- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Who will rule the Pac-12 in its inaugural season?
Oregon played for the national title last year and is expected again to be in the national title mix in 2011. The Ducks welcome back a number of key starters, most notably quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, but they have some holes on both lines.
Stanford welcomes back Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck, who likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick in this spring's NFL draft. Most project the Cardinal as a top 10 or even top five team after they went 12-1 in 2010. Some other key starters are back, but the offensive line, defensive line and receivers take hits.
Arizona State is widely seen as the favorite in the South Division, with 17 starters back from a 6-6 team that pushed Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin to the brink. USC might not be the USC of 2002 to 2008 but the team still has plenty of talent. And if the Trojans get their bowl game back when the NCAA (finally) rules on their appeal of sanctions? Well, this might turn out to be a highly motivated team.
Finally, is there a dark horse? Plenty of teams qualify, but conference newbie Utah is an interesting choice. The Utes have won 33 games over the past three seasons, so it's not like they don't know how to win.
So who is it?