With the college football season finally kicking off today, we put our minds together, looked into our crystal balls and tried to see if Stanford would be taking home that shiny crystal football on January 7th, 2014.
We all agree that Stanford will end up playing in Pasadena (in some capacity) at the end of the year, that Marcus Mariota will have a great year, and that Johnny Manziel will continue to sign autographs for everyone (allegedly). Feel free to drop your own predictions in the comments.
Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year:
Jack: Marcus Mariota. Oregon's offense will still be Oregon's offense. And the guy who makes that all run is Mariota. I don't think they'll slow down a lot, and he'll probably threaten 4000 total yards.
Jacob: Marcus Mariota. I was really tempted to go with Marqise Lee, but it's harder to be the best offensive player in the conference when you don't know who is going to be throwing you the ball. Mariota was one of the nation's best as a redshirt freshman, and he should be even better and an even bigger focus of the offense this season.
Scott: Marcus Mariota
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year:
Jack: Trent Murphy. Even though he was Stanford's leader in sacks and tackles for loss last year, I still feel like the world underrated Murphy. I think he goes nuts this year and puts up JJ Watt-like numbers.
Jacob: Will Sutton. There are so many dangerous Stanford defenders that it's hard to imagine one standing out enough to trump Sutton, who is clearly the class of ASU and the most dangerous defensive lineman in the conference.
Scott: Will Sutton
Pac-12 Coach of the Year:
Jack: David Shaw. I think another excellent season on the Farm helps Shaw wrap up his second straight COY award.
Jacob: Mike Riley. Riley could be COY every year. He's that good. No one is talking about Oregon State, just like every other year, and yet I would not be the tiniest bit surprised to see the Beavers upset at least one of the sexier names and finish with 9 or 10 wins again.
Scott: David Shaw. Shaw determined to not let Stanford lose that David mentality. That could be harder after this season...
Pac-12 Bowl Eligible Teams:
Jack: Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, USC, Oregon State, Arizona
Jacob: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington
Scott: Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington
Pac-12 Most Surprising Team:
Jack: Arizona State. I think UCLA has a tough schedule (at Nebraska, at Oregon, at Stanford, at Arizona, at USC), so it seems like the Sun Devils may sneak up and win the South.
Jacob: Oregon State. I don't see any Pac-12 team coming out of nowhere, and expectations are already high for most of the top teams in the conference. So I'll stick with the team that always seems to do better than anyone expects.
Scott: Cal. Betting Sonny Dykes has more success in his first year in the Pac-12 than Mike Leach did last season.
Pac-12 Most Disappointing Team:
Jack: Washington. I don't think the Huskies will be a huge bust and win only 4 games, but I also don't see them taking a big leap forward and becoming a 9- or 10-win team. And I think that'd be disappointing for Huskies fans.
Jacob: UCLA. There is a lot of talent in Westwood, including Anthony Barr and Brett Hundley. But Johnathan Franklin is gone and the schedule includes road games at four ranked teams as well as home matchups with Washington and Arizona State. Matching last year's 8-4 regular season could be the ceiling for this squad.
Scott: UCLA. Tough schedule, heightened expectations, no Johnathan Franklin.
Pac-12 North Champion:
Jack: Stanford. I see no reason to pick against them other than Oregon - and I think Oregon is more vulnerable to regression this season than the Cardinal is.
Jacob: Oregon. I'll go ahead and hide now...
Scott: Stanford. I have the same questions we all do, but this defense and Kevin Hogan for a full season mean the Cardinal will be hosting an extra game again.
Pac-12 South Champion:
Jack: Arizona State. Like I said, I'm worried about the Bruins' schedule this year - and even though Arizona's State non-conference schedule is tough too, I think they can edge UCLA.
Jacob: USC. Reverse psychology strategy, part 2.
Scott: USC. Trojans could struggle with new QB (by committee), but I'm betting they bounce back.
Jack: Stanford. The Cardinal has been there before now - and experience goes a long way in big games.
Jacob: Oregon. Pac-12 North winner defaults to Pac-12 winner until further notice.
Scott: Stanford. A sixth consecutive win over USC to clinch a fourth consecutive BCS appearance.
Stanford's Final Record:
Jack: 11-1. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of luck to go to the national title game - and I don't know if I can honestly pick the Cardinal to go undefeated and control its own destiny to the BCS Championship game.
Jacob: 11-1. The sheer fact that my 11-1 prediction can be seen as pessimism tells you everything about how far this program has come.
Stanford's Bowl Destination:
Jack: Rose Bowl. This, however, is a pretty good alternative to the title game.
Jacob: Rose. It may be a week earlier than the ideal destination, but a return trip to Pasadena would still be mighty impressive.
Scott: BCS Championship Game. The Cardinal has proved majority of pundits wrong in last few years. This is the year they prove the pundits ranking them No. 1 or No. 2 right.
Kevin Hogan TD / INT:
Jack: 23/9. Somewhere around this territory seems reasonable - Hogan appears to have a knack for protecting the football in the air.
Jacob: 24/8. More will be asked of him, but being a Stanford QB is still first and foremost about avoiding risk.
