LOS ANGELES – With the NCAA-imposed two-year postseason ban now over, USC is an overwhelming favorite to win the conference, according to the results of a Fox Sports Next and Scout.com poll.
Eleven of the 14 ballots cast by the publishers and beat writers representing each of the Scout team websites that cover the Pac-12, along with Fox Sports Next National Recruiting Analyst Brandon Huffman and FoxSports.com college football editor Pete Stella, selected the Trojans to host and win the conference championship game.
Three-time defending Pac-10/12 champion Oregon received the other three votes.
After posing a 10-2 record last year, including a 38-35 win at Autzen Stadium over the eventual Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion Ducks, USC brings back 19 starters and is expected to challenge for the BCS title. Led by Quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Matt Barkley (3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, completed 69.1 percent of passes) who bypassed the NFL to return for his senior season, the Trojans were unanimous picks to win the Pac-12 South.
Oregon was also a unanimous choice in the North, even with the early exits of quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James to the draft. The Ducks have won at least 10 games in each of his three seasons under head coach Chip Kelly.
The closest race was between Stanford and Washington as they chase Oregon in the North, as each school received seven second-place votes.
Among the four new coaches in the conference, most is expected of Jim Mora as UCLA was picked to finished third in the South.
Pac-12 Champion: USC (11 votes out of possible 14), Oregon
Host of Pac-12 championship game: USC (11 votes out of possible 14), Oregon (3 votes)
1. Oregon (84 points out of possible 84)
2. Stanford (61 points)
3. Washington (58 points)
4. California (48 points)
5. Washington State (24 points)
6. Oregon State (19 points)
1. USC (84 points out of possible 84)
2. Utah (68 points)
3. UCLA (53 points)
4. Arizona (39 points)
5. Arizona State (32 points)
6. Colorado (18 points)
Each first-place divisional vote was worth six points, a second-place vote five, a third-place vote four, a fourth-place vote three, a fifth-place vote two, and a sixth-place vote one.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and covers the Pac-12 for Fox Sports/Scout.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.