Time to check that pulse college football fans, the 2012 season is now less than a month away. Last weeks release of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll sparked debate around the country as to who was ranked too high, too low, or just right. Within the Pac-12 conference there was representation atop with two schools being ranked in the top five; USC at three and Oregon at five. While the only champions in August are made of paper, there is nothing wrong with ranking programs top to bottom for posterity. The Pac-12 promises to be highly competitive, meaning fans from Tuscon to Seattle are sure to have a fun time. This list is subject to change as the season progresses.
1. USC Matt Barkely, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, oh and this guy who just happened to transfer from Penn State Silas Redd. That’s just some highlights on offense. The Trojans are off of probation and primed to make a run at a national championship. Head coach Lane Kiffin has an elite team and favorite to win the conference.
2. Oregon Yes Chip Kelly has to replace a star quarterback and running back. The Ducks are about the system not just the individual, and have speed to burn. The offense should still be among the best in the nation at racking up yards and points with playmakers Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. Upperclassmen fill the ranks of the front seven with experienced sophomores in the defensive secondary.
3. Stanford There is enough talent on the Cardinal roster to be given the benefit of the doubt absent an experienced quarterback. Stanford’s defense could be the best in the Pac-12 and the offense should be once again pound the rock with Stepfan Taylor leading the way.
4. Washington The Huskies are building a viable program under the guidance of Steve Sarkisian. By the end of the year, Keith Price could be a household name at quarterback. Coordinator Justin Wilcox should improve the defense after a 106 national ranking in 2011.
5. Utah No Pac-12 defense was better last season in points allowed. The Utes have plenty of talent surrounding quarterback Jordan Wynn. In 2011 Wynn compiled a 123.2 rating in four games before being lost to injury. Senior Star Lotulelei is one of the best defensive lineman in the country.
6. UCLA Offensively the Bruins are a big question. The defense returns eight starters including returning tacklers, senior Patrick Larimore, and sophomore Eric Kendricks. Senior Johnathan Franklin is back after rushing for 976 yards in 2011.
7. Cal Head coach Jeff Tedford is high on his 2012 Bears squad even if the pundits are not. Tedford’s theme leading into this season is the return of their leading passer in quarterback Zach Maynard, rusher Isi Sofele, and receiver Keenan Allen. That being said, Cal had the eighth highest scoring offense in the Pac-12 in 2011.
8. Washington State Returning quarterback Jeff Tuel should have a fun time throwing the ball around under the tutiledge of new head coach Mike Leach. Toss in star receiver Marquess Wilson into the mix, and the Cougars should have a potent attack. The defense wasn’t spectacular last year, but does have the entire secondary back.
9. Arizona Both Arizona schools have new head coaches. For the Wildcats it is Rich Rodriguez who will man the sidelines. The offensive line will have to adjust to a fast paced run option attack but virtually everyone is back from 2011. Much is expected of senior quarterback Matt Scott who has the athletic ability to run Rich-Rod’s scheme.
10. Arizona State The Sun Devils seem mired in mediocrity failing to surpass six wins each of the last four seasons. New coach Todd Graham will have skill players to help the cause with senior running back Cameron Marshall, and Mr. Everything senior back/receiver/return man Jamal Miles.
11. Oregon State Sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion has all the tools to be a big time passer. With 16 returning starters in all, the Beavers have experience in the ranks for the upcoming year. Will that translate to wins? Head coach Mike Riley sure hopes so.
12. Colorado Jon Embree is inheriting a difficult situation in Boulder. Texas transfer Connor Wood was highly touted out of high school but ended up being buried on the depth chart in Austin. Coach Embree is hoping that Wood can have an immediate impact on an offense that averaged less than 20 a game in 2011. The Buffs D was equally as inept giving up 36.5 a game. Another bad sign is youth galore on the two deep.