Pac-12 Football Predictions
In 2011, the Pacific-10 Conference became the Pac-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado. It didn’t take either school long to find out that wins in league play don’t come easy as both failed to produced winning records against conference opponents.
Oregon, meanwhile, made winning look easy most of the time. It captured its third conference championship in as many years. It took the Pac-12 North with an 8-1 mark and crushed UCLA 49-21 in the Pac-12 championship game.
Overall, the conference sent seven schools to bowl games with Oregon and Stanford getting BCS bowl berths.
1. Oregon: Oregon has been the team to beat in the Pac-12 since Chip Kelly was named head coach three seasons ago. He led the Ducks to a 12-2 record and a third straight conference title in 2011. A fourth consecutive title appears to be within reach. The only Pac-12 team I see tripping them up is USC. The Duck take on the Trojans Nov. 3 in what could be a Pac-12 championship game preview.
2. Stanford: Stanford went 11-2 last season and played in its second straight BCS bowl. Another season with double-digit wins isn’t likely after losing No. 1 NFL draft pick Andrew Luck. Still, the Cardinals will remain competitive in the Pac-12.
3. Washington: In order to build on last year’s 7-6 record, the Huskies will have to take care of business in the second half of their schedule. That’s because they open the season with LSU, Oregon, Stanford and USC in four of their first six contests. Even if they lose all four of those and sit 2-4 at the halfway point an eight-win season is a possibility because the final six games are all very winnable.
4. California: Jeff Tedford has had a good run at Cal, going 79-48 in 10 seasons. However, he hasn’t racked up the wins as quickly in recent years. The 2012 Bears don’t look like a title contender, but they will have an opportunity for a winning season and a bowl game. In order to exceed expectations, they’ll need to perform better on the road, where they went 2-4 last year.
5. Washington State: Washington State is hoping Mike Leach can bring the same success to the program that he brought to Texas Tech. Leach won seven games in his first season in Lubbock but inherited a team that had won at least six games in each of the seven years prior to his arrival. The Cougars only won four games last year and were just 9-40 in four seasons under Paul Wulff.
6. Oregon State: The Beavers have gone 5-7 and 3-9 the past two seasons after winning at least eight games every year from 2006-2009. Another disappointing season appears to be on the horizon if improvement isn’t made on both sides of the football. The Beavers ranked 100th in the nation in scoring offense last season with 21.8 points per game. They finished 89th in the country in scoring defense with 30.8 points allowed per game.
1. USC: Led by Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley, USC has the potential to go undefeated. No team in the Pac-12 will be as balanced offensively. And, a defense, which struggled against the pass last year, figures to improve by leaps and bounds with the entire starting secondary back.
2. Utah: Utah looks to be USC’s biggest competition in the South. It has a solid defense, but I don’t believe it has enough offensive fire power to knock off the Trojans. The Utes ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in total offense last season with only 310.9 yards per game.
3. UCLA: The Bruins are ready to begin the Jim Mora era after saying goodbye to Rick Neuheisel. They won the Pac-12 South with a 5-4 mark last season (USC would have won had it been eligible), but it wasn’t enough to save Neuheisel’s job. UCLA had issues on both sides of the football in 2011. While the offense remains a question mark, I expect the defense to take a step forward given the defensive experience of Mora and coordinator Lou Spanos.
4. Arizona: I think Rich Rodriguez will be able to win at Arizona with his spread option. With that said, there is a good chances the wins won’t start piling up right off the bat. Consider that Rich Rod has a 9-32-1 career record in his first season at a school. He even went 3-8 and 3-9, respectively, in his first seasons at West Virginia and Michigan.
5. Arizona State: Todd Graham inherits a team that lost a lot of talent, and that team lost its final five games last season. In addition, the schedule makers did Arizona State no favors this year. The Sun Devils have one fewer home game in 2012 (six), and they’ll have a difficult time walking away with victories in four of those (Illinois, Utah, Oregon, UCLA). All signs point to a tough season in Graham’s first year in Tempe.
6. Colorado: Colorado lost 10 games in 2011 and eight of those defeats came by 17 points or more. In other words, Jon Embree has some work ahead of him. The Buffaloes have now suffered six straight losing seasons.
Conference Championship Game Prediction: USC over Oregon
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