Here are how the contributors of UW Dawg Pound see the Pac-12 in the preseason. The number next to each team is their average ranking from all 10 poll participants.
1. Oregon (1.0)
2. Washington (2.2)
3. Stanford (2.7)
T-4. Oregon State (4.6)
T-4. Washington State (4.6)
6. Cal (5.8)
1. USC (1.4)
2. UCLA (1.7)
3. Arizona State (2.9)
4. Arizona (3.8)
5. Utah (4.9)
6. Colorado (5.9)
Pac-12 Champion (votes): Oregon (7), USC (2), UCLA (1)
Some thoughts on their selections:
With the most dangerous offense in the PAC, Oregon is still the class of the North. Washington has developed experienced depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage which ranks them amongst the best of the nation. Stanford and WSU are two teams heading in opposite directions in the standings while Cal, if healthy should have enough to keep Oregon State below them in the race for the North cellar.
Despite the hype behind UCLA, it is hard to see a team in the South that can go toe to toe with the talent still underlying the USC roster. Combined with Sark's innovative up-tempo attack, the Trojans look to be a game or two better than a UCLA team that still lacks consistent offensive line play. Arizona is oozing with new talent and boasts the best receiving corps in the PAC. ASU will suffer some growing pains with a totally rehashed defense, but it should be enough to keep a leg up on a Utah team that could surprise if healthy. Colorado, for as much as they've improved, are still a long way for catching up with the rest of the South.
Oregon is still the class of the north, and quite possibly, the class of the country. Stanford's losses at the line of scrimmage coupled with David Shaw's fear of actually putting the ball in play will be too much to overcome, and Washington is poised to fill the void they'll leave at the top of the division. Oregon State, Washington State and Cal will be dangerous teams, and each will likely pull off a big upset in conference play, but each is too fatally flawed to reach the upper half of the conference.
Barring injury, USC has enough talent at the skill positions to be very effective offensively, and will probably boast the best defense in the conference. UCLA is too unsettled on the offensive line (Brett Hundley just got sacked again) and ASU has lost too much on defense to take another step forward. Arizona will be the surprise of the south. Utah just isn't quite "there" yet, but will be much improved if Travis Wilson can stay healthy. Colorado improves, but is still a couple of steps behind the rest of the division.
Oregon to the playoffs, and the Pac 12 is the deepest conference in the nation. But, SEC!!!!!
Oregon #1 until proven otherwise. Plus, they miss USC and ASU. Stanford will trend down, but not all that fast. Washington will be dangerous, but still too many gaps. Oregon State -- what do you do with Oregon State? Washington State, it's just not going to happen, guys. Cal, the ride is over.
USC has loads of talent, sleeping giant but not anymore. UCLA -- A lot of room between 1 and 2. Arizona State has better "misses" than UCLA, but the Sun Devil Rule...Arizona forgot to get a quarterback -- oops. Utah -- rmember the MWC? Me neither. Colorado is just bad.
Washington continues it climb back to greatness but, Oregon proves too strong for the Huskies to reach the title game. Oregon will once again not be strong enough to win a national title.
Tough battle in the south. I don't think it would be a total shock if any of the top 4 prevail. However, the continuity of Mora at UCLA over USC's new coach, proves to be the difference. CU finally gets out of the PAC 12 cellar.
Despite a few bumps in the road during Mark Helfrich's first year (Arizona, anyone?), it's hard to imagine that a Marcus Mariota-led Oregon squad won't be in a position to play for the inaugural College Football Playoff. The Ducks simply have too much talent on either side of the ball to confidently think that any other team will take the Pac-12 North crown. I expect Washington and Stanford to have similar records at the end of the year, and am giving UW the nod based on their contest being in Seattle, where Washington tends to play their best ball. Similarly, OSU and WSU should compete for the conference's No. 4 and 5 spots; the Cougs win the toss-up based on their returning talent at receiver, which is a position of paramount importance in their scheme. California needs to recruit some playmakers around Jared Goff before they can make a serious attempt to escape the division's basement.
I view USC, Arizona State and UCLA as all being serious contenders for the South Division title. USC has among the best 22 starters in the country, but college football isn't just about having the best starters. If USC can avoid sustaining injuries to key players, I like them to play in the conference championship game, but I'll need to see more from the Trojans' depth chart before I can wholeheartedly endorse them. UCLA and Arizona State undoubtedly have the talent needed to play in the league's upper echelon, but the Bruins need to show that they have drastically improved their protection of Brett Hundley before they can be talked about as a legitimate threat to make the college football playoff. Similarly, ASU needs to demonstrate that it will be able to compensate for the loss of nine defensive starters from the 2013 squad. Utah and Arizona both showed flashes of greatness last year in their respective defeats of Stanford and Oregon, but have struggled to play at such levels consistently. Meanwhile, Colorado needs to find a replacement for Paul Richardson, and quickly.
I'm really really not sold on Stanford in the North with all their losses and the way David Shaw calls a game. I think the Huskies will pass them up this year. Oregon will be the class of the North, but the conference is too deep for them to go unscathed -- they probably lose twice again -- which will keep them out of the playoff. I think Washington State will continue to improve and separate themselves from Oregon State and Cal a bit. Wouldn't be at all surprised if Sonny Dykes got fired after another abysmal year for Cal, as I just don't see many wins on their schedule.
I like USC. I think Steve Sarkisian running the style he did at UW with that level of talent is going to just steamroll a lot of teams -- maybe everybody in the South provided they can get lucky with health. I think UCLA is good, but not the top-everything hype the media has been giving them (they haven't beaten either Stanford or Oregon since 2008, and they're going to win (probably) 3 games against those schools and get to the playoff all of a sudden? Please.). They're a three loss team (minimum) this year with that schedule. The rest of the South is a crapshoot. ASU and UA have a ton of questions about replacing key pieces, Utah still can't catch up to the talent of the Pac-12, Colorado is improving but still a long way off -- I think they shake out in that order though.