The Pac-12 should be a very deep and competitive conference next season. With numerous schools projected to be in the hunt for a national championship and a few others in most preseason top-25 rankings, the power rankings each week will be something to keep an eye on.
The first round of power rankings for the Pac-12 was recently released. Where were the Beavers, Cougars, Ducks and Huskies ranked? We'll take a look after the page jump.
These rankings courtesy of National Football Post. They are updated to reflect the happenings of spring practice.
The Oregon Ducks came in No. 2 in the conference behind USC.
Now that the Ducks were able to deliver head coach Chip Kelly his signature win in the Rose Bowl, the question is whether Marcus Mariota or Bryan Bennett can pick up where Darron Thomas left off at quarterback. Both players seem very capable of making this offense run very efficiently, and they'll get help from running back Kenjon Barner, versatile De'Anthony Thomas and emerging tight end Colt Lyerla. Last year's untested defense became stronger as the season went on under coordinator Nick Aliotti.
The Washington Huskies were ranked 4th.
Steve Sarkisian had a tremendous offseason wooing assistants Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon from Tennessee as well as Tosh Lupoi, one of the best recruiters in the country, from Cal. The defense was wretched under Nick Holt, so there are high hopes for Wilcox, who led back-to-back strong Tennessee units the last two seasons. Offensively, quarterback Keith Price should make some preseason Heisman Trophy lists. But replacing Chris Polk will be awfully difficult, as he was one of the more underappreciated backs in the country. And this team will have to weather a very difficult early-season schedule.
The Washington St. Cougars and new head coach Mike Leach are No. 8.
I've bumped up the Cougars a few spots from before spring because former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, who never missed the postseason while guiding the Red Raiders, has persuaded me that he will make the biggest impact out of all the new head-coaching hires. Quarterback Jeff Tuel has a lot of weapons at receiver, and former head coach Paul Wulff didn't leave the cupboard bare. Can the defense play even average at times to allow Wazzu to steal a win or two?
Last but not least are the Oregon St. Beavers at 10th in the conference.
Mike Riley's Beavers have disappointed the last few seasons, and the injury bug has been just one of the reasons for the decline. But they return a ton of starters from last season, so the experience will be there in Corvallis this fall. Quarterback Sean Mannion should take another step in his development, Markus Wheaton should have a big year at receiver and depth at running back should make the offense solid - if the team could get better play from the O-Line.
It should be a great season for football in the Pac-12. With the new TV network set to come into effect in the summer of 2012, there are nothing but bright days ahead for the conference.