The Pros: The return of Marcus Mariota, plus a ton of returning talent on offense and defense keeps the Ducks at the top of the pile.
The Cons: It might be cliched, but the whole toughness issue will be a monkey on the Ducks’ back until they beat a hard-nosed team.
The Skinny: They seem to be ranked hear every year, but not without good reason. This is their year.
The Pros: Brett Hundley is a stud at quarterback, and the Bruins return plenty of starters on both sides of the ball.
The Cons: Tons of talent, but who are the go-to guys at receiver and running back?
The Skinny: If Jordon James can stay healthy, and a receiver (or two) steps up, the Bruins could top the conference.
The Pros: Cody Kessler, seven starters back on defense and a talented bunch of running backs. And coach Steve Sarkisian knows what to do with a quality backfield.
The Cons: Is the depth there yet on both sides of the ball? Can Steve Sarkisian turn USC talent in championships?
The Skinny: Going out on a limb, but people are overlooking the Trojans. The end of season battle with UCLA should be epic.
The Pros: The team won’t do anything too fancy, bullies opponents into submission on offense and defense. David Shaw is arguably the best coach in the PAC 12.
The Cons: Lots of key losses on both sides of the ball, and Kevin Hogan hasn’t quite advanced as expected. Ty Montgomery is banged up already.
The Skinny: Hogan doesn’t have to be Andrew Luck, but he needs to improve his efficiency, while the offensive line needs to gel quickly.
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Pros: Taylor Kelly borders on being underrated in a conference full of outstanding quarterbacks, and he’s got some talent at the skill positions and a good offensive line.
The Cons: The defense returns just two starters, including most of its leaders, and the replacements are pretty young. Having a green defense in the PAC 12 isn’t a sign of comfort but a reason to worry.
The Skinny: The Sun Devils had a good track record in the shootout department last season, and may need to again to have a shot. It’s all about their defense.
The Pros: One of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference, plus a defense that returns eight starters, including some all-PAC 12 talent.
The Cons: Questions at quarterback and maybe running back. The secondary only returns one starter. Petersen was a great coach in the Mountain West, but can he translate it into the PAC 12?
The Skinny: This could be a team for the future. They’ll be one of the better teams in the conference, but contending for titles is a couple of years away. Expect a scalp or two though.
Washington State Cougars
The Pros: Expect lots of offense as quarterback Connor Halliday returns along with a bevy of starters on both sides of the ball. The front seven should be improved with almost everyone back.
The Cons: Can the Cougars establish even a semblance of a running attack, especially with just two returning linemen? A bad secondary returns just one starter. Maybe that’s not so bad.
The Skinny: Time to start rolling with the big boys. The latter half of the schedule is tough, but the Cougars offense can cause headaches for almost any team when it’s humming.
The Pros: Quarterback Travis Wilson is an old school baller, and he lots to work with on offense, including a solid offensive line. The secondary should be a lot better this season with Brian Blechen back.
The Cons: Every time Wilson, takes a hit, the fans will hold their breath until he gets up. The depth isn’t there across the board to compete over the course of a season.
The Skinny: No one in the PAC 12 wins more games on sheer grit than the Utes. They compete hard in every game, but they’ve got some more recruiting to do to be a title threat.
The Pros: I could run for 1000 yards in Rich Rodriguez’ offense, and the Wildcats return four unheralded but quality linemen. They have arguably the PAC 12’s best receiving corps. There is range and athleticism aplenty in the back seven.
The Cons: Who’s the quarterback? Lots of options, but no one has stepped up. The defensive line needs to do better, especially in the pass rush department after just 16 sacks last year.
The Skinny: The conference slate is tough, and they need to have their QB in place by October. RichRod will have them bowling, but they won’t be competing for the PAC 12 crown.
Oregon State Beavers
The Pros: Sean Mannion is whetting NFL scouts’ appetites, and they have some useful talent back in Storm Woods and Richard Mullaney. The Beavers return one of league’s best linebacker corps, plus both safeties.
The Cons: Receiver Brandin Cooks may be tough to replace with a young unit. Mannion needs to play better against top teams, while both lines need to play with more gusto in the fall.
The Skinny: The Beavers will likely dominate the weaker teams on the schedule, but will struggle against the better teams. There are a lot of good teams in the PAC 12.
The Pros: The Buffs have some nice sophomore lynchpins to build around in quarterback Sefo Liufau and linebacker Addison Gillam. Depth and versatility in the backfield and at receiver.
The Cons: Depth is paper thin on the offensive line, and the run-blocking was less than stellar last season. Gillam aside, CU lack playmakers in the front seven.
The Skinny: Coach Mike MacIntyre will squeeze every ounce out of this team, but the team has a long way to go to be a power again. They are headed in the right direction though.
California Golden Bears
The Pros: Lots of talent at the skill position players, and the system and the quarterback to take advantage of it. Four experienced defenders who missed last season return, and the linebackers could be really good.
The Cons: The offensive line was poor last season, and Jared Goff needs to be protected to excel. The defense was terrible, particularly the secondary, and may show less improvement than hoped.
The Skinny: Cal should be better this season, but the win-loss column may not show it. The Bears have some nice pieces in place, but will struggle up front on both sides of the ball.