Mark Schlabach has published another iteration of his way-too-early power rankings, that now no longer seem that way too early.
LSU is No. 1, which makes perfect sense to me. USC is No. 2. Ditto on that. Oregon is No. 4. Alabama is No. 3. That means we could end up with the SEC and Pac-12 giving us a pair of national semifinals in the BCS's penultimate season.
Schlabach on the Trojans:
With 19 starters coming back from a 10-2 team in 2011, including star quarterback Matt Barkley, USC seems armed to return to national prominence. But the Trojans' schedule seems much more difficult than LSU's this coming season. The Trojans play Pac-12 road games at Stanford on Sept. 15 and at Washington on Oct. 13, along with a Nov. 3 home game against Oregon and Nov. 24 home finale against Notre Dame. Still, if the Trojans can solidify their defensive line they'll be right in the mix for a BCS national championship. Opponents will have a difficult time slowing down Barkley and receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
And his take on the Ducks, who moved up two spots:
After losing All-America tailback LaMichael James, it's hard to believe the Ducks might be even faster on offense in 2012. But with tailbacks Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas taking over, Oregon has two sprinters in its backfield. The quarterback battle between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota might not be settled until preseason camp, but both players seem more than capable of running coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense. Oregon's defense must replace two starting linebackers and two defensive backs. The Ducks play five of their first six games at home and their nonconference schedule is much easier with home games against Arkansas State, Fresno State and FCS-foe Tennessee Tech. Road games at Southern Cal and California and a home game against Stanford might loom large in November.
He has Stanford 12th, which damages the Cardinal's "no respect" angle a bit:
A lot of people expected Stanford to slip after coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers after the 2010 season. But first-year coach David Shaw guided the Cardinal to an 11-2 record and a spot in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season. Now the Cardinal have to survive without All-America quarterback Andrew Luck and many other star players. Luck was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, and guard David DeCastro, tight end Coby Fleener and tackle Jonathan Martin were selected in the first two rounds. Sophomore Brett Nottingham looks like the heir apparent at quarterback, but Stanford figures to be a ground-oriented team with tailback Stepfan Taylor coming back. Stanford plays USC at home on Sept. 15 and at Oregon on Nov. 17.
Washington is 21st:
About the only defense that looked worse than Washington's during bowl season was Clemson's. The Huskies were ripped for 777 yards, including 482 rushing, in a 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Valero Alamo Bowl. As a result, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian revamped his coaching staff, bringing in five new assistants, including former Boise State and Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Huskies bring back quarterback Keith Price, who threw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. But they'll have to replace tailback Chris Polk, who ran for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns. Perhaps no team faces a more difficult start to the season; UW plays LSU (road), Stanford (home), Oregon (road) and USC (home) in its first six games.
Who's missing in my mind? Utah. I'd rate it 73 percent change the Utes end up in the top-25.