Pac-12: Five predictions

The 2011 season is nearly -- finally! -- upon us. Time to make some predictions.

Oregon at Stanford is the game of the year, and it will have national title implications: Stanford's visit to Oregon in 2010 turned out to be the Pac-10 (national?) game of the year. The winner played for the national title, the loser settled for another BCS bowl. Both finished ranked in the top four. It could be more of the same on Nov. 12 when the Ducks head to Palo Alto, particularly if Oregon is able to slip LSU in the opener, which likely would elevate it to No. 1.

The Pac-12 is going to win the Heisman Trophy: While it's not hard to make arguments for Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Alabama's Trent Richardson or Boise State's Kellen Moore, here's a guess that the winner of the aforementioned Oregon-Stanford game will feature the Heisman Trophy winner, either Andrew Luck or LaMichael James.

A Pac-12 coach is going to get fired: Last year, the Pac-10 blog correctly predicted no coach would get fired. It won't do the same in the first year of the Pac-12. UCLA's Rick Neuheisel and Washington State's Paul Wulff are on the hottest seats, but things aren't exactly chill for Arizona State's Dennis Erickson or even California's Jeff Tedford. Someone will go down.

Watch out for UCLA, California or Washington: One of these three teams is going to win nine games and exceed preseason expectations. The common denominator among the three? Questions at quarterback. At least one of the three is going to get a pleasant answer at the position. Many are picking the Huskies as the most likely dark horse, but don't sleep on the Bruins. When the pressure is on, Neuheisel seems to come through.

Neither Colorado nor Utah is going to flop in Year 1: The two new members are an interesting contrast. Colorado is a down program moving into the Pac-12 from another AQ conference, while Utah is an up power moving into the Pac-12 from a non-AQ conference. Neither will be an easy mark. Expect both to be highly competitive this season, with Utah a legitimate threat to win the South Division. Sure, Colorado got humiliated last season at California. But the Buffs welcome back 18 starters from a team that beat Georgia and Kansas State and won two of its final three games. While some wonder if the Utes will be able to handle the grind of the Pac-12 slate, they physically match up well in the conference in a key area: line play on both sides of the ball.