As the 2018 college football season kicks off this weekend, where does ASU football rank in the Pac-12 after an offseason filled with changes?
Our football coverage team put together our preseason Pac-12 Power Rankings.
The Conference of Champions underwent numerous changes this season that featured numerous coaching and quarterback changes.
While the Pac-12 North is expected to be won by Washington, the Pac-12 South is completely wide open and should make for many #Pac12AfterDark games.
Without further ado, the Washington Huskies are leader’s in the clubhouse as Week 1 gets underway.
1. Washington Huskies
After a 10-3 campaign last season, the Washington Huskies will look to be at the top of the Pac-12 and a strong contender for the College Football Playoff.
The Huskies are led by one of the top coaches in the nation in Chris Petersen and will return one of the conference’s most experienced backfields.
Quarterback Jake Browning, who threw for over 2,700 yards last season and 19 touchdowns, will lead Washington’s offense alongside running back Myles Gaskin who tore apart defenses last season in route to a 1,300 rushing yard season. Expect the Huskies to be the front-runner in the Pac-12.
2. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford is always a consistent contender in the Pac-12 year in and year out with head coach David Shaw at the helm.
The Cardinal return Heisman frontrunner Bryce Love who could easily be the best running back in college football after rushing for over 2,100 yards, averaging 8.1 yards a carry.
As expected, Stanford will be a force in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Cardinal have to work out the kinks with the addition of new offensive coordinator, Tavita Pritchard, a former Stanford quarterback.
3. USC Trojans
Highly-touted prospect J.T. Daniels will start Week One against UNLV, but he could be on a short leash if he struggles early.
While there are still questions about the offense, USC’s defense will be outstanding this year. That alone could take them back to the New Year’s Six.
4. Oregon Ducks
Can Justin Herbert stay healthy?
That’ll be the question for a squad that has been seeking a return to the top of the Pac-12. Since reaching the College Football Playoff National Championship in the 2014-15 season, the Ducks have undergone two coaching changes while posting an overall record of 20-18.
When Herbert was under center during the 2017 regular season, the Ducks posted a 6-1 record while averaging 52 points per game. Without him, they were just 1-4.
New head coach Mario Cristobal has a rich history of working with offenses, specifically offensive lines, which should assist Herbert’s health while giving the Ducks a chance to rekindle their reputation of potent scoring.
T5. Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats are a tricky team to read. However, the program hired a proven head coach this past offseason in Kevin Sumlin.
Sumlin is 86-43 in his career as a head coach with successful runs at Houston and, most recently, Texas A&M.
At quarterback, junior Khalil Tate is as electric as they come. Tate will look to improve on his breakout season last year, which included setting the FBS QB single-game rushing record with 327 yards against Colorado. And don’t forget about his arm either.
T5. Utah Utes
Now in their eighth season in the Pac-12, this may be the year the Utes challenge for a trip to Santa Clara.
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The team returns several talented pieces on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zack Moss and the entire secondary that helped them finish third in conference in total defense. If there were any year to reach the conference title game, this would be the one.
However, the road will be tough. The Utes will face four opponents ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 during their 12-game schedule.
If Kyle Whittingham can cash in on his roster’s experience, 2018 could go down as one of the memorable seasons in school history.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils
The Herm Edwards era officially begins in Tempe with the Sun Devils starting the year towards the middle of the pack.
Returning to spearhead the new regime is quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
A potential first-round pick, Harry has received his fair share of national attention after posting 1,142 yards on 82 receptions with eight touchdowns as a sophomore.
The offense gets a tough test in Week 1 against a UTSA defense that returns seven starters and finished fifth in total defense a year ago.
8. UCLA Bruins
No one knows what to expect of UCLA in the Bruins’ first season under Chip Kelly. Will it be the Chip Kelly that formed a dynasty at Oregon or the Chip Kelly that flopped in the NFL?
Either way, it could take time with the departure of Josh Rosen. This season will be more of a stepping stone for years to come.
9. California Golden Bears
Head Coach Justin Wilcox has gotten off to a promising start in terms of turning around the program at Cal, but hard times are likely to continue for the 42-year-old head coach.
Starting quarterback Ross Bowers is coming off a season where he completed only 59 percent of his passes in 2017.
The team’s top two wideouts in Demetrius Robertson and Melquise Stovall both transferred out of the school.
Defensively, the Golden Bears’ struggles will likely continue as two of the team’s top three tacklers from the previous season are gone. Don’t expect Cal to win anymore than five games in 2018.
10. Washington State Cougars
Washington State will see one of the biggest drop-offs this season after a 9-4 record a season ago. This will be in big part to losing Luke Falk to the NFL draft as he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans.
Falk was an integral part of the Cougar’s offense after throwing for 3,500 yards and 30 passing touchdowns a season ago.
Expect the offense to continue to roll under offensive guru Mike Leach, but with the rise of Cal and Oregon, wins may be tough to come by after losing the best quarterback in school history.
11. Colorado Buffaloes
However, Colorado will have quarterback Steven Montez back for his junior season after being named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.
The Buffaloes will look to improve their defensive standing in the Pac-12 after finishing ninth in total defense.
Colorado will open their season Friday in Denver against rival Colorado State before a big road game at Nebraska next Saturday.
12. Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State rounds out our Pac-12 Power Rankings.
The Beavers are beginning a new era under alum Jonathan Smith, who was most recently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Washington.
Smith has named Jake Luton the starter Saturday’s opener in The Horseshoe against Ohio State. Luton started the first four games of last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Oregon State will look to replace the production of running back Ryan Nall after he declared for the NFL Draft.
The defense, while finished 11th last season, will have their work cut out against the Buckeyes and against the tough Pac-12 North.