Early Pac-12 Football Rankings For 2016

    Early Pac-12 football rankings for 2016. Are the UCLA Bruins the team to beat, or will USC, Oregon or someone else emerge as the conference frontrunner.

    January 16, 2016

    Which team will the Pac-12 run through next season? UCLA is poised for an offensive explosion. USC has tools in place to compete for a conference title under first-year head coach Clay Helton. And if transfer Dakota Prukop pans out, Oregon should be in the mix once again. While there’s a lot that has to happen between now and kickoff, and these will undoubtedly change, here’s way-too-early Pac-12 football rankings for 2016.

    Early 2016 Pac-12 Football Rankings

    1. UCLA

    The injury problems of last year on defense turn out to be a plus with 19 of the top 20 tacklers back. The defense is loaded with experience and depth, but it needs to find more star power. Playmakers aren’t a problem on offense with QB Josh Rosen back along with six of his top eight receivers. RB Paul Perkins is done, and the line loses Alex Redman early to the NFL, but the O should blow up, which is why the Bruins currently sit atop the Pac-12 football rankings.

    2. USC

    QB Cody Kessler might be gone, but the rest of the offense should be unbelievable with all the other skill guys back including the top ten pass catchers and all five starters up front. The defensive front will be a problem in the opener against Alabama, but the secondary gets all for starters back – the Trojans should have one of the Pac-12’s top pass defenses.

    3. Oregon

    If the quarterback situation is solid – okay, Montana State’s Dakota Prukop, your turn – the Duck attack should blow up with RB Royce Freeman leading a devastating group in the backfield working behind an okay line. Three starters are gone up front, but the depth was there. The receiving corps should be outstanding. Depending on Prukop’s play, the Ducks could slide up the Pac-12 football rankings. The defensive front seven needs work with all the starters gone up front, but the secondary gets everyone back.

    4. Stanford

    Christian McCaffrey is back and will be the national signature star, but he needs help. Four starters are gone off an NFL defensive front and longtime starting QB Kevin Hogan is finally done. The defense also takes a few major hits with three starters gone off the secondary and four key factors done off the front seven. Finding depth behind McCaffrey will be a key, too.

    5. Washington

    It’s Year Three under Chris Petersen and it’s going to be strong. 2015 was supposed to be a rebuilding year and the defense still rocked. Now it should be dominant with seven starters back led by a potentially devastating back seven. Four starters are back on the offensive line paving the way for a deep group of running backs. The quarterbacks are all there with two of the top three targets returning.

    6. Arizona State

    QB Mike Bercovici is done, and four starters are finished on the offensive line, but the running game should still be okay with the four key running backs returning. Enough good receivers are back for the passing game to be okay, but ASU needs a steady quarterback. All the linebackers return and the line should be solid, but the secondary has to replace three starters after getting lit up by West Virginia.

    7. Utah

    The Utes need a new quarterback to replace Travis Wilson, and the hope is for Joseph Williams to become a strong back, but the line should be terrific with four starters back and the passing game solid with three key parts returning. All the linebackers are gone, but three starters are back on the line and three starters are back in the secondary. Losing P Tom Hackett is a problem, but PK Andy Phillips is back.

    8. Washington State

    The passing game will go ballistic again with QB Luke Falk returning with three starters back at receiver. Just enough returns on the O line to give Falk time, while the starting backs should provide some semblance of a ground game from time to time. The secondary will be the strength of the defense with three starters back, and two of the four starting linebackers return, but the line will be a problem.

    9. Arizona

    QB Anu Solomon is back along with four of the five starting receivers to make the passing game shine, while the ground attack will be a killer again from time to time with enough good backs returning behind a line with three starters. Scooby Wright is gone from the linebacking corps, but three starters are back in the secondary and the line should be okay with two of the three starters back.

    10. California

    The Bears won’t drop off the map, but it’ll have to be the defense that rocks early on with all four starters return to the linebacking corps and three key parts back up front. The offense will be fine because it’s the Sonny Dykes offense, and four starters return on the line, but the four starting receivers are gone and QB Jared Goff bolted to the NFL. The top running backs return.

    11. Colorado

    This HAS to be the year the corner is turned, especially on defense with all seven starters returning to the front seven along with two starters in the secondary. The offense starts with four starters returning up front to help pave the way for what should be a good ground game with the key running backs returning. The young quarterbacks should be far better after another offseason, and they have some decent options to throw to.

    12. Oregon State

    Oregon State checks in at the bottom of the early Pac-12 football rankings. Gary Andersen’s defense should rock with all four starters returning in the secondary and three of the top four linebackers back, but the line needs a little bit of an overhaul. Will the offense be any better? All the key receivers are back and four starters are back on the line, but the young quarterbacks have to be better and a steady running back has to emerge.

    MORE: Way-Too-Early Top 25 College Football Rankings

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