Thursday, June 30, 2011

Conference Blast: The PAC-12 South

This is a tough division to figure; USC can't play in the title game, Arizona State loves to under achieve, Arizona always feels like a wild card, Utah and Colorado are new, and UCLA, well, they have Rick Neuheisel.Outside of Colorado, I think this will be a pretty tight-packed division, the first place team being 7-2 at best (more likely 6-3) and the fifth place team finishing 4-5.

Larry Scott: Commissioner of the Future

1. USC - The Trojans have the most talent in this division by far, with over sixty 4- and 5-star players. The coaching situation is a little more tenuous, as Lane Kiffin has done little to actually prove himself. The schedule sets up favorably in 2011 and the Trojans could start out 5-0 headed into the bye week.  I do see them losing to both Oregon and Stanford in the back half of the slate.  I'll also stick my neck out a bit and say that SoCal needs to be careful when they host the cross-town rival Bruins or they could easily be sitting at 6-3. Even with 3 losses in conference, they'd technically have the head-to-head tiebreaker with AZ St...but none of that matters since they can't play in the title game anyway.

2.Arizona State - I feel very scared picking the Sun Devils here. It's looking like they'll have a 6-3 league record and that includes five straight wins to close out the year. I'm scared because I don't trust Dennis Erickson to win five straight. Despite the returning starters and the preseason expectations, I still feel something's going to go wrong - I just don't know where to pick it. I have them losing at Utah in October, so any mistakes beyond that could cost the Devils the P12CG and Erickson his job.

3.Utah - The Utes will receive a very ugly welcome to their new conference in week 2. After that tilt with USC, though, things should even out a bit for the Utes. The only road game I have them winning is at Washington State, but I see them pulling an upset on visiting Arizona State in Oct. Utah gets lucky by avoiding Oregon and Stanford and could be one game away from the CG.

4. Arizona - The Wildcats have a tough schedule and could easily opening with three conference losses (Stanf., Org., USC). Things should pick up after that, but I'll pick losses at Washington and Arizona State to drop 'Zona to 4-5 in conference. I do like Nick Foles, but there's not enough returning overall and a QB can't do it alone.

5. UCLA - UCLA will be improved this season, but don't look for them to challenge for the division title. I did, at first, want to pick them higher, but I see losses at Houston and hosting Texas and b2b road conference games. That's a 1-4 start and it doesn't look much better after that. I think the Bruins will beat Wazzou, Cal, and Colorado, and pull at least one upset somewhere...maybe even in the Coliseum to end the season.

6. Colorado - It's transition time in Boulder under Jon Embree. While the Buffs return 15 starters, they'll be learning new systems on both sides of the ball. They should beat Washington State and maybe sneak past someone else somewhere, but even two wins will keep them in the cellar.

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