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Pac-12 picks: Ducks, UCLA

Kerry Eggers’ picks

(predicted overall and league record)

NORTH DIVISION

1. OREGON (11-1, 8-1): Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota will steer Oregon through any muddy waters. Ducks will get revenge at Stanford but will lose at home to UCLA.

2. STANFORD (9-3, 7-2): Sophomore QB Kevin Hogan — who led Stanford to four straight wins over ranked teams and Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin to end last season — and veteran defense make Cardinal a title threat. But the loss of Stepfan Taylor will hurt their run game and they won’t be a top-five team.

3. OREGON STATE (8-4, 5-4): Performance at quarterback and defensive tackle will go a long way to determining OSU’s season. Beavers will start 6-1 but struggle with a difficult second half of schedule.

4. WASHINGTON (6-6, 4-5): Big year for fifth-year coach Steve Sarkisian, 7-6 in each of last three seasons. Huskies return 20 starters, most in Pac-12. Good schedule (eight games at refurbished Husky Stadium, including first four of season) will help. And they have perhaps top running back in conference in Bishop Sankey (1,439 yards, 16 TDs last season). If senior QB Keith Price returns to 2011 form while running new uptempo offense, Dawgs will be better than this.

5. WASHINGTON STATE (3-9, 2-7): Cougars must improve on running game that was among worst in nation last season in coach Mike Leach’s first season. Veteran defense will be better, but it won’t translate into more overall victories.

6. CALIFORNIA (2-10, 1-8): New coach Sonny Dykes’ spread offense won’t reap immediate dividends at Cal, which loses key weapons Keenan Allen at receiver and Isi Sofele at running back from last year’s team. It will be another dismal campaign at Berkeley.

SOUTH DIVISION

1. UCLA (10-2, 8-1): Sophomore QB Brett Hundley makes up for loss of RB Johnathan Franklin and puts Bruins in Pac-12 Championship Game for third straight season. Biggest question mark is secondary with departure of all four starters from a year ago.

2. ARIZONA STATE (8-4, 7-2): Junior QB Taylor Kelly, who threw for 3,039 yards and 29 TDs in coach Todd Graham’s first season, and eight returning defensive starters gives Sun Devils a title contender. But they’ll lose at UCLA on Nov. 23 with a potential Pac-12 title game berth on the line.

3. ARIZONA (8-4, 5-4): Wildcats are wild-card team that could be better than this due to running game led by junior Ka’Deem Carey (1,929 yards, 23 TDs last season), four returning starters on offensive line, and the return of all 11 defensive starters. Replacing QB Matt Scott is the biggest concern.

4. SOUTHERN CAL (6-7, 3-6): Trojans will try to get the ball in the hands of marquee receiver Marqise Lee (118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs as sophomore last season) as much as possible. They’ll miss QB Matt Barkley, though, and will suffer from lack of depth brought on by NCAA sanctions.

5. UTAH (5-7, 3-6): Utah has fewest returning starters (12) in Pac-12. New co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson will employ the no-huddle offense he used during his final two years at Arizona State with 6-6, 240-pound sophomore QB Travis Wilson at the helm. But Utes will end with same record as in 2012.

6. COLORADO (3-9, 1-8): New coach Mike MacIntyre — who went 10-2 at San Jose State last season — will have his hands full in resurrecting woebegone Colorado program. Buffaloes return 19 starters, including nine on offense who will use MacIntyre’s pistol system. They’ll be more competitive but still have trouble posting victories.

Jason Vondersmith’s picks

NORTH DIVISION

1. STANFORD (10-2, 7-2): If running back by committee works, the Cardinal should be formidable. QB Kevin Hogan needs to continue to develop, and offense will be bolstered by an outstanding defense (led by linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy). Great lines are the foundation. And, David Shaw has quickly become arguably the Pac-12’s best coach.

2. OREGON (9-3, 6-3): What are the chances superstar QB Marcus Mariota and slash player De’Anthony Thomas both stay healthy all season? Can new coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost outwit their counterparts? Pac-12 teams will make games closer, if not beat the four-time BCS team.

3. OREGON STATE (8-4, 5-4): The Beavers should be solid, but can they close out the season strong? Quarterback is a good place to have quality depth (Sean Mannion, Cody Vaz), and receiver Brandin Cooks should be a star. And, what a D-end tandem (Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton) to feature.

4. WASHINGTON (7-5, 5-4): Great parts on the UW offense to go with Justin Wilcox’s defense. Senior quarterback used to be a one-way ticket to the top of the Pac-12, but can Keith Price be the man? A good running back (Bishop Sankey), receiver (Kasen Williams) and tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) complement him. It’s coach Steve Sarkisian’s time to win, or else ... his days are numbered?

5. WASHINGTON STATE (5-7, 3-6): Connor Halliday and good young receivers figure to lead coach Mike Leach’s aerial attack. It’s a decent defense in Pullman; one would guess the Cougs would be better (with less drama) in Leach’s second year. One would guess ...

6. CALIFORNIA (2-10, 1-8): A true freshman (Jared Goff) starting at quarterback? Sonny Dykes promises an air attack, but it’s hard to imagine a true freshman winning a lot of games. Time was Cal battled Oregon for players and Pac-12 status. Not now.

SOUTH DIVISION

1. UCLA (10-2, 7-2): Quarterback Brett Hundley could rival Mariota as Pac-12’s best, and Jim Mora has built one of the Pac-12’s top teams, with a good defense (with LB Anthony Barr). Working in a new running back will be paramount.

2. SOUTHERN CAL (10-3, 6-3): Why does everyone write off the Trojans? USC still has great talent. A new defensive coordinator will help coach Lane Kiffin, who has offensive weapons (see: WR Marquise Lee) to make young QBs look pretty good. Depth could be an issue, especially with 13 games and not a full bye-week situation.

3. ARIZONA STATE (8-4, 6-3): The Sun Devils, who return QB Taylor Kelly and star defensive tackle Will Sutton, have the makings of a Pac-12 contender. But, wow: The Sun Devils face Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame within their first five games.

4. ARIZONA (7-5, 4-5): Rich Rodriguez’s team made strides last year, and could be a player in the Pac-12, if QB play (B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins or Javelle Allen) complements standout back Ka’Deem Carey and a loaded defense that has all 11 starters back.

5. UTAH (5-7, 3-6): Quarterback Travis Wilson could do some damage, and the Utes could be competitive in each game, but they still haven’t matched talent with Pac-12 teams to reach the upper echelon. The move to the Pac-12 hasn’t been a rosy one.

6. COLORADO (3-9, 1-8): The Buffs have several returning starters and will knock off somebody in Boulder, but it’ll take some time for first-year coach Mark MacIntyre to build up depth and talent. The move to the Pac-12 hasn’t upgraded anything, yet.

Pac-12 title game

Kerry Eggers says:

Oregon 38, UCLA 21. Ducks get revenge for regular-season loss as Portland-area products Thomas Tyner (Aloha) and Colt Lylerla (Hillsboro) enjoy big days.

Jason Vondersmith says:

UCLA 27, Stanford 24. The Hundley-led Bruins, after squeezing past rival USC, return to Pasadena, winning a down-to-the-wire battle against the Cardinal.