1. UCLA (2 first place votes)
This is the year the Bruins have been building towards. Brett Hundley is back, as is most of the receiving corps. The departures of Xavier Su'a-Filo, Anthony Barr, Jordan Zumwalt, and Cassius Marsh will hurt, but the Bruins have plenty of talent waiting in the wings. The schedule sets up perfectly with Oregon, Stanford, and USC all coming to the Rose Bowl, while a 'road' game against a rebuilding Texas could give UCLA a glitzy out of conference win.
2. Oregon (2 first place votes)
The Ducks return Marcus Mariota on offense and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on defense. If Mariota is healthy, no reason to think they won't be a national title contender, if not the Pac 12 favorite. This train isn't slowing down anytime soon.
3. Stanford (1 first place vote)
THIS has to be the year the Cardinal come back to Earth, right? Tons of departures on defense and their top two offensive weapons will be gone, along with some offensive linemen. Doubting Stanford has proved to be foolish, but we'll do it one more time. They'll be good, but not national title good, especially with road games against Oregon and UCLA.
The Trojans had quite a few early entries this year, but are stocked with lots of top end talent. The scholarship reductions have left them thin at multiple spots, but this is still USC, and they've got four and five stars guys all over the place. QB Cody Kessler should be ready for a breakout year along with receiver Nelson Agholor. The only real question is how long it takes the new staff to get things where they want.
New staff with Chris Petersen will bring a culture change, but things should continue to progress well in Seattle. The Huskies won 9 games in 2013 and should be able to come close to replicating that in 2014, but will need to replace QB Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey.
The Sun Devils should take a step back in 2014, at least at the start of the season when they replace most of their defensive starters that were so good in 2013. QB Taylor Kelly is one of the most underrated signal callers in the country and will return along with a bunch of skill position dudes. They won't duplicate their record of last season, but could be a scary team by the end of the year with all that talent.
If Kadeem Carey comes back, you can boost them up a bit, but the Wildcats will be breaking in a new QB and still have issues on D. Getting closer, but not ready to compete with the UCLAs and USCs of the South yet.
8. Oregon State
Brandin Cooks is gone, but Sean Mannion will be back. The Cooks loss is devastating though as the entire offense was built around him. OSU should be able to push for a bowl berth, but anything over 7 wins will be gravy.
9. Washington State
Connor Halliday will once again be back at quarterback with Gabe Marks to throw to, so the offense won't be an issue. Losing safety Deone Bucannon is a big blow to a defense that struggled in 2013. Things definitely seem to be on the upswing in Pullman and mid-tier bowl game (Sun, Vegas) have to be the goal.
Back to back 5 and 7 seasons doesn't give hope to a significantly better 2014, especially with the QB situation up in the air. Utah loses their three best defensive players in Reilly, McGill, and Palepoi, while tight end Jake Murphy left early for the draft. The receiving corps should be much improved, but they'll need a rebuilt line and QB to get them the ball. A bowl push will be tough with another brutal schedule including road games at Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, and ASU.
The Buffs are definitely trending up under Mike McIntyre. 2014 will be an important year as they really look to turn the corner and get to a bowl game, while crawling out of their perennial spot at the bottom of the Pac 12 South. QB Sefo Liufau is a future star.
The Bears only win last season was against an FCS team. Sonny Dykes has been less than impressive in one season in Berkeley. It should be a little better in 2014, but they should be the conference bottom feeders again.
Brian Swinney, James Cella, Andrew Gorringe, Dan Olson, and Robby Jackson contributed to this report.
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