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The Ducks, Cardinal and Huskies have all been impressive early.
Oregon seemed to be the frontrunner in the preseason to host the first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game, but suspensions and a double-digit loss to SEC-power LSU in the opener raised questions. However, Chip Kelly’s Ducks have bounced back with three blowout wins in which they scored at least 56 points in each game. Stanford has quarterback Andrew Luck, considered by most to be to best player in the country and the top pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. The Cardinal schedule has been fairly soft so far, but new coach David Shaw’s team has looked sharp in each outing. The play of Washington quarterback Keith Price has to put the Huskies in the conversation as well. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in every game this season, and Steve Sarkisian’s crew could be a surprise factor in the league race.
Who is your favorite to win the Pac-12 North?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Washington is playing well, and I love what Keith Price is doing at quarterback, but this is still a two-team race in the Pac-12 North between Stanford and Oregon. We picked Oregon in our preseason magazine, but I’m changing things up and going with the Cardinal. Few teams, if any, have been as statistically dominant as Stanford in the first month of the season. David Shaw’s team ranks seventh in the nation in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. The Cardinal is obviously getting great quarterback play with Andrew Luck running the show, but the ground game has been very strong, as well. There isn’t anything that this team doesn’t do well. And while Stanford hasn’t played any really strong teams, it has played three BCS conference foes, including two on the road (Duke and Arizona). Oregon, obviously, has a lot going for it as well. The Ducks have rebounded from their season-opening loss to LSU by rolling past Nevada, Missouri State and Arizona with ease. One main concern with Oregon: Are the Ducks good enough on both lines of scrimmage to beat Stanford on the road? The guess here is no.
The Ducks or Luck? That's a tough one. As great as Andrew Luck has been for Stanford, I still have to go with the loaded roster of Oregon. The highlighter Nikes have the depth, speed and big-game experience to win On the Farm at Stanford on Nov. 12 in the head-to-head matchup — and every other Pac-12 game they play. With quarterback Darron Thomas (842 pass yards, 12 TDs, 1 INT) and running back LaMichael James (613 rush yards, 7 TDs) leading the charge, coach Chip Kelly's UO club can put points on the board against any team in the country — well, maybe not LSU (or Alabama). I smell roses; the Ducks will be Pac-12 North division champs and the conference's Rose Bowl rep.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think the race to win the Pac-12 North is still between Oregon and Stanford. Washington has played well this year and could make things interesting, but the Huskies are still behind the Ducks and Cardinal in the North pecking order. Oregon’s offense seems to have found its rhythm since the Week 1 loss to LSU. Stanford has yet to be challenged this season, but suffered a blow on defense when linebacker Shayne Skov was lost for the year. Both teams entered the year with question marks on both sides of the ball, but it appears those issues aren’t going to hinder either from contending for a Pac-12 championship. As long as running back LaMichael James stays healthy for Oregon, I like the Ducks to claim the Pac-12 North crown. The matchup on Nov. 12 in Palo Alto will likely play a large role in determining who wins in the division title, along with providing a boost for the Heisman campaign of James or Andrew Luck. Winning on the road won’t be easy, but I think Oregon is the more complete team and should finish the regular season at 11-1 and champs of the Pac-12 North.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I like Stanford to win the league for three reasons: Andrew Luck, the fact that the Cardinal host both Oregon and Washington, and they play smart football while still being aggressive. There were some concerns that the program could slip with Jim Harbaugh’s departure, but David Shaw has Stanford running on all cylinders. Oregon is excellent on offense, but we saw what a power running game could do to the Ducks’ defense in the LSU loss. The Cardinal balance on offense could give Oregon some issues, plus the Ducks have to play at Washington the week before traveling to Palo Alto. The Huskies can score points, so they definitely could play spoiler in the division. All three games between the contenders should be shootouts and come down to a few big plays, but I’ll take Andrew Luck to carry Stanford to the crown.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I have to go with the Stanford Cardinal for a variety of reasons. First, they have the best player in the nation who will refuses to let Stanford lose in quarterback Andrew Luck. Try 12 straight wins for Stanford. Second, they play the Oregon Ducks at home in Palo Alto. Third, they are the most physical team along both lines of scrimmage in the Pac-12 and the Ducks last three losses came against teams that controlled the trenches (Ohio State, Auburn, LSU). Washington is an up-and-comer but is not in the same realm as Oregon and Stanford - yet. The Huskies will make the 2012 Pac-12 North race very interesting though.