I’m back with my second installment in my infinite part series on college football. This time I’ll preview the Pac 12, a conference that actually has the same number of teams as are in its name, a development which is becoming scarce these days. I’m doing the Pac 12 second because I’m from California, grew up minutes from Stanford and it’s going to be an interesting year for the new look conference.

The Pac 12 has divisions with geographic names, i.e. North and South, that are pretty much correct. Colorado and Utah are both technically more north then Stanford or Cal and it could be argued that the latter pair should be in the South instead of the former. But that’s nitpicking it too much and the alignment should make for some competitive matchups this season.

There is one thing I can say for sure and that is the fact that Andrew Luck will win the Heisman this year. Now all the contenders have the talent to win it and will be up the usual big numbers. However, one has to consider the fact that without Luck, Stanford would barely get into a bowl, if at all. Luck means that much to the team. It is his value to the team that will be the deciding factor in the Heisman race.

Check out my Big Ten Preview here.

North Division

1) Oregon
After clearly getting outplayed by Auburn in the Title Game, but the Ducks are back as the favorite to win the Pac 12. RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas lead a ground attack that will be among the best in the nation, paced by an O-line that always seems to produce 1,000 yeard rushers. The running gamewill have to the focus of their offense since the departure of WR Jeff Maehl leaves an unproven group of recievers. The strength of the defense will be their secondary, led by CB Cliff Harris, and their penchant for big plays. There are changes in the front seven and it remains to be seen how well they can perform at gametime.

2) Stanford
The offense will revolve around QB Andrew Luck and he has great protection upfront with T Jonathan Martin and G David DeCastro as All-American candidates as part of a line that allowed only 6 sacks last season. Luck will have 1,000+ yard plus rusher Stepfan Taylor to help him, but with the exception of TE Coby Fleener, the recievers are average. The secondary and linebackers will be at the top of the conference with ILB Shayne Skov, OLB Chase Thomas and SS Delano Howell leading the way. The D-line will be touch and go since only one starter returns. The Cardinal’s Nov 12 home game against Oregon will determine the conference winner.

3) California
An improving team that will be hard pressed to get past Oregon and Staford, HC Jeff Tedford always finds a way to get production out of his players. He will have to do exactly that with an O-line that ranked 90th in in total offense yards and no front runners at RB and QB. The Bears do have a talented group of receivers in WR Keenan Allen, WR Marvin Jones and TE Anthony Miller. Their defense will carry the team this season and was solid last year, leading the conference in pass defense. ILBs Mychal Hendricks and DJ Holt have potential, but will have freshman on the edges of the linebacking corp.

4) Washington
Jake Locker will be hard to replace, but Keith Price might be able to fill in at QB. He’ll have All-American candidate Chris Polk at RB and Jermaine Kearse at WR to help him out. The O-line returns 3 starters and should help Polk at least get near his 1,1415 yards rushing from last season. The Huskies have one of the best CB tandems in Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson, but the rest of the defense is unproven and will have to get breakout years from several players in order for the team to compete.

5) Oregon State
QB Ryan Katz could outperform expectations this year and he’ll have WRs James Rodgers and Markus Wheaton to help him as well as an offensive line that underachieved last season looking to improve. He will miss RB Jacquizz Rodgers though. The Beavers will depend on a number of first time starters on defense and that is always an iffy proposition. FS Lance Mitchell is the only player on defense that could get all-conference mention.

6) Washington State
The Cougars will struggle on offense this year, with an O-line that gave up a ton of sacks, steady but unspectacular QB Jeff Tuel and unproven RB Ricky Galvan. They do have a pair of productive WRs in Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter. The defense will be the worst in the conference as talent is thin and there are no players who seem able to breakout this year. They must improve their last place conference rush defense from last year.

South Division

1) USC
QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods are offensive stars that will be helped by an impressive O-line. They could stand to get depth at WR, but otherwise this will be a team that scores and scores often. The Trojans have one of the most imposing defensive lines in the nation. That could help make up for a linebacking corps and secondary that will need to improve to match the front line’s production. Still, no matter how well they do, they’re still banned from the postseason. Hopefully they will have learned something from this fiasco.

2) Utah
Utah is welcomed to the Pac 12 with the conference’s easiest schedule as they do not play Oregon or Stanford this year. QB Jordan Wynn will lead the offense but has durability concerns. There is a lack of experience at RB and WR but a stout O-line will help in that regard. There is also inexperience in the secondary, but they should be helped by a solid linebacking corp. There was some moving of players along the defensive line in order to improve a pass rush that just did not produce last season.

3) Arizona State
The heat is on coach Dennis Erickson this season, and not the desert kind. If he doesn’t deliver, he may be gone after this season. Unfortunately the O-line will be the only bright spot on the offense as the skill positions have no big talent players. Their defense will carry them as the line will be more then solid and the LBs, led by Vontaze Burfict, is deep and very talented. The front seven will have to make up for a secondary that was inconsistent last year.

4) Arizona
A team that could surprise if not for an incredibly tough schedule, Arizona is stocked at the skill positions with QB Nick Foles, RB Keola Antolin, WR Juron Criner leading the way. They will have to perform that much more in order to make up for an offensive that is rebuilt with several freshmen. The potential of DT Justin Washington, OLB Paul Vassalo and ILB Derek Earls will be somewhat negated by the inexpereince at other positions on the defense. The secondary has talent, but will need rebound seasons from a few players.

5) UCLA
Perhaps the hottest coaching seat in the nation, Rick Neuheisel is in a bit of trouble. He won’t have much to work with on offense, as poor QB play has limited the passing game and an inconsistent O-line will not help things. RB Johnathan Franklin is a 1,000 yard rusher and will be relied upon heavily. The defense will be better then the offense, but not by much. CB Sheldon Price, SS Tony Dye and OLB Sean Westgate will lead the way, but others must step up to make the defense effective.

6) Colorado
Leaving a tough conference for another tough one, Colorado will be hard pressed to get out of the Pac 12 cellar this year. There are good pieces on the offense including RB Rodney Stewart, WR Paul Richardson and G Ryan Miller, but the rest will not perform well enough to get more then a few wins. The D-line, led by tackles Will Pericak and Curtis Cunningham, will be the lone bright spot on a defense that got torched repeatedly by Big 12 offenses last year.