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2019 very early Pac-12 power rankings: Washington and Utah should be favorites

The Huskies and Utes look like the best teams in the conference nine months before opening weekend.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Utah vs Washington Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I hate to do power rankings/Top 25s before the final draft early declaration deadline, but I’ll update these if anything drastic happens with declarations in the next 10 days.

  1. Washington - A lot of people are going to see the experience Washington loses and peg them down to second or third in their power rankings, but it’s a dated approach. Modern college football is much more about coaching, momentum, scheme, and overall talent (all of which the Huskies have in spades) than building up experience with the same personnel. The Huskies have a good thing going and have the talent to plug in to keep themselves at the top of the conference. They key will be Georgia transfer and former five-star QB recruit Jacob Eason who is expected to take over for Jake Browning. Eason has as much talent as any QB in the country and could improve Washington’s offense overnight if he lives up to his billing.
  2. Utah - The Utes are also getting snubbed for the Oregon offseason hype that is building. The Utes return an exciting chunk of their roster, including a number of defensive stars (as long as they don’t head to the NFL early) and senior quarterback Tyler Huntley and hopefully a healthy Zack Moss at running back. A lot of the Utes’ 2019 success will depend on Huntley as they tended to struggle when he struggled and take off when he took off in 2018 and how well Moss and WR Britain Covey bounce back from injuries.
  3. Oregon - The Ducks are going to deserve a lot of preseason hype in 2019 with Justin Herbert, a veteran offensive line, two talented RBs, and a solid defense coming back, but I’m not ready to pick them to win the conference just yet. The Ducks went 5-4 in-conference play in 2018 while staying fairly healthy with an exceptionally favorable schedule and they will face a tough slate in 2019 with road games at Auburn (basically), Stanford, USC, and Washington. Still, this is a great place for them to be given their recent three coaches in three years situation and keeps them on an upward trajectory, likely landing in the Holiday or Alamo Bowl.
  4. Stanford - Don’t sleep on the Cardinal just yet. Their four losses in 2018 came at Notre Dame, to Utah, and against the Washington schools (and they easily could have won both games), losing Bryce Love won’t sting as much as we thought given his struggles in 2018 and K.J. Costello was actually the Pac-12s second-best QB pretty much the entire season. They’re down the chain because they lose some key pieces and are still questionable on defense, but they have just as much talent, coaching and experience as anyone above them, if not more, so keep an eye on them in 2019.
  5. Washington State - The conference’s most slept on team will still be slept on. The concern with the Cougars is if they can find a new quarterback to replicate the magic of Gardner Minshew via transfer or their current roster and that’s a massive question mark. Still, the Cougars return a lot of receivers and running backs to work with, a solid offensive line and a good amount of proven defensive players. They should be just fine in Mike Leach’s system, yet again.
  6. Cal - I was tempted to put Cal higher than this prior to the Cheez-It Bowl, but then I was reminded how atrocious their offense is and now their set to graduate almost all of their best players on offense. Their defense should be good enough to get them to a bowl game by itself, but the offense should be so bad that it probably won’t be a very good one.
  7. UCLA - The Bruins likely would have made a bowl game had they not played a non-conference slate that ended up being incredibly tough. They should be able to compete with everyone on their schedule in 2019 other than Oklahoma and continue to build under Chip Kelly, especially on offense with Dorian Thompson-Robinson and hopefully Joshua Kelley.
  8. USC - The Trojans have reached the point where they aren’t even more talented than the conference’s top teams and their coaching situation is a disaster. Their biggest hope is that J.T. Daniels can team with his scary good trio of receivers in Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown and outscore the rest of the conference.
  9. Arizona - The Wildcats missed a bowl in Kevin Sumlin’s first season because of the same old problems - not being able to hang in the trenches and defenses catching up with Khalil Tate. Tate and underrated running back J.J. Taylor (hopefully) are back for another run though and their rushing abilities should make the Wildcats at least a tough out in the South.
  10. Arizona State - Herm Edwards exceeded expectations and got ASU to a bowl game in his first season while facing a tough schedule. Part of that success had to do with the talented and experienced roster he inherited that he will have to replace (Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry the hardest to replace), but he still has the conference’s best running back in Eno Benjamin and some developing stars on defense like LB Merlin Robertson and CB Chase Lucas.
  11. Colorado - The Buffs are rebuilding again, but this time with a solid base left by Mike MacIntyre and not the disaster that Jon Embree left. It won’t be easy to get back out from the South cellar, but senior QB Steven Montez and young stars WR Laviska Shenault, DT Mustafa Johnson and LB Nate Landman should be able to help.
  12. Oregon State - I expect the Beavers to be better in 2019, but the bottom half of the conference is very tough and it doesn’t leave them a lot of room to slide up. Sophomore running back Jermar Jefferson will be a star again though and one of the best RBs in the nation.