For much of 2010, the Pac-10 was a two-team league, at least in the college football rankings. The 2011 preseason college football rankings suggest that the Pac-12 will begin its first year of existence in very similar circumstances.
No. 3 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford are the only two Pac-12 teams ranked in the first USA Today coaches poll of the 2011 season, and those two teams look likely to repeat their 2010 rivalry for the top spot in the Pac-10 with a 2011 tussle for the first Pac-12 throne.
Oregon returns Heisman candidates LaMichael James at running back and Darron Thomas at quarterback, but the Ducks will have to rebuild a defense that was occasionally leaky in 2010 and put the distractions of an ongoing NCAA investigation into Chip Kelly's association with Willie Lyles' scouting service behind them. Stanford only has the one Heisman candidate, Andrew Luck, but Luck may be the best player in college football; even if he is, though, the Cardinal must replace a fair amount of talent, a tough task for first-year head coach David Shaw.
Interesting wrinkle: Oregon and Stanford both went to BCS bowl games in 2010, but neither ended up in the Rose Bowl, long a destination of Pac-10 champions.
Here's the full list of Pac-12 teams in the 2011 USA Today preseason coaches poll:
No. 3 Oregon
No. 6 Stanford