The 2013 college football season is less than one month away, and one of the sport’s most well-known polls, the USA Today College Football Coaches Poll, has released its preseason Top 25 rankings. It’s no surprise that Alabama was overwhelmingly picked to finish first, but the coaches had an interesting take on which five Pac-12 teams made the list — and where they landed.
Oregon and Stanford will again be the teams to beat in the Pac-12, and they’re neck and neck in the Coaches Poll at No. 3 and No. 4. Despite the coaching change in Eugene, it’s still popular to pick the Ducks over the reigning conference champion Cardinal. The Pac-12 media also gave Oregon the edge in their vote during Pac-12 Media Day.
The two Pac-12 North powers are expected to be among the top five teams in the nation, but the rest of the Pac-12 teams on the Top 25 are a long way down the list.
In the latest example of UCLA‘s recent resurgence on the gridiron, the Bruins come in at No. 21, three spots ahead of their crosstown rivals, the USC Trojans. USC can’t be happy the Bruins are the L.A. team with the higher ranking, but UCLA has to be wondering why the gap isn’t larger.
In 2012, the Bruins finished conference play with a 6-3 record to USC’s 5-4, and UCLA was clearly the team with fire and drive. First-year head coach Jim Mora changed the team’s culture, and quarterback Brett Hundley found his name in the mix of young, athletic players like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Ohio State‘s Braxton Miller — not quite “Johnny Football” status but with just as much potential.
Mora and Hundley are returning, while the Trojans have controversial coach Lane Kiffin and an undetermined quarterback. Considering how poorly USC limped to the end of the season last year, it’s almost more of a surprise that they snuck back into the Top 25 than it would’ve been if they’d been left off.
If UCLA is irked they’re not more than three spots higher than USC, the Oregon State Beavers have even more reason to be annoyed. They finished the regular season with the same in-conference record as UCLA, 6-3, and one fewer overall loss.
While head coach Mike Riley‘s team trips to In-N-Out Burger won over the players and the Twitterverse, the Beavers’ big turnaround — from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-4 in 2012 — didn’t convince pollsters the team will be as successful again this year. Perhaps the dramatic jump in just one season even hurt their position in this preseason’s poll. After all, if Oregon State went from bad to Pac-12 North contender that quickly without major personnel changes, couldn’t they regress just as fast?
Of course, it’s a preseason poll and preseason polls, based 100 percent in speculation, don’t mean much. Remember last season when the Trojans were near the top?
Arizona State, which had the same record as USC last season and returns a talented quarterback in Taylor Kelly, could just as easily be ranked in the Top 25. If Washington‘s senior quarterback Keith Price bounces back and finds a go-to receiver, the Huskies could be in the mix. Again, it’s pure speculation.
With four weeks before the season begins, there will be plenty of time for the teams to settle into their rightful spots in (or out of) the Top 25.