There seems to be national consensus with Oregon and Stanford: One or the other will win the Pac-12 North Division and be a national title contender. One is being rated in the preseason top 3 and the other in the top 5 or top 10. Opinions vary on which one gets the higher perch. And that's good. It thickens the plot.
Everyone loves thick plots.
There is less consensus with the conference thereafter.
The Pac-12 blog believes the conference will be as deep and as strong top-to-bottom in 2013 as it has been over the past decade, with seven teams deserving legitimate preseason top-25 consideration. After Stanford and Oregon, that would be (in alphabetical order): Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, USC and Washington.
Yet this depth is not, apparently, getting the conference a preseason rankings boost. It seems many polls don't know what to make of the conference.
Here's ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach's current top 25. It features four Pac-12 teams. I find his top-25 defensible but not nearly as good as the Pac-12 blog's top 25, which is presently under lock and key at an undisclosed location, which is being guarded by The Avengers.
Phil Steele is counting down his preseason top 40, and he lumps Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington and UCLA from 31 to 27. Considering he's high on USC, that would indicate he'll have just three Pac-12 teams in his top-25.
The Sporting News has Stanford playing Alabama for the national title, Oregon eighth, UCLA at 20th and Oregon State at 23rd.
Athlon has Oregon third, Stanford seventh, Arizona State at 23rd and Oregon State at 25th.
Yet sentiments can change over just a few months. Take history. We had the Dark Ages and then the Enlightenment. That's our segue to the Pac-12 blog now offering its thoughts.
There should be five Pac-12 teams ranked in the preseason top 25.
You start with Oregon and Stanford. Your favorite should be either No. 2 or No. 3, based on whether you expect to see Ohio State go undefeated and then get beat by two touchdowns by the SEC champion or you expect to see Oregon/Stanford end the SEC's seven-year itch atop college football.
Then you pick a South Division champion: Arizona State, UCLA or USC. That team should be ranked 15th. Why? Because no more than 14 teams in the nation will be better than the Pac-12 South Division winner.
Then you pick your No. 3 team in the North, likely Oregon State or Washington. It should be ranked 20th. Why? Because no more than 19 teams in the nation will be better than the No. 3 team in the Pac-12's North Division.
Finally, assuming you didn't pick USC to win the South, you rank USC 25th. Why? Because you don't trust USC but you want to at least be able to say you had the Trojans ranked in the preseason when they play well and win 10 or 11 games.
Never let it be said the Pac-12 blog is too opinionated or inflexible. There are choices here. You have a top 25. There are seven Pac-12 candidates. Pick five. Or six, if you're one of those rogues who bases rankings on how good teams actually are.
Or prepare to be wrong.