The Congrove Computer Rankings project Stanford to face Georgia as a 4.88-point favorite in the BCS National Championship. The Cardinal are 15.41-point picks at home over Arizona State in the PAC-12 Championship game.
The conference title game would be a rematch of a regular season contest in which Stanford is a 16.33-point favorite over the Sun Devils.
First, the computer has to survive the nation's 4th-toughest schedule that includes home games against Oregon (win by 9.12) and Notre Dame (win by 4.79.
Even with a new head coach in Eugene, the Ducks should be Stanford's closest competitor in the North division. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was promoted to the head job at Oregon just four days after Chip Kelly filled the opening of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. It's Helfrich's job to sustain the momentum of Kelly's remarkable 46-7 record and 4 straight BCS bowl trips during his 4 seasons at the helm. Last year, the Ducks were in the driver's seat for a BCS Championship game appearance before a 17-14 loss in overtime at Stanford.
Arizona State is a moderately surprise pick to win the South division. The Sporting News, Lindy's and USA Today all say UCLA is the team to beat while Phil Steele still believes in USC. Athlon's takes the Sun Devils.
Congrove's forecast even has Arizona making a strong challenge for the top spot. The Wildcats are forecasted to go 5-4 in the conference, just a game behind the 6-3 projection for Arizona State and USC. The Sun Devils get both challengers at home and are favored by 5.46 vs. the Trojans and 3.90 over the 'Cats.
UCLA is the 4th-place pick by the computer. A 6-6 forecast includes a 0.76-point loss at Nebraska, a 4.14-point setback at Arizona, a 0.15-point slip at home against Washington, and a 2.57-point defeat at USC. If the Bruins get hot in Jim Mora's 2nd year as head coach, a 10-2 mark isn't out of the question. UCLA was also picked to go 6-6 a year ago, but turned in a surprising 9-5 performance in Mora's inaugural season in L.A.
In the North, Oregon State and Washington are the 3rd- and 4th-place picks and round out a total of 8 teams that are expected to go bowling.
Washington State and Cal are at the bottom of the North division barrel, while Utah and Colorado will slug it out for last in the South.
Cal will be operating under new head coach Sonny Dykes who left Louisiana Tech after three seasons produced records of 22-15 overall, the WAC title in 2011 and a 9-3 record in 2012. Colorado plucked Mike MacIntyre from San Jose State to replace Jon Embree whose two seasons netted just 4 wins.
Cal fired Jeff Tedford after 11 seasons produced five bowl wins in 8 appearances. The Golden Bears finished 3-9, including a 2-7 mark in the PAC-12, and failed to reach the postseason for the second time in the last three years. Cal was blessed with quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers early in Tedford's career with the Bears, but QB play has been pedestrian since then. Cal was just 15-27 over the last three seasons. Tedford leaves with records of 82-57 overall and 50-45 in the conference.