College Football Preview: Pac 12
Keith Price, Washington
Overview: With no more sanctions it appears USC is the team to beat in the Pac 12. Back is Heisman candidate Matt Barkley along with his top two receivers from last season in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. If you don't believe these guys are good did you watch last year's UCLA game? Yes Darron Thomas and Lamichael James are gone but this Oregon team reminds me of 2010, the team after Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed. And that team flew into the national championship only to loss to Auburn. Expect big contributions from Kenjon Barner and "The Black Mamba" De'Anthony Thomas on offense. The player to replace Andrew Luck at Stanford? Probably Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes. Both have them have a back in Stepfan Taylor who can run over you or run away from you. This defense is stacked especially on the front seven with Terrence Stephens, Ben Gardner, Chase Thomas and a healthy Shayne Skov. Utah enters its second year in the Pac 12 hoping for a championship appearance. Jordan Wynn is back and fully healthy but it isn't a sure thing that he will start. Expect big things from the Utes' back in John White who could be one of the most underrated players in the nation. Nose tackle Star Lolutelei has the tools to become an All-American in his senior year. Keith Price is back for the Washington Huskies which means they could have a chance at the Pac 12 crown. Price is athletic and has a great arm but his supporting cast is weaker with no Chris Polk or Jermaine Kearse. This defense was atrocious in 2011 and even with 7 starters back and a new coordinator in Justin Wilcox it is still very weak. California could actually be scary good with the return of Zach Maynard, Isi Sofele and Keenan Allen on offense. Maynard stuggled at times but started to figure it out at the end of the year. Freshman Maurice Harris could end up dominating but the defense is considerably weaker. Washington State is in line for a bowl berth for the first time since 2003. Mike Leach is coming in with his new air raid offense and he has the quarterback to run it in Jeff Tuel. Tuel can be lethal when healthy and he has a big-play receiver in Marquess Wilson. The defense should also improve with the return of tackle Anthony Laurenzi and cornerback Daniel Simmons. UCLA is in a new era and they hope to start it off with a winning season. Jim Mora isn't sure who his quarterback will be as Richard Brehaut nor Kevin Prince were effective last year. Freshman Brett Hundley could make a run at the job but he is a little raw. Senior Jonathan Franklin is an effective back and on defense linebacker Patrick Larimore will make a lot of tackles. Is Arizona ready to compete with new coach Rich Rodriguez? Maybe if senior quarterback Matt Scott can have a big season. Taimi Tutogi also is a X-factor as he could end up being the team's top offensive threat. Arizona State never quite figured it out in 2011 and now are without Brock Osweiler, last year's starting quarterback. Their backfield is stacked with talent headed by Cameron Marshall, Chris Coyle and freshman D.J. Foster. The most dangerous player on this Sun Devils team isn't Marshall or linebacker Brandon Magee, it is receiver Jamal Miles who is also a huge factor in the return game. Oregon State could have a big season or could end up like last year's 3-9 team that couldn't beat Sacremento State. QB Sean Mannion is back and he has a dangerous threat in wide out Markus Wheaton. Colorado won't contend this season but the future is improving for the Buffaloes. Texas transfer Connor Wood is only a sophomore and has great potential. Another sophomore, Tony Jones, will also have a big season. On defense look out for Douglas Rippy and senior Jon Major.