The Pac-10 is now the Pac-12. There's a championship game. And, thankfully, there are no stupid names for the conference—it's just North and South.
In the North: Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State
In the South: Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Colorado
In the North...
(We're going to get a few headaches talking about this one, so bear with us.)
1) Stanford has the best quarterback in college football in Andrew Luck. Stanford is also returning six starters—including top tackling linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas.
2) Oregon has, er, problems. Cliff Harris' suspension prior to the LSU game is going to be massive, regardless of what people say. Oregon is also missing its offensive front, so prepare for it to get abused by LSU—although we don't know if it's going to have that much of a problem against other Pac-12 teams. If they just give the ball to LaMichael James all night long, this might not be problematic!
3) Washington's getting some looks of love from the sidelines, especially with top passer Chris Polk back. But Washington really has a hell of a long way to come and they might cause you some problems. Will they REALLY win this division? We think not.
PREDICTED WINNER: Oregon
And in the South...
1) Despite having no bowl or championship game to play for, USC is the favorite to win the Pac-12. With Matt Barkley coming back at QB and the sheer depth of talent annually recruited by the Trojans, it's hard to argue against them. This team will be the best team NOT to go to a BCS Bowl, friends.
2) Arizona State? Really? In 2010 the Sun Devils found ways to lose close games, including ones at Wisconsin (with a missed extra point!) and on the road to USC and Arizona. This year, with 15 returning starters, including QB Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils are a threat. The biggest test to see how good they are comes early when they play back-to-back games against Illinois and USC.
PREDICTION: Oregon beats Arizona State. But will they be good enough for the National Championship?
Players To Watch
Andrew Luck (Stanford), LaMichael James (Oregon), Cliff Harris (Oregon), Matt Barkley (USC), Jonathan Franklin/Derrick Coleman (UCLA).
Ten of the Best
1. Oregon vs. LSU: First game of the season. 'Nuff said.
2. Oregon at Stanford: LaMichael James vs. Andrew Luck. Expect points, baby!
3. USC at Arizona State: Is this ASU team REALLY going to be a top 25 team this year? Best indicator comes here, early.
4. USC at Notre Dame: USC will be dying for revenge following 2010's loss.
5. Texas at UCLA: Will a win over the 'Horns give UCLA the banner win that can drive them to Pac-12 glory?
6. Utah at USC: The Utes' "We have arrived" moment will come when they take the field against the Trojans during the second week of the season.
7. USC at Oregon: Oregon will need to win this for Pac-12 AND BCS title purposes. The Trojans will be wanting to be the spoiler—until next year.
8. Oregon State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin thought the 2010 game against ASU would be easy and very nearly slipped up. Wisconsin should NOT sleep on Oregon State—especially with Ryan Katz behind the huddle and James Rodgers at receiver.
9. Washington State at Colorado: Don't look now, but WSU could go 4-0 if they beat Colorado.
10. Cal at Colorado: Big games in Boulder don't happen that often. This will be Colorado's first Pac-12 game.