There are tons of preview magazines, articles, blog posts, tweets and possibly even Facebook posts out there right now, but one of the most interesting and at least interactive way to see how Pac-12 teams might look is to pick up NCAA Football 14 when it comes out on July 9 and play games with your favorite Pac-12 team. The game isn't out yet, but the overall ratings for the offensive and defensive units of every team in the game were recently revealed and the Pac-12 ones gives a unique and interesting perspective of the conference's team going into the season.
Offenses (Rated on a scale from 1-99)
99 Oregon - It's no surprise that Oregon is the only team other than Alabama that has a 99 rating. The Ducks offense racks up points like your little brother when he played the computer on Easy back in the day and have an offense loaded with stars like Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Huff and Colt Lyerla. If they can find a receiver to complement Huff and Byron Marshall can step into the LaMichael James/Kenjon Barner role, they will in fact probably be perfect.
95 USC - Even if they still have a huge question mark at quarterback, the Trojans are loaded with talent on offense. Headlined by Marqise Lee and Silas Redd, the Trojans also have a huge, experienced offensive line that will spark the running game and protect said inexperienced quarterback all season. Also, even if Lane Kiffin has taken flak for losing a lot of games in LA, the Trojans have still generally fielded one of the best offenses year after year so a 95 will be fitting unless they get nothing from their new quarterback.
91 Stanford - The anti-Oregon, the Cardinal offense has been very effective for years, but prefers to move at a lumbering pace and bludgeon their opponents with runs up the gut and short passes to massive tight ends. The Cardinal may not score a ton of points, but they have arguably the best offensive line in the country, a talented dual-threat quarterback and a stable of big, powerful running backs that don't need to score a ton of points with how stingy their defense is. As long as they can have a couple of receivers or tight ends as emerge as pass rushers, their offense should be perfect for their scheme.
91 Washington - The Huskies offense is all about their dynamic "Big Three" of Bishop Sankey, Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins that might be the best in the conference. If Keith Price can return to his 2011 form, then the Huskies offense will be very deserving of their 91 rating.
88 UCLA - I think about 80 of this rating simply comes from the one-man show of Brett Hundley. The Bruins have to replace a huge hole at running back with the graduation of Johnathan Franklin, but they have a fairly experienced offensive line led by All-Pac-12 selection Xavier Su'a-Filo. A lack of receiving weapons probably keep the Bruins from being a 90 though, as Shaquelle Evans is their only proven receiving option, they could jump into that territory though if they have a new running back or receiver step up.
86 Arizona - Ka'Deem Carey is the Wildcats' only returning proven weapon, but he might be the best running back in the country and that might be enough for an 86 all on it's on. Also, Rich Rodiriguez' high-speed offense was so effective in its first year that it will assuredly at least produce against average and bad defenses even if they don't have a dynamic quarterback or receivers and that should be enough for an 86.
86 Arizona State - Of all the offensive ratings, I think that this is the most off, based on their experience and talent, the Sun Devils should be somewhere a little bit above a 90 in my opinion. They have the conference's best quarterback after Mariota and Hundley in Taylor Kelly, two very good running backs in Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, one of the nation's best tight ends in Chris Coyle and a relatively experienced offensive line led by Evan Finkenberg. This easily could be the most dangerous offense in the conference after Oregon's, but I think the fact that they have almost no proven options at receiver could hold them down to 86.
86 Cal - Another one that I don't necessarily agree with. This rating might be heavily based on how much energy Sonny Dykes can inject into an offense and big-play enigma Brendan Bigelow's raw potential. I don't think there is much to be afraid of here other than that though as they are starting a freshman quarterback, have a mostly in-experienced offensive line, no other running backs other than a guy who hasn't been expected to handle more than a handful of carries yet and some young receivers. If all goes well though and everyone immediately fulfills their potential though, an 86 could be right where the Bears belong.
86 Oregon State - The Beavers' offense isn't flashy but if they can decide on a quarterback between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, I think they might be worthy of more of a 90. Storm Woods is a strong running back that you can punish defenses with and Brandin Cooks is the conference's best receiver outside of Marqise Lee. Throw in a pretty good offensive line, and I think you have a very underrated offensive that probably is limited at 86 due to their instability at quarterback.
84 Utah - Boy, an 84 isn't a very high rating, and I don't know if the Utes even deserve that. Their best offensive player might be sophomore tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and he is an honorable mention All-Pac-12 guy. Travis Wilson wasn't able to do anything at quarterback as a freshman, they lost their only real weapon at running back in John White and their receivers are average at best. This is an offense that defenses look forward to lining up against and what you would expect form an 84.
