The 2016 college football season just ended Monday night, but it's never too early to look ahead to next season. Here's our early projection of how the Pac-12 Power Rankings will look in 2017:
1. USC: The Trojans were the best team in the conference over the final three months of the season, and with Sam Darnold returning at quarterback they will be the favorite headed into next season. He will be operating behind a rebuilt offensive line, but that won’t stop Darnold from beginning the season as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
2. Washington: There is a widely held belief that the Huskies were actually ahead of schedule when they won the Pac-12 and advanced to the College Football Playoff this season, which should be encouraging for Huskies fans. This is what the early stages of a potential dynasty look like.
3. Stanford: Considering it happened just once in the previous six years, Stanford’s failure to reach the 11-win mark has to be looked at as a mild disappointment. David Shaw’s program is a machine and that won’t change despite losing RB Christian McCaffrey and DE Solomon Thomas.
4. Washington State: With QB Luke Falk returning for a final year on the Palouse, the Cougars will be a threat to beat anyone on their schedule. WR Tavares Martin Jr. has the potential to be one of college football’s breakout stars.
5. Colorado: The Buffaloes lose eight starters on defense and their defensive coordinator, Jim Leavitt, but return eight starters on offense. QB Steven Montez showed he was a capable replacement for outgoing starter Sefo Liufao.
6. Utah: Despite losing four starters on the offensive line and running back Joe Williams, the offense has a chance to improve under new coordinator Troy Taylor, who was the playcaller for one of the best offenses in FCS at Eastern Washington last year.
7. UCLA: Based on talent alone, the Bruins should probably be higher, but after entering the season as the consensus favorite in the Pac-12 South and finishing 4-8, they have a lot to prove. All indications are that QB Josh Rosen should be healthy, which gives new coordinator Jedd Fisch a great player to build an offense around.
8. Oregon: New coach Willie Taggart has his quarterback (Justin Herbert), has a star running back (Royce Freeman) and has one of the best defensive coordinators in college football (Leavitt). There should be cautious optimism next year in Eugene.
9. Oregon State: Gary Andersen clearly has the Beavers headed in the right direction, but a questionable situation at quarterback makes the Beavers somewhat of an unknown.
10. Arizona: It was a dismal year for the Wildcats, but they were young. From their final depth chart, 16 starters will return.
11. Arizona State: The good news: they lose just two defensive starters from the final depth chart. The bad news: they gave up 56 points in that game to rival Arizona. ASU enters next season on a six-game losing streak.
12. California: On offense, Cal has to replace quarterback Davis Webb without a clear favorite to replace him, as well as its top receiver, Chad Hansen. On defense, it has to start fielding one. And now, suddenly, the Bears need to find a new head coach as well.