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2012 Predictions: Stanford, the Pac-12 and Beyond

No surprise here: Stepfan Taylor should have a decent season.
No surprise here: Stepfan Taylor should have a decent season.

With Stanford set to open its season tonight, I asked fellow Cardinal scribes and bloggers Hank from Go Mighty Card, Kevin Gemmell from ESPN and Joey Beyda from The Stanford Daily, as well as Rule of Tree contributors Jack Blanchat and Jacob Jaffe, to weigh in on a variety of topics. (Thanks to everyone who contributed, especially on short notice.)

We agree on a few things. Namely, Matt Barkley will have a terrific season, USC and Oregon will dominate the Pac-12 and Stepfan Taylor will become Stanford's all-time leading rusher. Feel free to drop your own predictions in the comments.

Go Stanford!

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year
Jack: Matt Barkley. With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee on the edge, Barkley seems primed to have a big year throwing the football, especially against a pretty soft Pac-12 south division.
Jacob: Matt Barkley (unfortunately)
Scott: Matt Barkley
Kevin: Matt Barkley
Joey: Matt Barkley
Hank: Draco Malfoy (some know him as Matt Barkley)

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
Jack: Chase Thomas. While the trendy pick is Utah's Star Lotulelei, I think Thomas will once again lead the conference's nastiest front seven in tackles and sacks, making him the much sexier pick for DPOY when compared to a defensive tackle.
Jacob: Star Lotuleilei (can't say no to that name)
Scott: Chase Thomas
Kevin: Star Lotuleilei
Joey: Chase Thomas
Hank: Chase Thomas

Pac-12 Coach of the Year
Jack: Chip Kelly, Oregon. After losing his quarterback and running back, I think Kelly once again takes the Ducks to the BCS and earns another trophy as the best coach in the conference. I think Washington State will have a surprisingly good season, though, so voters might be impressed with Mike Leach bringing the Cougars back to relevance.
Jacob: Mike Leach (bowling in Pullman...)
Scott: Chip Kelly
Kevin: Lane Kiffin
Joey: Mike Leach
Hank: Mike Leach

Pac-12 Bowl-Eligible Teams
Jack: USC, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Washington, Washington State, UCLA.
Jacob: Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
Scott: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
Kevin: USC, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Cal, Washington, UCLA, Washington State
Joey: USC, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Utah, Cal
Hank: USC, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Washington

Pac-12 Most Surprising Team
Jack: Washington State. Mike Leach is such an awesome coach, and he's coming into a team that could flat-out sling the football last year. I think his Air Raid offense is going to fit perfectly in Pullman, and the Cougars will notch at least one big upset this year - maybe Cal at home or Washington at home? Look out for the Pirate of the Palouse.
Jacob: Utah (good team, great schedule)
Scott: Washington State
Kevin: Washington State
Joey: Stanford
Hank: Washington State

Pac-12 Most Disappointing Team
Jack: Cal. I think the schedule does not work very well in the Bears' favor this season. Back-to-back road trips to Ohio State and USC. At Washington State. At Utah. On top of that, the Bears last three home games are against Stanford, Washington and Oregon. I smell a tough year in Berkeley, although their renovations to Memorial Stadium look awesome.
Jacob: Washington (good team, bad schedule)
Scott: Washington
Kevin: Pass
Joey: Utah
Hank: Cal

Pac-12 North Champion
Jack: Oregon
Jacob: Oregon
Scott: Oregon
Kevin: Oregon
Joey: Oregon
Hank: Oregon

Pac-12 South Champion
Jack: USC
Jacob: USC
Scott: USC
Kevin: USC
Joey: USC
Hank: USC

Pac-12 Champion
Jack: How do I pick between the two? I'll just flip a coin and say USC wins in a shootout in the title game.
Jacob: Oregon
Scott: Oregon
Kevin: USC
Joey: Oregon
Hank: Oregon

Stanford's Impact Freshman

Jack: Kyle Murphy. I expect Murphy to leap into the left tackle spot and become an instant force. A lot of people like Andrus Peat to be Stanford's next stud lineman, but I love Murphy's athleticism and ability to get downfield blocks - critical elements to being a successful lead blocker in a run-heavy offense.
Jacob: Kodi Whitfield
Scott: Kyle Murphy
Kevin: Andrus Peat
Joey: Andrus Peat
Hank: Andrus Peat

Stanford's Final Record
Jack: 10-2, with losses to USC and Oregon. I know that might seem surprising, but I think Nunes will settle in to his new role pretty easily thanks to a very competent coaching staff, a stout run game and a powerful defense. And after watching Stanford's defense bottle up Keith Price last season and crush the Huskies on the ground, I just can't pick the Washington over the Card - but that's the only other game that I look at as potential trouble.
Jacob: 8-4
Scott: 9-3
Kevin: Including bowl game, 9-4
Joey: 9-3
Hank: 8-4

Stanford's Bowl Destination
Jack: The Alamo Bowl. I don't think the Cardinal impress quite enough to crack the BCS for a third straight year, unfortunately.
Jacob: Holiday Bowl
Scott: Alamo Bowl
Kevin: Alamo Bowl
Joey: Alamo Bowl
Hank: Alamo Bowl

