Even though the Big 12 has lost their championship game, there are two conferences that have gained one. The first is the all-new Pac-12.
With the addition of Utah and Colorado, the conference has split into the North and South Divisions, and a conference championship game is the first desired destination for the 12 teams in the conference.
After last season's Pac-10 championship and berth in the BCS Championship Game, the Ducks have been selected as the preseason favorite in the Pac-12-North, earning 29-of-42 first-place votes. Stanford finished second in the North, earning the remaining 13 first-place votes.
USC was picked as the preseason favorite in the South, earning 24 first-place votes, but as they are ineligible to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game (per NCAA sanctions), Arizona State, with their 13 first-place votes, is the top team from the South with an actual chance to win the conference in 2011.
With the championship game, the pollsters now get to vote on their pick to win that game, and Oregon was again the clear favorite, receiving 28 votes. Stanford received 11 votes and Arizona State, 3.
There's really no reason to doubt the Ducks will have the ability to win the Pac-12 this year. They are returning an amazing lineup of very talented and experienced players. Stanford, of course, returns Andrew Luck. But beyond the quarterback position, the Cardinal are woefully depleted.
The Sun Devils from Arizona State could be the most interesting team in the Pac-12 this season. Although ASU finished just 6-6 last year, four of the losses were by single scores, and a couple games were losses by a single point.
In fact, only nine points separated ASU's 6-6 record from 10-2. Add in the fact that they return every offensive starter and they could surprise many people this season.
Pick: The Favorite