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Pac-12 preseason power rankings: Can No. 6 Washington put the “Champions” back in “Conference of Champions?”

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 28, 2018

Well, the Pac-12 Conference can finally put that mess of a bowl record in the rearview mirror. The 2018 Pac-12 season begins in earnest Thursday when Utah takes the field against Weber State and all 12 teams will either be 1-0 or 0-1 by Saturday night. Here are our preseason edition of the weekly Pac-12 power rankings.

1. Washington – It isn’t often that a school’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and all-time leader in rushing touchdowns are in the same backfield. That’ll be the case for the Huskies with senior quarterback Jake Browning (78) and senior running back Myles Gaskin (45). If that weren’t enough, take a look at that U-Dub defense.

2. USC – A true freshman, J.T. Daniels, takes the reins at quarterback, but the Trojans have talent and experience just about everywhere else on the field. Considering USC’s history with quarterbacks, Daniels will probably be a Heisman Trophy dark horse by week nine.

3. Arizona – Khalil Tate isn’t sneaking up on anyone this season, but for all the pressure the junior quarterback is feeling, there should be just as much on UA’s defense, which was dreadful most of last year, giving up 34 ppg.

4. Stanford – Like always, the Cardinal should be nails on defense, sturdy on the offensive line and stellar at running back. Most likely, the play of second-year starting quarterback K.J. Costello will be what determines if this is a good Stanford team or a great one.

5. Utah – All Kyle Whittingham has to do is convince the Utes that every week is a bowl game. Utah, 10-1 in the postseason under Whittingham, should be dynamic at the QB position once again with Tyler Huntley and the Utes’ defense could rival USC for best in the Pac-12.

6. Oregon – Justin Herbert’s hair got plenty of buzz in the month leading up to the new season, but the Ducks will be counting on the junior quarterback’s arm to take them places in 2018. Finding their next feature back in the post-Royce Freeman era will also be key.

7. UCLA – Yes, Chip Kelly is just one rung below his former school, but the space between the top six and the bottom six in the Pac-12 is bigger than the one between Eugene and L.A. It’s only a matter of time before Kelly climbs back into that top six, though.

8. Washington State – Mike Leach is calling on a graduate transfer quarterback to lead his Air Raid offense for the first time at WSU since … well, never. But it’s a good and a bad thing that the defensive line, and not Gardner Minshew, is the Cougars’ biggest worry at this point.

9. Cal – After suffering a trio of three-point losses, Cal’s 5-7 record in 2017 could have easily been 8-4. It seems like the Golden Bears have enough on both sides of the ball to manage something in between this season.

10. Colorado – Not all that long ago, the Buffaloes, in a single season, went from worst to first in the Pac-12 South. Then last year, they dropped back to worst . Even with senior QB Steven Montez, the Buffs lost too much – a 1,400-yard rusher and all three leading WRs – to make a similar jump back up the standings in 2018.

11. Arizona State – The Herm Edwards Project is in full swing. Or should we call it the Herm Edwards Experience? Folks will come to watch the Sun Devils’ energetic head coach, but they’ll stay for electric receiver N’Keal Harry.

12. Oregon State – We can only hope to see the Beavers climb out of the cellar at some point this season. With some stability at the coaching position – and the quarterback position – this might finally be the year for it to happen.

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