The Pac-12 Conference schools will start playing each other more regularly and we should start to see how each team in both divisions will likely fare. The victory at Utah Thursday by the University of Southern California Trojans gives a little more clarity as to who is in and who is out for the South Division crown. Here's a breakdown of each team as they currently stand.
Arizona State Sun Devils (4-1, 2-0 in Pac-12) - The Sun Devils under new head coach Todd Graham has been the biggest surprise team of the year. No, former head coach Dennis Erickson did not leave the cupboard bare for Graham, but the new coach has instituted a more wide-open offense and taken advantage of some good defensive talent to beat other teams on both sides of the ball. They have a couple of Thursday night games in-a-row coming up, including in Eugene on October 18. That game is followed by UCLA, Oregon State and USC - quite a gauntlet that will determine just how good Arizona State is.
#13 USC Trojans (4-1, 2-1) - The win in Salt Lake City against Utah was big. USC created their own problems but then rallied in a hostile environment and in the process, jumped started their once juggernaut throwing game. But they have yet another tough road game next week at #23 Washington. Following after Colorado, the Trojans go on the road at Arizona, then have #2 Oregon and upstart Arizona State at home, before playing their two rivalry games against #25 UCLA and #9 Notre Dame. Many more big games to go.
#25 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1) - Another team no one thought would be as good as they are right now. If they can keep playing good defense and performing fantastically on offense, the schedule sets up nicely for an excellent year. UCLA doesn't play Oregon or Washington this year and only have two ranked teams at the end of the season to play: USC and #18 Stanford. A key game to watch as a barometer for the division will be when the Bruins visit Tempe at the end of October to play Arizona State.
Colorado Buffaloes (1-4, 1-1) - Four ranked teams to play yet and three tough Pac-12 road games - none of this bodes well for the rebuilding project under second year head coach Jon Embree. The Buffaloes offense is incapable of scoring and the defense hasn't really stopped anyone yet. They won a total of three games in 2011 and I'm not sure they'll top that this year.
Arizona Wildcats (3-2, 0-2) - The nice start to the season has come to a stop with two straight losses in Pac-12 play to ranked teams. But it doesn't end there. Now they stare down the barrel of four more straight ranked opponents. First-year head coach Rich Rodriguez has a new program to rebuild and it might take them another year before they're really ready.
Utah Utes (2-3, 0-2) - It all set up so nicely for Utah when the season began. They had a friendly schedule, their quarterback returned, they had one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and probably the best defensive player in the country with tackle Star Lotulelei. What happened? Injuries happened for starters. The Utes lost their quarterback and a nicked-up shaky offensive line in-turn gave the team offensive woes. You can't have offensive woes in the Pac-12 - these teams will eat you alive. A bowl game at this point will be tough to attain.
The Pac-12 is as strong and balanced as I've seen in a long time. Six teams are ranked in the Top 25 nationally and Arizona State may well be the next to jump up into the national polls. USC looks like they're coming around to being the team everyone expected. UCLA is for real and should be heard from in the South Division race. At this point, these three teams appear to be in a battle for the division title.
Sources - Pac-12 Conference
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
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