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2011 Pac-12 Spring Preview - Early Rankings
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 17, 2011


Get ready for the hype to kick in very soon. Arizona State, led by LB Vontaze Burfict, returns loaded with veterans and talent from a team that was far better than its 6-6 record. In the new Pac-12 format, can the Sun Devils win the South? Before spring practices get fully rolling, check out the pre-spring ranking of all the teams in our 2012 Pac-12 Spring Preview.


2011 Pac-12 Spring Preview

Spring Rankings

Click for each team's spring preview
North California | Oregon | Oregon St | Stanford | Washington | Washington State 
South Arizona | Arizona State | Colorado | UCLA | USC | Utah

2011 Pac-12 Spring Preview  
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Buzz
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Buzz
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Attitudes
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Attitudes
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Key Positions
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Key Positions   
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Questions 
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Questions    
- Pac-12 Spring Rankings

North
 
1. Oregon      
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 7
2010 Record: 12-1
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 15
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 10
2008 Final Ranking: 24

The program has loaded up on very athletic, very talented recruits, and they're going to have to shine right away with so many key losses on both sides of the ball. Six starters are gone off the defense with DE Kenny Rowe and LBs Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger tough to replace. The secondary will be a strength, led by CB Cliff Harris and FS John Boyett, but the defensive front will be a major problem early on. The offense has to find new top targets with WRs Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis gone, but RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas should lead another devastating rushing attack. Three starters are gone from the line.

2. Oregon State    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 67
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 21
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 37
2008 Final Ranking: 23

2010 might have been a disappointment, and Jacquizz Rodgers might be gone, but the offense has more than enough returning experience to be solid. Who'll step up and become a playmaker? QB Ryan Katz will the focal point of the attack, and he should get time to work behind a line that gets four starters back. The defensive front should be a major positive even with the loss of star tackle Stephen Paea. The secondary should be outstanding.

3. Stanford  
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 6
2010 Record: 12-1
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 29
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 38
2008 Final Ranking: 73

Andrew Luck, play like the No. 1 pick in the draft. Stanford might not be the Stanford of old, but new head coach David Shaw has a ton of work to do. Only four starters are back on offense with rebuilding to be done on the line and with receivers Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin having moved on. The defense will be a problem, losing LB Owen Marecic and linemen Sione Fua and Brian Bulcke. Even with Luck, the team will take a step back.

4. California    
2010 CFN Final Ranking:76
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 34
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 43
2008 Final Ranking: 27
2008 Final Score: 15.09

Has Jeff Tedford lost his magic or was last year an indication that the window has closed? RB Shane Vereen left early for the NFL, but QB Brock Mansion leads a veteran offense with eight starters returning including receivers Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen. The defense that was so strong last year has to replace four starters from the back eight and Cameron Jordan and Derrick Hill up front. Punter Bryan Anger should be a weapon.

5. Washington
2010 CFN Final Ranking: T46
2010 Record: 7-6
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 35
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 4-8
2009 Final Ranking: 63
2008 Final Ranking: 119

Is it possible to be better without Jake Locker? With eight starters returning on defense, it's possible that the Huskies win low-scoring battles for a while until QBs Keith Prince or Nick Montana gets the hang of the attack. Chris Polk should be one of the Pac-12's top running backs and WR Jermaine Kearse, while inconsistent, has the potential to be special.

6. Washington State  
2010 CFN Final Ranking:105
2010 Record: 2-10    
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 89
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 3-9
2009 Final Ranking: 115
2008 Final Ranking: 115

After a few years of complete and utter incompetence, Washington State might finally be competitive with 17 starters returning. QB Jeff Tuel needs to crank out more production with the entire receiving corps coming back. The young secondary returns intact, while the linebacking corps could be sneaky-good in time.

South

1 Arizona State
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 55
2010 Record: 6-6
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 54
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 5-7
2009 Final Ranking: 90
2008 Final Ranking: 87 

You want the big sleeper in the 2011 Pac-12 race? Watch out for a Sun Devils team that played well throughout last year, but just missed on coming up with some really, really big wins. Ten starters are back on offense including QB, Brock Osweiler, while the line returns intact. The defense loses DT Lawrence Guy early to the NFL, but ten other starters return including LB Vontaze Burfict, who has Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year potential. Kicker Thomas Weber is gone, but that's the only real problem for a veteran team that has no excuses not to be fantastic.

2. USC    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 44
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 16
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 10-3
2009 Final Ranking: 16
2008 Final Ranking: 5

Can USC stay interested? The horrible defense of last year gets eight starters back led by a potentially fantastic defensive front, even with the early loss of Jurrell Casey to the NFL. It flew under the radar, but QB Matt Barkley had a terrific season and should be outstanding again with Robert Woods to throw to and Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter to hand off to. The problem might be depth. It's going to take a little while to rebuild through recruiting classes that might not be up to USC's normal standards.

3. Arizona
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 40
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 30
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-4
2009 Final Ranking: 22
2008 Final Ranking: 37

After a clunker of a 2010 finish, Arizona should come back rolling, at least on offense. The offensive line is a big, BIG problem with four starters gone, but QB Nick Foles should make the passing game sing with WR Juron Criner in the mix for All-America honors. The defense loses most of the key starters up front, but the linebacking corps returns intact and the corners should be solid. Punter Keenyn Crier will be missed.

4. Utah 
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 23
2010 Record: 10-3
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 48
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 10-2
2009 Final Ranking: 23
2008 Final Ranking: 4

Utah, welcome to a real league. No, the Pac-12 isn't the SEC, but it should be top-to-bottom good and the Utes have holes. the return of QB Jordan Wynn gives the team a franchise player to work around, but the offensive line could use some work and the loss of DT Sealver Siliga and CB Brandon Burton to the NFL leaves two huge holes on defense.

5. UCLA  
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 90
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 6-6
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 51
2009 Final Ranking: 59
2008 Final Ranking: 101

The desperation should be palpable as Rick Neuheisel tries to finally generate some semblance of an offense. The defense would've been an absolute bear if LB Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore hadn't gone off to the NFL, but it should still be strong with eight starters coming back. Seven starters return on offense, but all that matters is if the quarterback play and the passing game can be stronger. RB Johnathan Franklin will try to carry the attack for a while ... again.

6. Colorado     
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 80
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 50
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: T99.
2008 Final Ranking: 76

With plenty of experience returning, new head coach Jon Embree enters Pac-12 play with one of the stronger Buffaloes teams in years. However, there's still a talent gap that needs a few recruiting cycles to fill. The spotlight will be on QB Tyler Hansen to see if he can hang on to the job, but the defense should be decent if the veteran front four can control games early on. Rodney Stewart will be one of the Pac-12's better backs.

Click for each team's spring preview
North California | Oregon | Oregon St | Stanford | Washington | Washington State 
South Arizona | Arizona State | Colorado | UCLA | USC | Utah

2011 Pac-12 Spring Preview  
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Buzz
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Buzz
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Attitudes
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Attitudes
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Key Positions
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Key Positions   
- 2011 Pac-12 North Spring Questions 
- 2011 Pac-12 South Spring Questions    
- Pac-12 Spring Rankings