National signing day obsesses college football fans for a variety of reasons, starting with the idea that it rates the future: After the faxes finally arrive with signatures, whose potential then rates the highest? The purely speculative discussion allows everyone to have a quasi-valid opinion.
As Hamlet once observed about recruiting:
To sign: perchance to dream: Ay, there's the rub;
For in that signing, what dreams may come?
Further, everyone wants to be loved, right? When a recruit with scores of options picks your program, it validates your allegiance: "My school rules!" Not only that, it's addition with subtraction: "Not only does my school rule, yours got rejected!"
Then there are the naysayers. Those include members of the media who annually scoff about national signing day. It's certainly their right to tell readers that something they care deeply about doesn't matter. Arrogant, uniformed and dimwitted, but certainly their right.
And there are naysayers by necessity: If you root for a team that rarely or never challenges for the upper reaches of the recruiting rankings, it's hard to treat signing day as anything more than a drudgery, an event not unlike a rival's riotous birthday party.
As for the Pac-12, signing day 2012 holds plenty of intrigue. There are numerous big names still on the board that could transform the final pecking order.
As it stands at this moment, no conference team is ranked in the recruiting rankings top 10. USC is tops in the Pac-12 at No. 15 nationally. California just this week slipped from 11th to 16th. Stanford is 17th, Oregon is 18th and UCLA is 20th.
And, yes, this fivesome is tightly packed and capable -- or vulnerable -- to go up or down.
As for teams that don't appear to be threatening the top 25, Oregon State, Utah and Colorado appear to be exceeding expectations, while Arizona State and Washington are doing worse than is typical.
Is that reason for celebration? Or panic? Maybe. That is the nature of the beast that is recruiting. You can decide how to treat the experience.
Winning or losing an actual game is the thing itself -- there's an objective scoreboard. It gets written into the record book.
Recruiting rankings are educated guesses written in pencil that don't include trophies. Four years down the road, they mostly operate as curiosities -- who lived up to expectations and who ended up a bust? Miami and Clemson fans probably don't continue to gloat about finishing Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2008 recruiting rankings as much as fans of Alabama, which finished third that year, will celebrate their 2011 national title.
So that's our prelude.
Here's the meat: What's left for signing day to decide.
Scottsdale, Ariz., athlete Devonte Neal, No. 8 on the ESPNU 150, won't announce on signing day. His list of finalists includes Oklahoma, Arizona, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Arkansas and North Carolina.
Tempe, Ariz., O-lineman Andrus Peat, ninth on the ESPNU 150, is picking between USC, Stanford, Florida State and Nebraska at 1:35 p.m. ET.
Offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, 27th on the ESPNU 150, will pick between USC and Stanford.
Tampa athlete Nelson Agholor, 47th on the ESPNU 150, will announce on ESPN at 12:05 p.m. ET. He is picking between Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC.
Dallas WR Thomas Johnson, 33rd on the ESPNU 150, will pick between California, Oregon, TCU and Texas A&M.
Dayton Beach DT Leonard Williams, 50th on the ESPNU 150, will pick between USC, Florida, Auburn and Florida State.
Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach Colony) is a showdown between Stanford, USC, California and UCLA.
WR Bryce Treggs (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who is committed to Cal, also is considering USC and UCLA.
DB Brandon Beaver (Compton, Calif./Dominguez) is picking between Washington and California.
Los Angeles athlete Jaydon Mickens is picking between Oklahoma State, Washington, Oregon and Washington State.
Upland (Calif.) High WR Kenny Lawler is picking between Washington State and Oregon State.
Oaks Christian (Calif.) wide receiver Jordan Payton, who previously committed to Cal, is picking between the Bears, Washington, UCLA, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Chandler, Ariz., WR Javon Williams is picking between Arkansas, Arizona State and UCLA.