LOS ANGELES — The Pac-12 has no clear football favorite this fall, and the biggest reason is obvious at the conference’s annual Hollywood media days.
Of the 24 players invited to represent their schools from this famously pass-happy league, just one is a quarterback.
Most of the West Coast’s usual powers still are uncertain who will be throwing the ball this fall. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, Southern California’s Cody Kessler, Oregon’s Vernon Adams, Cal’s Jared Goff, Utah’s Travis Wilson and Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici are all gone.
In fact, only four teams — UCLA, Washington, Colorado and Washington State — have clear returning starters.
In a league stacked with talented tailbacks, the turnover behind center in the so-called Conference of Quarterbacks is glaring — and intriguing. New stars will be made this fall, but the holdovers could be the biggest ones of all.
UCLA was picked over USC as the preseason favorite in the South division, and star sophomore Josh Rosen might be the main reason. Washington also has sophomore Jake Browning back behind center, and the Huskies are expected to be Stanford’s greatest challenge for the North division title.
Stanford is the preseason media poll’s pick to win another league title, but the Cardinal didn’t come out of spring ball with a clear successor to Hogan. Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns will continue their competition next month — even if their biggest responsibility might be handing off to star tailback Christian McCaffrey.
Across the Bay, Cal has the unenviable task of replacing Goff, the three-year starter and subsequent No. 1 pick.
Chase Forrest was the front-runner heading into spring ball, but coach Sonny Dykes said he ended up “neck-and-neck” with redshirt freshman Ross Bowers. Dykes is excited to add freshman Victor Viramontes to the competition next month, indicating nobody has an advantage.
“The good thing is we have some very viable options,” Dykes said. “We’re going to need to make a relatively quick decision, figure out who the guy is going to be, build a football team around him and his strengths, and go out and win.”