Pac-12 football

Oregon, UCLA expected to be leaders of Pac

2014-07-04T00:00:00Z 2014-07-05T10:16:01Z Oregon, UCLA expected to be leaders of PacBy Jon Gold Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rarely has there been such consensus in the Pac-12.

It is as if the preseason prognosticators from Lindy’s, Athlon Sports, The Sporting News, USA Today and Phil Steele sat in the same room and all reviewed game film and starting lineups over a half-dozen large pizzas. Both in the North and South divisions, there is almost zero variance, on the top and on the bottom.

Up top, Oregon’s on top of the heap, as expected. In fact, the Ducks aren’t just on top, they’re in front — quarterback Marcus Mariota adorned the front of the USA Today preview along with UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, whose Bruins are the consensus top pick for the Pac-12 South.

While Stanford has a strangle-hold on the second spot in the North, USC’s rebound efforts under Steve Sarkisian are almost a unanimous cinch for the No. 2 hole in the South. The Trojans’ only doubters? The Sporting News, which ranks Arizona State at No. 2 and USC No. 3.

The Sun Devils have doubters of their own, though, after losing the majority of their potent 2013 defense. Phil Steele’s one deviation from the norm was in placing Arizona at No. 3 in the South over Arizona State, while the other four previews had the Wildcats at No. 4.

The middle of the North is slightly muddled, as Washington and Oregon State are projected to finish in a tie by USA Today, though the Huskies claimed the third ranking in the rest of the publications.

Washington State impressed The Sporting News enough to put them ahead of Oregon State at No. 4 in the conference, while each other magazine had the Cougars at No. 5, and Cal rounded out the North. The bottom of the South is settled with cellar-dwellers Utah and Colorado.

Nationally, Pac-12 teams are getting their just due, though some are more bullish on the conference than others.

All five magazines have Oregon in the top 6, though The Sporting News has the Ducks all the way up at No. 2. UCLA is similarly highly regarded, with a low of No. 10 by USA Today

and a high of No. 5 by Steele. While Steele expects much from the Bruins, he is less impressed by Stanford, which he has ranked far below The Sporting News’ ranking of No. 6; he has the Cardinal all the way down at No. 20. The Trojans can thank a big-time defense for a consensus top-20 ranking, including Steele’s No. 12 ranking, and ASU and Washington get Top 25 spots, as well.

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