Preseason Pac-12 power rankings

No. 11 Oregon leads the way; questions at WSU leave Cougs at 10



Then-sophomore running back Max Borghi goes in for the touchdown against Colorado in a 2019 game at Martin Stadium.

KURIA POUNDS, Evergreen reporter

After a season where WSU finished 1-3 in the Pac-12 North, a “regular” 12-game schedule for the Pac-12 is about to commence within days.

The Pac-12 looks to compete with powerhouse conferences like the ACC, SEC and Big 12 this year and try to get a College Football Playoff bid for the first time since 2016. 

But with a new season on the horizon, how do the teams within the Pac-12 stack up against each other before the season kicks off? Let’s take a look.

1. No. 11 Oregon

With being the presumed favorites to win the conference most years, including this year, the Ducks are right now the best chance for the Pac-12 to see some deep College Football Playoff success. Led by the two-back tandem of junior running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, the run game is going to be scary for opposing defenses, with Dye and Verdell being named as the best two-back combo in the Pac-12.

The question is how will the Ducks replace former quarterback Tyler Shough, who transferred out of Oregon in the off-season. They have the transfer from Boston College, senior quarterback Anthony Brown, as the presumed starter heading into week one. But anything could happen before their first game.

First game: 11 a.m. Sept. 4 versus Fresno State 

2. No. 15 Southern California

With Oregon being the favorite out of the North, Southern California is the favorite from the South. The Trojans start ranked No.15  in the preseason AP Poll. USC still has junior quarterback Kedon Slovis under center paired with a receiving core of junior wide receiver Drake London and redshirt sophomore receiver Tahj Washington, who transferred from Memphis. The backfield has the transfer from Texas, senior running back Keaontay Ingram, who is going to be the lead back on that stacked offense. USC has a lot of help in the secondary, with redshirt senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao being the biggest name on that defense. It could be a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Championship if USC can have more consistency in their games.

First game: 2 p.m. Sept. 4 versus San Jose State

3. No. 20 Washington

The defending Pac-12 North Champions start out third in the Pac-12 this season, looking to be in contention with Oregon again for the North division and in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Huskies are led under center by redshirt sophomore Dylan Morris. But with the graduate transfer from Colorado State involved, quarterback Patrick O’Brien, the Huskies will have a full competition to see who will be under center this fall.

They also have freshman quarterback Sam Huard, who is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Brock Huard. Behind the quarterback competition comes another two-back tandem of senior running backs Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew, who have been known to turn heads as well. This Washington team will turn some heads as the season progresses.

First game: 5 p.m. Sept. 4 versus Montana

4. No. 24 Utah

First off, rest in peace Ty Jordan. The Utes got a major acquisition this off-season in getting the transfer from Baylor, senior quarterback Charlie Brewer. He led Baylor to an 11-win season in the 2019-20 season coming up a little short in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.

Utah got another key transfer from Oklahoma, senior wide receiver Theo Howard. Most of the questions of this team revolve around the secondary, but with a boost on offense, Utah could definitely challenge USC in the South division.

First game: 4:30 p.m. Sept. 2 versus Weber State

5. No. 25 Arizona State

Arizona State sits at the bottom of the AP Poll at No.25  but sits right at five in my power rankings. The Sun Devils have their returning junior quarterback Jayden Daniels, who is drawing comparisons to NFL quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, and some see the similarities between him and former Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley. Led by head coach Herm Edwards, the defense got a big boost by snagging the graduate transfer from USC, cornerback Jack Jones. Arizona State will be floating around the bottom of the Top 25 most of the season and be in the middle part of the Pac-12 standings.

First game: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2 versus Southern Utah


The biggest question heading UCLA’s direction is their head coach, Chip Kelly, and whether or not he can get it done anymore. The Bruins have senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson still as their starter. He is also being compared to Lamar Jackson for his ability to escape the pocket and be mobile while composing himself and slinging the ball.

UCLA also snagged the transfer from Texas A&M, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kam Brown. On the defensive side of the ball, they also acquired the graduate transfer from Notre Dame, linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath. UCLA will be consistently in the middle of the Pac-12 this season unless Kelly can save this team.

First games: 12:30 p.m. Saturday versus Hawaii and 5:30 p.m. Sept. 4 versus No. 16 LSU

7. Stanford

The Cardinal, just like the Bruins, will be a middle-of-the-pack team this year. Their biggest question mark is how they are going to replace former quarterback Davis Mills, who went into the NFL draft this off-season. With a defense that saw a lot of time last year, Stanford’s defense will be able to withstand opposing offenses. But can the offense produce?

The quarterback competition consists of senior Jack West, sophomore Tanner McKee, sixth-year transfer Isaiah Sanders and freshman Ari Patu. The offense still has senior wide receiver Michael Wilson. If Stanford can find a star quarterback, Stanford could be dangerous.

First game: 9 a.m. Sept. 4 at Kansas State

8. California

The Golden Bears did not have the best 2020 season, but they can only look up heading into the 2021 season after going 1-3 in the shortened season. California still has redshirt senior quarterback Chase Garbers under center, and since a key part of that offense is the passing game, an experienced quarterback is not a surprise for the Golden Bears.

Senior wide receiver Nikko Remigio will be target number one for Garbers this year. Because that is the offense, the run game will be in question for California. The defense will look to carry this team, with redshirt senior linebacker Kuony Deng being in the forefront, trying to beat the tackle record set by former California linebacker Evan Weaver.

First game: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4 versus Nevada

9. Colorado

The Buffaloes turned a lot of heads last season, being in contention for the Pac-12 South division title last year. But a lot of questions on offense halt any positive messages coming Colorado’s way. After former quarterback Steven Montez decided to go pro, the presumed starter is now the transfer from Tennessee, sophomore quarterback J.T. Shrout, who has not the best experience as a starter.

The offense will still run through sophomore running back Jarek Broussard, who overtook junior running back Alex Fontenot last season after a breakout season on the ground. With a relatively solid defense, but no receiver core, this team’s ceiling is pretty limited on offense.

First game: 6 p.m. Sept. 3 versus Northern Colorado

10. Washington State

The Cougars have experienced a ton of off-season news with sophomore quarterback Jayden de Laura making headlines, along with acquiring the graduate transfer from Tennessee, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. This upcoming season for the Cougars will be one for the history books. WSU has a two-back tandem in senior running backs Max Borghi and graduate transfer Deon McIntosh, the best one-two combo in the Pac-12. However, with the quarterback battle up in question, it leaves head coach Nick Rolovich debating on who the starter will be heading into week one.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars will lean on sixth-year linebacker Jahad Woods and redshirt senior cornerback Jaylen Watson. The Cougars are on thin ice this season with quarterback questions and a secondary that needs to improve.

First game: 8 p.m. Sept. 4 versus Utah State

11. Oregon State

The Beavers now have to replace Jermar Jefferson in the backfield. With snagging the graduate transfer from Colorado, quarterback Sam Noyer, the questions arise as to whether this offense can produce without their main contributor anymore. The team will run through junior tight end Teagan Quitoriano, who will be the main pass catcher on this offense. The defense does not look promising as well, so the ceiling for this team is kind of low.

First game: 4 p.m. Sept. 4 at Purdue

12. Arizona

A team still trying to find their identity within college football, the Wildcats will look to prove their worth now under first-year head coach Jedd Fisch taking on this team. There is a quarterback competition between the transfer from WSU, redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz, freshman Will Plummer and the transfer from South Florida, sophomore Jordan McCloud. The future for Arizona is bright, but no immediate success is coming this year.

First game: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 4 versus BYU