Trojans and Ducks the teams to beat in Pac-12

By John Marshall

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Notes: Coming off the school's worst statistical defensive season, coach Steve Sarkisian replaced three defensive coaches, including coordinator Nick Holt. New coordinator Justin Wilcox has shifted the Huskies to more of a 3-4 defense, which appeared to free up the defenders in Washington's spring game. ... The Huskies have to replace top running back Chris Polk and have plenty of question marks on the offensive line. ... Price was stellar in his first season as a starter, setting a team record by completing 66.9 percent of his passes while throwing for over 3,000 yards and 33 TDs.

CALIFORNIA — Key players: QB Zach Maynard, RB Isi Sofele, RB C.J. Anderson, WR Keenan Allen, DE Mustafa Jalil, NG Aaron Tipoti. Returning starters: offense 6, defense 6.

Notes: Sofele and Anderson give the Bears a nice 1-2 punch, but there are a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line. ... Maynard completed 57 percent of his passes for nearly 3,000 yards, but had 12 interceptions to go with 17 TDs. ... Allen, one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference, had ankle surgery in the spring, but is expected to be ready for the season opener. ... Cal opens remodeled Memorial Stadium against Nevada on Sept. 1.

WASHINGTON STATE— Key players: QB Jeff Tuel, WR Marquess Wilson, WR Dominique Williams, DE Travis Long, S Deone Bucannon, T John Fullington. Returning starters: offense 6, defense 7.

Notes: The Cougars were looking for a fresh start after firing Paul Wulff and got a big one with the hiring of Leach. The former Texas Tech coach is known for his innovative offense and way of doing things, and has already shaken things up in Pullman. ... Tuel labored through injuries last season and Leach has said he will have to compete with Connor Halliday for the starting job this season. ... Washington State had a hard time keeping its quarterbacks healthy with its offensive line ranking among the worst in the country in allowing sacks.

OREGON STATE — Key players: QB Sean Mannion, RB Malcolm Agnew, WR Markus Wheaton, CB Jordan Poyer, DE Scott Crichton, DE Dylan Wynn. Returning starters: offense 8, defense 8.

Notes: This could be a big season for the Beavers and coach Mike Riley. Oregon State went to the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl, but has had consecutive losing seasons, including 3-9 in a 2011 season filled with injuries. ... Mannion took over for Ryan Katz as the starter last season, but had some growing pains as a redshirt freshman. He threw for 3,332 yards, third-most in school history, and had 16 touchdowns last season, but also had 18 interceptions. ... Crichton set a school record by forcing six fumbles and Wynn led the nation with five recoveries, also a school record.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — Key players: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods, S T.J. McDonald, RB Silas Redd, WR Marquis Lee, LB Dion Bailey, CB Nickell Robey. Returning starters: offense 9, defense 8.

Notes: The return of Barkley was a huge boost for the Trojans. Projected as a high NFL draft pick, Barkley made a surprise announcement that he would return for his senior season at Southern Cal. He's matured each season and threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns with seven interceptions last year. ... In case the Trojans didn't have enough weapons, they added Redd, who rushed for over 1,200 yards last season and will immediately be eligible due to sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. ... Woods is healthy after being hampered by an ankle injury last season and is one of the most dynamic receivers in the country.

UTAH — Key players: RB John White IV, QB Jordan Wynn, DT Star Lotulelei, WR DeVonte Christopher, S Brian Blechen, S Eric Rowe. Returning starters: offense 9, defense 7.

Notes: The Utes had a rough start to their inaugural season in the Pac-12, but finished the season 8-5 and beat Georgia Tech in overtime in the Sun Bowl. ... Wynn missed the first nine games of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury, but bulked up in the offseason to become durable after two shoulder surgeries in 10 months. ... White was the durable one after being a junior college transfer last season, leading the Pac-12 with 316 carries while piling up 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns. ... Lotulelei is one of the premier defensive linemen in the country, but the Utes have a couple of big holes to fill on the O-line with the losses of tackles Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen.

UCLA — Key players: RB Johnathan Franklin, WR Joseph Fauria, LB Patrick Larimore, QB Richard Brehaut, QB Kevin Prince. Returning starters: offense 7, defense 8.

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