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The Utah Utes chant along with fans following their loss to the Northwestern Wildcats in NCAA football at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)
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Utah Takes Top Power Spot; Won’t Face No. 1 North Team

The Utah Utes chant along with fans following their loss to the Northwestern Wildcats in NCAA football at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The official start to the college football season will begin on Saturday with one Pac-12 team playing in Week 0. The rest of the conference will begin next week.

The defending conference champion Washington Huskies look to repeat as conference champions. The media projected Washington and Utah to rematch in the title game with the Utes winning the conference title.

Here’s the preseason KSL Sports Pac-12 Power Rankings.

NORTH

1. No. 11 Oregon (Last Season: 9-4, 5-4)

Last Season Result: Defeated Michigan State in Redbox Bowl 7-6

Recap: The Ducks return their star quarterback Justin Herbert, who decided to play his senior season rather than putting his name in the NFL draft. Oregon also brings back one of the best offensive line units in the country. Former Desert Hills star left tackle Penei Sewell is a starter on the offensive line as a sophomore.

Next up: vs. No. 16 Auburn (in Arlington), Saturday, August 31 at 5:30 p.m. on ABC.

2. No. 13 Washington (Last Season: 10-4, 7-2)

Last Season Result: Lost to No. 6 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl 28-23.

Recap: The Huskies are reloading, not rebuilding after losing nine starters on defense and four offensive starters, including quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. Washington will turn to Jacob Eason, who returns to Seattle after transferring from Georgia. Salvon Ahmed is the guy at running back in 2019 for the Huskies with former Provo High School star Ty Jones and Aaron Fuller back at wide receiver. The offensive line is very talented this season led by senior left tackle Trey Adams.

Next up: vs. Eastern Washington, Saturday, August 31 at 1 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

3. No. 23 Washington State (Last Season: 11-2, 7-2)

Last Season Result: Defeated No. 24 Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl 28-26.

Recap: Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew is off to the NFL and head coach Mike Leach will turn to another graduate transfer in Gage Gubrud from Eastern Washington to take the snaps at quarterback. Max Borghi is expected to have an All-Pac-12 season at running back and wide receiver Dezmon Patmon will look to put up big numbers in the air raid offense. They return seven starters on offense and six on defense.

Next up: vs. New Mexico State, Saturday, August 31 at 8 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

4. No. 25 Stanford (Last Season: 9-4, 6-3)

Last Season Result: Defeated Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl 14-13

Recap: No more Bryce Love for Stanford in the backfield, they now turn to senior Cameron Scarlett, who played a big role last season for the Cardinal when Love was injured. Quarterback K.J. Costello is entering his junior season and is expected to have a big impact on the offense. Only four starters on offense return this season and five on defense.

Next up: vs. Northwestern, Saturday, August 31 at 2 p.m. on FOX.

5. California (Last Season: 7-6, 4-5)

Last Season Result: Lost to TCU in Cheez-It Bowl 10-7 in overtime.

Recap: The defense will be the side of the football that stands out for the Bears with seven starters returning from last season. Evan Weaver will be the anchor of the defense at linebacker. Cal has Chase Garbers returning for his sophomore year at quarterback along with UCLA transfer Devon Modster. They moved the other quarterback who shared reps with Garbers, Brandon McIlwain to wide receiver.

Next up: vs. UC Davis, Saturday, August 31 at 4:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

6. Oregon State (Last Season: 2-10, 1-8)

Last Season Result: Lost to Oregon 55-15 at home.

Recap: The Beavers rebuild continues with a hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. Jake Luton returns as the starting quarterback as a senior. Stud sophomore running back Jermar Jefferson is back after rushing for over 1,000 yards and being named the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. Hopefully the win total goes up under second year head coach Jonathan Smith with seven starters back on offense and nine starters on defense.

Next up: vs. Oklahoma State, Friday, August 30 at 8:30 p.m. on FS1.

SOUTH

1. No. 14 Utah (Last Season: 9-5, 6-3)

Last Season Result: Lost to No. 22 Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl 31-20.

Recap: This season is the most hype surrounding the Utes in the program, at least under Kyle Whittingham. Utah returns seven starters on offense and defense, including the best defensive line in the country led by Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and John Penisini. The offense under new coordinator Andy Ludwig should help senior duo quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss have a tremendous impact for the Utes.

Next up: at BYU, Thursday, August 29 at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN and KSL Newsradio.

2. USC (Last Season: 5-7, 4-5)

Last Season Result: Lost to No. 3 Notre Dame 24-17 at home.

Recap: Head coach Clay Helton’s seat is extremely warm and could be fired in the first month of the season. He will bring back six starters on offense including incoming sophomore J.T. Daniels and star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. They also have five starters on defense back from last season, including Bingham High School star defensive tackle Jay Tufele for his sophomore campaign.

Next up: vs. Fresno State, Saturday, August 31 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

3. Arizona State (Last Season: 7-6, 5-4)

Last Season Result: Lost to No. 21 Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl 31-20.

Recap: Arizona State lost just three starters on offense but two of them were extremely critical in their success last year in quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Head coach Herm Edwards will turn to true freshman Jayden Daniels, who originally committed verbally to Utah, as their starting QB. Eno Benjamin is a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate as a junior at running back after rushing for over 1,500 yards. The defense brings back 7 starters from last season.

Next up: vs. Kent State, Thursday, August 29 at 8 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

4. UCLA (Last Season: 3-9, 3-6)

Last Season Result: Lost to Stanford 49-42 at home.

Recap: Chip Kelly has his quarterback of the future in Dorian Thompson-Robinson as a incoming sophomore and will rely heavily on senior running back Joshua Kelley to lead the offense. The Bruins bring back 9 starters on offense and 10 on defense from last season.

Next up: at Cincinnati, Thursday, August 29 at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

5. Arizona (Last Season: 5-7, 4-5)

Last Season Result: Lost to Arizona State 41-40 at home.

Recap: Quarterback Khalil Tate was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate last year but went from a running quarterback to a pocket passer under new head coach Kevin Sumlin. The Wildcats look to use Tate in his original role this season to fit his strength more which is running the football. They will also rely on junior running back J.J. Taylor, who rushed for over 1,400 yards last season. The offense brings back seven starters, while the defense returns eight starters.

Next up: at Hawaii, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

6. Colorado (Last Season: 5-7, 2-7)

Last Season Result: Lost to California 33-21 on the road.

Recap: The Buffs have a new head coach in Mel Tucker, who takes over the program after being the defensive coordinator at Georgia. They have one of the best offensive playmakers in the conference in wide receiver Laviska Shenault, who is a junior this season. Quarterback Steven Montez is back in Boulder for his senior campaign along with six other starters on offense and only four starters return on defense for Colorado.

Next up: vs. Colorado State (in Denver), Friday, August 30 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.