So, we had a football game last week. That kind of kills the notion of a ‘preseason’ power poll. But, like an Elijah Qualls bull rush, I remain undeterred. Let’s jump right into it.
12. Colorado 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 11)
Last Result: n/a
Head coach Mike MacIntyre knows that the time is growing thin. Colorado needs to show some improvement this year. Coach Mac hasn’t shied away from the pressure, going so far as to claim that he’ll be “kickin’ some ass” in Week 1. I love the attitude coming from the coach and I am optimistic that the return of Sefo Liufau to the top of the depth chart at QB will be a stabilizing factor. I also like the overall state of the defense as it closes camp. But this is still a team facing a wide gap that needs to be closed before becoming a competitive PAC-12 team. The loss of big WR Juwann Winfree - a 6’3” 205-lb deep threat who has been a fall camp standout - is a big blow.
11. Oregon State 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 12)
Last Result: n/a
The reports that I’ve picked up on out of Corvallis all seem to indicate that Gary Andersen has his Beaver team light-years ahead of where it was a year ago. In particular, a focus has been placed on discipline and assignment execution. It isn’t surprising that the veteran players, in particular, are more comfortable with their roles and duties in year 2 of a new regime. The Beavs will open the season with a competent QB in Darrell Garretson and pieces to work with all across the offense: LT Sean Harlow, WR Jordan Villamin, RB Ryan Nall, WR Victor Bolden. I expect good things from OSU’s offense. The defense, now under its second DC in two years, remains a major question mark. The loss of two key defensive backs will further challenge them in this regard. I’m not sure that the OSU offense is yet good enough to compensate for the points that I see this defense surrendering.
10. Arizona State 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 9)
Last Result: n/a
ASU fans think that the rest of the PAC is sleeping on their team. They point to an experienced defensive line - in particular, a interior duo of Tashon Smallwood and Ami Latu - who they think can dominate - and a group of unheralded offensive playmakers including WR Tim White, RB Demario Richard, RB Kalen Ballage, and true freshman WR N’Keal Harry. They might be right, but only if new QB Manny Wilkins is something better than what he’s shown in the fall QB race. Either way, the defensive secondary is still in a state of chaos and the offensive line is still a great unknown. Let’s face it, the manner in which last season ended doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. ASU may well surprise, but they aren’t starting with a ton of juice.
9. Cal 1-0/0-0 (last poll: 8)
Last Result: Cal 55 v Air Force 36 (Armed Forces Bowl) AND Cal 51, Hawaii 31
You all had a lot of fun reminding me of my man-crush on the Cal program a year ago. I always found that to be ironic. I wonder who you think my secret pet team will be this season.
Cal is the one team that we have some film to watch after their 51-31 defeat of Hawaii in Sydney last weekend. If you watched the game, the pros and cons are about what you expected to see. The offense can run the ball, the new receivers - other than veteran Chase Hansen - aren’t up to speed yet, and the defense looks ... well .... uhhh .... really bad. I wouldn’t put much stock in conclusions drawn from a game played in Australia, but I do think that the deficiencies along the defensive line and the trouble Cal had tackling in space are indicative of some real issues.
8. Arizona 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 10)
Last Result: Arizona 45 v New Mexico 37 (New Mexico Bowl)
We now know that RichRod is planning on running a QB platoon between incumbent Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins. That’s never good news. The bright side is that UA has a few experienced offensive lineman and a stable of playmakers, including WR Trey Griffey and WR Samaje Grant. That said, I'm not sure how to interpret the news that Nick Wilson will be splitting reps with Orlando Bradford. This is a team in some transition. They will score a few points, but they lack the size at WR that is ideal for them in moving sticks. The move away from former DC Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 to more of a hybrid 4-3 is something that the roster hasn’t yet evolved to support.
7. Washington State 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 4)
Last Result: WSU 20 v Miami 10 (Sun Bowl)
The Cougs are probably better than 7th right now. They have a great receiving corps, the top QB in the PAC, and a budding star pass rusher in Hercules Mata’afa. But it is hard to ignore the momentum killers that WSU is struggling with: most notably, the assault charges awaiting star safety Shalom Luani and the fact that “unnamed players” were accused of breaking another student’s jaw. There are enough knowns and unknowns with WSU that the Cougs are easily the most deliciously mysterious team in the PAC-12 as we enter the season.
