Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Early 2011 Pac-12 power rankings
By Ted Miller
Here's an early look at the Pac-12 pecking order heading into the off-season. Count on this being fluid, particularly after I get to see teams practicing this spring.
1. Oregon: The Ducks likely will be ranked in the preseason top five even though the offensive line and defensive front seven take some hits.
2. Stanford: While there are plenty of questions -- both lines, head coach -- the return of Andrew Luck makes the Cardinal a preseason top-10 team.
3. Arizona State: Losing defensive tackle Lawrence Guy to the NFL is a significant hit, but the Sun Devils still have 19 starters back from a team that lost by one at Wisconsin. But who will be the quarterback?
4. USC: Trojans take some hits on both sides of the ball, particularly on both lines, but quarterback Matt Barkley will have some nice skill surrounding him on offense.
5. Arizona: On the downside, the Wildcats must completely rebuild their lines. On the upside, quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner will be the top pass-catch combination in the conference.
6. Washington: The post-Jake Locker era begins, so it's hard to judge the Huskies. And post linebacker Mason Foster, for that matter. But coach Steve Sarkisian has been recruiting well, and there are plenty of returning starters.
7. Utah: Hard to place the Utes because we don't know them in this environment. And there are questions on both sides of the ball, particularly in the secondary and offensive skill positions. But the return of quarterback Jordan Wynn helps.
8. California: The Bears must replace their best offensive player, running back Shane Vereen, and their three best defensive players, end Cameron Jordan, linebacker Mike Mohamed and safety Chris Conte. And don't even ask about quarterback.
9. Oregon State: Putting the Beavers down here might be an overreaction to running back Jacquizz Rodgers' decision to enter NFL draft. Or it might be because they lost four of their final five games. And Stephen Paea's departure leaves a HUGE void on the defensive line.
10. UCLA: The Bruins actually have some good players coming back, despite some high-profile early departures (linebacker Akeem Ayers, safety Rahim Moore). But they have offensive questions and we don't know who the coordinators will be in 2011.
11. Colorado: Just like Utah, we don't know the Buffaloes in this environment, plus there's a new coach. And, to be honest, that 52-7 loss at Cal isn't helping their candidacy. Curious how quarterback Tyler Hansen will look this spring after missing much of the year because of injury.
12. Washington State: Do. Not. Panic. Cougars. Fans. I'd bet $1 the Cougs will not finish last in 2011. Quarterback Jeff Tuel should take another step forward and he's got his top targets back. But we're not ready to promote the Cougars just yet.