Phil Steele picks Oregon, USC in Pac-12

My Phil Steele preseason preview arrived in the mail over the weekend, an annual event which typically signals that we are in the home stretch before the season begins.


Steele's publication is notorious for small type, odd codes and lots of good information, if an overabundance of stuff from past seasons that's often a slog to read through.

How does he see the Pac-12 in 2013?

His North Division prediction goes like this:

1. Oregon

2. Stanford

3. Oregon State

4. Washington

5. Washington State

6. California

And his South Division projection looks like this:

1. USC

2. Arizona State


4. Arizona

5. Utah

6. Colorado

Steele loves USC this year, ranking the Trojans sixth in the nation -- he's got Oregon at No. 5 and Stanford at No. 11 -- and ranking them among the nation's best at several position groups.

Speaking of the position groups, here's how he rates Pac-12 teams in his top 45:


Quarterback: Oregon 5, UCLA 8, Arizona State 21, Stanford 29, Washington 36.

Running back: Arizona State 4, Oregon 6, Arizona 7, USC 9, Washington 18, Stanford 27.

Wide receiver: USC 1, Washington 6, Washington State 28, UCLA 31, Oregon 32, Oregon State 40

Offensive line: USC 6, Stanford 9, Oregon 10, Oregon State 20, Arizona 21, UCLA 32, Washington 45.

Thoughts: Oregon State should still be in the top 45 quarterbacks because both Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion are better than most FBS QBs. Lane Kiffin would quickly trade his O-line for Stanford's without even thinking about it, and so would most of the teams ranked ahead of the Cardinal's O-line. Hard to believe Oregon State's Storm Woods doesn't rate in the top 45, and I'm not sure lots of folks won't know about Cal's Brendan Bigelow by season's end.


Defensive line: USC 2, Arizona State 4, Stanford 9, California 18, Oregon 19, Washington 22, UCLA 25, Oregon State 34

Linebacker: Stanford 2, USC 3, UCLA 6, Washington 9, California 25, Oregon 26, Arizona State 27, Oregon State 36, Arizona 37, Washington State 45

Secondary: Oregon 1, Stanford 5, USC 17, Arizona State 18, Washington 19, Oregon State 22, Utah 38, Arizona 40

Special teams: USC 3, Stanford 38, Oregon State 45

Thoughts: It's possible the Pac-12 will have a banner year on defense, and Steele's rankings support that here. Oregon's defensive line will prove better than 19th, and Oregon State is low -- and Washington a bit high -- at linebacker. It does appear to be a down year for special teams in the conference.