- Washington - It’s up to someone else to knock off the defending champs and the winner of the Pac-12 two out of the last three years. They have a lot of reloading to do after losing a lot of talent to graduation and the NFL, but they’ve shown the ability to slide in new talent and not miss a beat under Chris Petersen. Their offense could really open up with Jacob Eason at QB. First game: Eastern Washington. The Huskies just need to win comfortably against a team that has historically given Pac-12 teams fits and get to week two against Cal.
- Utah - Utah seems to be turning into a team people are picking as a Playoff contender because they’ve had too much time to think about things during the offseason. I don’t think they’re a Playoff contender, but they’re only a sliver behind Washington in regards to Pac-12 power right now. Like Washington, they have some holes to fill (OL, WR, LB), but they’ve shown the ability to do that under Kyle Whittingham. First game: at BYU. An underrated test for the Utes, against their rival, on the road, this one won’t be easy.
- Oregon - There are two different ways to look at Oregon. 1 - They ‘re a team that was freak plays against Stanford and a scheduling trap at WSU away from winning the North, and maybe the Pac-12 last year, and they return a lot of talent and experience from that team. 2 - A team that had one of the most-friendly Pac-12 schedules ever, yet still easily could have lost seven games, and return a roster of players who have been above-average now for three seasons. I think they’re in the middle and have a very low floor. First game: Auburn (Arlington, TX). The good thing for the Ducks is they can prove themselves right out the gate. Beat Auburn in Texas and I slide them up to number one.
- Washington State - We’ve slept on the Cougars for years now, but no more. The Cougars are a preseason Top 25 team and aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. Mike Leach’s system has shown that you can plug and play at just about every position and he’s brought in the right talent. Anthony Gordon getting the nod over grad transfer Gage Gubrud at QB could mean big things for the Cougars. First game: New Mexico State. The Cougars get a couple nice warm-up games before they play Houston on the road in week three.
- Stanford - The Cardinal are a high ceiling, low floor team to me. I think they’re being slept on as a Pac-12 champion candidate, especially considering their in-conference schedule, but with their defense and offensive line failing and Bryce Love and JJ Arcega-Whiteside gone, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is the year they finally hit bottom under David Shaw. They’re upper-middle, for now. First game: Northwestern. What a perfect match-up. The Cardinal are for real if they can beat their tough-as-nails Big 10 counterpart in week one.
- Cal - The Bears are so good on defense that it makes up for their putrid offense. We all know that. What I don’t think we all know is just how good Cal’s defense is and how I think they should win seven or eight games. First game: UCDavis. The Bears can hopefully get some offense ready in their warm up opener before they head to Washington, where they will really need it to stay competitive.
- Arizona State - I like ASU the more and more I look at them and could easily see them stealing the South from Utah. They might just need to make sure Jayden Daniels is solid in his first season and patch up some trouble spots. First game: Kent State. The Sun Devils should be able to flex their muscles a bit against a bad MAC opponent, let’s hope.
- UCLA - The Bruins were much better than their overall record by the end of 2018. I expect them to start off that way again in 2019 because of their nightmare September schedule, but watch for them to climb the ladder in October in November and possibly even compete for the South crown. First game: at Cincinnati. This is a tough game as Cincinnati should be a very good AAC team and it will be a great sign if UCLA can get the win on the road.
- USC - Have the Trojans ever entered a season with less momentum? I don’t know. They have pieces to like and the South is wide open for them to sneak up and win it. We’ll take it week-by-week with them though as the first half of their schedule is especially brutal. First game: Fresno State. Here’s a really nice opener for USC. They can prove they’re solid with a win over a good Mountain West team.
- Colorado - Staying out the bottom of the South looks a lot easier for Colorado after seeing Arizona against Hawaii. The Buffs have some nice pieces to go with Laviska Shenault and a senior quarterback. Getting to a bowl game is the goal. First game: Colorado State. This feels like a must-win again if the Buffs hope to make a bowl given how tough the middle of the conference is this year.
- Arizona - I will still give the nod to Arizona over Oregon State as I don’t think the Beavers win in Honolulu either after seeing Hawaii. The Wildcats aren’t dead yet, but they need to be in full panic mode, and luckily they open up with an approachable in-conference schedule, getting UCLA at home, then Colorado on the road, and then Washington at home, with Washington coming off a road game. Next game: The Wildcats get a bye to ready themselves to play much better in September.
- Oregon State - The Beavers are going to have to prove themselves week after week. It’s that simple. Next game: Oklahoma State. They can start proving themselves by competing with Oklahoma State. It won’t be easy.
2019 Preseason Pac-12 power rankings: Washington still the king, for now
Our official preseason Pac-12 power rankings
By Jack Follman