83 Washington State - This is probably an accurate rating for the Cougars at the moment, but they have the potential to be rated much higher. They have no offensive line or running backs, but Connor Halliday is a gunslinger and they have a deep roster of talented, young receivers that can fill it up if they can get things rolling and move up, but that's a big if.
81 Colorado - The Buffs are deserving a low rating on offense, but that doesn't mean that they don't have some talent. If he comes back healthy, Paul Richardson gives their offense a huge boost and Christian Powell is one of the best running backs in the conference if you need a few tough yards. If these players fill their roles, then the Buffs definitely deserve to sneak out of the 70s.
Stanford 93 - Only Alabama (99) and Virginia Tech (95) have higher rated defenses than the Cardinal, and even with that honor, I think the Cardinal defense might be deserving of a little bit higher. No one comes close to the Cardinal at proven talent on defense going into the season and they have it at every position of the unit, anchored by two All-American-level linebackers in Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. I could see the Cardinal being a 93 though if they can't find a plugging defensive tackle to replace the underrated Terrance Stephens.
Oregon 92 - I have thought that the Ducks defense, captained by Nick Aliotti has long been underrated by nearly everyone in the country and overrated by Brent Musberger, but only one point shy of Stanford might be a bit much. The defensive back unit is one of the best in the country with lockdown corners Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell and the defensive line has some holes to fill but is still stout with Taylor Hart rushing the passer and Wade Keliikipi stuffing the run. If Arik Armstead can turn into the out-of-this-world player up front he has the potential to be overnight and they fill the linebacker spots around Boseko Lokombo, then 92 or higher could easily be a reality.
USC 90 - The Trojans' defenses have been much maligned under Lane Kiffin, but with his dad's complicated system gone and their usual roster of overflowing talent, I think hopes for a 90-level defense aren't far off. They have a very talented defensive line that could be the best in the conference with Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams, two stout linebackers in Hayes Pullard and Lamar Dawson and though their secondary is week, they moved the nation's strongest pass-defending linebacker Dion Bailey back there and that could be enough to bolster them to 90.
Washington 90 - The Huskies defense had a bit of a renaissance last season under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, but they struggled mightily against up-tempo defenses, so this rating is pretty optimistic that they will patch that up. The Huskies have an experienced front seven that is tough against the run, but not very good at getting after the passer and a defensive backfield that is experienced, but must replace first round draft pick cornerback Desmond Trufant. If they can do that and find a pass rush, they could deserve their 90 rating.
Arizona 88 - The Wildcats had a horrible defense in 2012, among the worst in the country, but they do have a good amount of talent in their linebacker and defensive back groups. Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers are good tacklers at linebacker that are better than the unit's stats would suggest and they have players like Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson that could be All-Pac-12 guys if they fulfill their potential and their defenses 88 rating.
UCLA 87 - Like their offense, UCLA's defense is led by one world-class talent in Anthony Barr along with a couple of very good secondary players but then a lot of holes. Barr warrants a high rat himself and players like Eric Kendricks and Cassius Marsh fill the gaps, but they will need to have a lot of young players in the secondary step up to fully earn the rating.
Utah 87 - Even if the Utes have struggled in their adjustment to the Pac-12, their defenses have still been strong and the 2013 version should be similar. A lot will deservedly be made of the loss of Star Lotulelei and two Krugers up front but Trevor Reilly and Nate Orchard at the ends will be stellar, Brian Blechen is an underrated talent at linebacker at Eric Rowe at safety as well. Far from flashy, but if they play well, an 87 sounds about right.
Arizona State 83 - Hard to rate a team that has reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton anchoring it, but there were times last season when the Sun Devils were banged up at the front of their defense and atrocious against the run. Sutton is joined by some great pass rushers in Carl Bradford and Junior Onyeali and a pass defense that was amongst the best in the conference led by Alden Darby, but if they can't stay healthy and stop the run, they might underachieve.
Cal 83 - The Bears are talented on defense but wholly unproven, especially in the secondary. Led by senior DeAndre Coleman, they should be solid up front, especially with some talent, young linebackers, but unless their defensive backs can improve quickly, 83 is about right.
Oregon State 83 - The Beavers defense is full of no names so that probably keeps them from being rated very highly and even though Mike Riley generally turns less flashy defenses into stalwarts, they have a lot of holes everywhere. Still, Scott Crichton is an All-American candidate and Rashaad Reynolds one of the best corners in the conference which should be enough to keep them respectable.
Washington State 80 - Young players like Xavier Cooper and Darryl Monroe teamed with a veteran defensive backfield led by Deone Bucannon give the Cougar defense some hope, but not too much should be expected in 2013.
Colorado 78 - The Buffs have been atrocious on defense for years now and there's no reason to think they deserve to break out of the bottom of the Pac-12 this season.