Here are five stories to watch in the Pac-12 in 2013:
The Buzz: No offseason coaching change could have a bigger impact than Oregon losing Chip Kelly to the NFL. During the four seasons that Kelly was in charge of the Ducks, the program was 46-7 overall and went to four straight BCS bowl games. His explosive style of offense made Oregon one of the most exciting and dangerous teams in college football. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfirch moves up to head coach and it will be his job to make sure the program doesn’t lose a step especially with an NCAA investigation still looming over the program.
Will Lane Kiffin survive at USC?
The Buzz: There is a lot riding on this upcoming season for Lane Kiffin. The fourth-year coach is coming off a dismal season that saw the program go from a national title contender to an also-ran in a matter of weeks. It didn’t help matters that Kiffin got into it with local media and had to deal with issues of student managers deflating balls, players switching jerseys during games and in-fighting. Kiffin received the dreaded stamp of approval from AD Pat Haden, but there’s no doubt that all eyes will be on whether or not the Trojans show massive improvement in 2013.
Which new coach makes the biggest impact in 2013?
The Buzz: Colorado and California each made coaching changes in the offseason with the Buffaloes bringing in Mike MacIntyre and the Golden Bears bringing in Sonny Dykes to turn things around. MacIntyre made San Jose State into a contender, but he will have his hands full trying to turn around a Colorado program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. Dykes will look to bring his high-octane explosive offense to Cal, a program known for producing great quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. If the players embrace his style, the Bears could compete for a Pac-12 title sooner rather than later.
Is Stanford now the team to beat in the league?
The Buzz: Since 2009, the Cardinal program is 43-10 with appearances in three straight BCS bowl games however Stanford has only won one Pac-12 title – in 2012. With 17 starters returning to the squad in 2013, this could be the beginning of a dynasty of sorts. The defense returns 10 starters including defensive end Ben Gardner, which will come in handy against some of the programs tougher opposition including Oregon, UCLA and USC. If the offense continues to grow under quarterback Kevin Hogan, Stanford could develop into a contender for a national title as well.
Is this the year of the sophomore QB in the Pac-12?
The Buzz: Now that the Andrew Luck’s and Matt Barkley’s of the conference have moved on to the NFL, it appears that this could be the year of the sophomore quarterback in the Pac-12. UCLA’s Brett Hundley, USC’s Max Wittek, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan all represent the top quarterbacks in the league going into 2013. Hundley and Mariota could even make cases as possible early Heisman Trophy candidates and Wittek will step into the big shoes left by Barkley at USC.
Don't forget about Matt's Murschel's weekly mail bag. If you have any college football questions you would like answered or just issues or players you would like his thoughts on please email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.