USC picked to win Pac-12, beating out Oregon in media poll
BURBANK, Calif. (AP) Southern California was picked to win its first Pac-12 football title since 2008 in a preseason media poll Thursday.
The Trojans received 21 of 45 votes for the title, edging defending champion Oregon. The Ducks got 17 votes for the top spot and were picked to win the North division, while USC is favored to win the South.
Oregon has won four of the last six league titles, reaching the national championship game last season. Stanford, which won the crown in 2012 and 2013, was picked to finish second in the North division ahead of California.
''You know everybody is going to be better than they were a year ago,'' said Stanford coach David Shaw, who has quarterback Kevin Hogan back for another year. ''It's going to be an insane year in our conference with the teams we have and the players we have.''
While USC has 16 returning starters from coach Steve Sarkisian's debut team last season, quarterback Cody Kessler likely is the biggest factor in the selection. The prolific passer is back for his third season as the Trojans' starter, while Oregon must replace Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.
''USC will be one of the better teams in the country,'' Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
USC was hardly a consensus choice: Five teams received votes as the conference champion.
USC hadn't been picked to win the league since 2012, when the Trojans were the preseason No. 1. They finished 7-6 and unranked, and coach Lane Kiffin was fired less than a year later.
Arizona State was picked second in the loaded South division. The Sun Devils are just ahead of UCLA, which has beaten crosstown rival USC three straight times.
Arizona, which won the South last year, is picked fourth in the division.