USC Defending Title Again Any New Challengers? Los Angeles, CA- USC has taken down all challengers the past few seasons. They've run through the conference undefeated two seasons in a row. They've hosted conference title games in both of the most recent seasons. And no one out west has stepped up and been an able challenger. Maybe this is the year that it changes. Stanford and Oregon have been the class of the North Division for the past few seasons and it doesn't look like it will change this season. Oregon is loaded...again, and Stanford has had the players to make some noise in the conference, but they have failed to put it all together. USC and Utah will battle it out for the South division title. Utah was missing their head coach for most of last season and it showed with an 8-5 season record, but Utah did go 7-2 in conference. USC took advantage of a down season, and won their second straight Pac-12 title en route to a National title as well. While there are 12 teams in the Pac-12 there are only these 4 main challengers, how do they size up? Quarterback: Oregon: Johnnie Sutton (95 Overall, 72 speed, 90 throwing power, 95 accuracy) Stanford: Alvin Carter (85 Overall, 55 speed, 85 throwing power, 91 accuracy) USC: Sean Oliver (95 Overall, 58 speed, 87 throwing power, 95 accuracy) Utah: Matt Harris (92 Overall, 95 speed, 88 throwing power, 87 accuracy) The battle for best QB is a tough one to call. All four of them are talented quarterbacks who are all more than capable of leading their team to a conference title. The one big difference is running ability and throwing ability. Sutton is the best blend of athleticism and ability and I would expect him to put up huge numbers in the "Blur" in Eugene. But the next two in line, Sean Oliver and Matt Harris have the same chance to put up un real numbers in their offenses. There will be a fierce battle for All-Pac 12 QB at the end of the season. Running Back: Oregon: Sam Campbell (94 Overall, 83 speed, 99 break tackle, 64 trucking, 99 juke) Stanford: Tommy Sanders (87 Overall, 90 speed, 89 break tackle, 77 trucking, 95 juke) and Robbie Powell (86 Overall, 86 speed, 92 break tackle, 77 trucking, 91 juke) USC: Brendan Williams (97 Overall, 88 speed, 97 break tackle, 99 trucking, 93 juke) and Brian McMillan (94 Overall, 89 speed, 96 break tackle, 84 trucking, 86 juke) Utah: Lui Silva (90 Overall, 93 speed, 94 break tackle, 78 trucking, 83 juke) and Brandon Jackson (84 Overall, 91 speed, 82 break tackle, 95 trucking, 74 juke) Running back is a little bit easier to decipher with USC undoubtedly leading the way. Williams is one of the best backs in the country and McMillan would start for most any other team in the nation. They do lack top end speed, but they should form the backbone of a vaunted rushing attack. Utah comes in next with their tandem of Lui Silva and Brandon Jackson. Jackson will play second fiddle now, but will be one of the top backs nationally when he does finish his career. Silva and Jackson are the only 2 players who have the chance to make this list next season. Silva is a junior and Jackson is a freshman. Wide Receiver: Oregon: Josh Gilmore (91 Overall, 90 speed, 93 catching) and Chad Holloway (87 Overall, 84 speed, 88 catching) Stanford: Kyle Cunningham (88 Overall, 87 speed, 85 catching) and Micah Moore (84 Overall, 95 speed, 82 catching) USC: Roshaun James (85 Overall, 87 speed, 83 catching) and Shannon Watkins (83 Overall, 88 speed, 81 catching) Utah: Leroy Jones (91 Overall, 86 speed, 99 catching) and Eric Rivera (87 Overall, 88 speed, 91 catching) This is another position that's tough to call, but with a gun to my head I would choose Utah. Jones refuses to drop any pass that comes his way, and even if the can't out run anyone his hands are glue. Rivera is sure handed as well, and even though we only went 2 deep here the #3 wide receiver for Utah is John Brown at 6'3" with 98 speed. Oregon would take the #2 spot in this position ranking. The size of Oregon's wide outs is impressive, but they lack any speed whatsoever. Big WR are like fat guys in baseball. They better be able to (catch) because they can't run. USC WR corps is very young so both of their WR have a chance to make it back here for next season's ranking. Tight End Oregon: Seth Moore (77 Overall, 77 speed, 76 catching, 76 run block) Stanford: Kevin Johnson (79 Overall, 82 speed, 68 catching, 79 run block) USC: Michael Newby (96 Overall, 83 speed, 89 catching, 83 run block) Utah: Nick Coe (92 Overall, 86 speed, 99 catching 79 run block) USC wins this battle convincingly. Newby is the top tight end prospect in this class and brings a special combination of size, speed, and blocking. He could be a very integral part of the USC offensive machine this season and if he is it will only help to move him to the top of NFL draft boards. Coe is the easy #2, He was undersized when he first made the move from fullback to TE before his freshman season and he's still undersized now. But he is without a doubt one of the most athletic tight ends to come out in recent years. Great speed, amazing hands, he's a solid blocker and even though he is only 6' tall he is almose 250 pounds. Offensive Line (LT to RT) Oregon: Kyle Byrd (82 Overall), Sean Amos (82 Overall), Paul Whitmore (75 Overall), Dominic Anderson (93 Overall), Cameron Davis (77 Overall) Stanford: Justin Herron (84 Overall), Adam Smith (88 Overall), Jon Price (77 Overall) Antonio Clark (88 Overall) Fred Smith (84 Overall) USC: Trevor Jones (84 Overall), Preston Murphy (81 Overall), Adam Turner (94 Overall) Kris Lewis (89 Overall), Terry Lewis (84 Overall) Utah: George Edwards (81 Overall), Brian Green (78 Overall), Luke Ray (80 Overall) Lionel Payne (81 Overall), Malcolm Clancy (85 Overall) USC has the best big uglies. The scary part for the rest of the conference is that they are all younger players. Only Turner and Lewis could leave after this season and the rest of the line will be back. With these guys leading the way for the next few seasons it will be tough for defenses to come up with the talent to make stops. Stanford comes in at second, seemingly with an opposing theory to USC's play 'em early philosophy because Stanford is starting 1 junior and 2 seniors on their line this season. Utah gets an honorable mention, because they will be starting 4 freshmen on the offensive line this year. Edwards and Ray are redshirt freshmen, Green and Payne are true freshmen and Clancy will be a senior this season. The Pac-12 will need to be on alert for Utah and USC making runs over the next few seasons with their youth and strength up front. Defensive Line (LE to RE) Oregon: Joe Mayhew (92 Overall), Ray Hill (89 Overall), Joe Burley (83 Overall), Brandon Baker (87 Overall) Stanford: Justin Thurman (84 Overall), Bobby West (84 Overall), Terry Hall (83 Overall) USC: Leonard Beverly (80 Overall), Maurice Peterson (96 Overall), Marcus Robinson (94 Overall), Chris Bowling (76 Overall) Utah: Greg Ross (90 Overall), Drew Williams (90 Overall), Edwin Manning (87 Overall), Joe Harris (87 Overall) Utah gets the nod slightly over Oregon's crew. There is depth all the way across the line, and no weak links to pick at for the offensive line. A double team on the inside will free up one of the outside guys, and vice versa. All four players can rush the passer and hold up at the point of attack, and best of all only Manning should be a threat to leave. Oregon is similar, but the average of their overalls was slightly less than Utah's. Oregon should also be able to get after the QB and slow down the opposition's rushing attack. USC's middle should be terrifying all season long, but they are very weak on the outside and don't have a ton of depth behind any of the starters. Linebackers (LOLB to ROLB) Oregon: Justin Allen (79 Overall), John Brown (83 Overall), Reggie Campbell (84 Overall) Stanford: Lee Stone (87 Overall), Brad Nicholson (84 Overall), Doug Williams (81 Overall), John Martin (93 Overall) USC: Justin Dawson (79 Overall), Anthony Williams (85 Overall), Jeff Williams (83 Overall) Utah: Jamie Adams (89 Overall), Antonio Alexander (88 Overall) Jason McKenzie (85 Overall) Stanford takes the honor for best LB corps, thanks to the Manster that is John Martin. He has the ability to take over a game completely from a defensive position and that's not something that comes around very often. He's huge at 6'7" 236 pounds, and when he gets turned toward the QB he can be a nightmare to slow down. Utah gets the #2 slot again. And for the same reason as always...depth across the field. This is perhaps the one area on the field with veteran leadership for Utah. Two seniors in this starting unit. Cornerbacks Oregon: Noah Faulk (90 Overall, 98 speed, 92 man, 96 zone), Jarrett Williams (89 Overall, 91 man, 93 zone) Stanford: Dominique Anderson (89 Overall, 95 speed, 98 man, 92 zone), Neil Harris (86 Overall, 92 speed, 90 man, 92 zone) USC: John Williams (96 Overall, 98 speed, 99 man, 99 zone), Daniel Burrell (85 Overall, 88 speed, 97 zone, 92 man) Utah: Greg Timmons (87 Overall, 95 speed, 95 zone, 88 man), Will Stephens (87 Overall, 92 speed, 95 man, 88 zone) USC gets the award for best corner tandem. But most of that credit goes to John Williams. Williams is a beast who can lock down one whole side of the field. He's one of the fastest players in college football, and locks on to the opposition and won't let go. Pairing him with Burrell gives USC 3 men to cover one side of the field, and one man to cover the other. Oregon was my second choice because both Faulk and Williams are excellent in their own right and when paired together could be dominating. Utah's tandem are both sophomores this season and they should be a lock down pair for a few more seasons. Safeties (FS, SS) Oregon: Anthony Brooks (78 Overall), Kevin Parker (90 Overall) Stanford: Sean Woods (85 Overall), Curtis Holloway (79 Overall) USC: Napoleon Patrick (85 Overall), Bob Baker (73 Overall) Utah: James Irby (88 Overall), Kenard Godfrey (85 Overall) Possibly the weakest position unit in the conference, but Utah has the best of the worst. Irby is a 3 year starter at FS, and Godfrey will be seeing his first legitimate action. Godfrey can fly at the SS position and Irby can move pretty well himself. Godfrey is very good in coverage and is probably mre a free safety than a strong safety but his cover skills should help Utah be difficult to beat through the air. Oregon gets the second spot, and Kevin Parker is probably the best strong safety in the conference. These four teams should be fighting it out for supremacy on the west coast. On paper, Utah appears to have the most talent, but you never know how the season will work out. I predict Oregon will come out of the North to face Utah in Salt Lake City for the conference crown. And I think Utah will pull out the win to lock up the automatic Rose Bowl berth. Depending on how the talent comes together will determine if that Utah season will end with a conference title and BCS berth or a chance to play for the National Title.