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Pac-12 Football: Early Look at the North Division in 2016

Our premature outlook of what to look forward to from the Pac-12 conference this upcoming football season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In this two-part breakdown, we take a way-too-early look at the state of every football team in the Pac-12, highlighting each program's key losses, returning players and which games we're circling on their schedule ahead of the 2016 season. This post is dedicated to breaking down the six teams that make up the North division.

California Golden Bears (8-5, 4-5 in Pac-12)

Key Losses: Jared Goff (QB), Jordan Rigsbee (OL), Kenny Lawler (WR), Kyle Kragen (DL), Stephen Anderson (WR), Bryce Treggs (WR), Daniel Lasco (RB), Trevor Davis (WR), Stefan McClure (DB), Darius White, Jr. (DB)

The high-powered Golden Bear offense loses the very focal point of its production in Goff, along with the team's three leading receivers. Two leaders out of the secondary will be lost, as well.

Key Returners: Hardy Nickerson (LB), Khalfani Muhammad (RB), Vic Enwere (RB)

Cal returns the conference's leader in total tackles in Nickerson, along with their two leading rushers from 2015.

Three Games to Anticipate: vs Hawaii (Aug. 27 -- Australia), vs Texas (Sep. 17), @ USC (Oct. 27)

Oregon Ducks (9-4, 7-2)

Key Losses: DeForrest Buckner (DL), Byron Marshall (WR), Bralon Addison (WR), Tyler Johnstone (OL), Vernon Adams, Jr. (QB), Rodney Hardrick (LB), Joe Walker (LB)

Touted by some as the best defensive player in the entire nation, Buckner's presence will be missed in Eugene. After staving off true quarterbacking concerns following the departure of Marcus Mariota for the 2015 year, the Ducks will be faced with the dilemma of finding a signal-caller this year with Vernon Adams moving on.

Key Returners: Royce Freeman (RB), Tyrell Crosby (OL), Darren Carrington (WR), Taj Griffin (RB), Charles Nelson (DB/WR)

Freeman will return in his workhorse role, but should also see some of his share be split with Taj Griffin. On the outside, Carrington will serve as the team's No. 1 in place of Addison, while Nelson's speed will most likely be utilized in multiple ways once again.

Three Games to Anticipate: @ Washington State (Oct. 1), @ USC (Nov. 5), vs Stanford (Nov. 12)

Oregon State Beavers (2-10, 0-9)

Key Losses: Storm Barrs-Woods (RB), Isaac Seumalo (OL), Kyle Peko (DL)

Despite not living up to the type of promise he displayed in 2014, Barrs-Woods' presence will be missed. Peko was one of the lone bright spots for the Beavers.

Key Returners: Jordan Villamin (WR), Victor Bolden (WR), Ryan Nall (RB)

Villamin is quietly one of the most intriguing wide receivers in the conference, and Bolden's quicks make him a perfect compliment who possesses real big-play ability. Nall may prove to be what many were hoping Barrs-Woods to be as Oregon State's starting tailback.

Three Games to Anticipate: @ Minnesota (Sep. 1), vs Boise State (Sep. 24), vs Oregon (Nov. 26)

Stanford Cardinal (12-2, 9-1)

Key Losses: Joshua Garnett (OL), Kyle Murphy (OL), Blake Martinez (LB), Kevin Hogan (QB), Aziz Shittu (DL), Austin Hooper (TE)

The team's best two offensive linemen depart, as well as the passer they were asked to protect. Shittu leaves a hole on the defensive line, as well as a reliable presence. Meanwhile, Hooper's move to the NFL will mean a need for a new big target to stretch the middle of the field.

Key Returners: Christian McCaffrey (RB), Peter Kalambayi (LB), Trent Irwin (WR)

McCaffrey will enter the new season as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. The Cardinal will hope Irwin can step into a larger role in 2016, while Kalambayi will be expected to hold down the defensive unit.

Three Games to Anticipate: vs Kansas State (Sep. 2), vs USC Trojans (Sep. 17), @ Notre Dame (Oct. 15)

Washington Huskies (7-6, 4-5)

Key Losses: Travis Feeney (LB), Jaydon Mickens (WR), Taniela Tupou (DL)

Feeney ended up proving to be one of the most influential players in the conference. Mickens served as one of the best playmakers for the Huskies throughout his career.

Key Returners: Myles Gaskin (RB), Sidney Jones (CB), Budda Baker (DB), Azeem Victor (LB), Jake Browning (QB), Elijah Qualls (DL)

After boasting one of the younger team's in the conference, Washington returns some talented defensive players, along with a nucleus of Browning and Gaskin on the offensive side of the ball.

Three Games to Anticipate: vs Rutgers (Sep. 3), vs Stanford (Sep. 30), vs Washington State (Nov. 25)

Washington State Cougars (9-4, 6-3)

Key Losses: Joe Dahl (OL), Darryl Paulo (DL), Dom Williams (WR), Jeremiah Allison (LB)

Dahl served as an anchor along the offensive line last season, and Williams proved he could be a consistent top option for Luke Falk & Co. The versatile Allison will also be missed after logging 62 total tackles last season.

Key Returners: Luke Falk (QB), Peyton Pelluer (LB), Gabe Marks (WR), River Cracraft (WR)

Falk returns as one of, if not the top signal-callers in the conference, and will have two of his tops targets back for his junior year in the forms of Marks and Cracraft. Pelluer was one of the best underclass players out of the Pac-12 last season, and will look to improve upon his numbers this year.

Three Games to Anticipate: vs Oregon (Oct. 1), @ Stanford (Oct. 8), vs Washington (Nov. 25)