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2012 PAC 12 Football
Preview and Picks
It looked for awhile as though the former PAC-10, now the PAC-12, was on it's way to becoming the PAC-16. Don't count that out from happening just yet, but for now, the PAC-12 remains the same. As we see it, things don't figure to change much this year as far as who the elite teams out West will be. Let's take a look at some of the contenders.
USC - It would take some major injuries and miscues for USC not to end up in the title game as well as competing for a National Title. The Trojans were 10-2 a year ago and are loaded with 9 returning starters on offense, including QB Matt Barkley who said no to the NFL. On the defensive side they return 7. They are now off probation, and the schedule looks to be cooperative as well. Their only tough road game figures to be at Stanford, (although Utah may have something to say about that) and when you go game by game through their schedule, each and every game looks like a likely "W'.
Oregon - Over in the North division, it looks as though Oregon is the team to beat and the likely opponent of USC in the title game. They lose key offensive players including QB and RB positions, but like most elite programs, that never seems to matter. They are loaded with talent every year. Chip Kelly is a winner and the first 8 games of their dance card look to be easy winners. That should set up a HUGE showdown on November 3rd against USC, which may match two undefeated teams and may be a preview of the PAC-12 Title game.
Stanford - Many are predicting Stanford to remain a contender in the PAC-12. We're not so sure. A guy like Andrew Luck comes along very infrequently. The impact he had on the success of this team over the last couple of years is sure to be evident this year. Their defense wasn't bad against the so-so teams they faced, but they were lit up for 48 by USC and 53 by Oregon and while they beat USC, they won't have Luck to bring them back this time. We won't have to wait long to see where Stanford stands. They play USC September 15th. Look for the Cardinal to lose at least 4 games.
Utah - The Utes will be interesting to watch. We've always liked this program and are rooting for them to succeed in the PAC-12. Last year they won 8 games, they were competitive with USC, but had some bad double digit losses to Washington, Arizona State and Cal. They lost to Colorado and it took OT for them to beat Washington State. That tells us that, talent-wise, they aren't among the elite. They figure to be right on par with most of the middle of the pack, PAC-12 Teams. They do return 9 starters on the offense and 7 on the defense and look to have a favorable schedule. They face USC on October 4th. When you exclude the USC game, and go game by game through their schedule, you'd have to give them a good shot at winning each of them, They won't, but if they have a season where the breaks go their way, this team could surprise.
We see a good deal of mediocrity among the rest of the conference. UCLA is loaded with returning starters and over 50 returning lettermen, but they also have a new coach in Jim Mora Jr. and with the talent they do have coming back, there was still a significant gap between UCLA and the elite. They were hammered by USC, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Stanford and Texas. Yes, they were banged up, but there's still a lot of ground to make up.
Arizona won 4 games last year and brings in Rich Rodriguez to run the show this year. It won't be easy. Arizona State won 6 games in 2011, brings back just 4 starters on both sides of the ball and starts over with a new coach. Colorado is simply not very good. Cal is incredibly inconsistent under Jeff Tedford. Oregon State is getting better and returns a ton of players from last years team and could be a team to watch. The Washington Huskies would also fit in the teams to watch category and look to improve on their 7 win mark in 2011. Lastly, Washington State has potential as they bring in Mike Leach to run the show and improve an offense that already had potential. But transition is never easy. Still, they were in most games last year and figure to be a team on the rise from here forward under Leach.
The odds to win the PAC-12 are listed below, courtesy of 5 Dimes Sportsbook. The odds to win the conference are interesting to say the least. Exactly what you would expect at the top of the list with USC favored at -160 and Oregon 2nd at +250. But look at the drop off after that, all the way down to 25 to 1 and Stanford. Sure, the likely winner of the conference is USC or Oregon, but they aren't locks. The only teams I'd toss completely as having zero chance of ending up in the title game are Colorado and Arizona. There's some juicy odds on some teams with at least a punchers chance, like Utah, Cal and Washington.
Arizona State +6000
Oregon State +7000
Washington State +7500
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