Which Pac-12 team is the choice to win the 2011 conference football title according to the media?
The Pac-12 held their media day event on July 26th, for the Los Angeles portion, before moving on to ESPN headquarters in Connecticut and then to New York.
The Pac-12 media vote annually, among its members, to rank conference teams in a preseason poll. These voters are media members who regularly cover the league.
This article ranks each Pac-12 team's finish, based on the amount of votes each team captured, starting from lowest to highest.
No.12: Colorado Buffaloes
The preseason media poll has correctly picked the conference champion in 10 of the last 11 years. Colorado is counting on the Pac-12 media being out to lunch this year.
Other than USC's 2003 and 2004 AP National Championship, the only other Pac-12 team to win an AP national championship in the last 35 years (since 1975), is Colorado in 1990.
It has already been 21 years since Colorado was the national champion. It probably won't be 21 more before they repeat that success. But 2011 is a rebuilding year.
No. 11: Washington St. Cougars
The Pac-12 championship football game will be Friday, December 2nd at 5 p.m. PT and televised nationally on FOX. One team that most probably will not be participating in the game is Washington State.
The Cougars have a fairly easy schedule for most of the first half of the season where they could possibly win their first five straight.
But successive games including Stanford, Oregon State, at Oregon, at California, Arizona State, Utah and at Washington could potentially be seven straight losses.
No. 10: UCLA Bruins
Coach Rick Neuheisel knows that he is on the "hot seat," but he is still looking forward to a new season. When asked what it is going to take to turn this season around, Neuheisel replied that "you don't have to turn it around yet because nothing bad has happened yet."
Ignoring his 15-22 record over the last three years at UCLA, Neuheisel is optimistic and feels that UCLA can "fashion" a great season.
His "passion bucket" is still overflowing, and to win their fans back, Neuheisel said they just have to "beat Houston."
With Kevin Prince coming off knee surgery, and Brett Hundley going in for knee surgery this week, it looks like Richard Brehaut may have a leg up on the quarterback competition, although all quarterbacks should be available this season.
UCLA gets wins over San Jose State, Washington State and Colorado.
No. 9: California Bears
Cal could go into Week 6 with a 4-0 record before playing three tough games at Oregon followed by USC and Utah. They are six points away from being 8-4 last year.
There have been some coaching staff changes this year, but Cal should be strong on defense. Offensively, Cal needs to improve which is probably why they were voted ninth on this list.
Cal may make it to a bowl game this year. If they do, most likely, it will be the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. That is almost like a home game since they play all their home games this year at AT&T Park.
No. 8: Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State typically plays one of the toughest schedules of any team in college football.
This year the Beavers will travel to top 10 Wisconsin for a non-conference game as well as playing top 25 BYU.
They will face the top four in the North (Oregon, Stanford, Cal and Washington), as well as Utah, Arizona and Arizona State in the South.
The Beavers win at least four games this season, but a bowl game might not be in the cards or Oregon State.
No. 7: Arizona Wildcats
Quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner are one of the top duos in college football today.
Foles will probably be a fairly high draft pick in the NFL in the near future. But this season, the Pac-12 media picked Arizona to finish seventh in the conference.
Part of the reason for that is a four-game stint early in the season where the Wildcats face Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC (all top 20 teams).
The Wildcats make it to a bowl game this year, and the Las Vegas bowl would be a safe bet for Arizona fans to start making their pre-Christmas travel plans.
No. 6: Washington Huskies
The Pac-12 media ranked the Huskies sixth in the conference. That might be a tall order for a team whose offense may rely mostly on running back Chris Polk after the loss of quarterback Jake Locker to the NFL.
Every team the Washington plays knows this and will be keying on Chris. If he has a great season, he may just end up as one of the best running backs on Sundays.
But Washington will have to get by a tough road game at Nebraska who will be looking for revenge on the Huskies. That game will be followed by two tough challenges against Cal and Utah.
But, the tough five games in a row against Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, USC and Oregon State will be the true test to see if the Huskies are worthy of this ranking.
No. 5: Utah Utes
Utah is ranked fifth overall in the Pac-12 and may finish third in the Pac-12 South. Their preseason rankings are all over the map. Rivals has them 26th and Athlon has them 48th.
The mystery is that analysts don't know what to expect with Utah moving to a much tougher conference. Utah played six opponents last season who had a combined record of 15-59. They played tough teams too, like TCU, Notre Dame and Boise State. But they were blown out in those games.
Utah may go 8-4 in the Pac-12 this year (possible losses to USC, BYU, Arizona State and Arizona). They also may be playing in the Holiday Bowl which is a strong statement for a new arrival into the conference. One thing is for sure, Norm Chow will improve their offense and Utah will recruit well in California.
No. 4: Arizona St. Sun Devils
Arizona State had high hopes for this season before the injury bug hit.
The largest losses for the Sun Devils is superstar cornerback Omar Bolden who tore an ACL. Another is star wide receiver T.J. Simpson who also tore an ACL.
That injury hurts after the loss of wide receiver Kerry Taylor to graduation. ASU is softer in the middle this year with defensive tackles Saia Falahola's loss (graduation) and Lawrence Guy (early NFL).
Starting quarterback Steven Threet and backup Samson Szakacsy both left football for medical reasons, so Brock Osweiler will take over as the starter with only two games on record as a starter.
The Sun Devils will be a force in the Pac-12, but these are a few of the reasons that they come in ranked fourth overall. ASU plays a tough schedule too.
They face Missouri and are at Illinois in the non-conference and play USC, at Utah, at Oregon and at Arizona in conference play.
ASU will probably play in the Sun bowl in El Paso, Texas this postseason.
No. 3: Stanford Cardinal
An ESPN analyst reviewing the Stanford Cardinal said "you have Andrew Luck and who else?"
Obviously, he has not heard of two of the best tight ends in the game today in Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz. That analyst will know wide receivers Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen by the end of the season.
Fullback Ryan Hewitt will help blow holes for running backs Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, Jeremy Stewart, and Tyler Gaffney. Each would start for any team in the Pac-12.
Stanford returns two starters on the offensive line so the newbies will have to learn to play as a unit. So will the turnover in the coaching staff.
Defensively Stanford has a bit more turnover which is probably why they are ranked behind USC. In addition, they play at USC this year in a game that USC could likely win.
But Stanford's schedule is favorable, and other than the Trojans, the biggest games of the year will be Oregon and Notre Dame (both at home).
The Cardinal can shake up the top 10 standings with victories in any of those three games.
No. 2: USC Trojans
Only a three percent difference between USC's and Oregon's votes? That is pretty close, so what if USC wins it all?
How would the arbitrary-sanction-assigning NCAA look then?
More importantly, how will other PAC-12 Seniors feel when the NFL continues taking most of draft prospects from USC? How does USC pull that off year after year?
Either a first place or second place finish would vindicate all those USC players who were in the fifth grade during the NCAA's photo-shopped violations.
No. 1: Oregon Ducks
Now the Oregon Ducks are feeling the heat of shameless and unscrupulous NCAA. They will keep digging for years until they can find something. In the meantime Ohio State, Auburn, and other non-Pac-12 teams will be let off the hook. The prescription to that problem is to win out.
Even with a loss to LSU, the Ducks can win the first annual Pac-12 championship and earn a trip to the BCS Rose Bowl by going undefeated in the conference.
That is, as long as the NCAA does not get a hold of photo-shopped pictures of Lache/Lyles before January.