Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
This pecking order includes 2008 finish, NFL early defections, recruiting and an early projection for the 2009 season.
1. USC: The Trojans lost quarterback Mark Sanchez to early entry and looked slightly less invincible during recruiting this signing day, but they remain top dogs until someone knocks them off their pedestal for the past seven seasons.
2. California: The Bears unexpectedly lost tight end Cameron Morrah to early entry as well as three outstanding linebackers to graduation, and the recruiting class was a minor disappointment, but 17 returning starters from a nine-win team indicates the Bears might be the top challenger for USC next fall.
3. Oregon: The Ducks saw cornerback Jairus Byrd bolt for the NFL early, both lines take some big hits and the recruiting class ranked sixth in the Pac-10. But if you watched the Holiday Bowl whipping of Oklahoma State, the return of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount suggest the Ducks will find a way to be in the race.
4. Oregon State: Beavers fans probably yawn at their recruiting class being ranked eighth in the conference, but they surely are concerned about a defense that loses eight starters. On the other hand, running back Jacquizz Rodgers and quarterback Lyle Moevao lead an offense that will welcome back seven in 2009.
5. Arizona: Offensive tackle Eben Britton bolted early for the NFL and the recruiting class ranked seventh in the Pac-10, but the Wildcats should be in pretty good shape for another bowl run if someone emerges at quarterback. Of course, that's a big "if."
6. UCLA: The Bruins perk up in the power rankings in large part because of the momentum of an outstanding recruiting class, which includes a handful of guys who can provide immediate help. Moreover, 16 returning starters means there will be nice competition for the incoming youngins.
7. Arizona State: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Corey Adams made the recruiting class -- Dennis Erickson is putting a stamp on his defense. And 16 starters will be back in 2009. But the Sun Devils have critical questions at quarterback and on the offensive line.
8. Stanford: With 17 starters back and the conference's third-rated recruiting class, the Cardinal look poised to move up. And the margin between Nos. 6, 7 and 8 is small. But the bad taste of losing three of four to finish the season -- thereby falling one win shy of bowl eligibility -- lingers.
9. Washington: The Huskies lost to Washington State in the Apple Cup and signed an inferior recruiting class compared to their rivals. And 17 returning starters from a winless team doesn't mean a whole lot. But one of those starters is quarterback Jake Locker, a certifiable difference-maker.
10. Washington State: The Cougars signed a better recruiting class than Washington and beat the Huskies last year, but -- despite 16 returning starters -- there are more roster questions heading into spring practices, particularly who will end up starting at quarterback.