Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 1


Sep 6, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs the ball against the Michigan State Spartans at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

There will be college football played this week. That means it’s time to dust off the ol’ Pac-12 football power rankings with a preseason poll that will surely be wrong as soon as later this week.

RELATED: 10 Best Season Opening Wins in USC Football History

The Pac-12 has a bevy of contenders, especially in the South division, where no fewer than five teams could potentially make the conference title game.

Last season, the Pac-12 South finished with four teams that had records of 6-3 or better, with five of the six teams ending the year ranked in the AP Top 25. This year looks to be much of the same, as the nation’s most competitive division.

How does the entire division shake out? Let’s rank ’em.

The men of Troy are primed to contend for a national title in the 2015 season.

Cody Kessler leads the vaunted Trojan offensive attack this season with star JuJu Smith taking over the role of primary receiver with the loss of Nelson Agholor to the NFL.

The Trojans have a massive offensive line and their defense should be much improved, even after the loss of Leonard Williams.

Steve Sarkisian had one of the best recruiting classes in the history of the program so while depth will again be a concern, it should not hang over the program as much.

The wealth of talent on this team may deem too difficult for the rest of the conference to overcome.

If replacing Taylor Kelly was the biggest concern for the Sun Devils this year, it should be smooth sailing.

Mike Bercovici, who orchestrated the magnificent comeback over USC last year, returns to take up the mantel of full-time starter.

Bercovici gets to play with a very talented offensive line and has several playmakers, like Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage and De’Chavon “Gump” Hayes, and RB-turned-WR DJ Foster roaming the defensive secondary.

The defense looks very solid as well, after a 2014 season that saw plenty of ups and downs in defending the pass. The defensive unit found their groove at the end of last season, electing to blitz opponents at a very high rate that brought a high amount of success, getting the Sun Devils ranked as high as 6th in the nation after demolishing Notre Dame.

A high powered offense and a blitz-crazy defense can combine to create a very scary football team.

Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has Wildcat Nation believing that their squad will contend again in the national spotlight.

The Wildcats are returning several starters on both sides of the ball, and will be led by sophomore QB Anu Solomon, who has drawn comparisons to Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

They have a potent offensive lineup and their defense returns star players Scooby Wright and Jake Matthews.

Rodriguez has a talented young team, but 2015 will be a big year to prove he can take the next step with this team.

UCLA vastly underperformed in 2014. That they won 10 games and are still considered to have fallen short of expectations should give you an idea of how hyped this unit was.

Well, their expectations should be a bit lower this year – QB Brett Hundley, LB Eric Kendricks, DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa and S Anthony Jefferson all graduated – which may actually will help the Bruins to a better showing without pressure weighing them down.

Paul Perkins had a breakout campaign and returns with the best offensive line UCLA has seen in the Jim Mora era so far, and the offense will feature top prospect Josh Rosen under center.

On the defensive side of things, there are several stars reaching the end of their college careers, including LB Myles Jack, DE Eddie Vanderdoes, and CBs Ishmael Adams, Randall Goforth, and Jaleel Wadood.

This team is just about as complete this year as they were last year, and with a mix of less intense media coverage, this 2015 Bruins team might just shock the world.

The challenge will be Rosen adapting to college football as a true freshman and facing a brutal schedule, with home games against Virginia, BYU and Arizona State as well as road games against Utah, USC, Stanford and Arizona.

It just seems that Oregon never has to rebuild, the Ducks just continue to re-load talent every year.

They did lose one of their greatest talents in the history of the school when Marcus Mariota made the jump to the NFL this past season, but fear not fans of the feather. The Ducks have brought in some solid talent at the QB position to soften the blow with star graduate transfer Vernon Adams joining the squad.

Oregon will also have one of the best offensive lines in the country and are returning two of the best running backs with Royce Freeman and the multi-faceted Byron Marshall.

While they will again be very good, they will take a minor step back this season. They face tough road tests this year against Stanford, Michigan State and Arizona State as well as difficult home games against USC and Utah.

This season for the Cardinal will depend on the play of Kevin Hogan and the offense.

Last year, this was a team who struggled to score from the start. They could hold USC to 13 points, but only scored 10 themselves.

