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2012 NCAA Football: Pac-12 Season Preview

Kevin W. RyanContributor IIIAugust 30, 2012

2012 NCAA Football: Pac-12 Season Preview

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    While the SEC has dominated college football for the past decade, 2012 brings in a new era of West Coast football with impressive rosters throughout the Pac-12. 

    From multiple Heisman hopefuls to the No. 1-ranked team in the nation, the Pac-12 is poised to make a major splash. 

    Complete with everything from the long-shots to a potential BCS National Champion, here is a full Pac-12 football preview for 2012.

    Enjoy.

     

    @kevry88 on Twitter

Rebuilding Teams

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    Colorado 

    There are few (if any) positives for the Buffaloes' immediate future.

    Colorado won just three of its 13 games in 2011, the only bright spot being the 17-14 upset win over the Utah Utes in the final game of the season.

    And the Buffaloes lost 14 starters off that team, foreshadowing a very poor season in 2012.

     

    Washington State

    The Cougars have been scraping the bottom of the Pac-12 for the last five seasons. 

    Since 2007, Washington State has won a total of 14 games, a feat accomplished by the Oregon Ducks in their last 17 games.

    Luckily for the Cougars, there will not be a 2012 matchup with the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans. 

     

    Oregon State

    After an atrocious three-win season, the Oregon State Beavers return 14 starters, highlighted by defensive end Scott Crichton and his six forced fumbles.   

    Just three years ago, the Beavers were in the eight to nine-win range, yet they have since fallen into the bottom of the Pac-12.

    2012 will likely be another “rebuilding year” for the Beavers, who travel to Madison to take on Montee Ball’s Wisconsin Badgers the second week of the season.

Long-Shots

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    Arizona

    The Wildcats return just four starting offensive linemen in 2012 after boasting the conference's top passing attack in 2011.

    Aside from replacing almost all of their offensive weapons, the Wildcats have a a new head coach in Rich Rodriguez, the former coach at Michigan and West Virginia. 

    The Wildcats' Week 2 game with Oklahoma State will be a chance to put themselves on the map. 

     

    Arizona State Sun Devils

    In 2011, Brock Osweiler’s Sun Devils upset No. 21 Missouri in overtime two weeks before beating the far more talented USC Trojans by three touchdowns.

    To end that season, however, the Sun Devils dropped six of their last seven games, including an embarrassing 56-34 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

    After losing quarterback Brock Osweiler and failing to land a top recruiting class, the Sun Devils seem headed toward another disappointing season.

    On paper, the Sun Devils will have a tough time hanging with teams like Illinois, Missouri, Utah, Oregon and USC. 

     

    California 

    While Cal gets to show off a new football facility for home games, the Golden Bears need to focus on the challenging road games on their schedule.

    Though the Bears will be returning all-around athlete Keenan Allen at wide receiver and Zach Maynard at quarterback, that tandem is forced to travel to Ohio State and USC in Week 3 and 4.

    While Allen is a pure stud, the Bears are no match for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, let alone the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans. 


Pac-12 Contenders

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    Washington 

    After losing Jake Locker to the NFL two years ago, the Huskies have been looking to Keith Price to lead them back into contention.

    Price brings brings enough agility and poise to the quarterback position to land him in the mix of “Heisman hopefuls” for 2012. In his first full season with the Huskies, Price set three school records, passing for 33 touchdowns while compiling a 66.9 completion percentage and 161.9 QB rating.

    While the Huskies are returning just four players from last year’s powerful offense, the five returning starters on defense still raise the biggest question.

    Can the Huskies' 106th-ranked defense keep them in contention? 

     

    UCLA

    With a returning starter at quarterback and running back, UCLA is another roster I am very high on.

    Last season the Bruins were given a spot in the Pac-12 championship game due to the sanctions against USC, But they were absolutely dismantled, losing to Oregon 49-31.

    In the previous game, the Trojans spanked UCLA 50-0, clearly hinting at the Bruins' everlasting thirst for redemption.

    In total, the Bruins welcome 13 starters back to campus, including the third-best rushing offense in the Pac-12.

    Look for new head coach Jim Mora Jr.’s NFL experience to make this year’s Bruins a contender in the Pac-12.  

     

    Utah Utes

    In their first Pac-12 season, the 8-5 Utes finished 4-5.  

    Going into 2012, the Utes are led by nose tackle Star Lotulelei, a 6’4’’, 320-pound behemoth projected to go early in the NFL draft.

    A Week 5 matchup with the No. 1 USC Trojans raises the question: Can a Lotulelei-led defense stop Matt Barkley’s offensive attack? 

     

    Stanford

    Losing Andrew Luck for 2012 cripples the Cardinal on paper. However, Stanford returns 13 starters, seven on defense.

    Stanford also landed the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 (according to ESPN), including two standout offensive linemen to replace David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.

    Though Stanford will likely fall in the BCS rankings, the Cardinal still are a threat to knock off USC or Oregon.

BCS Contenders

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    USC

    The No. 1-ranked USC Trojans are loaded with talent, ranging from a Heisman favorite to the most lethal wide-receiver duo in the country.

    Adding Penn State running back Silas Redd to the 1,000-yard talent of Curtis McNeal powers the most stacked offensive package in recent college football history.

    With six returning starters on defense, the Trojans are built for a BCS title run.

    Miraculously, the Trojans have built a powerhouse in spite of a recent two-year bowl ban.

    Senior captain and quarterback Matt Barkley has a chance to revive the USC tradition with an undefeated national-championship season. 

     

    Oregon

    After suffering a Week 1 loss to No. 4 LSU in 2011, the Ducks outscored their next nine opponents by 263 points.

    Quarterback Darron Thomas’ choice to enter the draft after last season seemed like a premature move at the time. However, Ducks fans enter 2012 confident that the team will be able to fill his shoes.

    Not only do the Ducks have a top-shelf talent at quarterback in freshman Marcus Mariota, but they also have promising Bryan Bennett as a safety net.

    Mariota is the first freshman to open the season as Oregon’s starting quarterback in more than 20 years.  

    In addition to Chip Kelly's explosive offense, the Ducks return seven players on defense, which raises the question: Can the Ducks' defense stop Matt Barkley and USC?

    Be sure and mark your calendar for November 3rd, when Oregon and USC meet in what likely will be a  preview of the Pac-12 championship game.

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