After taking a look at the Northern Division of the Pacific 12 Conference, it is time for us to take a look at the Southern one. UCLA has won this division the past two seasons, with last year actually being a legit divisional win. Now, don’t get me wrong…Jim Mora Jr. looks like he currently has UCLA poised to be the team to dominate the division for a while to come; that being said, this division is currently weak when compared to its peer, the Pac-12 North.
Anyways, on to the South!
1) UCLA: In Jim Mora’s first season last year, the Bruins surprised the Pac-12-and really the college football world-with their upset win over Nebraska. They suffered an embarrassing loss to Cal last year, but the team put the Cal game on the back burner by romping through cross-town rival USC. Since they clinched the South title with that victory over USC, it appeared that Mora hid a lot vs. Stanford in their end-of-season match-up. The reason I say this is because the Pac-12 title game a week later (between Stanford and UCLA) was a lot more exciting to watch.
This season, the Bruins have a talented (RS) Sophomore Quarterback in Brett Hundley to lead their offense. The biggest problem that is going to be facing Hundley this season is the porous offensive line in-front of him; if Hundley has to spend a bunch of time running, it is going to open him up to some monster hits…and that is not something any college football fan wants for their team’s starting QB. As for the Bruins’s defense, they are returning seven starters-including NFL hopeful Anthony Barr (Sr); they look ready to dominate the South again.
2) USC: Last season was supposed to be the year that the Trojans emerged from sanctions, and retook their position as top dog in the Pac-12….TROLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLO. Last season was an absolute disaster for the Trojans, and it included a disturbing loss in the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech. Really, the only other thing that needs to be said about the Trojan’s 2012 season was said by the Huffington Post;
USC (7-6) became the first preseason No. 1 team to lose six games. It’s also all but assured of becoming the first school to enter the season on top of The Associated Press poll and finish unranked since Mississippi in 1964.
There really isn’t too much hope going into the 2013 season for USC fans either. As I am writing this, Lane Kiffin has yet to name a starting QB, and there are still a lot of questions about his ability to handle a roster. The fact that Kiffin is even thinking of using two QBs, instead of just naming a starter and then replacing him if he struggles, is probably one of the more comical things I have ever heard from a head football coach. Fortunately for Kiffin, there is a lot of talent at USC; and a lot of talent can over come bad coaching, sometimes.
3) Arizona: Rich Rodriguez got the Wildcats back to a bowl game in his first season as head coach down in Tucson. Their season highlights included an epic thrashing of Oklahoma State, a crazy upset (at the time) win over USC, and a heart racing bowl game victory over Nevada. That wasn’t all the Wildcats managed to do last year; they showed a pretty good grasp of Rich Rods offensive schemes as they racked up an impressive 2,961 yards on the ground, and 3,879 yards through the air.
Despite the graduation of (Sr) QB Matt Scott, the Wildcats offense should continue to be extremely effective going into the 2013 season. Ka’Deem Carey (Jr. RB) returns after a stellar 2012 campaign-he rushed for 1,929 yards and averaged 148.4 yards per game. As for the defense…Arizona returns 11 starters this season, and that usually would be considered a good thing; but not with Arizona’s defense. ast season, they were atrocious and gave up an average of 34.85 points per game last season. It is going to take a lot of work on that side for the ball for the Wildcats contenders for the South.
4) Arizona State: The Sun Devils made their return to a bowl game last season, and they did it in Todd Graham’s first season at the helm. It was a season that saw the team that had struggled to get over the hump under Dennis Erickson, actually manage to get over the hump. Part of the reason the Sun Devils were able to get over the hump was the outstanding play of Quarterback Taylor Kelly who had a sterling 159.9 rating and an impressive 3.22 TD/INT ratio.
This season, Kelly is going to need to even improve off of his performance from 2012 if the Sun Devils are going to get back to a bowl game. Their schedule doesn’t do them any favors, as they face Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, and Notre Dame over a four-week stretch. Oh, and did I mention that their season opener is against Sacramento State, who has this habit of beating Pac-12 teams? In other words, it is going to be an interesting week for the football team down in Tempe.
5) Utah: The Utes had a disappointing 2012 season that saw them miss a bowl game for the first time since 2002. Fans saw the Utes get beat by in-state rival Utah State, and follow that up with an upset victory over the other in-state rival BYU. If not for taking advantage of a weak second half of the schedule, the Utes final record could have been a lot worse.They have had two straight recruiting classes in the Pac-12 and still have a bit of time before the team actually begins to accumulate the depth necessary to contend for a Pac-12 title.
It’s going to be a tough task for the Utes this season, as they are only returning a total of nine starters from last year’s squad. There is also the problem of the schedule, which has them face Oregon State, BYU, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, and USC six out of seven weeks (they have a bye week between BYU and UCLA). In other word’s, it is going to be tough going for Utes fans in the upcoming season.
6) Colorado: Their only highlight last year was their epic comeback of WSU, in Pullman…on homecoming weekend (*shudders*). The biggest thing of note from the 2012 season was that it got head coach John Embree fired. That’s really sad, actually….
The guy who is replacing Embree is Mike MacIntyre, and he was the surprise hire during this past off-season’s coaching carousel. He faces the task of trying to rebuild the dead Colorado program. While most Buff fans are looking towards 2014 and beyond, there is still the 2013 season to be played; and fortunately for those same fans, it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as the 2012 season. The Buffaloes are returning 7 offensive and defensive starters this season (for a total of 14), and their experience from last year should help make their team less of a disaster.