T1. USC (2 first place votes)
The top ranked team in the country and the top ranked team in the conference. The Trojans are led by Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley. With receivers like Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, USC is going to score, a lot, and the defense isn't bad either. It's national title or bust for the men of troy.
T1. Oregon (2 first place votes)
New QB. New running back. Same old Oregon. Expect points a plenty out of the Ducks, who will not only compete for a Pac 12 title, but a national title. Whether it's Marcus Mariota, or Brian Bennett at the helm, this should again be the best offense in the conference, if not the country. Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas should combine for over 3,000 yards from scrimmage and the defense is going to be solid led by safety John Boyett and defensive end Dion Jordan. Anything less than 10 wins will be a disappointment.
There's a drop-off after the big two, and any of the teams ranked between 3 and 7 could make a case as the third best in the conference, but Utah gets the nod here. The Utes return a ton of starters on both sides of the ball and are led by arguably the conference's top coaching staff. If Jordan Wynn stays healthy, they can compete with USC in the South, especially with the defense led by Star Lotulelei.
The Andrew Luck era is over and now Josh Nunes takes over the reigns. Stanford has arguably the top back in the conference in Stepfan Taylor, but the offensive line lost multiple all conference players, including two high draft draft picks. The defense might be the best in the conference with linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas being two of the best in the country. The run of Heisman Trophy runners-up and BCS bowl bids will end this year though.
The defense has been overhauled after the second half debacle that saw the Huskies give up 31 points or more in 6 of their last 7 games, including 65 to Stanford and 67 to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Running back Chris Polk is gone, but QB Keith Price returns. If he can stay healthy, Price could throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. Whether or not Washington can compete with Oregon in the North will rest heavily on the defense.
The offense should be solid with three senior starters on the line, two decent QBs in Zach Maynard and Allen Bridgford, and a solid back in Isi Sofele. What could take them to the next level is the receivers, led by Keenan Allen, and a hoard of freshman receivers, who are as talented an incoming bunch as there is in the country. The defense will again be led by a deep line, but there are questions outside of the front four.
New coach. New QB. New attitude. Jim Mora has changed the culture of UCLA football. With plenty of talented athletes on the roster, he's hoping that translates into wins under redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley. The Bruins are a boom or bust kind of team that could win anywhere from 4 to 10 games.
8. Washington State
Mike Leach and his air raid attack come to Pullman. With Jeff Tuel and Marquess Wilson, they're going to score a ton of points, and could lead the conference in scoring. The question is, will they stop anyone? Probably not.
9. Oregon State
Mike Riley is feeling the heat after back to back disappointing seasons and may need to get to a bowl game to save his job. Sean Mannion is one of the better QBs in the conference, and they have a dynamic receiving corps with the likes of Brandoin Cooks and Markus Wheaton, but this team is still in the bottom tier of the conference.
In comes Rich Rodriguez and the new offensive attack. After a disastrous 2011, there's nowhere to go but up for the Wildcats who will have a senior starter at QB in Matt Scott. Scott sat out 2011 with a redshirt, but has plenty of experience and is a perfect fit for Rich-Rod's offense. There is some talent, but a bowl game this year is likely a stretch. The offense will be fun to watch though.
Season two for head coach Jon Embree won't signify much change. The Buffs are well behind much of the conference when it comes to talent, and with Paul Richardson expected to miss some time, they lose their top playmaker. Tackle David Bakhtiari might be the best offensive lineman in the conference, but he can't do it alone. The linebacking corps, led by Jon Major will be solid, but the Buffs will be hard pressed to win more than 5 games.
12. Arizona State
How fast they can fall. Last November, the Sun Devils were 6-2, with a top 20 ranking, and then the wheels came off as they lost five straight to close the year, including a thrashing from Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Now there's a new head coach in Todd Graham and a young team replacing most of its starters. 2012 will be filled with growing pains and a winning record would be shocking.
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