Game week! Whee!
Time for the final preseason power rankings. Hereafter the power rankings will reflect three things: 1. A team's overall rating in the conference, big picture; 2. A team's rating based on what happened the previous weekend; 3. A team's rating based on the totality of the season thus far.
Frequently, No. 2 will be most important. A good team that lays an egg often will find itself powerless in these power rankings, but it also will be able to quickly regain ground with a redemptive performance.
These rankings set up as how we see things ultimately stacking up when the calendar flips into December.
And away we go.
1. USC: The Trojans begin the season ranked No. 1 here and in the AP poll. If the national title game were held Saturday, or you could guarantee the Trojans' starting 24 today would be the same at season's end, just about everyone would hand USC the title. But a season is long. Things happen. The Trojans' defense is already down two players, DE Devon Kennard and CB Isiah Wiley. A couple more of those, and the perception of this team could change.
2. Oregon: QB Marcus Mariota has inherited the keys to the Ducks' ludicrous speed offense, which is almost certain to be outstanding again with Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and a good line. But it's the defense that figures to keep the three-time defending Pac-12 champions ranked in the top-five. Oregon visits USC on Nov. 3, which could be the national game of the season. At least until they meet again in the Pac-12 title game.
3. Stanford: You can't replace Andrew Luck, but you can still win a bunch of games with the guys who are back on the Farm. The Cardinal will continue to win because of a strong running game and defense.
4. Utah: DT Star Lotulelei is a good place to start. He leads what should again be a very good defense. The offense should be much better with a healthy Jordan Wynn to balance a strong running game. If you are looking for something to worry about, start at offensive tackle, where things are uncertain. Further, the Utes need to beat a top-shelf conference team to prove they belong. It's notable -- and sure to inspire some consternation -- that they are ranked ahead of Washington and California, two teams that whipped the Utes pretty badly last fall.
5. Washington: It's nice to have QB Keith Price back, and the defense has to get better under new coordinator Justin Wilcox. But will the Huskies survive the brutal early schedule and emerge with confidence? Consider what happened at Arizona a year ago under similar circumstances.
6. California: QB Zach Maynard is the key. If he's consistent, as he was over the final third of the 2011 regular season, the Bears will finish in the top half of the conference. There are plenty of weapons on offense with WR Keenan Allen and a bevy of good running backs, and the defense should again be strong.
7. UCLA: Dual-threat redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley should energize things, and there's enough talent on both sides of the ball for a bowl game. But the Bruins have been intriguing on paper before only to show the resiliency of that very sheet as the season wore on.
8. Washington State: The offense should be able to score a lot, and it might need to because the defense is highly questionable. QB Jeff Tuel and a strong crew of receivers should fit nicely with new coach Mike Leach's schemes. The expectation should be a first bowl berth since 2003.
9. Oregon State: Sophomore QB Sean Mannion should be better as a seasoned, second-year starter, but both lines are questionable. The Beavers haven't been able to run the ball or stop the run the past two seasons. Getting back to a bowl game depends on reversing those trends.
10. Arizona: QB Matt Scott is a good fit for new coach Rich Rodriguez's offense, and there's pretty good talent surrounding him. The defense is highly questionable. And what if Scott gets hurt? The Wildcats are going to need to score a lot of points to win.
11. Arizona State: Taylor Kelly was the surprise winner of the QB competition, and new coach Todd Graham has pressed many of the right buttons this offseason. But the Pac-12 blog always sees it as a bad sign when an angry fan base attempts to counter our skepticism by touting players who have played no or very little college football.
12. Colorado: The Buffs finished here last year and start off here this season with a much younger team than the 3-10 bunch from 2011. The good news, however, is the schedule. It's possible, perhaps even likely, Colorado will win more games this fall than last just because of a far more favorable slate of games.