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Pac-12 Football: An A-to-Z guide to the 2015 season

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A letter-by-letter guide to the conference many believe is the most complete conference in college football—the Pac-12.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A: Arizona schools.

Both of the Arizona schools have represented the South division in the Pac-12 Championship each of the past two seasons. ASU's Todd Graham and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez have claimed the conference's Coach of the Year in consecutive years, respectively.

Despite having two very different teams, both schools share a similar goal to once again emerge as the surprise team out of the South division in 2015. They may not be considered the class of the conference, but don't take either lightly.

B: Mike Bercovici.

The Sun Devils have championship expectations with Taylor Kelly's replacement under center full time in 2015. Can the Sun Devils reach their potential as an underdog in the South division?

C: College Football Playoff?

The Pac-12 has established itself as arguably being the premier conference in the nation. Six bowl wins in 2014 was a good sign of the conference's strength, however it will be interesting to see whether or not the conference champion will be able to reach the College Football Playoff unbeaten with such a daunting schedule.

D: Sonny Dykes' third season at Cal.

A young defensive unit now appears ready to show improvement in 2015. Plus, with Jared Goff surrounded by the likes of Stephen Anderson, Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler, the offense once again figures to be high scoring and explosive in Berkeley.

E: Exciting, entertaining finishes.

Three of SB Nation's Top 100 College Football Games of 2014 were Pac-12 conference games. There were 41 total games in 2014 involving a Pac-12 school during which the difference of the final score was eight points or less; 23 such games were between two Pac-12 teams.

F: Flashy uniforms

Arizona State and UCLA will both sport new Adidas uniforms this year. Also, there have been murmurs of Oregon dawning glow-in-the-dark fits, too. Eye candy galore.

G: Gary Andersen era begins in Corvallis.

After a strong tenure in Wisconsin, Andersen finds himself in a new situation at Oregon State. With such a young team, the Beavers' best days are certainly ahead of them, although it's difficult to imagine they'll find too much success in 2015.

H: Kevin Hogan and Stanford.

Stanford's offense struggled to get going early on last season. However, over the course of the Cardinal's final three games, Hogan amassed 637 passing yards, four touchdowns and just one interception. David Shaw's unit will hope to fully rebound in 2015 and re-establish itself as a leader in the North division.

I: Incoming freshmen.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, Oregon running back Taj Griffin, Arizona State defensive tackle JoJo Wicker, Oregon State quarterback Seth Collins and Washington quarterback Jake Browning are the names you'll want to keep an eye on this year and beyond.

J: Justification.

Is the Pac-12 justified as being labeled the top conference in the league? The conference was voted No. 1 by ESPN, per conference commissioner Larry Scott. Does it really top the SEC, though? Six bowl wins and 15 AP All-Americans last season suggest it has a case.

K: Kessler's reformation.

Cody Kessler is an elite college quarterback. After beating former counterpart Max Wittek out for the Trojans' starting job and sending him packing to Hawaii, Kessler went from serviceable player to confident leader under Steve Sarkisian. He may be the key to USC returning to the heights of the elite.

L: Linebackers.

Namely, Scooby Wright III, Myles Jack and Su'a Cravens. However, the Stanford trio of Blake Martinez, Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Anderson is also impressive. Furthermore, Cal's Michael Barton and Hardy Nickerson, Oregon's Rodney Hardrick, Utah's Jared Norris and UCLA's Deon Hollins could all see themselves competing for postseason hardware.

M: Myles Jack, Jim Mora, Jr. and UCLA.

Many would argue had quarterback Brett Hundley stayed at UCLA, they'd be considered heavy favorites to win the conference. However, despite the starting quarterback situation having yet been finalized, the Bruins return a very strong defensive unit anchored by linebacker Myles Jack, and they return a very talented group of playmakers on offense to pair with whomever is named the starting quarterback. Jim Mora has his team in position to once again be a favorite to come out of the South division.

N: The North.

Oregon will play its first season without Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota under center since 2011. Will a motivated Stanford team challenge the Ducks for the top of the division? Can Cal take a big step towards contending, or can one of the other teams surprise?

