Pac 12 Football Preview

Two familiar programs will vie for the top spot in this ever-improving conference while a pair of other schools might surprise with some new leadership at the helm.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

It’s USC’s time to return to the national stage and everything about this year’s Trojan team suggests that they will have a major say in 2012’s National Championship race.  The Oregon Ducks will be right there with them as Duck’s head coach Chip Kelly plugs in a very young Marcus Mariota at the quarterback position to run his otherworldly-paced offense. 

Washington, Stanford and Utah have all proven themselves as worthy competition in this ever-improving conference over the last few years and all will have something to say about this year’s Pac-12 title race as well.  Really look for new head coaches Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach, at Arizona and Washington State, respectively, to pull off some surprising results in 2012 too.  Both of their offenses can work well and are tailor-made for this conference.  Finally, the bottom four teams in the conference will be struggling to become bowl eligible and should be battling it out for the final spots.  I will also make a bold prediction now and say that Cal head coach Jeff Tedford will be out by year’s end.



  1. Oregon
  2. Stanford
  3. Washington
  4. Washington State
  5. California
  6. Oregon State


  1. USC
  2. Utah
  3. Arizona
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State
  6. Colorado

All Pac-12 Offense:

QB – Matt Barkley, USC

RB – John White, Utah

RB – Kenjon Barner, Oregon

WR – Marqise Lee, USC

WR – Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

OL – Khaled Holmes, USC

OL – David Yankey, Stanford

OL – Carson York, Oregon

OL – Matt Summers-Gavin, California

OL – Cameron Fleming, Stanford

K – Andre Heidari, USC

KR – D’Anthony Thomas, Oregon


All Pac-12 Defense:

DL – Dion Jordan, Oregon

DL – Star Lotulelei, Utah

DL – Justin Washington, Arizona

DL – Wes Horton, USC

LB – Dion Bailey, USC

LB – Shayne Skov, Stanford

LB – Chase Thomas, Stanford

DB – Nickell Robey, USC

DB – Desmond Trufant, Washington

DB – John Boyett, Oregon

DB – Brian Blechen, Utah

P – Jeff Locke, UCLA

PR – Jamal Miles, Arizona State


Best Offensive Player:

D’Anthony Thomas – RB, Oregon

While Matt Barkley makes a great case here too, Thomas is probably the best all-around athlete and offensive skill player in the country.  He can score from absolutely anywhere on the field on any given play.  As a true freshman last year, Thomas accounted for 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total touchdowns while averaging over 10.8 yards per carry!  In fact, in his only two carries at the Rose Bowl last year, the “Black Mamba” ran for two touchdowns, one of 91 yards and another of 54 yards.


Best Defensive Player:

Star Lotulelei – DT, Utah

While the 6’3” 325-lb senior’s statistical numbers aren’t mind-boggling, his presence is always felt.  Lotulelei wreaks havoc on opposing lineman with huge mass and strength, forcing them to double-team him and free up his fellow teammates in the process.  The massive DT is the key piece of a very good Utes defense which should help them contend for the Pac-12 South division in 2012.


Surprise Team:

Washington State Cougars

Mike Leach’s arrival in Pullman was one of the biggest off-season coaching moves in quite a while.  Anyone who saw Leach’s teams at Texas Tech knows that his “Air Raid” offenses can throw the football with the best of them.  And don’t dare think that the Cougar cupboard was left completely bare.  Junior receiver Marquess Wilson has been one of the very best wideouts in the country over the past couple of years, accounting for 2,394 yards and 18 TDs thus far in his young career.  The Cougars will also have a good stable of QBs with sophomore Connor Halliday logging significant playing time as a freshman last year and now very capable senior Jeff Tuel returns from injury as well.  Don’t be surprised to see the Cougars making their way to a solid bowl game this season.


Disappointing Team:

California Golden Bears

While most aren’t expecting the Golden Bears to necessarily contend for the Pac-12 title this year, Jeff Tedford and this program have been in decline for the better part of three years now.  The Bears have won just 20 games in the last three seasons despite stockpiling (what seems like) a wealth of talented players, most notably on the defensive front seven and at the wide receiver position.  However, this has not translated into many wins and someone will likely be held accountable at season’s end if it doesn’t change very soon.  Things aren’t looking good as the 2012 season schedule is very daunting and includes a tough non-conference road game in Columbus versus Ohio State.  Don’t expect Jeff Tedford in Berkeley for too much longer.


Instant Impact Freshman:

Arik Armstead – DL, Oregon

The 6’8” 280-lb Armstead was one of the most highly recruited players in all of the West out of high school last year, including offers from major programs like USC, Cal, Washington and UCLA.  It has been clear all spring long that the Ducks coaching staff will give Armstead every opportunity to play immediately in Eugene.  He could very well produce right away too.  The 2012 Parade All-American tallied 42 tackles, 3.5 sacks and broke up three passes in his senior year of high school, leading his team to the state championship game.   The true freshman is also extremely athletic for his size and also played basketball while in high school.  He should cause an awful lot of fits for opposing offensive lines during his first year on campus for the Pac-12 North division favorites.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

By: Jeff Gross

Collection: Getty Images Sport