Power Ranking: Pac 12 North

1. OREGON– The league’s two-time defending champ is the Empire’s top ranked program in the North and favorite to be crowned the first Pac 12 king. The Ducks return 11 starters from a team that played for the national championship a year ago and finished with an overall record of 12-1. Chip Kelly lost two playmakers in linebacker Casey Matthews and wide receiver Jeff Maehl, but key components remain intact. Running back LaMichael James is poised for another run at the Heisman Trophy, and quarterback Darron Thomas now has a year of experience under his belt. The team loses Cliff Harris for the opener against LSU, but based on disciplinary actions under Kelly’s watch, we should expect to see the corner back on the field for Pac 12 play.

2. STANFORD– The recent coaching change makes the Cardinal an enigma. 2010 success wasn’t built solely on the X’s and O’s of Jim Harbaugh, but also through his hard-nose and fearless personality, which was quickly mirrored by the men on his roster. Aside from Harbaugh, Stanford also saw major departures on the offensive line, returning just two starters from a year ago. Any success will be determined by how quickly the new group can gel. A Heisman candidate returns at quarterback, but little protection will equate to a lot less Luck.

3. CALIFORNIA– Jeff Tedford finds himself in a downward spiral. His team wracked up 9 victories in 2008, only to decrease by one in ’09, before recording a dismal 5 last year to miss the postseason. The Bears have fielded one of the better defenses in conference, so that is not to blame. The reversal of fortune is attributed to the lack of great quarterback play and a deep threat receiver.  The team played predictably in one-dimension and it was reflected in the box score.  Zach Maynard now replaces the departed Kevin Riley, but it remains unclear whether he is a solution or extension for an offense that struggles to stretch the field. Expect Cal to make a little noise in league play, but it should not be considered a legitimate contender.

4. OREGON STATE– The Beaver roster took a huge hit when Jacquizz Rodgers declared a year early for the NFL draft. The offense was built around the dynamic runner with a talent not so easily replaced. State’s defense also shares in draft casualties, with the line  now minus All-American Stephen Paea at tackle.  In the past, Mike Riley managed to work through roster turnovers and keep his team afloat. But even with the services of James Rodgers retained, it will be difficult to immediately overcome the loss of those impact players on each side of the line.

5. WASHINGTON– Speaking of losses, no program took a more major hit than the Huskies in losing Jake Locker. The do-it-all quarterback was everything to the offense and often the difference between winning and losing. Breaking in a new hurler shifts focus to the running game, thereby increasing the emphasis on Chris Polk. The question now posed to Steve Sarkisian is whether his offense is good enough to manage the game and counter what is lacking defensively or suddenly dead in the water. Washington opponents averaged 29.3 points per game in 2010, and that defense returns 8 starters. Unless there is significant improvement, the task at hand is to explode the scoreboard, after losing your most explosive player.

6. WASHINGTON STATE– As much as Paul Wulff’s program has crawled around the corner, the truth is he doesn’t have the athletes to contend for a conference title. Yes, the Cougars are improved, much better than before, but that still isn’t saying much. As it stands today, Washington State is a likely underdog in 10 of 12 season games. Of course, there’s always the probability of an upset, as witnessed against the Beavers last year. But one or two unforeseeable outcomes does not a champion make.

~ by Anthony on August 7, 2011.

One Response to “Power Ranking: Pac 12 North”

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