Pac-12 sleepers: Teams, players

In his first year as the team's head coach, Chris Petersen could elevate the Washington Huskies. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

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Entering the 2014 season, at least three Pac-12 teams -- the Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins and Stanford Cardinal -- will be considered among the prime candidates to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff. And given the talent the USC Trojans have, nobody would be shocked if a fourth team is added to the mix come November. But there are always surprises in this sport. Each year, teams and players that had very little buzz during the summer end the season as hot topics.

No one knows whether any such stories will emerge from the Pac-12 in 2014, but the conference certainly has a few teams, players and units that could exceed expectations.

Here's a look at my sleeper picks for the Pac-12.

Which teams outside the preseason top 25 have the best chance to reach the Pac-12 title game?

Washington Huskies

Although they probably won't have enough support to make the preseason top 25, the Huskies will appear on at least a few ballots, so this team wouldn't exactly be coming from nowhere. But considering how the Pac-12 North has been dominated by Stanford and Oregon over the last few years, Washington certainly has the feel of a big underdog.

The Huskies are, however, in a good place from a coaching standpoint, something that can very rarely be said after the previous head coach leaves for a higher-profile program. In fact, you could make a good argument that Chris Petersen is an upgrade from Steve Sarkisian. Petersen has accomplished much more as a head coach and is considered by many as one of the 10 best coaches in the game. For whatever it's worth, Petersen went 13-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl in his first season at Boise State.