The college football season is upon us once again. Each week during the season, The State Press will rank the Pac-12.
These are the preseason power rankings:
1. Stanford: The Cardinal are the reigning Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Champions. At this point, there is no other place in the rankings for coach David Shaw’s team, which returns junior quarterback Kevin Hogan, All-American senior offensive tackle David Yankey and a host of defensive studs including senior linebacker Shayne Skov.
2. Oregon: The Ducks have the talent to be No. 1, not only in the Pac-12, but in the nation. Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is an early Heisman favorite and speedster De’Anthony Thomas will get more touches this season with the departure of Kenjon Barner. Mark Helfrich should have fun with this offense in his first year as head coach.
3. ASU: Coming off a strong end to the 2012 season, the Sun Devils return with arguably the most depth of any team in the South. Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton returns on defense, and running backs senior Marion Grice and sophomore D.J. Foster might be the best duo in the Pac-12.
4. UCLA: The defending Pac-12 South Champions return sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley and senior linebacker Anthony Barr but lost the likes of running back Johnathan Franklin, offensive lineman Jeff Baca and tight end Joseph Fauria. There’s some questions marks on this Bruins squad, but they were selected by the Pac-12 media to win the South for the third consecutive year.
5. USC: It’s hard to rank a team, even one as talented as the Trojans, very high when they have yet to decide on a starting quarterback. Whether it’s sophomore Cody Kessler or sophomore Max Wittek, they have the top wide receiver target in the nation in junior Marqise Lee. The Trojans had an abysmal end to last season and if that carries over to this season, it could get brutal for Lane Kiffin and company.
6. OSU: Mike Riley and the Beavers are sneaky good every year, and this year is no different. The quarterback competition is finally over, with junior Sean Mannion winning the job over senior Cody Vaz. Junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks and junior defensive end Scott Crichton are stars for a Beavers team that started 6-0 last season and could easily start 7-0 this season based on the first half of their schedule.
7. Washington: On paper, the Huskies are stacked offensively with senior quarterback Keith Price, sophomore running back Bishop Sankey and senior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Huskies believe this is their year to take a step forward, and a win on Saturday against Boise State in the reopening of Husky Stadium would be a great place to start.
8. UA: The Wildcats are dealing with a quarterback competition of their own but have the luxury of returning junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher last season. Senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer anchor a Wildcats defense looking to improve on its 35 points given up per game average last season.
9. Utah: The Utes continue to believe they can play with the big boys of the Pac-12, but that theory will be shot yet again if they fall to Utah State at home Thursday night. They brought in a big-time offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson and sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson is poised to have a breakout season.
10. California: The Golden Bears, under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, are becoming a darkhorse in the Pac-12. True freshman Jared Goff was named starting quarterback last week, and he’s going to have to learn quickly with Northwestern heading to Berkeley on Saturday.
11. Washington State: Year two under Mike Leach gets started with a road game at Auburn Saturday night. If junior quarterback Connor Halliday and the Cougars can keep it close versus the lowly Tigers, it would provide a great early mental boost for a team returning 17 starters.
12. Colorado: The Buffaloes again have a new coach and are quickly becoming a staple at the bottom of the preseason power rankings. A win over Colorado State in Denver Sunday would get the Mike MacIntyre era going quite nicely.
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