Stanford's Leading Rusher:
Jack: Tyler Gaffney. Anthony Wilkerson may get the lion's share of the carries, but Gaffney has explosive speed and his ability to catch passes out of the backfield should net him a lot of playing time.
Jacob: Anthony Wilkerson. Really tempted to go with Sanders, but I think Wilkerson starts out getting the majority of the touches.
Scott: Anthony Wilkerson
Stanford's Leading Pass-Catcher:
Jack: Ty Montgomery. I think a fully healthy Ty Montgomery is, without a doubt, the best receiver on the team.
Jacob: Ty Montgomery. This feels a bit like picking lottery numbers, so I'll go with the numbers I'm familiar with, even if they haven't worked so well in the past.
Scott: Devon Cajuste
Stanford's Impact Freshman:
Jack: Francis Owusu. His older brother made his mark on kickoff returns during his freshman year, and Francis looks like a bigger version of Chris. I think he finishes the year as one of Stanford's top 3 receivers.
Jacob: Barry J. Sanders. The RB-by-committee approach will give Sanders ample opportunity to shine, and running behind this offensive line helps make any back look good.
Scott: Francis Owusu
Heisman Trophy Winner:
Jack: Johnny Manziel. He's gonna run in for his 5th total touchdown of the day in an upset of Alabama, pretend to sign the football, then hand it to the official. And the Heisman race will be over.
Jacob: Jadeveon Clowney. A strictly defensive Heisman winner? Well, when you get this much preseason hype and your position eliminates any possibility of a negative highlight (what are they going to do, show a montage of him getting blocked sometimes?), you've got a real shot. Plus I suppose it helps that he is a monster.
Scott: Braxton Miller
Heisman Trophy Sleeper:
Jack: Marcus Mariota. He's in a great offense and he's a dual-threat QB - much like last year's Heisman winner and many other QB Heisman winners of late.
Jacob: Taylor Kelly. Heisman sleepers usually fall into two categories: guys that aren't really sleepers and guys that have almost no chance at actually winning. So let's go for option B! That's no knock on Kelly, who had a surprise season in his first year as ASU's starting quarterback. Kelly was ninth in the nation in passing efficiency -- ahead of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and first-round NFL draft pick E.J. Manuel -- and figures to be on a better team this year.
Scott: Derek Carr. Fresno State senior up huge numbers last year and Bulldogs are poised for a BCS-busting season. (True story: Fresno State was Stanford's opponent in the BCS Championship Game in the first NCAA 14 season I played.)
Heisman Trophy Bust:
Jack: Aaron Murray. Georgia's schedule is tough - really tough - and I don't think his inexperienced D will be able to carry him to the SEC title game again.
Jacob: Johnny Manziel. Everyone is focusing on the autograph scandal (and its ensuing light-tap-on-the-wrist punishment), but the real hurdle between Johnny Football and Archie Griffinland is that everyone is ready for him this year. Sure, he's talented and elusive, but everyone is going to target him this year. Expect Manziel to be beaten and bruised every chance the defense gets. Plus, even if he has another incredible year, it won't top last year's magic, so he'd get passed over anyway.
Scott: Teddy Bridgewater. I'd say Clowney, but it's hard to label him a bust when a defensive player has never won the award.
BCS Title Game:
Jack: Ohio State vs Alabama. Bama is Bama, and Ohio State has a pretty easy schedule, Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer. I think this will be a slugfest in Pasadena.
Jacob: Alabama vs. Oregon. As you may have guessed by my pick of Stanford in the Rose Bowl without being Pac-12 champion. That and Alabama's automatic berth in the title game by virtue of being impossibly consistent and having a laughable SEC schedule.
Scott: Stanford vs. Alabama. The game we all want to see (if we can't see Stanford-Fresno State).
Jack: Ohio State. Because it takes no guts to pick Alabama. And Urban Meyer has beaten Nick Saban before.
Jacob: Oregon. Alabama is the best team on paper, as usual. But this just feels like the year that someone else breaks through in the title game. Oregon can pull a Peyton Manning-less Tennessee and win the BCS title the year after Chip Kelly leaves.
Scott: Stanford. Why not?
Most Surprising Non-Pac-12 Team:
Jack: Oklahoma. Bob Stoops may be derisively called "Big Game Bob," but he owns Texas. I think the Sooners win the Big 12, even though people are high on the ‘Horns.
Jacob: Northwestern. It's all about the smart schools, and Northwestern has somewhat quietly become one of the best teams in the Big Ten. There will be nothing quiet about it when the Wildcats knock off Ohio State and contend for a conference title.
Scott: Vanderbilt. James Franklin is doing big things in Nashville. Now watch them lose to Ole Miss tonight.
Most Disappointing Non-Pac-12 Team:
Jack: Georgia. The Bulldogs have to replace 9 (!!!) starters on defense this year and they start with Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas and LSU. There's a chance they could start the season 1-3.
Jacob: Florida. This is a preseason top-10 team despite having basically no offense and playing in a league where its defense does not stand out. Oh, and there are four top-12 teams on the schedule. I would be shocked if the Gators managed to win double-digit games.
Scott: Clemson. No good reason.