The Pac-12 Conference has a lot to smile about these days. With its kickoff of the football season underway through its media day invasion on Paramount Pictures Studios, fittingly the Pac-12 Conference has arguably two of the best quarterbacks (possibly three) in the country. Oregon signal-caller Marcus Mariota ruled the day on the first day of the two-day media excursion the Pac-12 reserved for its school members. On the second day it was UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan who got the special attention. Both Mariota and Hundley are leading Heisman Trophy candidates for their respective teams. Oregon was selected to win the Pac-12 North Division. UCLA was picked to walk away with the Pac-12 South Division. Sounds like a likely showdown will come at the end of the season between the two teams and two leaders to see who will actually claim the overall Pac-12 title.
Let’s face it: UCLA has a special player in Hundley, who took the nation by story his redshirt freshman season with a superb year. Last season, Hundley improved his quarterback stock so much that there was premature buzz about him leaving Westwood for the NFL. Hundley said no to the NFL. At least for now. But if he continues to put up the numbers the way he has the last two seasons, the Bruins could very well say bye-bye to their star quarterback. But at the moment that is neither here or there. Hundley, like UCLA coach Jim Mora, have immediate things going on, and that is trying to win the Pac-12 South Division and get into the new College Football Playoff system. In 2012, Hundley went for 3, 745 yards and 29 touchdown passes in the air. Last season, he threw for 3, 071 yards and recorded 24 passing scores.
What’s expected of him for the 2014 college football campaign? A lot of it depends on the trust factor, Mora said.
“I have a lot of trust in Brett,” said Mora. “I think our team and coaches have a lot of faith that he’s going to do the right thing. I think the reason is because he’s put the work in. He just doesn’t show up and kind of wing it. He’s had a great off-season. He’s invested a lot of time in his craft, and he understands his offense now. He understands his capabilities. He knows the players around him a lot better. So when you see a young man work as hard as Brett is, and be as invested as he is in this team and this position, it gives you a great deal of faith.”
David Shaw and his Stanford Cardinals have made it to back-to-back Rose Bowls the last couple of seasons. Even with returning quarterback Kevin Hogan back under center this season, this year may be a tougher road for Stanford to get back to the oasis of college football. However, don’t expect Shaw or his team to have a pity-party, even though they weren’t the chosen ones in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.
“It doesn’t matter,” Shaw said. “I don’t use it as motivation. I don’t get happy or sad about it. It is what it is. I might pick Oregon also. Who knows? Someone that athletic and the way Marcus Mariota and his future looks, I mean, why not? Bottom line is we’ve all got to play the games. Doesn’t matter who is favorite or who is picked, the game is going to start and the guy’s have to play. We have to play 12 tough ones to earn anything beyond that. So all of that stuff will bear itself out. The media thinks they’re great for four or five days and once you start the season, all those things go away and don’t matter. One thing that matters is who is getting ready at training camp and who is playing best during the course of the year.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”