College football: Pac-12 at a glance

Yahoo Sports

Yahoo Sports expert Pat Forde breaks down everything you need to know about the Pac-12 for this season.

College football: SEC at a glance (Getty)
College football: SEC at a glance
College football: SEC at a glance (Getty)
<b>Best Defensive Player:</b> Leonard Williams, USC. He’s one of the rarest football commodities: a 290-pound defensive tackle who can move. Williams is no space-clogger; he’s a playmaker. He had 74 tackles and six sacks last year, and will key a Trojans defense that may be the best in the nation. (Getty Images)
183287657SD00019_Arizona_v_
Best Defensive Player: Leonard Williams, USC. He’s one of the rarest football commodities: a 290-pound defensive tackle who can move. Williams is no space-clogger; he’s a playmaker. He had 74 tackles and six sacks last year, and will key a Trojans defense that may be the best in the nation. (Getty Images)
Most Intriguing Freshman: Budda Baker, Washington. The highly touted defensive back/kick returner, who de-committed from Oregon to play for Chris Petersen, might make his first significant impact on special teams. But once the fast and ferocious safety, pictured celebrating after winning the 3A high school championship in Washington, cracks the starting lineup in the secondary, he’ll probably never leave it.
Budda Baker,
Most Intriguing Freshman: Budda Baker, Washington. The highly touted defensive back/kick returner, who de-committed from Oregon to play for Chris Petersen, might make his first significant impact on special teams. But once the fast and ferocious safety, pictured celebrating after winning the 3A high school championship in Washington, cracks the starting lineup in the secondary, he’ll probably never leave it.
<b>Best Coach:</b> Chris Petersen, Washington. With the departures of Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh, the throne sits vacant. David Shaw has taken Stanford to three straight BCS bowls, and Jim Mora has rushed UCLA up the Pac-12 ladder. But only Petersen has won two BCS bowls and authored an undefeated season (two of them, in fact) at Boise State.
Petersen
Best Coach: Chris Petersen, Washington. With the departures of Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh, the throne sits vacant. David Shaw has taken Stanford to three straight BCS bowls, and Jim Mora has rushed UCLA up the Pac-12 ladder. But only Petersen has won two BCS bowls and authored an undefeated season (two of them, in fact) at Boise State.
<b>Best Assistant Coach:</b> Justin Wilcox, USC. Defensive coordinator made an impact at Boise State, Tennessee and Washington before moving south from Seattle with Steve Sarkisian this off-season. If his unit is as good as everyone thinks it will be, he will be a hot head-coaching candidate.
Wilcox
Best Assistant Coach: Justin Wilcox, USC. Defensive coordinator made an impact at Boise State, Tennessee and Washington before moving south from Seattle with Steve Sarkisian this off-season. If his unit is as good as everyone thinks it will be, he will be a hot head-coaching candidate.
<b>Coach on the Decline:</b> Kyle Whittingham, Utah. After seven straight winning seasons in Salt Lake City, Whittingham has gone 10-14 the past two and slid onto the dreaded hot seat. Close losses and key injuries have been the biggest issues, but the Utes are about out of excuses. This is an important year to produce – but winning games in this league will be harder than ever.
Whittingham
Coach on the Decline: Kyle Whittingham, Utah. After seven straight winning seasons in Salt Lake City, Whittingham has gone 10-14 the past two and slid onto the dreaded hot seat. Close losses and key injuries have been the biggest issues, but the Utes are about out of excuses. This is an important year to produce – but winning games in this league will be harder than ever.
<b>Coach on the Psychiatrist’s Couch:</b> Mike Leach, Washington State. If you heard Leach’s soliloquy on gnats in Valdosta, Ga., at Pac-12 media days, you understand. Well, if you’ve heard Leach talk about any number of topics, you understand.
Leach
Coach on the Psychiatrist’s Couch: Mike Leach, Washington State. If you heard Leach’s soliloquy on gnats in Valdosta, Ga., at Pac-12 media days, you understand. Well, if you’ve heard Leach talk about any number of topics, you understand.
<b>Biggest Non-League Game:</b> Michigan State at Oregon, Sept. 6. This is the top non-conference matchup in the nation this season. Ducks have had some struggles with power teams, but have a huge home-field advantage. Game will help shape the College Football Playoff debate in terms of conference strength.
Michigan
Biggest Non-League Game: Michigan State at Oregon, Sept. 6. This is the top non-conference matchup in the nation this season. Ducks have had some struggles with power teams, but have a huge home-field advantage. Game will help shape the College Football Playoff debate in terms of conference strength.
<b>Breakthrough Team:</b> USC. The Trojans have been just 11-7 in league play the last two years, which is why they have a new coach. Steve Sarkisian inherits a major scholarship deficit but a lot of talent, and USC should be the prime contender to UCLA in the South.
USC
Breakthrough Team: USC. The Trojans have been just 11-7 in league play the last two years, which is why they have a new coach. Steve Sarkisian inherits a major scholarship deficit but a lot of talent, and USC should be the prime contender to UCLA in the South.
North Champion: Oregon. Ducks finally figure out Stanford and return to the league title game. (AP)
Oregon
North Champion: Oregon. Ducks finally figure out Stanford and return to the league title game. (AP)
League Champion: UCLA. This may not be the only championship the Bruins win this year.
UCLA
League Champion: UCLA. This may not be the only championship the Bruins win this year.
<b>Best “Now” Rivalry:</b> Oregon-Stanford. The clash of styles is fascinating, and the stakes have been extremely high for the past four meetings.
Oregon-Stanford
Best “Now” Rivalry: Oregon-Stanford. The clash of styles is fascinating, and the stakes have been extremely high for the past four meetings.
Most Marinated Fans: Washington State. If you lived in Pullman, you’d be drunk, too.
Washington
Most Marinated Fans: Washington State. If you lived in Pullman, you’d be drunk, too.
<b>Angriest Fans:</b> Not a lot of anger out West. But the edge goes to USC fans for still screaming bloody murder over the Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions.
USC
Angriest Fans: Not a lot of anger out West. But the edge goes to USC fans for still screaming bloody murder over the Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions.
League Champion: UCLA. This may not be the only championship the Bruins win this year.
UCLA
League Champion: UCLA. This may not be the only championship the Bruins win this year.
<b>Best “Now” Rivalry:</b> Oregon-Stanford. The clash of styles is fascinating, and the stakes have been extremely high for the past four meetings.
Oregon-Stanford
Best “Now” Rivalry: Oregon-Stanford. The clash of styles is fascinating, and the stakes have been extremely high for the past four meetings.
Most Marinated Fans: Washington State. If you lived in Pullman, you’d be drunk, too.
Washington
Most Marinated Fans: Washington State. If you lived in Pullman, you’d be drunk, too.
<b>Angriest Fans:</b> Not a lot of anger out West. But the edge goes to USC fans for still screaming bloody murder over the Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions.
USC
Angriest Fans: Not a lot of anger out West. But the edge goes to USC fans for still screaming bloody murder over the Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions.

What to Read Next