To get ready for the upcoming season, USA TODAY Sports is ranking each of the Power Five leagues from its best team through its worst. Up next: the Pac-12 Conference.
The Power Five conference most likely to be left out of the College Football Playoff needs one of Washington or Oregon — or maybe even Utah — to make a run at 12 wins to possibly secure a place in the national semifinals.
While the Utes are a deserving pick for the preseason Top 25, the divisional split favors the North. The Huskies are particularly intriguing given Chris Petersen’s deft touch and the eligibility of former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason.
(Each team is followed by projected regular-season record. Number in parenthesis represents the team’s place in USA TODAY Sports’ summer rankings of the Bowl Subdivision.)
1. Washington: 10-2 (No. 10)
Eason will help Washington loosen opponents away from the line of scrimmage and add an element of danger to the passing game as the Huskies’ defense attempts to once again lead the Pac-12 in scoring while breaking in a slew of new starters.
2. Oregon: 10-2 (No. 11)
Quarterback Justin Herbert is the headliner but it’s the Troy Dye-led defense, the influx of talent from the recruiting trail and the overwhelming sense of confidence permeating through the program that makes the Ducks a major title factor.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to throw against Michigan State during the 2018 Holiday Bowl. (Photo: Stan Szeto, USA TODAY Sports)
3. Utah: 9-3 (No. 16)
The Utes have three All-America contenders on a loaded defense, experience at quarterback, a wildly underrated running back in Zack Moss and the sort of manageable schedule to be viewed as a dark-horse College Football Playoff contender.
POWER RANKINGS: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12
KEY BATTLES: The 10 biggest quarterback competitions in college football
4. Stanford: 8-4 (No. 20)
That David Shaw and future NFL quarterback K.J. Costello draw the Huskies and Ducks at home helps balance out a schedule that features Northwestern, Central Florida and Notre Dame in non-league play.
5. Arizona State: 8-4 (No. 27)
This is a clear bowl team with the opportunity for more should the Sun Devilss develop a starter at quarterback to go with star running back Eno Benjamin and the pieces of a stout defense.
6. Southern California: 8-4 (No. 29)
The hire of Graham Harrell and his Air Raid offense will play well with quarterback JT Daniels and a gifted receiver corps, but the offensive line and general concerns over sideline leadership are stumbling blocks the Trojans must overcome before reclaiming a spot in the national conversation.
7. Washington State: 8-4 (No. 38)
The Cougars aren’t expected to match last year’s 11-win finish but should hover around the Top 25 behind Mike Leach’s offense, transfer quarterback Gage Gubrud and a very friendly slate of home games.
8. California: 6-6 (No. 70)
The defense should be outstanding — as you’d expect from a team coached by Justin Wilcox — but there are simply too many questions on offense for the Golden Bears to be a legitimate threat for the top three in the North.
9. UCLA: 5-7 (No. 74)
There’s a huge number of returning starters and the increased comfort that comes with a second season in Chip Kelly’s system; whether that is enough to overcome one of the nation’s toughest schedules remains to be seen. Improvement in the second half of 2018 provides optimism.
LASER FOCUS: UCLA's Chip Kelly worried about winning, not answering critics
10. Arizona: 6-6 (No. 84)
Kevin Sumlin’s second team has notable individual stars — such as quarterback Khalil Tate and linebacker Colin Schooler — but at this point lacks an identifiable area of strength needed to handle a road schedule that includes USC, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.
11. Colorado: 4-8 (No. 93)
New coach Mel Tucker gets his overdue shot at running his own program and will roll out an offense that includes hotshot wide receiver Laviska Shenault as he attempts to navigate through a tough non-conference schedule and a league slate with five road games.
12. Oregon State: 2-10 (No. 108)
The Beavers should beat Cal Poly in September and put a scare into two or three teams in Pac-12 play as the building project continues for second-year coach Jonathan Smith and his staff.
Source: Read Full Article