We are finally here. The 2013 season is just days away from beginning for the Washington Huskies. Expect these power rankings on a weekly basis and think of this as an appropriate place to discuss conference story lines after a weekend of games. With this said, the real stories and discussion happens in the comments below. Disagree with something I wrote? Have at it in the comments. Here we go...
1. Oregon Ducks (0-0)- Oregon's first week opponent, the Nicholls State Colonels, compiled a record of 1-10 last season. If you're the Nicholls State head coach, what exactly are you telling your team? This is the definition of a cupcake game for the Ducks.
2. Stanford Cardinal (0-0)- Oregon and Stanford make up the best conference division in all of America. The Pac-12 North is tough and it is difficult seeing the Cardinal dropping out of the top two of these rankings this season. Coming off a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin along with returning eight starters, Stanford can compete for a national championship.
3. UCLA Bruins (0-0)- Entering his second season as the head coach of the Bruins, Jim Mora has a team that is a favorite to win the Pac-12 South. The defense is led by NFL prospect Anthony Barr. Last season, the senior outside linebacker had the second most sacks in the nation with 13.5 and the fourth-most tackles for loss with 21.5. The Bruins also have a more than capable quarterback in sophomore Brett Hundley.
4. USC Trojans (0-0)- Who will start at quarterback for the Trojans in Thursday's opener against Hawaii? Quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler were both listed as co-starters when the team released its depth chart on Saturday for Thursday's game. Other teams without No. 1 quarterbacks named yet include Penn State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Kentucky. This team is loaded with talent, the only reason why people are sleeping on them is because of the lack of clarity surrounding the signal-calling position.
5. Oregon St. Beavers (0-0)- Like the Trojans, Oregon St. has been dealing with quarterback controversy, but head coach Mike Riley named junior Sean Mannion the starter over senior Cody Vaz. The offense returns ten starters, while the defense returns seven. After the team's first five games, the schedule gets difficult for the Beavers; four the team's last seven games are on the road including Stanford, USC, at Arizona St., Washington and ending with at Oregon.
6. Arizona St. Sun Devils (0-0)- ASU boasts one of the best defensive lines in the country, led by senior Will Sutton. He has the chance to become the conference's first repeat Defensive Player of the Year since Steve Emtman in 1991 and 1992. Have you heard of that guy?
7. Washington Huskies (0-0)- If the Huskies beat Boise St., I'd expect them not to only move up in these rankings but also the national rankings. This is Sarkisian's most talented team he's ever had at Montlake, now's the time for it to all come together.
8. Arizona Wildcats (0-0)- Will Arizona's defense see any improvement from its dismal performance last season? Perhaps the team is past its adjustment period with defensive coordinator Jeff Castel, or maybe its not. The team has proven players on the defense like senior linebacker Jake Fischer who led the team with 119 tackles last season, it's just a matter of the defense coming together as a collective unit.
9. California Golden Bears (0-0)- And the Sonny Dykes era begins. Dykes' best player might be Seattle's own, senior Deandre Coleman from Garfield HS. The defensive lineman is one of the top NFL prospects at his position and is one of the lone bright spots on the Cal team. Another player to watch is sophomore wide receiver Chris Harper who hauled in 41 catches for 544 yards and two touchdowns last season.
10. Utah Utes (0-0)- If there is one team that could surprise in the bottom half of the Pac-12, Utah might be the choice. In the past ten years, the Utes have won two BCS bowls. Head coach Kyle Whittingham is no stranger to success - I just don't see them ending the season with a losing record.
11. Washington St. Cougars (0-0)- How will Cougar fans evaluate the success of this year's team? Is a two-win improvement in conference play good enough? Leach has an uphill battle ahead of him, and being in the toughest sub-division in college football makes it even more difficult.
12. Colorado Buffaloes (0-0)- Seven consecutive losing seasons. This year will be no different. Poor Buffs.