2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - Pac-12 North
Cal WR Keenan Allen
Cal WR Keenan Allen
Posted Jan 18, 2012

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

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

Pac-12 North

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 Southt Rankings

1. Oregon (12-2)

Assuming head coach Chip Kelly doesn't chip out – sorry – and take the money grab of an NFL coaching gig, it'll be more of the same for one of college football's new superpowers. LaMichael James is off early to the NFL, but there's more where he came from with speed to burn in the backfield thanks to the return of Kenjon Barner and the expected expanded role for receiver/runner De'Anthony Thomas. Losing James will still hurt, but the biggest hit is at quarterback where Darron Thomas stunningly chose to take off early for the NFL. Bryan Bennett isn't going to come in cold, but he has to prove he can run the attack like Thomas did.

The secondary will lose some key parts and the linebacking corps has to replace both starters on the outside, but Kelly has proven over the last few years that coming up with fill-ins isn't a problem. Michael Clay will emerge as a star in the middle after leading the team in tackles, and John Boyett is a terrific free safety who'll be in the mix for all-star honors.

2. California (7-6)

Can the Bears take another step forward under head coach Jeff Tedford? The offense needs QB Zach Maynard to be more effective and more consistent, but Keenan Allen should be one of the nation's top receivers and Isi Sofele is a special back who should roll at will behind a terrific-looking line. The defense led the Pac-12, but leader Mychal Kendricks is gone from the middle and D.J. Holt will be missed at one of the other linebacker spots. Safeties Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell are done, as is end Trevor Guyton, but there's good depth and solid reserves ready to play bigger roles. The team's biggest loss could be Bryan Anger, one of the nation's best punting weapons over the last few years.

3. Stanford (11-2)

You don't get better by losing the No. 1 pick in the draft and a be-all-end-all quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck, but Jim Harbaugh recruited well before leaving for the pros leaving good young players in place ready to wage an interesting battle to fill the enormous void. The bigger problem could be on the offensive line where left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro took off early and could be top 15 overall draft picks. The defensive front seven is full of veterans, but the secondary loses four starters and the offense doesn't have enough playmaking receivers to take the heat off underappreciated running back Stepfan Taylor.

4. Washington (7-6)

The coaching staff is undergoing a bit of an overhaul after the ugly second half of the season – allowing 31 points or more in five of the last six games and giving up 65 to Stanford and 67 to Baylor – but the offense should be solid. RB Chris Polk took off early to the NFL, but QB Keith Price outplayed Robert Griffin in the Alamo Bowl and proved he's ready to be a national star. He loses top targets Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, but Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams are promising. The line only loses two regulars, while the D has to replace four starters including leading tackler Cort Dennison and corner Quinton Richardson. Top pass rusher Josh Shirley should shine with an expanded role.

5. Washington State (4-8)

Get your popcorn ready. Washington State might have had some fun and productive offenses in the past, but Mike Leach is about to take things to a whole other level. The nation's ninth-ranked passing game was already good, and now the spotlight will be on QB Jeff Tuel to see if he can stay healthy. If not, it'll be up to Connor Halliday to throw to rising star Marquess Wilson. The line gets three starters back, and while running the ball won't be the main mode of transportation, Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston are promising. The defense gets nine starters back after not doing nearly enough to rush the passer and not coming up with enough key stops. End Travis Long will be the key up front, while SS Deone Bucannon should be among the Pac-12's leading tacklers.

6. Oregon State (3-9)

Was 2011 a hiccup or was it a sign that things are slipping under head coach Mike Riley? The running game that was 118th in the nation gets back Malcolm Agnew and leading rusher Jovan Stevenson, but the line has to be far better with three starters returning. Sean Mannion is the quarterback Riley is building around, and he needs WR Markus Wheaton to do even more with James Rodgers finally out of eligibility. The defense that struggled so much against the run welcomes back five starters on the front seven, and while safety Lance Mitchell was good, the secondary will be solid with three starters returning. MLB Feti Unga is back after leading the team in tackles, while top pass rusher Scott Crichton has the potential to do far more.