Los Angeles • Stanford has played in four straight major bowl games and the past two Rose Bowls, building a resilient football power at an improbable place.
The Cardinal’s reward for all that consistency this week? They were picked to finish second behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division yet again.
Yet Stanford coach David Shaw doesn’t perceive any slight in the preseason conference media poll. He believes it’s a testament to the overall power of the Pac-12, which appears to be stacked with deep, talented teams heading into his fourth season on The Farm.
"It doesn’t matter, and I don’t use it as motivation," Shaw said Thursday at the league’s media days. "I don’t get happy or sad about it. I might pick Oregon, too. Who knows? Doesn’t matter. We’ve got to play 12 tough games to earn anything beyond that, anyway."
Stanford has made back-to-back trips to the Rose Bowl after two straight wins over Oregon, yet quarterback Kevin Hogan said the Cardinal are still smarting over their loss to Michigan State last January.
"We do have a lot of success, but that can’t stop us from being the hunters rather than the hunted," Hogan said. "Oregon has a great team coming back. They deserve the credit for what they’ve done. You can’t blame people for expecting them to be successful, but that doesn’t change the expectations we have for ourselves. I don’t think anybody is offended by a preseason ranking right now."
UCLA coach Jim Mora also isn’t putting much stock into the preseason plaudits for his Bruins, the South Division favorites and a popular preseason top-10 pick. Mora’s deep roster is led by quarterback Brett Hundley, who is just one of several Pac-12 passers expected to shine this season.
"I don’t want the players to think they’re extra special before we accomplish the goals we set out to do," Mora said.
UCLA has a chance to cement a spot among the Pac-12’s elite after winning 19 games in Mora’s first two seasons. Stanford is already there, and the list of title contenders seems to be awfully crowded in the West Coast’s dominant conference.
Stellar quarterback play was the main theme emerging from the Pac-12’s first two-day preseason media event at Paramount Studios.
Ten starting quarterbacks returned to Pac-12 teams this season, ranging from Heisman Trophy contenders Hundley and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota to several standout veterans including Hogan, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, Washington State’s Connor Halliday and Southern California’s Cody Kessler.
"I don’t think there’s even a conference that’s close, as far as the quarterbacks," Mora said.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez thinks this is the toughest time in college football history to be a defensive coordinator, but not every Pac-12 team produces those numbers with intricate spread offenses. Stanford and Oregon State have stuck with pro-style schemes, while new USC coach Steve Sarkisian is introducing hurry-up tactics to the Trojans’ traditional pro sets.
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