Pac-12: 2011-conference-surprise-poll

Seems like every year a conference team is a surprise contender.

Few saw Stanford coming in 2010, at least not like it did: A 12-1 record with a top-five finish. And Oregon State didn't look like a Rose Bowl contender in 2009 when it started 2-2.

It's almost certain one Pac-12 team will be picked much worse than it finishes. But who?

Will it be one of the new teams: Utah or Colorado? While Utah has won 33 games over the past three seasons, it has some apparent holes, most notably its secondary. The general feeling is the higher level of the competition in the conference will run the Utes down.

Few have high expectations for Colorado, but the Buffaloes have 14 players back from a team that went 5-7 and beat quality teams such as Georgia, Hawaii and Kansas State.

Or what about one of the teams likely to be picked at or near the bottom: UCLA or Washington State? Might the Bruins or Cougars not only climb out of the cellar but climb toward the top of their respective divisions? UCLA has a solid defense, while WSU has a passing attack that will scare most teams.

Another possibility: California. The Bears have been hard to predict in recent years, but Jeff Tedford has collected some intriguing talent over the past couple of recruiting seasons. If Cal gets solid play at quarterback, it could end up a contender.

So what do you think?

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