Today marks the beginning of the 2012 college football season. No there are not any games being played but the traditional pre-season release of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll has given fans the first glimpse of where their program will start the season. Each season is a race and success has a lot to do with where a program begins the journey. For several Pac-12 programs, the Coaches’ Poll has given the gift of a high pre-season ranking. Two Pac-12 teams are in the top 5.
LSU and Alabama begin 2012 nearly in the same position where they left off from 2011. The defending champion Crimson Tide will once again have to usurp the Tigers for the top spot in the rankings. However, Pac-12 powerhouse USC, is right behind both pulling in at number three in the poll.
With eligibility no longer an issue for the Trojans, championship talk has returned to LA. Free from a postseason ban, USC is not only a favorite to win the Pac-12 but to be a strong player for the national championship. Nineteen coaches gave the Trojans a number one ranking, which is one more than top ranked LSU, and one less than Alabama. Considering both Alabama and LSU are in the same division it would be unlikely they would meet in the national championship. Well, not that unlikely.
Oregon led by head coach Chip Kelly is once again respected nationally by garnering a top five pre-season ranking. The Ducks are ranked five by the coaches, and are the highest ranked team without any number one votes. Kelly has plenty to replace on offense including finding a starting quarterback. If the offense can gel and continue to rack up yards at the pace folks in Eugene are used to, USC may be all that stands in the way of a second championship appearance.
Outside of the top five, Pac-12 representation dries up faster than a puddle in Arizona. Stanford lands in the top 20 with an 18 pre-season ranking. The Cardinal should once again present a formidable defense and solid running game. Similar to Oregon, Stanford must rely on an unproven quarterback to navigate 2012.
There is room for other Pac-12 schools to make a move into the Coaches’ Poll as the season progresses. Washington is the first team left out getting the most love in the “others receiving votes category” getting 64. Joning the Huskies in the “others receiving votes” club is Utah with 22.
Barring a spectacular season unforeseen by pundits across the country, the Pac-12′s best hope for fielding a national champion will lie in Oregon or USC. Any other other Pac-12 program will almost certainly have to go undefeated.
Here is the link to the entire USA Today Coaches’ Poll: