Oregon Ducks: pac-12 2013 power rankings

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 25, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the Power Rankings, play better.

Click here for last week's Power Rankings.

1. Stanford: It seems in some ways just that Stanford now eclipses Oregon in the Pac-12 North based on the teams' head-to-head result. The Cardinal, by the way, could do the conference a favor by beating Notre Dame on Saturday. Otherwise the Fighting Irish, with wins over Stanford, Arizona State and USC, could claim their own Pac-12 title.

2. Arizona State: You can't undersell what Todd Graham has done in Tempe. If the Sun Devils beat rival Arizona on Saturday, they will play host to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. So there are considerable stakes outside of pride. And we know how well the Sun Devils play at home. The result earlier this season at Stanford might be meaningless.

3. Oregon: It has been a long time since the Ducks weren't Nos. 1 or 2 in the Power Rankings. After getting blown out at Arizona, coach Mark Helfrich said there needed to be some "inward" looking inside the locker room. Can the Ducks regain their mojo? The Civil War against Oregon State will be a pretty grumpy affair, without substantial external stakes for either team for the first time in a long time.

4. USC: The Trojans, as expected, improved to 6-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron after whipping Colorado. Yet, much of the present goodwill would be surrendered with a second consecutive loss to UCLA. If Orgeron delivers a victory, however, his candidacy to become the next head coach takes on substantial legitimacy.

5. UCLA: Losing at home to Arizona State hurt, but the Bruins know exactly how to turn their frowns upside down: Beat USC. That also would boost their bowl options, of course.

6. Washington: While there has been a lot of hyperventilating about Steve Sarkisian and the inconsistent Huskies, the ultimate story will be written over the next two games, starting with Friday's Apple Cup. If Washington beats Washington State and then wins a bowl game, it will finish 9-4, and that would represent a strong step forward after three consecutive 7-6 seasons. On the downside, anything less would cap a disappointing season, and certainly wouldn't cool Sarkisian's coaching seat.

7. Arizona: While Arizona's friends up North have taken a solid lead in the battle of second-year head coaches between Rich Rodriguez and Graham, the Wildcats can take back a lot with an upset win in Tempe. Not only would they boost their bowl prospects and make Rich Rod 1-1 versus Graham, they'd force the Sun Devils to travel to Stanford for the Pac-12 title game, which would substantially reduce their Rose Bowl chances.

8. Washington State: The Cougars are bowl eligible, but they could become bowl eligible with a bang -- as well as positively giddy -- with a second consecutive upset win over the hated Huskies in Seattle. An added consolation would be seeing Sarkisian's seat heat up substantially and seeing a potential shift in the balance of power in the state.

9. Oregon State: That was a dreadful performance against Washington. The worst I've personally witness from the Beavers. Coach Mike Riley is a class act and a heck of a guy, but he needs to answer for that. It wasn't about losing to the Huskies. It was about how it went down at home, with a listless, uninterested effort.

10. Utah: While there are legitimate excuses for how Utah's season has gone, the loss at Washington State, even without QB Travis Wilson, delivered a resounding thud to Year 3 in the Pac-12. The Utes are 1-7 in conference play. A loss at home to Colorado on Saturday would make coach Kyle Whittingham's seat hot heading into 2014.

11. Colorado: While the Buffaloes were brought back down to Earth after getting pounded by USC, they showed admirable fight in the second half. Concluding the season with a road win over Utah would bode well for the future. And it would mean the Buffs finish 10th in the Pac-12 Power Rankings, not 11th.

12. California: The best news for the Bears is the season is over. Little went right in Sonny Dykes' first season, and he took the blame upon himself after the blowout Big Game defeat to Stanford. There is plenty of justifiable fan frustration. Dykes' first question is his staff, particularly on defense. He probably needs to make some changes. And then he needs to look at his roster and decide who cares about winning and who doesn't.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the Power Rankings, play better.

Click here for last week's Power Rankings.

1. Oregon: The Ducks didn't really sparkle against Utah, but Stanford's losing gives them a boost by default. Instead of a likely BCS at-large berth, the Ducks now will need to win out to reach the Rose Bowl -- or face a BCS bowl-less season for the first time since 2008. Up next: a potentially tricky trip to Arizona.

2. Stanford: The Cardinal are going to feel a lot of regret about what happened at USC. It now seems likely that Stanford won't play in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2009.

3. Arizona State: The Sun Devils took care of business against Oregon State, thereby reaching the South Division game of the year at UCLA. Arizona State is playing well on both sides of the ball, even overcoming some early struggles against the Beavers.

4. UCLA: Of course, if UCLA and USC both win on Saturday, the South game of the year becomes the Battle for Los Angeles, an affair that would be far more meaningful than anyone imagined it being eight weeks ago.

5. USC: The Trojans are 5-1 since firing Lane Kiffin, and the win over Stanford makes them a legitimate threat to win the South and then earn a shot at the Rose Bowl.

6. Washington: The Huskies have failed to answer the bell against the Pac-12's best teams, as was their clearly stated preseason goal. All is not lost. Win the final two regular-season games, starting with a visit to Oregon State on Saturday, and a bowl game, and a nine-win season won't feel so bad. Anything less would feel like a failure.

7. Oregon State: The Beavers have lost three in a row, and it's clear their 6-1 start was a product of a favorable schedule. Lose the next two, and the season won't ultimately feel successful.

8. Washington State: After upsetting Arizona -- on the road, no less -- the Cougars only need to beat Utah or Washington to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2003.

9. Arizona: Were the Wildcats looking past Washington State to Oregon? Maybe. If so, what the heck were they thinking? That was a bad home loss. Up until then, the season has pretty much gone as expected. Finishing the regular season with a three-game losing streak won't make anyone smile in Tucson.

10. Utah: Does it help if we insist that Utah is the nation's best 4-6 team? No? Yeah, it's hard to look at a 1-6 record in Pac-12 play and feel very good. But the Utes still have a shot at earning bowl eligibility. It's going to take some mental toughness to win at Washington State on Saturday.

11. Colorado: After whipping California, the Buffaloes guaranteed they won't go winless in Pac-12 play. In fact, if they could find some magic and beat USC and Utah, they'd be bowl-eligible in Mike MacIntyre's first season. That seems doubtful, but you can pretty much call MacIntyre's first go-round a success and grounds for hope.

12. California: Cal, Cal, Cal. Hey, at least it doesn't look like Stanford is going to its second consecutive Rose Bowl. That's something. Of course, they head into the Big Game feeling pretty angry. If the Bears don't show up with some fight, it could get ugly. Really ugly.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the Power Rankings, play better.

Click here for last week's Power Rankings.

1. Stanford: Whoops ... the Cardinal did it again, knocking Oregon out of the national championship picture and taking over the top spot in the North Division. Now the challenge is refocusing, because the visit to USC on Saturday with ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand is hardly a gimme, particularly with the way the Trojans are playing under Ed Orgeron.

2. Oregon: Ouch. Plenty of what-ifs, starting with: What if QB Marcus Mariota was 100 percent? But what-ifs only fuel Twitter. They don't change the standings. The question is how the Ducks respond against Utah, a solid team that has been suffering through its own what-if misery.

3. Arizona State: The Sun Devils showed grit with a fourth-quarter comeback win at Utah, which is obviously a tough out in Rice-Eccles (ask Stanford, UCLA and Oregon State). They still have a one-game lead in the South Division. They play host to Oregon State on Saturday, with the Beavers coming off a bye. Then comes the matchup at UCLA, which looms as the critical game in the division.

4. UCLA: If the Bruins are going to win the South, they will earn it. After outlasting Arizona on the road, they come home to host Washington in a rare Friday night game. Then Arizona State comes to town, and the season concludes at USC. It's a rugged four-game stretch that could return them to the nation's top 10. Or leave them at home for the Pac-12 title game on Dec. 7.

5. USC: USC is 4-1 under Ed Orgeron -- despite epidemic injuries -- and is bowl eligible. The Trojans now could (1) ruin Stanford's season, (2) ruin UCLA's season and (3) win the South and earn a shot at the Rose Bowl. That sounds like something to play for.

6. Washington: The good news is the Huskies earned bowl eligibility by waxing Colorado. The real news is the next three games, which will make or break the season. Win two of three versus UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State, and that gets the program over the seven-win hump. The alternatives aren't very good.

7. Arizona: The Wildcats had plenty of chances but couldn't make a decisive move against the Bruins. Their next two games, at home against Washington State and Oregon, won't impact the South race, other than potentially knock them out of it. Of course, the visit to their good friends in Tempe on Nov. 30 could prove very meaningful, even if it's just a matter of ruining things for the Sun Devils.

8. Oregon State: The swooning Beavers, coming off a bye after consecutive defeats, could right their season with a win at Arizona State. But the offense, once high-flying, needs to get back on track.

9. Utah: The Utes might be the best 4-5 team in the nation. Does that help, Utes? The Stanford win looks even better today, but it remains the only highlight of a 1-5 conference mark. The good news is the schedule eases up with a visit to Oregon on Saturday. Wait. Oh. Never mind. That doesn't sound like good news in the least.

10. Washington State: The Cougars, at 4-5, need to win two out of three to earn bowl eligibility. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, as none of the final three games look overwhelming: at Arizona, home for Utah and at Washington. But the Cougs need to look a lot better after the bye week than they did before it.

11. Colorado: The Buffs seemed to run out of gas at Washington. They need to re-engergize, and for now, they get a chance for a conference win with California coming to town. Getting that fourth victory and first Pac-12 notch would be something positive for Year 1 under Mike MacIntyre.

12. California: The Bears go to Colorado on Saturday with their best chance for a win over an FBS team this season. Lose in Boulder, and Sonny Dykes' debut season will go down as one of the worst in program history.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 23, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the Power Rankings, play better.

See last week's Power Rankings here.

1. Oregon: When Stanford led Arizona State 39-7 after three quarters, it looked like the Cardinal would return to the top perch. But then Stanford yielded its killer instinct in the fourth, and the Sun Devils' rally keeps the Ducks No. 1.

2. Stanford: As dominant a first half against a good team as you could imagine. In fact, it's possible we're being too hard on Stanford because how well things went in the first half made the fourth quarter seem even worse than it was. Well, cry me a river.

3. UCLA: The Bruins go into the bye week still dealing with the emotions surrounding the death of a teammate, but they are playing very good football on both sides of the ball.

4. Washington: The Huskies' nonconference slate couldn't have turned out much better. A visit from Arizona will provide the first conference test. And the Huskies might be motivated by the whipping the Wildcats gave them last season in Tucson.

5. Arizona State: A bit difficult to get a handle on the Sun Devils. They deserve credit for the quality win over Wisconsin. And ridicule for the first half against Stanford. And credit for the strong fourth-quarter surge against the Cardinal. USC's visit, therefore, feels like a moment for far stronger and more decisive judgment.

6. Washington State: The Cougars' defense has been one of the season's biggest surprises, particularly the stout play of the front seven. That front seven will get a huge test in Seattle on Saturday against Stanford's offensive line.

7. Arizona: It seems like some Arizona fans believe their team has been cheated of coverage during the Wildcats' tour through the Little Sisters of the Poor nonconference schedule. Well, if the Wildcats post a quality win in Seattle, the media will refocus.

8. Oregon State: Beavers, Kevin wanted to demote you for your three horrid quarters at San Diego State. But his glass-half-full partner saw a gutty fourth quarter. Winning ugly feels a lot better than, well, losing to a supposedly overmatched foe ... as you know Beavs.

9. Utah: Ute fans (see ... not "Utes fans") are probably sitting back with a cold drink enjoying their dismissal of BYU. Yes, the gloating will be thick, as it should be after winning your fourth consecutive Holy War in advance of a two-year rivalry hiatus. And 3-1, after all, meets fairly optimistic preseason expectations. But, Utah, you are still 0-1 in Pac-12 play. Enjoy the off week. Then buckle your chin strap tight and prove yourselves in conference play. Up next is UCLA on Oct. 3. Then Stanford.

10. USC: Well, the defense still looks good. And Utah State is a solid team. But, man, Lane Kiffin's Trojans just seem determined not to play to their talent potential on offense. The visit to Arizona State likely sets the trajectory for the season. A loss would probably end South Division hopes. And maybe all hope.

11. Colorado: Colorado has been off for two weeks, so it will be interesting to see if the Buffaloes show some rust at Oregon State. Little Colorado has seen on film from the Beavers, particularly on defense, should make the Buffs think they can't win in Corvallis. And if that happens, Colorado can start using the "B" word. As in bowl (did I need to clarify that?).

12. California: Cal should be well-rested after a bye week. The good news is ... oh. Urp. Oregon. Autzen Stadium. A second consecutive top-five team. A third ranked team. Who put Sonny Dykes' first schedule together ... Mephistopheles?

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the Power Rankings, play better.

See last week's Power Rankings here.

1. Oregon: The power rankings are about reacting to the latest games as well as the cumulative body of work and general perception of butt-kicking ability. The Ducks are now tops in all three. And after witnessing Mark Helfrich's tour-de-force presser following his team's bludgeoning of Tennessee, reporters realized we've still got some Chip Kelly wiseacre to enjoy.

2. Stanford: Stanford falls behind due to style points. Of course, Stanford knows that winning, if continued, will conquer style. The Cardinal just needs to keep doing the former, starting with an interesting visit from Arizona State on Saturday.

3. UCLA: The Bruins now own the highest quality win in the conference with Saturday's emotional 18-point come-from-behind victory at Nebraska. Furthermore, how the Bruins took care of business -- 38 consecutive points? Are you kidding me?! -- was freaking impressive on both sides of the ball. Jim Mora and his staff seem to be pretty good in a halftime locker room.

4. Washington: The Huskies took care of business on the road against a solid Illinois team. After Idaho State, the visit from Arizona on Sept. 28 will present a big test for both teams.

5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils looked like the superior team against Wisconsin, but that doesn't change the fact they nearly blew it and -- let's face it -- got lucky with how things went down at the end with Pac-12 officials Larry, Curly and Moe. Still, it was a good win since the scoreboard says it was. Now, what can the Sun Devils do on the road against Stanford?

6. Washington State: The Cougars should improve to 3-1 on Saturday against Idaho. Then they get Stanford in Seattle, the first of four consecutive games against North Division foes. It's a tough stretch, but it certainly looks closer to a potential 2-2 run than it did in August. And two wins puts the Cougs one win away from bowl eligibility with four games to play.

7. Arizona: The Wildcats have been the quietest team in the conference because they played three weak nonconference opponents. They have looked pretty good, with an improved defense being particularly noteworthy. But we still don't know these guys and won't until they go to Washington on Sept. 28.

8. Oregon State: That was a big, clutch win at Utah. A potential season-changer. The preseason perception was the Beavers had a good shot at a 7-0 start. It's not unreasonable to be leaning toward ending up 6-1 now, particularly if QB Sean Mannion keeps doing his NFL QB-looking thing. Next up is a visit to a San Diego State team that can't -- please, Beavs, no! -- can't be overlooked.

9. USC: Not unlike Oregon State getting off the carpet, the way USC handled Boston College was enough to suggest it's premature to throw in the white towel for the Trojans' 2013 season. Clancy Pendergast's defense has been dominant, for one. And just maybe the offense is starting to figure things out.

10. Utah: Ouch. So many "what ifs" from the home loss to Oregon State. A great comeback, only to fall in overtime. Again, ouch. It's probably good news that a visit to BYU is up next. That's a big emotional game, and the Utes need to move on from a big emotional game.

11. Colorado: The grudge match with Fresno State was canceled due to major flooding -- unquestionably the right call, by the way -- so the renewed Buffs were on the sidelines and again will be off this week. It will be interesting to see how two consecutive weekends without a game will affect the visit to Oregon State on Sept. 28. That's a sneaky interesting game.

12. California: The Bears are the only team in the conference with a losing record, though that is a function of tough scheduling against a pair of ranked Big Ten teams in two of the three weeks. If Cal had played Arizona's schedule, it would be 3-0 and we'd be celebrating new coach Sonny Dykes and true freshman QB Jared Goff. But, as it is, the 1-2 record stands as the only available body of work. And that defense? Pretty yucky so far, injuries or not.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 9, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Stanford: There was some thinking to switch the top two after Oregon's dominant road effort at Virginia, but the Cardinal pretty much showed their own style of dominance against a San Jose State team that won 11 games last year and has an NFL prospect at quarterback.

2. Oregon: If Oregon approaches the monstrous butt-kicking it gave Virginia at home against Tennessee, then it probably will be time to move Oregon up to No. 1. And another dominant performance, this time against an SEC team, would probably move the "what will Mark Helfrich do" talk to the background.

3. Washington: The Huskies were off this week, but their victory over Boise State is still the highest-quality victory in the conference this season. Now can a team that has struggled on the road under Steve Sarkisian bring that efficiency on both sides of the ball to Illinois on Saturday?

4. UCLA: Another power rankings debate here. Both Kevin and I picked Arizona State to win the South Division. Now that the Sun Devils have played -- and drubbed an FCS team -- should they be bounced up? Nope. Even though the Bruins were off, their opening victory over Nevada was still of a higher quality. Plus, both teams take on ranked Big Ten teams on Saturday. Maybe that will provide some more clarity.

5. Arizona State: You never play a perfect game, but the Sun Devils were pretty much exactly what their idealized version should be against an FCS team last Thursday. Beat Wisconsin and the country will take note.

6. Washington State: Cougs making their move! We know you guys are irritated that the victory over USC became all about how bad USC looked, but we're also assuming the objective side of you sort of knows why. And, well, you didn't score an offensive TD. Still, great road win. Great defensive effort. Enjoy being optimistic.

7. Utah: Boy, Dennis Erickson sure is too old to make a difference with the Utes' offense! That hire will never work. Our guess is Utes fans who were down on the program have now noted that good QB play is sort of a good -- and fun! -- thing to get. Beating Oregon State at home on Saturday would perk up some preseason expectations.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats' defense, though it gave up a couple of big plays at UNLV, is vastly improved. And the running game looks pretty good, particularly with Ka'Deem Carey back in the lineup. But the passing game -- still no TD passes caught by a receiver -- is an issue.

9. California: The Bears get no style points -- even with all the big passing numbers -- for beating Portland State. But a win is a win. The issue, however, is how many more remain with a brutal upcoming schedule.

10. Oregon State: Hawaii isn't good. But after the disaster against Eastern Washington, it was good that the Beavers not only took care of business but overcame a first-half lull when they looked like they might be about to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle. The visit to Utah could set the trajectory for the season.

11. Colorado: Of course, it would have been nice for the Buffs to dominate Central Arkansas, but this isn't a team that can dominate anyone. Still, a second consecutive week of fourth-quarter gumption and opportunistic playmaking is meaningful. In danger of a humiliating defeat? Well, score 21 consecutive points to win going away.

12. USC: Just awful. The crowd in the Coliseum pretty much said it all.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

Yeah... talking to you, Oregon State.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Stanford: Thought about moving Oregon up just because Stanford didn't play, but the Cardinal's opponent on Saturday -- boredom -- was better than the Ducks' (Nicholls State). San Jose State is not a foe to take lightly.

2. Oregon: The Ducks did what they were supposed to do: dominate in every way. Now things ramp up over the next two weeks, starting with a looooong trip to Virginia, which beat BYU in its opener.

3. Washington: The Huskies move up from No. 6 after turning in the conference's first win over a ranked nonconference foe. Now can they remain at these lofty heights after they take a week off?

4. UCLA: The Bruins posted a quality win over Nevada, so the big debate this week was whether the Bruins should be No. 3. Arguable. But if you look at the schedule, UCLA has a perfect trip on Sept. 14 to establish itself high up in the early conference pecking order: at Nebraska on Sept. 14.

5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils fell from No. 3 because they didn't play. Sorry. That's how the power rankings work. Things move around every week. A win over Sacramento State won't reveal much, either. But thereafter things get interesting, starting with Wisconsin on Sept. 14.

6. USC: The win at Hawaii wasn't very revealing. The defense looks better than in 2012, but the lack of clarity at QB is an issue, and it will remain so until coach Lane Kiffin decides the Maxwell Smart intrigue he is generating around the position isn't worth it.

7. Utah: The Utes move up two spots with a quality victory over Utah State. There are still plenty of questions -- injuries to WR Kenneth Scott and LB Brian Blechen are big -- but the improvement of QB Travis Wilson is grounds for optimism. While the Utes shouldn't overlook Weber State, Oregon State's visit on Sept. 14, which now seems much more winnable, could become the linchpin for both teams' season.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats pretty much did what everyone expected against Northern Arizona. Now they head to UNLV, a slightly tougher test, as it's never easy to win on the road, particularly with a new starting QB. Still, we won't know who Arizona is until it visits Washington on Sept. 28.

9. California: Cal had its chances against Northwestern, and freshman QB Jared Goff certainly flashed promise, but a pair of pick-sixes did in the Bears. The Bears defense, though missing a handful of starters, was a bit of a disappointment, as was the O-line, which yielded four sacks and didn't run block very well after the first drive. Cal has Portland State before Ohio State comes to town on Sept. 14.

10. Washington State: The Cougars surely have a lot of regrets from their Auburn trip. It was a game they could have won, if not for a few mistakes. Winning at USC on Saturday would be a red-letter victory Mike Leach could hang his hat on. That said -- and you know Leach and his players would never say this -- another competitive performance could be enough for this team to buy into its improvement.

11. Colorado: Buffs, congrats on rising from the basement. That was a quality win over Colorado State. Now don't blow it by overlooking Central Arkansas.

12. Oregon State: Bad Beavers! Bad! Very bad. We projected a 7-0 start. Now, with the defensive showing against Eastern Washington, we have no idea. The first step toward redemption is taking out frustrations on Hawaii.

Pac-12 preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
And so it begins.

Welcome to game week. These are the preseason power rankings. You can see our post-spring power rankings here. They are different.

1. Stanford: Both Kevin and Ted went against the popular grain -- as in the Pac-12 media poll -- and picked Stanford to win the Pac-12. The biggest reason for that, other than the Cardinal winning in Eugene in 2012 and welcoming back a strong crew of starters, is the continuity in the head coaching office.

2. Oregon: The Ducks are again a preseason top-five team and national title contender, with their North Division rivalry with Stanford becoming one of college football's must-see games. There are plenty of reasons to believe that new coach Mark Helfrich, stepping up from offensive coordinator, will maintain the juggernaut Chip Kelly built, including having just about all of Kelly's assistant coaches coming back. But there is certainty only in seeing it happen on the field. The Ducks do have an advantage in terms of schedule, with Stanford playing USC, UCLA and Arizona State, and Oregon missing the Trojans and Sun Devils. And Stanford doesn't play Colorado, either.

3. Arizona State: The South Division seems to be a three-team toss-up. When Kevin and I tossed our coin, it came up with the Sun Devils. Taylor Kelly leads the offense and Will Sutton leads the defense. Pretty good start. Of course, the early schedule will reveal a lot.

4. UCLA: The Bruins have the toughest conference schedule among South Division teams, mostly because they play Oregon. ASU and USC do not. There are some questions, but QB Brett Hundley and OLB Anthony Barr are a pair of future NFL first-round picks.

5. USC: The Trojans were seventh in the spring, in large part because of residual fumes from a horribly disappointing 2012 campaign. Also, coach Lane Kiffin sits on the hottest seat in the conference. But if you look at the Trojans on paper, well, it's not too difficult to imagine this team getting on a roll, one that could lead it back into the nation's top 10.

6. Washington: The Huskies not only have 20 starters back, they also are getting back several former starters who were injured last season, most notably DE Hau'oli Kikaha -- who changed his last name from Jamora -- and OG Colin Tanigawa. Both topped the depth chart released this weekend. This team, after three consecutive seven-win seasons, sets up for a return to national relevance. The opener in newly remodeled Husky Stadium against Boise State is, well, huge.

7. Oregon State: The Beavers still haven't named a starting quarterback -- the Pac-12 blog is of the mind we'll likely see both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz in at least the first two games. The big question, however, remains: How will things work out at defensive tackle? If that question is answered, it could be a big year in Corvallis.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats are operating under the radar because of two questions: 1) QB play; 2) defense. They are replacing the highly productive Matt Scott, and even though a lot of folks are back on defense, that unit got run over in 2012. The defense is going to be better. How much is a fair question. And how much can the guy behind center do his best Scott imitation?

9. Utah: The transition to the Pac-12 probably hasn't been as easy as most Utah folks -- coaches, players and fans -- expected. Still, if QB Travis Wilson takes a step forward under new co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson and the Utes fill some holes on defense, this team could move up at least to the middle of the conference. Needs to stay healthy, though.

10. California: When you look at the Bears' depth chart, this seems low, even with a true freshman, Jared Goff, taking over behind center with a brutal early schedule. Still, there might be some growing pains under new coach Sonny Dykes, as his schemes on both sides of the ball are very different compared with what the Bears did under Jeff Tedford.

11. Washington State: The Cougars welcome back 17 starters, and they seem certain to be improved in the second season under coach Mike Leach. The defense has sneaky-good talent, and the deep crew of receivers seems perfect for Leach's "Air Raid" scheme. Of course, dramatic improvement might mean only five victories against a rugged schedule, including the opener at Auburn.

12. Colorado: The Buffaloes should be better this season under first-year coach Mike MacIntyre, but that likely won't be enough for them to move up in this conference.


Pac-12 Teams Can Load Up At WR
Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down the deep West Region wide receiver class in 2016.