The season is almost upon us, which means we should probably take a gander at the Pac-12 conference standings rankings. Let’s break this down division by division.
In several polls the Stanford Cardinal is the heavy favorite to take the North for the second year running. Despite losing Hogan at quarterback there will be some change but they will be able to lean on their defense. Despite some losses this team will be able to produce linebackers yet again as they have Peter Kalambayi, Kevin Palma, Joey Alfieri and Noor Davis all returning. They also have Curtis Robinson the stud freshman coming in, this teams middle of the defense will hold the Cardinal in games.
The group of teams chasing Stanford is close enough to make a tight race out of the number two spot. Both Washington and Washington State boast solid defense and plenty of returning starters, and both are anticipated to take a step forward. Oregon can either contend for the division or slide to the bottom of it this season, they let up a dismal 37.5 points a game and they are not looking at an overly impressive improvement in that area this season. They are also betting on another FCS transfer quarterback in Dakota Prukop to come in and pull a Vernon Adams Jr. If this team gets Prukop and the offense going, then they will be the second or third best team in the division. However if they are worse on defense and the offense is off, then they will be taking a massive step back.
As far as the rest of the division, Cal is going to be in trouble now that Jared Goff is gone and there is no good replacement for him. Oregon State has been on the down slide for a few seasons and despite the fact that new coach Gary Anderson is coming in could turn them around. But they do not have enough talent to do it this year.
The consensus top tier teams of this division are USC and UCLA. USC is looking to replace Cody Kessler with Max Browne, and they are surrounding him with All-Conference talent in the form of JuJu Smith, Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner. UCLA, on the other hand, has their established quarterback in Josh Rosen; but they got wrecked after the draft when they lost Myles Jack and Paul Perkins. One of those teams will top this division, it is just a matter of which one puts all the pieces together first.
Coming in just behind these teams is the Utah Utes, who looked great coming out the gate last season, but fell short down the stretch due to mental errors in most of their losses. They lost their star running back Davontae Booker, which will be a hit to the offense. If they can avoid too big a slide they could have a shot at a very good bowl game.
On the bottom is Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado. Arizona is the best of this class as they have the strongest defense of these teams. Arizona State gave up a staggering 6,000 yards which overshadowed the 33.5 points a game they averaged. Colorado has just never been able to put the pieces together.
When looking at all these teams, and all the polls, and the rankings people have made, I will have to go with Stanford and USC playing for the conference championship; Stanford taking the conference for a second year in a row. Oregon and UCLA will be the runner ups in their respective divisions, and over all the Pac-12 should end with at least five top 25 ranked teams.