AP Preseason Top 25: No. 6 Washington leads 4 Pac-12 teams in rankings
No. 6 Washington leads a quartet of Pac-12 teams in the Associated Press preseason top 25 poll released Monday morning. In addition to the sixth-ranked Huskies, Stanford is ranked 13th, USC is ranked 15th and Oregon is slotted 24th, while Utah and Arizona are receiving votes. The Pac-12 is one of five conferences with at least four teams in the preseason poll alongside the SEC (five), Big Ten (five), ACC (four) and Big 12 (four).
No surprise that the Huskies are the top Dawgs in the Pac-12 on the AP poll. Ending the 2017 campaign ranked 16th in the final AP poll, Washington is seen by many as the Pac-12’s best shot at the College Football Playoff. Why the jump up of 10 spots from 2017 postseason to 2018 preseason? The Huskies return eight starters on a high-powered offense and nine starters on a vaunted defense from a 10-3 team in 2017 that went to a New Year’s Six bowl game. Led by quarterback Jake Browning, running back Myles Gaskin and offensive tackle Trey Adams, the Huskies get a stiff challenge right off the bat with No. 9 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. It's a game that many pundits consider a near-must-win for not only Washington, but the Pac-12 as well. Defeat the Tigers, and the Pac-12 preseason favorites will only boost their early-season hype.
Sandwiched between No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 14 Michigan, the 13th-ranked Cardinal enters another season as a contender for the Pac-12 title and another season with a guy who has a serious shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. Running back Bryce Love is garnering all the preseason attention on the Stanford football front, but it’s not just him that makes the Cardinal dangerous. Quarterback K.J. Costello, receivers J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin, as well as tight end Kaden Smith, are but a few of the weapons that have the Card looking like an offensive juggernaut. If the program hadn't lost so much talent on defense, the Cardinal probably would have been a preseason top-10 team. Stanford opens the season Aug. 31 on The Farm against San Diego State, a team it lost to in SoCal last season.
The Trojans enter 2018 having to replace Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones, to name a couple, but the cupboard is never bare for USC. Coming off its first Pac-12 title in a decade, USC comes into the 2018 season with a No. 15 ranking even without the quarterback situation settled in part because it returns two first-team all-Pac-12ers on defense in safety Marvell Tell III and linebacker Cameron Smith, a preseason All-American pretty much anywhere you look. And if there are two positions USC is known for having a lot of talent, it’s quarterback and running back, so the assumption is that whoever fills in for Darnold – JT Daniels, Matt Fink or Jack Sears – will be able to get the job done. One of the guys backing up Jones last season – Stephen Carr – was a Pac-12 honorable mention selection last season. Assuming the Trojans get past UNLV in their season opener and the Cardinal take care of business against San Diego State, we’ll likely get a top-15 matchup of Pac-12 teams in the second weekend of the season when USC visits the Card on Sept. 8.
The Mario Cristobal era in Eugene kicks off with a No. 24 preseason ranking after finishing the 2017 campaign out of the poll. Cristobal and Co. should be able to ease into his first year as head coach with Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State on the home ledger before Pac-12 play begins with a bang against Stanford. With potential Heisman candidate Justin Herbert quarterbacking the offense, the Ducks could be putting up more video game-esque numbers in the early part of September. Who else is looking forward to Chip Kelly’s return to Eugene in November?
Here is the AP preseason poll in full:
- Ohio State
- Miami (FL)
- Penn State
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Mississippi State
- Florida State
- Virginia Tech
- Boise State