HOW THEY'LL FINISH
This is an article from the Aug. 22, 2011 issue
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DEC. 2 IN PALO ALTO, CALIF.: STANFORD OVER ARIZONA STATE
Best offensive player
LAMICHAEL JAMES RB, Oregon, Junior
The Heisman front-runner with game-breaking speed led the Ducks to last January's BCS title game with 1,731 rushing yards and 24 TDs.
True freshman to watch
GEORGE FARMER WR, USC
A chiseled 6'1" and 205 pounds, the country's No. 3 wideout had 1,514 receiving yards and 14 TDs as a senior at Junipero Serra High in Gardena, Calif.
Coach on the rise
STEVE SARKISIAN Washington
Since inheriting an 0--12 team in 2008, he has led the Huskies back to respectability: They were 7--6 last fall and made their first bowl trip since '02.
Coach on the hot seat
RICK NEUHEISEL UCLA
He's gone 15--22 in three years with the Bruins, with just one season above .500. Another losing record will spell the end for Neuheisel at his alma mater.
Best defensive player
MYCHAL KENDRICKS ILB, Cal, Senior
The 6-foot 241-pounder, a two-year starter, is the Bears' active leader in tackles (152), tackles for loss (22) and sacks (10½).
Players to Watch (Top performers from unranked teams)
JURON CRINER WR, Arizona, Senior
A healthy Criner is trouble for Pac-12 defenses. Despite nagging foot injuries last season, he had 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 TDs was named all-conference.
ALAMEDA TA'AMU DT, Washington, Senior
The 6'3", 337-pound bulldozer is a two-year starter. He has just 79 career tackles because he's double- or triple-teamed on almost every play.
QUINTON RICHARDSON CB, Washington, Senior
A shutdown corner, who hits like a strong safety, he had 37 tackles and two interceptions last fall, one of which he returned for a 28-yard TD in a victory over UCLA.
ZACH MAYNARD QB, California, Junior
The transfer from Buffalo is a dual threat: He threw for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009 while finishing third on the Bulls in rushing with 300 yards and a score.
RODNEY STEWART RB, Colorado, Senior
The 5'6" 175-pounder ranks fifth all time on the Buffaloes' rushing list (2,744 yards) and is the lone bright spot for an offense that has scored just 22.2 points a game since 2008.
CHAZ WALKER MLB, Utah, Senior
A walk-on in '07, the 6-foot, 233-pound 'backer led the Utes in tackles (113) and earned All--Mountain West honors last season.
With his younger brother, running back Jacquizz, gone to the NFL, Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers is looking to rebound from a pair of knee surgeries that cut short his senior season in 2010. He and junior Markus Wheaton give the Beavers one of the conference's top wideout combos.... Utah may be a newcomer, but the team will make its Pac-12 debut with an accomplished offensive coordinator who knows the league. Norm Chow, most recently of UCLA, won national championships in 2003 and '04 at USC.... With 17 starters who are upperclassmen, UCLA has loads of experience; what the Bruins lack is stability at quarterback. Junior Kevin Prince is expected to start, but if he struggles, junior Richard Brehaut and five-star recruit Brett Hundley could push him for snaps.... Washington sophomore Keith Price, who is expected to replace NFL draftee Jake Locker under center, honed his footwork this summer with former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. While Hasselbeck is battling Locker for the Titans' starting job, Price is fending off a challenge from redshirt freshman Nick Montana, Joe's son.