Trojans and Ducks the teams to beat in Pac-12

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OREGON STATE _ Key players: QB Sean Mannion, RB Malcolm Agnew, WR Markus Wheaton, CB Jordan Poyer, DE Scott Crichton, DE Dylan Wynn. Returning starters: offense 8, defense 8.

Notes: This could be a big season for the Beavers and coach Mike Riley. Oregon State went to the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl, but has had consecutive losing seasons, including 3-9 in a 2011 season filled with injuries. … Mannion took over for Ryan Katz as the starter last season, but had some growing pains as a redshirt freshman. He threw for 3,332 yards, third-most in school history, and had 16 touchdowns last season, but also had 18 interceptions. … Crichton set a school record by forcing six fumbles and Wynn led the nation with five recoveries, also a school record.

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SOUTH

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA _ Key players: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods, S T.J. McDonald, RB Silas Redd, WR Marquis Lee, LB Dion Bailey, CB Nickell Robey. Returning starters: offense 9, defense 8.

Notes: The return of Barkley was a huge boost for the Trojans. Projected as a high NFL draft pick, Barkley made a surprise announcement that he would return for his senior season at Southern Cal. He’s matured each season and threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns with seven interceptions last year. … In case the Trojans didn’t have enough weapons, they added Redd, who rushed for over 1,200 yards last season and will immediately be eligible due to sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. … Woods is healthy after being hampered by an ankle injury last season and is one of the most dynamic receivers in the country.

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UTAH _ Key players: RB John White IV, QB Jordan Wynn, DT Star Lotulelei, WR DeVonte Christopher, S Brian Blechen, S Eric Rowe. Returning starters: offense 9, defense 7.

Notes: The Utes had a rough start to their inaugural season in the Pac-12, but finished the season 8-5 and beat Georgia Tech in overtime in the Sun Bowl. … Wynn missed the first nine games of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury, but bulked up in the offseason to become durable after two shoulder surgeries in 10 months. … White was the durable one after being a junior college transfer last season, leading the Pac-12 with 316 carries while piling up 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns. … Lotulelei is one of the premier defensive linemen in the country, but the Utes have a couple of big holes to fill on the O-line with the losses of tackles Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen.

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UCLA _ Key players: RB Johnathan Franklin, WR Joseph Fauria, LB Patrick Larimore, QB Richard Brehaut, QB Kevin Prince. Returning starters: offense 7, defense 8.

Notes: Neither Brehaut nor Prince seemed to be a good fit for former coach Rick Neuheisel’s Pistol offense, but will play under a new offensive coordinator in Noel Mazzone, the former O-coordinator at Arizona. … UCLA was either really good or really bad under Neuheisel and is hoping for more consistent results under Jim Mora, the former NFL head coach who hopes to instill more discipline. … UCLA was the Pac-12 South champion last season because rival USC was ineligible for the postseason and finished with a losing record (6-8) after losing to Illinois in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

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ARIZONA _ Key players: QB Matt Scott, RB Ka’Deem Carey, LB Jake Fischer, RB Taimi Tutogi, LB Brian Wagner, S Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Returning starters: offense 6, defense 7.

Notes: The hiring of Rich Rodriguez, the former West Virginia and Michigan coach, has generated a buzz in Tucson. Rodriguez had an acrimonious run in Ann Arbor, but his enthusiasm and go-go-go offense have heated things up for U of A football in the desert. … Scott was once expected to be The Man before becoming the understudy to Nick Foles the past two seasons. He redshirted last season and is looking forward to his chance in the spotlight without having to look over his shoulder. … Carey has a nice combination of speed and power, but didn’t quite live up to the heralded-freshman hype last season. … Wagner led the nation in tackling last season at Akron before transferring to Arizona.

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