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Way too early 2016 Pacific Takes Pac-12 Power Rankings

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Avinash Kunnath & Jack Follman look at the 2016 power landscape of the Pac-12 now that the dust has settled.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Starting in 2016, Avinash Kunnath & Jack  Follman will be combining their votes to bring you our Pac-12 Power Rankings.

Here is the first set for the year.

1. Stanford

AK: The Cardinal are losing a big chunk of talent on offense and defense. This should be the year they drop off right? The problem is those departures don't involve Christian McCaffrey, who should definitely be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

JF: Replacing Kevin Hogan, Joshua Garnett, Kyle Murphy, Austin Hooper and a host of defensive studs won't be easy, but David Shaw has the most proven system in the Pac-12 right now. Oh yeah, and Christian McCaffrey. They might take a small step back in 2016, but they will be stepping down from a very high peak.

2. USC

AK: Cody Kessler is gone, but the Trojans return pretty much everyone else on offense. USC should have one of the most explosive offenses in college football, and if they can survive Alabama without too much damage, it's hard to see the Trojans not doing well.

JF: College football's biggest enigma rolls on. The Trojans are loaded everywhere except quarterback, but that's a question mark you cannot deny and the Trojans are incredibly unreliable. Still, even if Cody Kessler's replacement is just average,  the Trojans should be able to win a weakening South again.

3. UCLA

AK: Josh Rosen is going to be the best quarterback in the Pac-12 next season unless something goes horribly wrong, so if there's any year for the Bruins to jump, it's this year. The Bruin defense is full of young talent ready to break through. Will it actually happen?

JF: The Bruins had a mass exodus from Westwood after 2015 that raises concern about the program. UCLA seems to be pinning a lot of faith on Josh Rosen leading them to the promised land, and he can, but new offensive playmakers will have to emerge around him. The defense will be just fine though.

4. Oregon

AK: It's just hard to forget how poorly the Ducks looked with Vernon Adams last season, and there are no clear replacements aside from another FCS transfer in Dakota Prukop. Oregon is also losing a good chunk of their line talent on both sides. This feels like a rebuilding year.

JF: Hard team to predict. The Ducks' impeccable "next man up" abilities really slipped in 2015 as they were maybe not even a bowl team without miraculous grad transfer Vernon Adams. Their proven system and talent in spots is enough for me to give them the slightest edge over the Washington schools for now, but it's razor thin.

5. Washington

AK: Washington is poised to rise. The Huskies have an elite defense full of young bucks and the UW offense is geared around the young Myles Gaskin. With very few returning starters, this feels like a breakthrough season.

JF: The Huskies are going to be the conference's most popular darkhorse champion candidate as no one in the conference returns as much as they do. They are going to have to prove they can take that next step on the field though before they get to the top of the conference.

6. Washington State

AK: Wazzu has an offense ready to leap with Luke Falk and company. The big thing the Cougars have to watch out for is their underrated defense, which loses some important talent. Will the Cougars have to outscore to win?

JF: Luke Falk and Gabe Marks are back to lead Mike Leach's aerial attack and make the Cougars a preseason Top 25 contender. Whether or not they can replace stud linemen like Joe Dahl, Destiny Vaeao and Darryl Paulo will determine if they finish the season as one.

7. Utah

AK: The Utes are in a rebuild year with Travis Wilson, Devontae Booker, Kenneth Scott, and half their defense graduating. Utah figures to remain the same tough team they always are, but it's unlikely that they'll make a run to the Pac-12 South the way they did in 2015.

JF: The Utes still have the experience and toughness on the offensive line and on defensive to go bowling again. The big question is if they can replace Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker on offense and score enough points to win games.

8. Arizona State

AK: The Sun Devils are graduating a lot of talent on both sides, so it feels like the program will stay in place. The good news is the program has recruited at a top 25 level, and should be well-equipped to sustain another winning season.

JF: Todd Graham's program faces a major challenge in 2016 after underachieving in 2015 despite being loaded with veterans. They need to find a new quarterback and a way to keep their attacking defense from giving up tons of points each week if they are going to move up these rankings.

9. Arizona

AK: The good news is most of Arizona's offense is back. The bad news is most of Arizona's defense is back. The Wildcats figure to be their usual inconsistent selves next season until they can bring better recruits in the program.

JF: 2015 showed the Wildcats aren't very good without a quarterback firing on all cylinders and without Scooby Wright on defense. Wright is gone for good, but  the Wildcats could easily get back into the top half of the South if Anu Solomon can get back on track.

10. Cal

AK: With Cal graduating Jared Goff and the entire wide receivers corps, the Bear Raid figures to take a huge step back, and that was the only real elite thing about the Bears.

JF: It seems like Sonny Dykes and the Bears had their one-year, slight moment in the sun and are now rebuilding again. They have talent sprinkled around the roster, but the North is tough this year they could only win seven games WITH Jared Goff. How many games can they win WITHOUT him?

11. Colorado

AK: Is this the year Buffs break through and start upsetting some teams? Colorado came very close multiple times last season, and next year the Pac-12 could be weaker.

JF: This could be the year Colorado finally gets out of the South cellar. The South should soften around them and Mike MacIntyre has put in a lot of pieces. I just don't know if it will be enough though.

12. Oregon State

AK: The Beavers have shown flashes and Andersen is a good coach, but the talent deficiency is real. Oregon State is a long way from returning to the middle of the Pac-12.

JF: Year one could not have been much worse of Gary Andersen and co. and it doesn't get any easier from here. The Beavers have some experience returning, but it might not stack up in the North.