LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: Running back Stepfan Taylor #33 of the Stanford Cardinal carries for a two yard touchdown behind the block of tackle David Yankey #54 on safety Jawanza Starling #29 of the USC Trojans to tie the game at 34-34 with 38 seconds left and send it into overtime at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Stanford won 56-48 in three overtimes. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Three Pac-12 teams get ranked, and they happen to be all the usual suspects. The USC Trojans and Oregon Ducks continue their death grip at the top of the rankings, with Stanford's prestige from last season keeping them in the top 25. A little bit on each of them after the jump.
The USC Trojans get ranked highest overall, only one spot behind number one Alabama.
Much of what made last year's USC team successful remains unchanged. Quarterback Matt Barkley, who bypassed going to the NFL because, he said, USC "has some unfinished business to attend to," is under center for the fourth straight season and is a Heisman Trophy favorite. Behind him in the backfield are two 1,000-yard running backs (senior Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd), and to Barkley's left and right are a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marqise Lee). On the other side of the ball, senior All-America safety T.J. McDonald -- another Trojan who delayed going to the pros -- is among six lettermen returning to the defense.
Oregon has much of its nucleus from 2011 intact. The defense, the strength of which is a veteran linebacking corps, could be the most effective that the Ducks have fielded in recent years. Though the exciting Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are gone, the offense features an experienced line anchored by redshirt sophomore center Hroniss Grasu as well as playmakers in running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas (who will also continue to play receiver).
The most prolific quarterback in school history may be gone, but that doesn't mean Stanford's offense will change. "We're going to run power," said Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor. "That's what we hang our hat on." While two-time Heisman runner-up and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck garnered the lion's share of credit for Stanford's 23-3 record and consecutive BCS bowl berths over the past two seasons, the offense implemented by former coach Jim Harbaugh and his successor, David Shaw, is a physical, run-first attack. The Cardinal ran the ball on 55 percent of its offensive snaps lastseason, and with a loaded backfield this fall, that number could rise.
It's a bit strange to see the rest of the Pac-12 get totally ignored in the top 25, but for whatever reason the location effect seems to always apply to the conference. Despite Utah and Washington having bona fide credentials, neitehr of them seemed to come close to cracking this list. Oh wells.