The defense was good enough to beat the bad Pac-12 teams but the offense wasn’t strong enough to score more than 10, 16, or 17 against the good ones.

The defense should remain solid, but will take a few steps back with just four returning starters.

On offense, Hogan will need to build off his momentum from late last year to lead the Cardinal to a positive season.

This may come as a surprise to have them ranked so highly, but this Cal team is hungry and is returning an abundance of talent.

Jared Goff returns under center and has as much passing ability as anyone in the conference. Last season, he threw for just under 4,000 yards and tossed 35 touchdowns with just 7 picks.

The offense certainly contains some mojo, but defense was the problem last season. Their defensive woes stemmed from their inability to get to the quarterback, as the unit only had 16 sacks among the entire team, the lowest mark in the entire conference. The pass rush could see some aid from two new transfers, defensive tackle James Looney and defensive end DeVante Wilson.

If the defense can find itself, I see a successful year in Cal.

They have their work cut out for them as they play tough road games against Utah, UCLA and Oregon as well as difficult home games against Arizona State and USC.

Utah was the victim of being in a stacked division last year. You know your competition is tough when you win nine games in a season and still finish second-to-last in your division.

These nine wins included upsets over UCLA, USC, and Stanford; while finishing ranked #21 in the country and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Travis Wilson returns for his senior season at quarterback, as well as most of the team from last year, including Devontae Booke, who is perhaps the best senior running back in college football.

The Utes surely lost some talent to the NFL this past draft, but expect coach Kyle Whittingham to fill their absences this year.

With multiple coaching changes, and several years of lackluster recruiting, the Buffaloes have become the cellar dweller of the Pac-12 South.

Head Coach Mike MacIntyre has been successful at all his other stops, but he has only been able to muster a 6-18 record since coming to Boulder.

The Buffs surrendered an average of 39 points a game last year, only putting up 28 themselves. Their only wins came against perennial bottom-feeders UMass and Hawaii, beating UMass by a margin of just three points.

However, Colorado enters this season with a very talented quarterback, Sefo Liufau, who took huge steps forward last year, throwing for 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns to only 15 interceptions.

I think there will be drastic improvement across the board as MacIntyre enters year three. This year, the Buffaloes travel to Arizona State, UCLA and Utah as well as hosting Colorado State, Oregon, Stanford and USC.

The Huskies lost a lot of defensive firepower going into this year with the departures of players like Marcus Peters, Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson.

Chris Petersen is a great coach and has often managed to squeeze greatness out of somewhat average players, but Washington plays against much tougher opponents than Boise State ever did.

The path to a division title will be an uphill climb for the Huskies. Expect some struggles from the Huskies in Petersen’s second year.

Washington will host Oregon, Arizona and Utah and also travel to Boise State, Arizona State and Stanford.

The Washington State Cougars disappointed last season, finishing just 3-9.

The defense was one of the worst in all of college football and the offense will be without Connor Halliday.

Even without Halliday, in a Mike Leach system, there is no doubt that the Cougars will be able to score a fair amount. But the defense needs a lot of refinement from last year.

Last season, the Cougar defense gave up an average of 38.5 points per game. The lowest amount of points they surrendered was 21, and that was against an FCS team that won just as few games as the Cougars last year.

Leach and the Cougars have not made any significant additions to their defense, and their offense should take a step back with Halliday gone.

The schedule is not light either, with the Cougars traveling to Oregon, UCLA and Arizona as well as hosting Stanford and Arizona State.

The Oregon State Beavers lost their quarterback Sean Mannion, who now holds all of the passing records in OSU history, to the draft.

They lost their head coach of 11 years, Mike Riley, who was also the winningest head coach in the school’s history, as he went to Nebraska.

They replaced him with Gary Andersen, a coach who managed to turn a Utah State program into an 11-win team before inheriting a very good team in Wisconsin for two years. Andersen now inherits a program just beginning a reboot.

Most of the talent is gone and he faces an uphill battle in the recruiting arena, with the Oregon Ducks simply being a better program.

The schedule will be tough as the Beavers travel to Oregon, Utah and Arizona as well as face Stanford and UCLA at home.

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