With the Pac-12 Football Media Day approaching on Tuesday (we’ll be there live) Kyle Gunther contributed his Pac-12 Power Poll plus BYU for Sports Mashup. Of course this a feature we created and submitted weekly last season. If you missed the news and video Gunther will co-host the afternoon show with Kevin Graham on Utah’s 1320 KFAN. Follow him on Twitter @GuntherKFAN.
1. USC: Almost everyone on offense is a returning starter including the best QB in college football this year, Matt Barkley. USC has been looking for a run game for 2 years now though and I don’t see USC having much success in that area unless they can find another linebacker to move to running back.
2. Oregon: The Ducks will be fast and talented yet again but I think their QB, Darron Thomas, leaving early for the NFL surprised them. The battle to replace Thomas will continue into the fall but whoever plays QB for the Ducks will be running Chip Kelly’s crazy offense so I’m sure they’ll be a track star. The Ducks also have a sneaky good defensive line that may wear down as the season moves along because of the fast pace that Oregon plays with on offense. We also know that their utility player De’Anthony Thomas, may be the fastest player in the country this year.
3. Cal: I think their QB Zach Maynard is primed to have a big year as a senior because he has a veteran RB to lean on in Isi Sofele and a future 1st round draft pick in WR Keenan Allen. There also might be a third consecutive DE taken in the first round for the Cal Bears in Deandre Colemen. The Bears are also able to play in their actual stadium this year as it was under renovation last year.
4. Utah: If the Utes could’ve made a field goal against Colorado a year ago they would have represented the Pac 12 south the championship game. Utah has the best defensive tackle in the country and the best running back in the PAC 12. If Jordan Wynn’s weight gain is any indication of his overall ability to stay healthy then Ute fans should expect a big year for the Utes. If both USC and Utah are able to start 4-0 their matchup in SLC on October 4th will be an epic battle
5. Stanford: The Cardinal had 4 players drafted in the first 2 rounds of last year’s NFL draft so replacing that much talent will be difficult. So much of what allowed Stanford to be successful the last couple of season was based on Andrew Luck’s ability to simply wake up in the morning and be the greatest QB prospect since John Elway. The Cardinal won’t be as “Lucky” this year.
6. Washington: The Huskies return a stud at QB in Keith Price but they lose one of the best running backs to ever play at Washington in Chris Polk. Keep your eyes peeled for their tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He was a true freshman last year and he looked like he could already play in the NFL. Seferian-Jenkins will surely build on his freshman all-American season from a year ago.
7. BYU: If only we didn’t have to speculate about this and could just have the Utes and Cougs in the PAC 12 it would be perfect but they’re not. BYU does already play Washington and Oregon state though so we will get to see that for sure. BYU has elite talent at the top of their roster but I wonder about some other key positions. In 2011 for example, BYU had a safety starting for them that wouldn’t start for too many other teams in division 1. BYU will have to commit to running the football sooner this year than they did in 2011.
8. UCLA: The UCLA campus is in one of the most well known and “hip” cities on earth and yet the Bruins have not been able to take the next step as a program for nearly a decade. It’s a mystery to me. NFL scouts drool every year watching the talent at UCLA only to be left disappointed by the Bruin’s season win total. Jim Mora has taken over and has apparently been cleaning house. By that I mean he’s been weeding out the swussies (sweaty wussies) and championing the stud muffins. UCLA could surprise people this year but I’d be surprised if that happened-pun intended.
T-9/10: Arizona and Arizona State: the Wildcats return five starters on their offensive line that had zero returning starters a year ago. On defense they were putrid last year so my expectations are not very high for them this year either. The Sun Devils of ASU could not have ended their season any worse last year and that led to a coaching change. It’s now up to Todd Graham to change the culture of an ASU football program that for the last decade has revolved almost entirely around beer bongs and hot blonds. Neither of these schools should be world beaters in 2012
11. Washington State: Everyone is assuming that new head coach Mike Leach can turn things around up there in Pullman, I’m still on the fence. Leach will improve the overall talent and attitude for the Cougs but it’s still nearly impossible to recruit to Pullman, Washington. I should know, they recruited me when I was in high school and there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell you were getting this California Kid to Siberia. On the plus side though WSU has not one but two studs at their disposal at the quarterback position.
12. Colorado: You could not pay me to watch a Colorado game on TV. I have no idea how the Buffaloes managed to beat the Utes a year ago because that was their first victory outside the state of Colorado since the Reagan administration.
13. Oregon State: The Beavers are led by a head coach that I am very fond of, Mike Riley. I am not however, fond of Oregon State this year. Their QB Sean Mannion surprised us all last year with his moxie, but other than that the Beavers were rather awful to watch. We won’t be spending much time in 2012 talking about Oregon State.