommitted safety Kareem Orr provided a shot of his welcome gift from Arizona State. The Sun Devils will need to fend off Clemson, Oklahoma and others to land Orr, but they hope he is part of what could be a huge finish to this class for Arizona State.

Early Commit: Mique Juarez to USC 

January, 18, 2015
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video USC is a strong possibility to finish in the top five of the 2015 RecruitingNation class rankings, and 2016 has the early makings of more of the same. With a pair of ESPN Junior 300 prospects already committed in No. 129 Isaac Garcia and No. 175 Daelin Hayes, Steve Sarkisian and staff added another Saturday with a verbal pledge from multi-talented athlete Mique Juarez.


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