Fresh off its two-year postseason bowl ban, USC is primed and ready to make a run at the Pac-12 championship. Quarterback Matt Barkley, a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, is surrounded by so much talent the Trojans are tabbed by many to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country.
Todd Graham said the Arizona State job was his dream, but it could be a nightmare. The Sun Devils lost talented quarterback Brock Osweiler to the NFL and will have several inexperienced players on offense and defense.
USC has depth
Los Angeles Times
The Trojans likely have to beat Oregon twice, but senior quarterback Matt Barkley gives USC a decided edge in experience. The addition of transfer Silas Redd from Penn State provides the Trojans depth at a position that last season was remarkably thin.
Washington State will surprise. Mike Leach inherited a talented cast of passers and catchers for his spread offense and his team will shock somebody, somewhere. Leach could make an immediate statement on opening Thursday if he can go into Provo and defeat his alma mater, Brigham Young.
California will disappoint. Jeff Tedford arrived as a QB guru, but lately the position has been shakier than Barney Fife.
Utah could surprise
Any program progressive enough to include players' Twitter handles on the depth chart is all right by me, so here's a nod to Southern California winning the Pacific 12.
That the Trojans return most key players from a 10-2 squad that finished No. 6 in the AP poll also helps, especially when central-casting quarterback Matt Barkley is among that group.
Oregon also is a top-five preseason squad, but with redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota at quarterback and four road tests, including at USC, in the final six games, here's guessing the Ducks fall short of expectations.
Utah isn't among the AP Top 25, but with 18 starters back from an 8-5 team, the Utes could surprise.
Utah-USC game key
Yes, it's hard to believe that the fate of the Western world (at least Pac-12 country) will not be determined Nov. 3, when USC and Oregon clash at the Coliseum. But a few other dates will matter.
The Trojans will be in Salt Lake City on Oct. 4 to take on Utah. The Utes will have a legitimate chance to wreck USC's season because of their terrific defense led by one of the nation's top NFL prospects, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Still USC will finish undefeated and play for the BCS title.
In addition to Utah, another surprise team will be UCLA, where Jim Mora takes the reins on a talented, underachieving and angry group of players.
The team that disappoints will be Washington State.