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Pac-12 Power Rankings: USC and Oregon lead the way heading into week one

The first of 14 power rankings this season!

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

College football officially starts this week, which means we're coming out with our Pac-12 Power Rankings! Heading into the season, this is how the conference stacks up. Let us know what you think about the rankings in the comments below.

1. USC Trojans

Not a believer in Steve Sarkisian, but this USC team is loaded with talent from top to bottom. Cody Kessler might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks headed into this season, and he has some serious talent around him. USC is still my pick to win the Pac-12, and they'll cruise by Arkansas State in the last Pac-12 game of week one.

2. Oregon Ducks

Oregon is going to be Oregon, and it's tough to beat the system they run with the athletes that they have. Sure, it's no easy task replacing a Heisman trophy winner in Marcus Mariota, but I truly believe he was a product of the system, just like Darron Thomas, Jeremiah Masoli and Dennis Dixon. Vernon Adams has only been with the team for about a week and he has been named the starting quarterback, so we'll see how his transition from FCS to Pac-12 goes. Adams will face his former team in week one with Eastern Washington.

3. Arizona Wildcats

Arizona lost quite a bit in the secondary, but aside from that, all units might have improved. Anu Solomon said that this offensive line has the potential to better than last year, which gives Nick Wilson and the running backs more opportunities. Once the receiver corps becomes fully healthy, it's going to be hard for Anu to let the offense stall as much as it did last season. The defense is the big question mark, with a true freshman in Sammy Morrison and converted receiver DaVonte' Neal at corner. Luckily they get a decimated UTSA team on Thursday, giving them more time to rest and then prepare for the season ahead.

4. Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona and Arizona State are essentially 3a and 3b to me, but what keeps ASU interesting is their defense and all the returners. We'll see how Bercovici comes back as a full-time starter in the offense, without Jaelen Strong and Cameron Smith, who suffered a season ending injury a few months back. This is a win-win situation, sorta, having Arizona State and Texas A&M play each other week one. If ASU loses, that's awesome. And if they win, the Pac-12 earns much respect over the SEC West, but at the hands of Arizona State. I expect (and hope) A&M rolls.

5. UCLA Bruins

UCLA returns 19 out of 24 total starters, but the big question is their quarterback situation with Josh Rosen. He could potentially lead the Bruins to 10 wins, or drive them straight into the ground. He was ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback coming out of high school, No. 12 among all recruits. He reminds me of a better Jared Goff, with a lot more talent around him on the field. It wouldn't surprise me to see UCLA at No. 2 in these rankings, or as low as 9 at some point. Virginia gave UCLA a scare last year, and it might happen again this year.

6. Utah Utes

Utah has a pretty solid core, and their first game vs Michigan should be pretty telling. We'll probably only catch the first half of that game considering the fact that they play at 5:30 on Thursday. Utah has been climbing each and every year, and they'll be competing for nine wins this season and an outside shot at the Pac-12 South.

7. Stanford Cardinal

Stanford has come in ranked inside the top 25 all preseason, and will kick off at No. 21. I can't get behind it. Stanford is known for their defense, often holding opponents under 21 points a game. But this year they lose 10 of their top 14 tacklers. Among those 10, five were their best defensive backs and all three of their defensive linemen who played in 12 games or more last season. Anything can happen in college football and that's the beauty of it, which is why I wouldn't be surprised to see Stanford fall at Northwestern in week one.

8. California Golden Bears

I like Jared Goff a lot, and he has a lot to play for this season, as many have him listed as one of the top quarterback prospects for the NFL Draft. They get Grambling State and are favored to win by 43.5 points. I'll take Grambling State on the spread, but California could be a surprise team in the North this year.

9. Washington Huskies

This game vs Boise State is very intriguing for some reason, even though I'd expect Boise State to run them down into the blue turf. Washington seems to be a mess right now. They saw a lot of injuries in the off-season and still don't have a starting quarterback named for Friday. Alongside losing three first round picks on a defense that wasn't so great to begin with, Washington comes in pretty low in the rankings.

10. Washington State Cougars

Last year, we learned that no matter who the quarterback is for Mike Leach, he's going to throw the ball over 50 times for about 500 yards. The Cougars draw Portland State on Saturday, which should give them no problems. But it's going to take a while for Wazzu to climb up the rankings, even if they perform consistently over the next few weeks.

11. Colorado Buffaloes

Unfortunately for Colorado, their game against Hawaii will not count towards their bowl eligibility for whatever reason the Hawaii exception was created. Colorado has a lot of potential this year to actually be a threat to some teams in the Pac-12 and give them a scare. This might be the year that Colorado is able to pull off a big time upset in the Pac-12, giving them a shot at three Pac-12 wins.

12. Oregon State Beavers

It was tough to pick the 12th team in this rankings, but I'm giving Oregon State the honors. You can only go up from here, Beavers. They (finally) lose Sean Mannion, but bring everyone else back on offense. Oregon State is going bold with a two-quarterback system, using a true freshman and a redshirt freshman to handle the offensive duties. The defense, sadly, only brings back two starters. Ow. Oregon State did lose to Eastern Washington a few years ago, hopefully something similar doesn't happen this time with another Big Sky team in Weber State.