USC picked to win Pac-12 in preseason media poll

USC quarterback Caleb Williams returns to lead the Trojans this season following his 2022 Heisman-winning campaign. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
USC quarterback Caleb Williams returns to lead the Trojans this season following his 2022 Heisman-winning campaign. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

USC is the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12, at least according to conference media.

The Trojans, who bring back Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, received 25 of 36 first-place votes in the conference’s annual media membership poll. The voting took place ahead of the Pac-12 media day, which will be held Friday in Las Vegas.

Williams followed head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC before the 2022 season and led the Trojans to the Pac-12 title game, only to fall to Utah. A win would almost certainly have sent USC to the college football playoffs. Instead, Utah capitalized on an injury to Williams and won their second straight conference championship.

With the return of Williams and some expected upgrades to what was an incredibly porous defense in 2022, USC looks not just the Pac-12 favorite, but also a possible CFP contender before moving to the Big Ten alongside UCLA in 2024.

USC edged out Washington, Utah

Utah, despite being the two-time defending league champion, was picked third at the start of the 2023 season, just behind upstart Washington. Like USC, Washington experienced a major turnaround in its first season under a new head coach. The Huskies went 4-8 in 2021, but Kalen DeBoer coached them to an 11-2 record in 2022 with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leading. Penix returns for another year in Washington, which has one of the best receiving groups in the nation and a strong defensive front.

Utah, meanwhile, should be extremely strong in both lines of scrimmage and return veteran quarterback Cameron Rising. Rising is coming off an ACL tear sustained in the Rose Bowl, but should be available when the Utes open the season at home against Florida.

Washington (367) received slightly more points than Utah (359) in the media poll, but the Utes actually got slightly more first-place votes — six to the UW’s four. The only other team to receive a first-place vote was Oregon, which placed fourth in the poll with 344 points and just one first-place vote.

Behind Oregon is its in-state rival, fifth-place Oregon State and sixth-place UCLA. There’s a considerable drop from there, with Washington State seventh, Arizona eighth, and the bottom four spots taken by Cal, Arizona State, Colorado, and Stanford.

ASU, Colorado and Stanford all have new coaches this season, headlined by Deion Sanders at CU. Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer, came to Colorado from Jackson State and executed a massive roster overhaul this offseason.

Sanders and his team have undoubtedly increased the level of talent in Boulder, but how will this brand new team fare?

Full Pac-12 Pre-Season Media Poll

  1. USC(25)-413

  2. Washington (4) – 367

  3. Utah (6) – 359

  4. Oregon (1) – 344

  5. Oregon State – 309

  6. UCLA-248

  7. Washington State – 186

  8. Arizona-176

  9. Cal-132

  10. Arizona State – 122

  11. Colorado-98

  12. Stanford – 54

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