O: Oregon.

Yes, Mariota is gone. However, the Oregon rushing attack (which racked up 3,518 yards last season) returns nearly all of its key pieces, including Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit, while adding freshman Taj Griffin. On the outside, the Ducks return Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Bralon Addison and Devon Allen. Elite speed. Same old Ducks. Be prepared.

P: Penalties and Pac-12 refs.

Last season, the Pac-12 was regularly under scrutiny for its referees calling unusual penalties throughout the year. Commissioner Scott said the high rate of penalties was due to so many teams' fast-paced style of play, but will penalties remain an issue this season?

Q: Quarterbacks.

USC's Cody Kessler has been swarmed with expectation after an impressive junior season, but can he lead the Trojans back to supremacy? Despite struggling for a majority of the season, Stanford's Kevin Hogan found his form late in the year and looks to guide the Cardinal to a conference title.

Cal's Jared Goff is arguably the most talented quarterback in the conference, but will the Golden Bears be up to par as a whole? Arizona State's Mike Bercovici is finally at the helm of the Sun Devils and is determined to follow through National Championship expectations with results. Finally, Arizona's Anu Solomon showed poise as a freshman and will look to capitalize upon his first-year performance.

R: Running Backs.

Between Devontae Booker (Utah), Royce Freeman (Oregon), Daniel Lasco (Cal), Thomas Tyner (Oregon—out for season), Paul Perkins (UCLA), Demario Richard (ASU), Nick Wilson (Arizona), and Storm Barrs-Woods (Oregon State), the Pac-12 boasts a combined 11,886 career rushing yards and 116 career rushing touchdowns. Whew.

S: The South.

The Pac-12 South is the second-best division in all of college football (SEC West is still better... sorry, not sorry). Five of the division's six teams finished in the final top-30 in most polls and had four teams appear in ESPN's preseason top-25 rankings (SEC West had five. Stop it. Stop it, now). There's more than a few intriguing storylines and potential championship contenders amongst the six teams comprising one of the most successful divisions in recent years.

T: Trojans.

Steve Sarkisian's team looks poised to take the nation by storm with one of the most talented rosters the school has possessed since its 2004 championship season. Only time will tell if they can follow up lofty expectations with results.

U: Under the influence.

At a USC donor event, head coach Steve Sarkisian began an intoxicated barrage, during which he said conference foes Oregon and Arizona State both "suck." Sarkisian-coached teams are a combined 0-9 against the two conference foes. Sarkisian will need to back his claim in 2015 if the Trojans are to live up to expectations.

V: Vernon Adams.

The Eastern Washington transfer will hope to beat out Jeff Lockie for the starting job in Eugene. Replacing Marcus Mariota is impossible; however, Oregon is still a postseason contender with the weapons the school vaunts on both sides of the ball, and Adams may be the missing piece to the CFP puzzle.

W: Scooby Wright III and Arizona.

Touted as the best defensive player in all of college football, Wright finished first in the country in combined tackles (163), fourth in sacks (14), and finished ranked in the top five for tackles for a loss (29) and forced fumbles (6). The junior will continue to anchor the Wildcats defense in 2015.

X: X-Factors.

USC's Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, UCLA's Paul Perkins and Ishmael Adams, Oregon's Byron Marshall, Arizona's Samajie Grant, ASU's D.J. Foster, Oregon State's Jordan Villamin, Stanford's Devon Cajuste, Cal's Kenny Lawler, and Washington State's Dom Williams are players out of the conference who can instantly change of the complexion of a game once they get the ball in their hands.

Y: Young quarterbacks.

UCLA (possibly) and Oregon State (definitely) will trot out freshmen signal-callers this year. Meanwhile, Arizona (Solomon) and Washington State (Luke Falk) will each start experienced redshirt sophomores.

Z: Zero.

The Pac-12 hasn't won a National Championships since 2004. Oregon has reached the title game twice this decade, yet lost each time. Is this the year the Pac-12 finally reclaims the championship?