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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A preview on how the Pac-12 stacks up this year

Stanford+running+back+Christian+McCaffrey+%285%29+races+down+the+field+during+the+Rose+Bowl+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+1+in+Pasadena%2C+Calif.
Courtesy Rahim Ullah / The Stanf
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) races down the field during the Rose Bowl on Friday, Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.

NORTH

1. Stanford (8) — Last season’s third-place finish in the polls was the Cardinal’s highest ranking since the program’s 1940 national championship. While it lost QB Kevin Hogan to graduation, Stanford returns 2,664 all-purpose yards in superstar Christian McCaffrey, so they should be fine.

2. Washington (14) — While the Huskies have only gone 15-12 under head coach Chris Petersen, big things are expected from them this year. This team was two games under .500 midway through November last season, so its No. 14 ranking might be a reach. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning is a reason for optimism and could have a big year in store for the Huskies.

3. Oregon (24) — Last season, the Ducks started out 3-3 before embarking on a tear that included wins over Stanford and USC. If McCaffrey is the favorite for Pac-12 Player of the year, Royce Freeman should be right behind him. The tailback had 1,836 yards last season, so the Ducks will need another big season to perform up-to-par.

4. Washington State — While Jared Goff and Josh Rosen dominated the highlights for QB play out west last season, Wazzu returns star Luke Falk to the team this year. Last season, he threw for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns while completing over 69 percent of his passes. If the Cougars can split games with four ranked opponents, 10 wins could be within reach.

5. California — The Golden Bears lost Jared Goff to the NFL, but he is still in-state and on a blue and gold team. They open up in Australia against Hawaii, so the Bears better represent the Pac-12 well while traveling abroad.

6. Oregon State — The 2016 Beavers do not look too imposing right now, so they might keep this position all season. OSU might not win a conference game, but it should be favored against Idaho State on September 17.

SOUTH

1. UCLA (16) — Josh Rosen had a spectacular freshman campaign with over 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns and will keep UCLA relevant this season. A berth in the Pac-12 championship game could come to fruition if Rosen’s right arm continues to improve.

2. USC (20) — Led by stiff arm extraordinaire JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC looks to put together an entire season instead of just flashes of potential. The Trojans start off the season with none other than Alabama, so they better come prepared against the defending champs.

3. Utah — The Utes were once third in the nation last year and now might be a distant third in the division. Their floor this season should be seven wins and could easily get to nine with a lucky bounce here or there.

4. Arizona — The Wildcats were bombarded with injuries and inconsistency last year and are hoping to recreate the magic of 2014. A gauntlet of four ranked teams with Utah sandwiched inbetween will make or break the Wildcats’ season. If they do not start out 3-0, they could be in big trouble.

5. Arizona State — ASU may be depleted as “Magic” Mike Bercovici is gone, along with four starters on the line and three top receivers. Whoever is the starting QB might not have time to throw, as Bercovici was sacked 37 times last year. That number could increase.

6. Colorado — The Buffaloes  have not won a conference home game since 2013, so Boulder fans may be indifferent at this point. Head coach Mike MacIntyre may be on the hot seat this season as he has only gone 10-27 during his three-year tenure.


Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.


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