Josh Nunes TD Passes
Jack: 24. Including a few screen passes that go for touchdowns to Stepfan Taylor.
Jacob: 16
Scott: 18
Kevin: 28
Joey: 25
Hank: 17

Josh Nunes Interceptions

Jack: 16. Obviously a few more than Luck's 10 picks last year.
Jacob: 11
Scott: 10
Kevin: 14
Joey: 15
Hank: 8

Stepfan Taylor Rushing Yards
Jack: 1400. With an expanded role, Taylor becomes the Cardinal's all-time leading rusher.
Jacob: 1,450
Scott: 1,508
Kevin: 1,500
Joey: 1,500
Hank: 1,492

Stepfan Taylor Rushing TDs
Jack: 18. A modest increase from his career-high 15 TDs in 2010, as he will assuredly be the feature back in all situations with Tyler Gaffney and Jeremy Stewart now gone.
Jacob: 17
Scott: 17
Kevin: 13
Joey: 12
Hank: 13

Stanford Points Per Game
Jack: 28 points per game. Without Luck, plenty of the scoring will go away, but four touchdowns a game seems pretty reasonable to me.
Jacob: 33
Scott: 34.2
Kevin: 35
Joey: 37.5
Hank: 29.8

Stanford Points Against Per Game
Jack: 22 points per game. I think this number will be largely the same as last year, with the Cardinal giving up a lot of points in its losses and holding opponents to very few points in its wins. I know that may sound like a John Madden-type cliché, but the Cardinal gave up 21 or fewer points in nine games last year, and that number should stay be about the same.
Jacob: 16
Scott: 19.7
Kevin: 23
Joey: 20
Hank: 20.1

Stanford Sacks
Jack: 46. A little more than last year, with Shayne Skov returning and James Vaughters beasting it in fall camp.
Jacob: 41
Scott: 43
Kevin: 40
Joey: 40
Hank: 29

Stanford Sacks Allowed
Jack: 21. Obviously more than last year, but Josh Nunes has shown some pretty slick feet in practice, so I think he'll avoid a few big hits throughout the year.
Jacob: 18
Scott: 14
Kevin: 15
Joey: 15
Hank: 17

Heisman Trophy Winner
Jack: Matt Barkley. If he leads the Trojans to the BCS title game, he's pretty much got the thing in hand.
Jacob: Montee Ball (More ludicrous numbers, worse QB play, media hype all year)
Scott: Matt Barkley
Kevin: Matt Barkley
Joey: Matt Barkley
Hank: Draco Malfoy

Heisman Trophy Sleeper
Jack: Robert Woods, USC. Woods' role in the Trojan offense can't be understated - he does a lot more than catch passes for the Trojans - and I think he's gonna have a pretty phenomenal season with Barkley feeding him the ball time and again. The only guy who can hurt his campaign is Marqise Lee, who also will have an excellent year.
Jacob: Stepfan Taylor (Back-to-back 1100-yard years + more touches this year + good team around him = sleeper)
Scott: Stepfan Taylor
Kevin: Keith Price
Joey: De'Anthony Thomas
Hank: Marcus Lattimore

Heisman Trophy Bust
Jack: Denard Robinson, Michigan. I think it's just too hard for a guy who lacks so much as a passer to really impress voters. He may make it to New York if Michigan wins the Big 10 title, but I don't think he's ever really a threat to take home the trophy.
Jacob: Denard Robinson (He'll get injured and fade at the end of the year, as always)
Scott: Geno Smith
Kevin: Pass
Joey: Landry Jones
Hank: Montee Ball

BCS Title Game
Jack: USC vs. LSU. I like the Tigers as the best team in the SEC - they've got a lot fewer questions than Alabama - and in recent years, the SEC title game has been a play-in for the biggest game of them all.
Jacob: Florida State vs. LSU FSU has too easy of a schedule, and an SEC team will get in no matter what)
Scott: LSU vs. Oregon
Kevin: USC vs. Oklahoma
Joey: USC vs. LSU
Hank: Oregon vs. Alabama

BCS Champion
Jack: USC. Barkley, the proven commodity, will be able to handle the sans-Mathieu Tigers well enough to finally wrench the crystal ball from the SEC.
Jacob: LSU (I absolutely hate this pick, but I gave myself little choice)
Scott: LSU
Kevin: USC
Joey: USC
Hank: Oregon

Most Surprising Team (Non-Pac-12)
Jack: West Virginia. The Air Raid offense has always worked in the Big 12, and I think there's a realistic chance that the Mountaineers could challenge OU for the conference title, as the Sooners do travel to West Virginia for their November 17th matchup.
Jacob: Boise State (They're still really good)
Scott: Missouri
Kevin: Michigan State
Joey: Michigan
Hank: Michigan

Most Disappointing Team (Non-Pac-12)
Jack: Texas A&M. As much as I like Kevin Sumlin, I think the Aggies are really going to struggle stepping into an SEC west schedule. A three-game back-to-back-to-back road stretch at Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama could be their reckoning. Don't forget that they now have to play the entire season without a bye week.
Jacob: Texas (They're still not that good)
Scott: Notre Dame
Kevin: Pass
Joey: Notre Dame
Hank: Ohio State