2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - Pac-12 South
UCLA QB Kevin Prince & Johnathan Franklin
UCLA QB Kevin Prince & Johnathan Franklin
Posted Jan 18, 2012

The too early look at how good the Pac-12 South teams should be in 2012.

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

Pac-12 South

2011 CFN Pre-Preseason First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20  

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2012 based on how good they appear to be at the moment.

- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Pac-12 North Rankings

1. USC (10-2)

After a brief hiccup for a few years, it looks like it's back to business as usual for the mighty Trojan program. Depth might be a bit of an issue after a few years of sanctions, but from 1-to-22 this will be among the most talented and athletic teams in America. The difference will be in the experience. Getting left tackle Matt Kalil back for one more season would've been nice, but the return of Matt Barkley to quarterback the loaded attack makes up for it. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee form the nation's best 1-2 receiving punch, while the backfield is loaded with option.

Defensively, the return of huge-hitting safety T.J. McDonald for his senior year means the starting back seven will return intact, led by a trio of sophomore linebackers that can flat out fly. The one concern is a defensive front that has to replace both tackles and loses pass rushing end Nick Perry a year early to the NFL, but this is one areas stockpiled with big-time prospects.

2. Utah (8-5)

Utah closed out strong – one stunning hiccup against Colorado aside – and now it should be ready to be the team everyone was expecting. A lot depends on the health of QB Jordan Wynn, who's expected to be back for spring ball after missing most of last year with a shoulder problem. But even if he's 100%, can he show he's better than he was after getting banged up the first time around? RB John White will be the focal point of the attack with three good starters back up front to pave the way. Eight starters return on offense including all the top targets. Defensively, the excellent run defense will work around tackles Dave Kruger and Star Lotulelei, but leading tacklers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez are gone from the linebacking corps. Three starters are back to a secondary that wasn't good enough considering the pass rush was strong all year long.

3. UCLA (6-8)

New head coach Jim Mora is putting together a terrific recruiting class, but first he has to find a way to generate more production on both sides of the ball from a team that got to the Pac-12 title game. Is QB Kevin Prince ready to become more productive? There are other options to play around with this offseason, but the offense will end up needing RB Johnathan Franklin to carry the load again. Three starters are back up front, but No. 1 target Nelson Rosario is done are most of last year's key receivers. The old regime did a good job recruiting for the defensive front, and now it's time for Owamagbe Odighizuwa to live up to is prep billing in a rotation on the end. Both starting tackles are gone as are both outside linebackers, but leading tackler Patrick Larimore returns in the middle and all four starters are back in the secondary. Jeff Locke will be in the mix for All-America punting honors.

4. Arizona State (6-7)

Not only is the program undergoing an overhaul at coach, with Todd Graham trying to right the ship, but several big holes need to be filled. The loss of QB Brock Osweiler a year early to the NFL hurts, top target Gerell Robinson is done, and three starters are gone off the line. RB Cameron Marshall will be fed the ball early and often, but he'll need help from a steady quarterback – possibly sophomore Mike Bercovici – to take the heat off. For good and bad, linebacker Vontaze Burfict took off for the pros, but that leaves just two starters – tackle Will Sutton and end Junior Onyeali – back on a defense that struggled way too much. Both safeties need to be replaced, but corners Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr are back on the outside. Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks should be among the nation's top returners.

5. Arizona (4-8)

Are the pieces in place for Rich Rodriguez to get rolling with what he wants to do on offense right away? Not really. The program was built to throw the ball, and it did with Nick Foles under center finishing third in the nation in passing, and now RichRod needs bodies after Tom Savage and Daxx Garman chose to transfer. A few true freshmen will get a shot, but Josh Kern – assuming he signs – is a big bomber. The starter might end up coming from the JUCO ranks. It's going to take some rebuilding and retooling, but all five starters are back on the O line and Ka'Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins are decent-looking backs. The defense was a disaster, finishing last in the Pac-12, but the entire line returns. Corner Tevin Wade is gone as is top pass rusher C.J. Parish, but leading tackler Marquis Flowers returns at free safety.

6. Colorado (3-10)

The Buffs didn't exactly shine in their first year in the Pac-12, but they won two of their final three games and screwed up Utah's conference title hopes. The secondary has to be far, far better after getting ripped up time again by any efficient quarterback. Three starters return in the defensive backfield, but the pass rush that was so impressive has to replace end Josh Hartigan. Offensively, Tyler Hansen and Rodney Stewart are done after doing what they could in the backfield for the last few years, and this spring there should be an interesting battle at quarterback, while Tony Jones and Josh Ford will get their chances to carry the mail. The line loses two starters including top guard Ryan Miller, while top wide receiver Toney Clemson is done on the outside X position.