6. Oregon 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 6)
Last Result: Oregon 41 v TCU 47 (Alamo Bowl)
There is no surprise that Dakota “dink-dunk-and-dash” Prukop is the starting QB for your Oregon Ducks. He is an FCS transfer, after all. What is adding awkwardness around the QB room in the Oregon facilities is the fact that 3* true freshman QB Justin Herbert has apparently outplayed more heralded star recruits including the experienced Travis Jonsen (anybody want to quote an over/under on Jonsen’s transfer date?). To add to the drama, Torrodney Prevot has been indefinitely suspended from the team while allegations of an assault of a UO female athlete is being investigated. He was one of just two returning starting d-lineman and UO’s best pass rusher.
Things are not starting off well in Eugene.
Despite the savory chaos that seems to continue to plague the Oregon QB situation, the star power at WR and RB is more than enough to make up for it on offense (although the possible injuries to Darren Carrington and Dillon Mitchell have our attention). The real issue is whether or not Brady Hoke is going to be able to get the Oregon defense in order. Even before the surprise last second transfer of DB Chris Seisay, things weren’t looking that good (Did I mention that my predicted ‘break out’ star, Canton Kaumatule, isn't even on the two deeps of a team with precious few d-lineman?). I still like the Ducks to win the North - but my confidence is wavering as they start the season with very little momentum.
5. Utah 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 2)
Last Result: Utah 35 v BYU 28 (Las Vegas Bowl)
If this were a PAC-12 rugby league, Utah would be my easy #1. Nobody boasts the kind of size and toughness that Utah has at positions like defensive line, offensive line, wide receiver, and tight end. Yet this remains a team that is slow in the secondary, thin at RB, and uncertain in the linebacking corps. Former Husky Troy Williams at QB is also an experiment that is far from a sure thing. Until we can gather more information, Utah is best slotted in the middle of this weekly power poll.
4. USC 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 7)
Last Result: USC 21 v Wisconsin 23
USC breaks camp with an elite offensive line, an elite WR (JuJu Smith-Schuster), an elite CB (Adoree’ Jackson), and the best (arguably hyperbolic) one-two punch at RB in the nation. Those pieces alone are enough to keep USC near the top of the PAC-12 hierarchy when it comes to preseason power polls. All the other things remain question marks. How will the Trojans handle the change in offensive philosophy? How will they recover from the turnover of the assistant coaching staff? Most importantly, how will Max Browne handle his duties as “the man” at QB after a hard-fought battle with RS frosh Sam Darnold for the starting QB position? They don’t get much time to prepare as Week 1 pits them against the reigning National Champs.
3. Washington 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 5)
Last Result: Washington 44 v Southern Miss 31
The Huskies close out fall camp in as good shape healthwise as any other team in the PAC-12. That’s the good news. The bad news is that expectations are sky-high after an offseason of absurd hype (remember, I told you it was going to get crazy). Regardless of where you fall on the whole “is UW too hyped” debate, one can hardly argue that UW lacks the credentials to be ranked this high in a preseason power ranking. Their defense is an elite unit, they return one of just four starting PAC-12 QBs, their sophomore RB is a star by any measure, and they are graced by the return of the explosive John Ross. Oh, and there is the whole Chris-Petersen-is-a-god thing. While it sucks to not have the “sneak up on them” thing going on, the time is now for UW.
2. UCLA 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 3)
Last Result: UCLA 29 v Nebraska 37 (Foster Farms Bowl)
When we last saw UCLA, they were busy getting embarrassed in the Foster Farms Bowl by a former nemesis (Mike Riley) who, technically speaking, did not even have a bowl-eligible team at Nebraska. Like it or not, UCLA has a reputation for being lovable losers. Nevertheless, there is a lot of momentum behind this team as they hit 2016. QB Josh Rosen, who is starting to ruffle some feathers with his perceived cockiness, looks poised to take the next step toward greatness. RB Soso Jamabo looks to me like a breakout player. The defense boasts a back seven to rival that of any other PAC-12 team. Much is expected of this team as they kick off the season.
1. Stanford 0-0/0-0 (last poll: 1)
Last Result: Stanford 45 v Iowa 16 (Rose Bowl)
I have to admit it: I almost put Stanford #2 here. Count me among the many that are sensing a whiff of disappointment in hearing the news that QB Ryan Burns has beaten out former uber-recruit Keller Chryst for the starting QB position. This feels like a Josh Nunes situation to me. I also am not loving the patchwork offensive line or the thin defensive line. Still, one cannot ignore what Stanford did in the Rose Bowl which, I think, was one of the most impressive postseason games in all of CFB last season. Christian McCaffrey is the best football player in the nation bar none, and David Shaw has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt. Stanford is #1 until somebody proves otherwise.