So where do things stand after spring practices and heading into the offseason? Let's see.
(You can check out our January power rankings here).
1. USC: The Trojans are expected to contend for the national title (typing that strikes up a not-unfamiliar feeling). Best starting 24 -- specialists included -- in conference and probably in the nation. Some nagging depth questions. Key is staying healthy, particularly on the lines and at running back.
2. Oregon: Marcus Mariota's spring performance made everyone forget Darron Thomas leaving early, even if it's uncertain Mariota will win the QB job over Bryan Bennett. Defense should be among the best in the conference. Ducks and Trojans meet in the Coliseum on Nov. 3. May be the national game of the year.
3. Stanford: There will be a drop-off post-Andrew Luck, but as long as the running game and front seven on defense remain intact, it won't be as severe as most think, especially since the Cardinal have the exact same schedule as last season.
4. Utah: Best defensive line in the conference. That alone should win the Utes a game or two. And it's good that QB Jordan Wynn is again healthy. Still, Utes need to beat the upper-echelon teams (and stop losing to the lower ones) to really show they have arrived in the conference.
5. Washington: Potentially strong on offense with QB Keith Price, but the line needs to get healthy, and you don't replace Chris Polk with RB-by-committee. The defense should be better with coordinator Justin Wilcox. Still, the power rankings are like Missouri: You've got to Show Me. And, gosh, that early-season schedule is BRUTAL.
6. California: QB Zach Maynard had a strong spring, according to coach Jeff Tedford. Pair that with an A-list receiver in Keenan Allen, good depth at running back and a potent defense, and the Bears could climb these rankings. Check that. Cal stinks. Turrible. There. That should help.
7. UCLA: There is enough overall speed and talent to make an impact for the "defending South champs." The new spread offense could be sneaky-good if the Bruins ever figure out who is going to run it. The switch to a 3-4 defense is a good move for the available talent.
8. Washington State: Of the four new coaches, it's Mike Leach who will probably have the biggest impact early on. Receiver might be the Cougars' deepest position, and quarterback Jeff Tuel can spread it around. Both lines are questions.
9. Oregon State: QB Sean Mannion should be better in his sophomore year, and he has some good targets, starting with Markus Wheaton. Solid at running back and in the secondary. But what about those lines? Really, the Beavers' getting back to a bowl game will end up being about the hogs stepping up.
10. Arizona: QB Matt Scott and the offense have a chance to be good in Year 1 with Rich Rodriguez, though Scott might not be able to run too much option because there's no backup QB. There's talent in the secondary, particularly if Jonathan McKnight comes back healthy in the fall after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. But there are significant questions at linebacker. And who's going to rush the passer?
11. Arizona State: There's nice depth at running back, and the offensive line was solid during spring practices. The return of LB Brandon Magee will help the defense, as much for his positive leadership as his skill. But there's uncertainty at quarterback, receiver, linebacker and safety.
12. Colorado: The most crushing injury this spring was Buffaloes WR Paul Richardson blowing out his knee. On the plus side, the offensive line looks solid, and Tony Jones stepped up at running back. If everyone stays -- or gets -- healthy, the linebackers will be first-rate. And DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe could be a breakout player. But there are huge questions at receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary. Colorado may play as many freshmen as any team in the country this year.