UCLA football single-game tickets went on sale today, which makes it just as good as any to fill out the annual Pac-12 Media Poll.
Here it goes …
1. Oregon — Mark Helfrich hasn’t proven that he can keep the Ducks in perennial title contention, but the return of star quarterback Marcus Mariota
2. Stanford — The Cardinal never seem to drop off, but losing three All-Pac-12 offensive lineman — including consensus All-American David Yankey — and four all-conference first-team defenders might be enough to knock them down a bit.
3. Washington — An eight-year run at Boise State ended with an eight-win season, the only time Chris Petersen failed to notch double-digit wins as a head coach. Matching that total in the tougher Pac-12 would be a decent debut for him.
4. Oregon State — The Beavers aren’t as formidable as they were six to eight years ago, but head coach Mike Riley gets a relatively friendly schedule as well as the return of quarterback Sean Mannion — who is 1,891 yards away from Matt Barkley’s Pac-12 career passing record (12,327).
5. Washington State — WSU only has one string of consecutive bowl appearances in program history, making the Sun, Rose and Holiday Bowls from 2001 to 2003. They have a decent shot to return to the postseason after last year’s New Mexico Bowl loss, but need to pull a few upsets along the way.
6. Cal — The Bears will likely win more than one game, but more than three seems optimistic.
1. UCLA — Given the Bruins’ growing status as a trendy pick for the College Football Playoff, not winning at least the Pac-12 South would be a tremendous disappointment.
2. USC — Steve Sarkisian has never won more than five conference games as head coach, but USC’s late-season resurgence under interim coach Ed Orgeron proved there’s plenty of talent left on the roster.
3. Arizona State — A defense that ranked seventh nationally in turnover margin last season loses most of its stars, but quarterback Taylor Kelly should end his career with some of ASU’s all-time passing records.
4. Arizona — Somewhat surprisingly, the Wildcats have never had a first-team all-conference quarterback since joining the then-Pac-10 in 1978. This won’t be the year the streak ends; after overseeing the Pac-12′s most anemic passing offense last season, Rich Rodriguez must choose between a pair of transfers in Jesse Scroggins (USC) and Connor Brewer (Texas), or opt for redshirt freshman Anu Solomon.
5. Utah — Not sold that Utah has found stability at quarterback, even if Travis Wilson has been cleared for contact. The Utes do have arguably the best kicker/punter combo in the conference in Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett.
6. Colorado — The Buffaloes made the right hire in Mike MacIntyre, but Year 3 will be a better bet for a breakthrough season.