LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stanford has been picked to defend its Pac-12 football title in a preseason media poll.
The Cardinal were chosen as favorites on Thursday for the first time in the 56-year history of the poll. UCLA was picked as the Pac-12 South favorite, edging Southern California.
Stanford topped Washington as the favorite in the Pac-12 North, getting 24 first-place votes and 186 points to the Huskies’ eight first-place votes and 163 points. Oregon was picked to finish third in the North, getting just one first-place vote.
Although the Cardinal must replace starting quarterback Kevin Hogan, they’ve got star running back Christian McCaffrey leading the team that won the North and beat USC in the Pac-12 title game before routing Iowa in the Rose Bowl and ending up No. 3 in the postseason AP rankings, their highest finish in 75 years.
Los Angeles’ rival schools are widely expected to be on top of the South. The Bruins got 19 first-place votes and 180 points to surpass USC, which got 12 first-place votes and 173 points. Utah was third with two first-place votes.
Stanford received 20 votes to win the Pac-12 title game. The Trojans were second with five votes — more than UCLA, a possible reflection of the fact that the Bruins have lost eight straight games to the Cardinal. Washington, UCLA and Utah also received votes as title game winners.
“Looking at the incredible depth from top to bottom in our conference, I’m confident no other conference has as many good teams as the Pac-12 this season,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “I expect this is going to be as exciting and deep a season as the Pac-12 has had.”
The other 11 teams shouldn’t get too discouraged by Stanford’s victory: The media poll has only chosen the correct winner twice in the last nine years.
Washington State finished fourth in the North, followed by California and Oregon State. The Beavers, who went 0-9 in Pac-12 play last season, got the fewest points in the entire voting.
Arizona is fourth in the South, leading Arizona State and Colorado. The Buffaloes are 2-25 in conference play under coach Mike MacIntyre.