Perhaps the least suspenseful tidbit from the Pacific 12 Conference Media Day pre-season poll is that the collective press anticipates USC to return to the league’s pinnacle.
Widely considered a contender not just for the Pac-12 but Bowl Championship Series title, the Trojans garnered 102 votes to win the conference championship game.
The true shocker – pun not intended – is that Arizona State received three first place votes in the South. Those same votes carried over into the only title game tallies that were not allotted to either USC or North favorite Oregon.
ASU was an en vogue choice to win the South in the conference’s first season with 12 members a year ago, but crumbled down the stretch. A finish that included losses to sub-.500 teams UCLA, Washington State and Arizona cost Dennis Erickson his head coaching position, and ASU hired Todd Graham.
Graham’s first season includes replacing one of the nation’s most prolific passers from a season ago, Brock Osweiler. Graham oversaw prolific offenses with productive quarterbacks [Chase Clement, GJ Kinne] at his previous stops at Rice and Tulsa.
But his Pittsburgh squad last season failed to deliver on the promised “Uptempo Offense” touted before the season. Tino Sunseri threw 11 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns.
Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank and Taylor Kelly were embroiled in a three-way competition to replace Osweiler during spring football.
The transition of power at quarterback will mean the Sun Devil offense is founded around running back Cameron Marshall. Marshall set ASU records a season ago, his 18 touchdowns setting a standard for Sun Devil rushers.
Marshall is one of the unheralded stars of the conference, but putting a first place run on his shoulders is asking a lot.