Ted Miller of ESPN went through and ranked all the positions in the conference based on how they looked before the season. We've looked at a few other categories earlier this week (weakest offensive units, strongest and weakest defensive units). Click here to view all of the posts in the series.
The Pac-12 appears to be a league of offense this year. There are as many as ten to twelve different schemes we're going to see this season on paper, and none of them will be easy to handle for a defense that isn't solid at a majority of their positions.
Oregon is where to look for the running game, just the way Chip Kelly likes it. Kenjon Barner is quite possibly the best-quality feature back in the conference, and De'Anthony Thomas can change the complexion of a game with every 70 yard run he breaks out. There are injury concerns with both of them (Barner gets banged up a lot, and Thomas has a pretty lithe frame), but considering the offensive line is mostly returning, they might not have to worry about getting broken in the trenches.
After a year struggling to regain its footing, the Cal running game is geared to go again with returning starters along most of the line and an underrated trio in Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and Brendan Bigelow. All three runners bring something different to the table--Isi is durable and versatile, C.J. brings extra power, and Bigelow provides speed. All three together could be very tough for defenses to handle. Will the O-line be consistent enough to unleash them?
Moving to the air, the Oregon State Beavers might be weak on the ground, but their usually nondescript passing game might be something worth watching with a strong QB and receiver corps. Sean Mannion to Markus Wheaton will be one of the most potent connections in the conference and there's good depth with Brandin Cooks, Jordan Bishop and Obum Gwacham to give Mannion extra targets. The big question: Can OSU's run game complement the Beavers pass attack well-enough to keep them from being one-dimensional?
The Washington State offense has more tools to work with, particularly Jeff Tuel to Marquess Wilson being one of the conference's most featured connections. Although there's no clear two or three receiver behind that feature #1, WSU has a lot of receivers to work with to make the Airraid go.
There are a lot of contenders for the award this year, but only one clear champion. For the first time since the Pete Carroll days, the USC Trojans look dominant at every offensive position, whether it be at the skill spots with Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, or in the trenches with four O-linemen back, or under center with Matt Barkley. There's so much quality everywhere it's hard to pinpoint where you can stop the Trojans, although you'd have to guess the run game is what you'd like to see beat you rather than the pass. You'd be hard-pressed to find one weakness that could give Lane Kiffin's offense trouble going into next season.
At least on paper, the USC offense (spotless everywhere) vs. Oregon defense (experienced at every spot) could end up being the decisive battle of the regular season in the Pac-12.