Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 1

Kore Chan/Staff
Kore Chan/Staff

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1. Oregon

With former head coach Chip Kelly now spending his days coaching up Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, are the Ducks in danger of dropping off? All signs point to no. New head coach Mark Helfrich has been touted as a Kelly disciple, with a similar aptitude for running a lightning-fast offense. And his tools remain top-notch: Both quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back/wide receiver/half human, half cheetah DeAnthony Thomas are projected Heisman candidates. Look for another Pac-12 title to grace the walls of the most expensive workout room in America.
— Michael Rosen

2. Stanford

Though there are a handful of question marks, the 2013 incarnation of Stanford football is poised to be every bit as powerful as 2012’s Rose Bowl-winning squad. It remains to be seen who will replace running back Stepfan Taylor, and Ty Montgomery will need to put up big numbers to compensate for what is otherwise a wasteland of wide receivers. But given quarterback Kevin Hogan’s emergence toward the end of last season, an offensive line that may be the strongest group to ever play for the Cardinal and a loaded defense that is going to wreak havoc on offensive lines across the conference, look for Stanford to push Oregon for the conference title.
— Connor Byrne

3. UCLA

Is this the year the football monopoly in LA finally topples?

Last year, the Bruins edged out the Trojans, 38-28, for the first time since 2006 and amassed nine wins in Jim Mora Jr.’s first season at the helm. The last time a first-year coach saw that many W’s was in 1979. The team went on to earn the Pac-12 South title — emphasis on earned, this time.

This year, the team is looking to capitalize on a year of experience not only from Mora but from its QB, Brett Hundley. The redshirt sophomore shows first-round promise, racking 4095 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Anthony Barr decided to stay for his senior campaign, providing a much needed holdover for a team that replaced 11 starters. Though last year was Barr’s first at linebacker, he exploded onto the scene with a team-leading 13.5 sacks and a All-America second-team selection.
— Annie Gerlach

4. USC

A year removed from a disappointing 2012 season that saw USC go from national-title favorite to a 7-6 football squad, lofty expectations no longer burden the Trojans. But coach Lane Kiffin finds himself on the hot seat and without an experienced signal caller. The question mark at the quarterback position isn’t ideal, but with star wideout Marqise Lee returning, Kiffin’s offense still should be able to put up points. And if standout freshman safety Su’a Cravens can bolster a shaky secondary, look for USC to finish near the top of the South.
— Sean Wagner-McGough

5. Arizona State

In his first season with the Sun Devils, Todd Graham took a team notorious for personal fouls and miscues and transformed it into one that would post the lowest mark in the conference for penalty yards — surrendering just over 35 a game. The result was Arizona State’s first winning season since 2007. Now Graham will look to follow up his opening act by returning the Sun Devils to national relevance. On his side will be defensive tackle Will Sutton, who turned down the NFL in the spring despite being touted as a surefire top-10 draft pick. The senior instead will look to lead an ASU front seven who ranked second in the Pac-12 in sacks in 2012, and he could potentially become the first player since 1991 to repeat as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
— Connor Byrne

6. Oregon State

The Beavers finally named Sean Mannion their starting quarterback this week, ending a signal-calling race that was nearly as tight as Cal’s. The junior (and Bay Area native) beat out senior Cody Vaz and will undoubtedly look to replicate his hot start in 2012, in which he led Oregon State to a 4-0 start before suffering a knee injury. After Mannion finally returned and tossed four interceptions against Washington, coach Mike Riley didn’t instill much confidence by switching between Vaz and Mannion for the rest of the year.

But this year already feels different for the No. 25 Beavers. Mannion reportedly has worked on his accuracy in spring and fall camps, and quarterback coach Danny Langsdorf is determined to make sure his starter isn’t “looking over his shoulder” at his job security instead of focusing on each game.
— Annie Gerlach

7. Washington

After an eye-opening 2011 season behind center, quarterback Keith Price regressed in 2012, demonstrating inconsistency on hitting his targets with accuracy. Washington’s success will come down to which version of Price shows up on Saturdays. But with his favorite target, tight-end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, facing both a possible team suspension after pleading guilty to a DUI and suffering a broken right pinkie that required surgery Aug. 12, the odds aren’t in Price’s favor. Should Price regain his 2011 form, however, expect Washington to contend for third place in the North, behind Oregon and Stanford.
— Sean Wagner-McGough

8. Arizona

The good news: The Wildcats bring back superstar running back Ka’Deem Carey, who rumbled and bumbled for 1,929 yards and 23 TDs as a sophomore. The bad news: They don’t have much else. Arizona’s offense thrived last year, carrying the squad to 8-5 on the strength of an offense that ranked 15th in the nation. But quarterback Matt Scott is gone, and the porous defense didn’t improve significantly. If the Wildcats do any damage, Carey will almost certainly putting the team in his back, doe.
— Michael Rosen

9. Cal

It’s anyone’s guess how the Bears will fare this year against arguably the toughest schedule in the country. Cal will start a true freshman quarterback under a brand-new coaching regime with an offense that has been relatively untested in the Pac-12. With all of these uncertain variables, it is hard to say whether this team is a bowl contender or a bottom-dweller with Colorado and Washington State. Quarterback Jared Goff’s performance against Northwestern on Saturday should go a long way toward answering those questions.
— Michael Rosen

10. Utah

Honestly, the Utes’ schedule this year is pretty much a death sentence for a team that hasn’t made waves in the Pac-12. Utah will play five ranked conference opponents this season, including a homecoming game against No. 25 Oregon State that probably won’t leave alumni and fans feeling warm and fuzzy.

The only silver lining in back-to-back tilts with No. 21 UCLA and No. 4 Stanford at the beginning of October is the fact that the Utes have home-field advantage. Then again, that also makes it harder for fans to turn off the TV when things go south.
— Annie Gerlach

11. Colorado

Is there a better situation in college football than the one head coach Mike MacIntyre finds himself in in 2013? Probably. But still, taking over a football team that managed just one win last season and hasn’t had a winning run since 2005 means the bar for success can’t be much lower. The man who somehow put together a 10-win season for San Jose State will look to shore up a longtime comatose Buffaloes team. In order to do so, MacIntyre will need some consistent play out of junior quarterback and former Texas transfer Connor Wood, as Colorado’s quarterback carousel of 2012 led to the worst statistical offense in the Pac-12.
— Connor Byrne

12. Washington State

It’s safe to say that Mike Leach’s first season at the helm didn’t go quite as planned. The Cougars finished an abysmal 1-7 in conference play, all the while dealing with the controversy surrounding former star wideout Marquess Wilson, who quit the team midseason. Don’t expect any dramatic improvements in 2013, as the Cougars’ starting QB, Connor Halliday, will be dropping back behind a work-in-progress offensive line that allowed 57 sacks in 2012. While improvements on both sides of the ball should be expected in year two under Leach, the inexperience of the roster should hamper the Cougars’ chances against what’s shaping up to be a relatively deep conference.
— Sean Wagner-McGough

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