norcalnick: Tiered balloting, as is often the case, would be easier. I think everybody would agree that Oregon and Stanford are the top two. I think UCLA, Arizona, ASU, OSU, and perhaps USC could be included in a second tier. Cal, Washington and Utah are a step below that group, and Wazzu and Colorado should bring up the rear.
norcalnick: The nuance comes in picking between teams in the same tier. I went with Oregon over Stanford because I simply believe that Oregon has more talent, and that the Ducks are more well-rounded. But Stanford gets Oregon at home and we don't know the impact of losing Chip Kelly, so I wouldn't argue with anybody who picks the Lobsterbacks.
atomsareenough: Based on their recent performance, they have to be considered the best team in the conference until proven otherwise. I don't think the coaching changes are that meaningful. The Oregon program is a well-oiled machine at this point, and Helfrich is well-schooled in how it should work.
Berkelium97: They're still a top-tier program, but I think the transition away from Chip Kelly is going to be rougher than most people think. The Chipper's emphasis on perfectionism and execution is underrated. Yes, he draws up a great offense, but the way he ran his practices was just as important to the Ducks' success. Can Helfrich prolong the magic? I'm in "wait and see" mode.
atomsareenough: They absolutely do not deserve to be as good as they are. They have lots of returning starters, and even though they weren't exactly dominant last year, they're just a solid team all around and they know how to win games.
Berkelium97: With some continuity at the QB position and 8 returning starters on offense, their offense should improve this season. Their defense remains the best in the conference and one of the best in the nation.
ragnarok: I'll admit it, I put the 'Furd at #1. Defending conference champs should get the benefit of the doubt, at least in preseason power rankings.
norcalnick: I think UCLA has the most talent in the 2nd tier, but road games at Stanford, Oregon and Arizona makes me 2nd guess their chances to win the Pac-12 South. I wouldn't be surprised at all if either of the Arizona schools can beat out the Bruins by virtue of kinder in-conference schedules.
atomsareenough: I don't think their success last year was a fluke. There is a good amount of talent on this team, and if Hundley continues to progress, I think they could be the team to beat in the Pac-12 South. It's a little scary how quickly Mora righted the ship in Westwood.
Berkelium97: The offense should be as good or better than it was last season, but they only return one member of a bad secondary. Even worse, they have no depth at secondary.
4. Oregon State
atomsareenough: They were quite good last year. Their 3 losses in the regular season were two squeakers to Washington and Stanford and a thumping from the Ducks. On the other hand, they didn't really dominate anyone either (except for Cal, which I am inclined to discount a little because the Bears had visibly given up). I think they're a legit preseason Top 25 team, but their problem is that they play in the tough Pac-12 North.
Berkelium97: Any time I doubt Mike Riley, he reminds me why he's the best coach in the conference. I'd bump them ahead of UCLA if I had more confidence in how Riley will handle the QB situation (which was a mess last year).
norcalnick: Oregon St. is Oregon St., and I will continue to underestimate them because I'm dumb.
5. Arizona State
Sam Fielder: I'm not sure why, but I'm still a little unsure on the Sun Devils. Graham seems to be doing a good job with them though, and he even stuck around for more than a year, so there's that.
atomsareenough: I've also been surprised by how quickly Todd Graham seems to have turned this team around. Lots of good pieces on this team as well, and if they continue to play smart football, they'll challenge UCLA for the division crown.
Berkelium97: Taylor Kelly was arguably the best QB in the conference last season. With D.J. Foster and Marion Grice in the backfield with Kelly, the ASU offense could be second to Oregon's this year. And don't even get me started on Will Sutton and the ASU front-seven...
atomsareenough: Ah yes, the Trojans. I didn't forget about them; they're too talented to not take seriously. At the same time, they have depth issues, quarterback questions, they only won 7 games last year, lost embarrassingly to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, and Lane Kiffin is still their coach, so they don't get to be any higher than #6 for now.
Sam Fielder: I think this might be a little high for them, but the talent is there, even if the depth, QB, and coaching may not be. If they start to slide, things could go south quick, but if they stay upright, I think they'll do ok.
Berkelium97: They're one of the most talented teams in the conference, but their coaching is lackluster. I don't envision much improvement with their Pendergast experiment.
atomsareenough: I guess I'll put the Huskies here. #7 seems all too fitting for the Huskies, as they keep finding ways to win 7 games under Steve Sarkisian. Though, they have so much returning talent that you'd think they almost have to surpass the 7-win threshold this year, right? We'll see. The grudge match with Boise State will be interesting to see.
Sam Fielder: They bring back a fair amount of talent but I still don't think Sark can coach and they just seem undisciplined to me.
Berkelium97: I'd rate them higher if they weren't replacing their QB. With Kadeem Carey forcing defenses to stack the box, their QB should find a groove pretty easily. I don't know about that defense, though. Nothing I've heard from RichRod suggests that D is going to make a huge improvement.
atomsareenough: Rich Rod really had the offense clicking last year, and the comeback against Nevada in their bowl game was epic. But replacing Matt Scott and shoring up the defense are going to be two major challenges. I probably should have put them above Cal, but between some slight homerism on my part and that godawful Hard Edge video, I'm not giving the Wildcats the benefit of the doubt just yet.
norcalnick: I want to rank Cal higher. To me, everything we hear coming out of practice screams 'UCLA in 2012!' But Cal was 3-9 for a reason last year, and they can't earn the benefit of the doubt until we see results on the field.
Sam Fielder: I think we'll surprise some people but until we see things on the field, I'm starting us low. I think we'll move up, hopefully sooner rather than later.
ragnarok: Considering the schedule, the Bears could be a lot better this year and still not win 6 games. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I can't justify a higher ranking without seeing them play a game.
atomsareenough: Yes, the Golden Bears only won 3 games last year, but they should have been better than that. They have the talent to hang with anyone in the country, as their game against Ohio State in Columbus demonstrated. With a new coaching staff and a new system in place, I'm expecting a turnaround from the Bears this year. Their extremely difficult schedule will make it hard to go from 3-9 to 9-3 like the Beavers did last year, but I wouldn't be surprised if they won 6-8 games.
Berkelium97: They'll be better. How much better? Ask me around 11pm on Saturday.
Berkelium97: Whittingham picked a bad time to join the conference. Now that the Utes are settled in, the once woeful Pac-12 South is stacked with solid teams. He's better than this, but someone has to fill out the bottom of the conference.
Sam Fielder: They should play hard and be competitive, but they have yet to show much in Pac-12 play, so they start here.
11. Washington State
atomsareenough: The Air Raid hasn't shown much potency yet, but they have some quality players scattered between their offense and defense, especially in that all important receiver corps, and I feel as if they should take a step forward this year.
Sam Fielder: I keep thinking that this is the year that the Cougs turn the corner and get better and maybe I'm right. But for now, 'til proven otherwise, they start in the basement.
atomsareenough: Poor Buffs. MacIntyre has his work cut out for him. I think they'd have a hard time winning the Mid-American conference this year, let alone the Pac-12. I think it's going to take a couple of years before they escape the cellar.
Sam Fielder: It is tough to see them doing anything but staying in the cellar this season. MacIntyre is a good coach, but the talent gulf is too great.