PULLMAN – Today is Tuesday, lest any of you readers were unaware. More specifically, it is the first Tuesday of the college football season. At The Spokesman-Review that means it is time for another year of Pac-12 power rankings, and as tradition dictates we begin the year with a disclaimer.
These are power rankings. They are not rankings based on potential, projected finish or even anticipated head-to-head outcomes. They are merely an attempt to take snapshots of the relative standings between teams during a fluid season.
There will undoubtedly be some confusion.
For example, you will probably notice when our 2015 college football preview publishes on Thursday that the Pac-12 projected standings look a little different than the list you see below.
“Aha!” you will think, “Old Thorpe is already getting cold feet!”
I assure you, my feet are nothing of the sort. Rather, I anticipate many changes in the conference teams’ relative strengths between now and the Pac-12 championship game, and I anticipate there will be even more factors we cannot anticipate, such as injuries.
It seems likely that freshman quarterbacks at UCLA and Washington (everybody knows, coach Petersen) will be better with a few starts under their belts and I suspect California won’t be the same team after the Golden Bears play UCLA, USC and Oregon in consecutive weeks.
So, with no body of work upon which to judge the teams, here is my first stab at stacking them up.
1, USC: With returning stars like Adoree’ Jackson, Cody Kessler, Juju Smith-Schuster and Su’a Cravens, the party has already started in Troy. Actually, maybe the head coach should cool it with the celebrations for a while.
2, Oregon: Winning the starting job was Vernon Adams’ easiest test yet.
3, Arizona State: Proud Texan Todd Graham takes his team to Houston to open the season. Athletic director Ray Anderson won’t be comfortable until the notoriously wandering coach is on a plane back to Arizona.
4, Arizona: Linebacker Scooby Wright III is the Pac-12’s best player, and just one of several Wildcats who shined as underclassmen last season.
5, Stanford: Eight of Stanford’s top 10 tacklers from last season are gone, but the Cardinal always manage a stingy defense.
6, California: After an offseason of getting torched by quarterback Jared Goff, the Cal defense is now ready to get diced up by somebody else.
7, UCLA: Jim Mora should put in a call to the presidential campaigns for advice on managing expectations. So far, the Bruins are referring to true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen as “J-Chosen” and billing him as a Heisman candidate. No pressure, kid.
8, Utah: Led by running back Devontae Booker, coach Kyle Whittingham could have one of his best teams since the Utes joined the Pac-12, and the toughest schedule.
9, WSU: Defense and special teams are bound to improve. The law of averages demands it.
10, Washington: What better way to break in, or break, a freshman quarterback than have him start behind an all new offensive line?
11, Colorado: With one of the Pac-12’s best QB-WR combos in Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce, the Buffaloes should improve to last in the South Division.
12, Oregon State: The OSU fans that wanted Mike Riley gone last year got their wish, and now get to remember what Corvallis is like without Riley around.
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