The Oregon Ducks are currently the standard of excellence in the Pac-12, there is no doubting that. Coming off their second straight BCS Bowl victory and a No. 2 finish in the polls, though they missed out on their fourth straight Pac-10/12 Championship because of Stanford, they were still undoubtedly the team to beat in the conference.
This coming year doesn’t look like it will be any different. Though Chip Kelly left for the NFL and left some uncertainty surrounding the coaching position, returning stars such as Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, and Terrance Mitchell all appear more than ready to continue forwarding Oregon’s dominance in the Conference of Champions.
Factor in the fact that other Pac-12 programs — save for Stanford — just aren’t really on the level of Oregon yet, and you have all signs indicating the Ducks will continue to dominate their opponents throughout 2013. But what about in the coming years?
Will Oregon be able to keep up their standard of excellence and play?
Though it is likely that they will, there are a few programs in the Pac-12 that could surpass the Ducks in quality and become the new standard for the conference to look up to.
Here are the top 5 teams that could potentially accomplish that.
5. Arizona State
The Sun Devils are an interesting team to look at when factoring in future years. Todd Graham has that program on the right track, the school has a good enough reputation to bring in top level recruits (that and it’s the top party school in the nation), and its location isn’t that bad either.
The coming year will be a trying one for Arizona State, as they will have to navigate a pretty tough schedule with a team that some people are uncertain about.
While they no doubt have plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball, many question whether or not they have really yet arrived.
Looking forward, however, it appears as though the Sun Devils could potentially have what it takes to become the top program in the Pac-12. The only uncertainty surrounding their potential status as the Pac-12 standard lies in the fact that they have really never been that.
They have the toughest road to Pac-12 supremacy on this list.
Fans of the Washington Huskies will be quick to remind any college football fan about the dominance the program had in years past. Reflecting back on the good ol’ days when the Huskies could manage more than seven wins in a season and actually beat the Ducks, they point to glory years that saw them dominate the Pac-12 and take home bowl trophy after bowl trophy.
Sadly for them, however, things are no longer like that. After hitting rock-bottom in 2008 with a 0-8 campaign, Washington has rebuilt under Steve Sarkisian but has yet to crack mediocrity. They’ve put together some amazing performances but haven’t had the consistency of a true college football power.
However, in the coming years I truly believe the Huskies will contend for the top spot in the Pac-12 for reasons related to the newly renovated Husky Stadium (it is gorgeous), improved recruiting, and tradition.
Unlike the Sun Devils, Washington has been at the top of the Pac-12 before and does have a history to show plenty of top recruits. The excellence of the school and its great location will also play big roles in getting UW back on track, but it still remains uncertain whether or not they can contend for the same recruits as Oregon.
They’re in a tough spot with the Ducks just five hours away, and it doesn’t appear as though they will be the team to supplant Oregon in the Pac-12.
In his brief time with the Bruins Jim Mora jr. has already worked wonders with the program. After many years of them threatening to take LA away from USC, the Bruins did just that last year with Brett Hundley and Jonathan Franklin leading the way.
Though they missed out on an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl, the Bruins still look like they are building into their dominant program of old, just like the Huskies.
They clearly have the tradition and recruiting ability to get back to the top, it will just still remain a question of whether or not the presence of USC will hinder them from making a true rise to the top.
If there is one thing every college football fan knows, it’s to not count the Trojans out. Though they have had some tough years after they were hit with tough NCAA penalties, USC is still USC and could once again emerge as the top program in all of college football in the blink of an eye.
They’ve got a load of talent on the roster and could very well contend for a Pac-12 Championship in 2013. They don’t face the Ducks this year, but it would be great to see the two recent Pac-12 powerhouses matchup in the first really thrilling Pac-12 Championship game.
Last year the Cardinal ended Oregon’s run of three-straight Pac-12 titles and look to be the team most ready to takeover the top position in the Pac-12 from the Ducks. They’ve got the reputation as both an excellent academic and athletic school, have great facilities, and recruits love David Shaw.
Their talent, as of right now, knows how to deal with Oregon. They beat them last year and will be looking to do the same in 2013, solidifying their position as the new Kings of the Pac-12.
Should the Cardinal beat the Ducks and claim their second Pac-12 Championship in a row, it’s likely, for the first time since 2009, the Ducks will be looking up at a new Pac-12 standard.