Five Pac-12 story lines to fol­low

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

1. USC ex­pec­ta­tions: Quar­ter­back Sam Darnold is a le­git­i­mate Heis­man Tro­phy con­tender, win­ning nine of 10 games he started last fall. The wealth of tal­ent sur­round­ing him in 2017 has made the Tro­jans a pop­u­lar play­off pick. Can coach Clay Hel­ton lead USC back to glory in Year 2?

2. New faces: Wil­lie Tag­gart (Ore­gon) and Justin Wil­cox (Cal­i­for­nia) join the ranks of league head coaches. Can Tag­gart re­store the Ducks’ lus­ter af­ter a 4-8 2016 cam­paign? And can Wil­cox’s de­fen­sive back­ground pay div­i­dends in Berke­ley?

3. Huskies’ hopes: The de­fend­ing Pac-12 cham­pi­ons and play­off par­tic­i­pants re­turn start­ing quar­ter­back Jake Brown­ing. They also lose three of their four starters in the sec­ondary. UW should be fa­vored to win the north di­vi­sion, but can it keep the league crown over likely fa­vorite USC?

4. Miss­ing McCaf­frey: Stan­ford is with­out Heis­man fi­nal­ist run­ning back Chris­tian McCaf­frey af­ter go­ing 10-3 a year ago. Sev­eral of­fen­sive weapons re­turn, though, in­clud­ing start­ing quar­ter­back Keller Chryst. David Shaw has won dou­ble-digit games in five of six sea­sons as coach. Will that con­tinue?

5. Rosen re­turns: UCLA quar­ter­back Josh Rosen set sev­eral pro­gram records as a true fresh­man, then suf­fered a shoul­der in­jury six games into last sea­son. When healthy, Rosen stands among the league’s elite passers. Will his play lead the Bru­ins to their first out­right Pac-12 ti­tle since 1998?

Gene Sweeney Jr., Getty Im­ages

USC’s Sam Darnold may be the NFL’s top pick.

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