Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - USC is ranked third behind LSU and Alabama
in the initial USA Today coaches poll. However, there is a good chance the
Trojans may not even reach the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game.
Which squad will prevent them from winning the South title? Read on to find
It's time now to take a team-by-team look at the league with predicted
straight-up overall and conference records for those wagering on over/unders
for total victories.
6) COLORADO (200-1 - all odds to win the conference title are courtesy of
5Dimes) - The Buffaloes are 1-10 as road underdogs the last two years.
Offense - Colorado finished last inside the Pac-12 in scoring last year and
that ranking might not change in 2012 as the Buffaloes will be without their
starting quarterback, leading rusher and top five receiving leaders.
Defense - Colorado's first year in the conference was a difficult one as the
defense ranked last in the league in both scoring and total defense. The
Buffaloes should show slight improvement this season but not enough to make a
dent in the rankings.
Prediction - The Buffaloes failed to cover eight of their last 10 games. Look
for more of the same in 2012 (3-9, 1-8).
5) ARIZONA STATE (60-1) - The Sun Devils went 9-2-1 to the over last year.
Offense - Todd Graham failed to improve Pittsburgh's offensive attack last
season and it will be even harder for him to turn Arizona State's offense
around, especially with a new quarterback and an inexperienced line.
Defense - The Sun Devils replaced four of their top six tacklers back in
2006 and that year's crew actually allowed fewer yards and points than the
previous campaign. Don't expect it to happen this season with the loss of the
top six tacklers.
Prediction - Arizona State cannot do worse than its 3-8-1 ATS record.
particularly with seemingly zero expectations this season (3-9, 2-7).
4) ARIZONA (55-1) - The Wildcats are 9-3-1 as home underdogs the last seven
years, but just 2-9 as road favorites the last four.
Offense - The Wildcats are very lucky they redshirted Matt Scott last year
because he is a perfect fit for the new offense under Rich Rodriguez. Don't be
surprised if they average close to the 31-ppg mark from 2011.
Defense - Last year was a nightmare for the Wildcats as injuries doomed them
from the start. Expect a slight resurgence this season.
Prediction - Arizona is 6-16-1 ATS (28 percent) the last two years. As is the
case with Arizona State, the Wildcats will improve on that low winning
percentage since not many folks expect much from them (4-8, 3-6).
3) UCLA (45-1) - The Bruins are 6-16 as road underdogs the last four years.
Offense - The Bruins will go with redshirt freshman Brett Hundley at
quarterback. If he can put up stronger numbers than the two quarterbacks from a
season ago, look for the offense to rank much higher than 10th in scoring
inside the conference.
Defense - This is the most experienced defense the Bruins have had since 2007
when the unit allowed just 22 ppg. It is doubtful this year's group will match
that number, but it should be better than the previous two years.
Prediction - UCLA went 5-9 ATS after a 4-8 mark in 2010. A better-than-.500
record is in store this season (7-5, 5-4).
2) USC (5-8) - The Trojans are 7-12 as road favorites over the last four years.
Offense - The Trojans averaged almost a touchdown more per game in league play
last year (compared to 2010), but gained only nine more yards per game. They
return almost all key offensive players save for tackle Matt Kalil. This should
be one of the highest-scoring teams in the country.
Defense - Last year's defense was slightly better than the 2010 version, but
it's doubtful the "D" will be as good as it was against the run with the loss
of all four defensive line starters.
Prediction - Don't expect USC to match last year's 8-4 ATS mark (10-2, 7-2).
1) UTAH (40-1) - The Utes are an amazing 37-17 as road underdogs the last 21
Offense - Prior to Jordan Wynn's injury, the Utes were 2-1 with the lone defeat
coming by only three points at USC. This could easily be the most improved
offense in the conference.
Defense - The Utes ranked first in league play in scoring, while finishing
second in quarterback completion percentage and No. 1 in yards allowed per
carry. Five of the top eight tacklers return, which is the exact opposite of
last year when only three of the top eight came back to Salt Lake City.
Prediction - At 450-1, Utah is my upset choice to win the BCS championship. On
a more realistic note, take over 7.5 wins at -110 (11-1, 8-1).
6) WASHINGTON STATE (75-1) - The Cougars are 7-4 as road underdogs the last two
Offense - Expect growing pains with the transition to the Mike Leach offense.
The key to the passing game will be the offensive line, which has allowed an
average of 48 sacks the last three years.
Defense - The defense has shown improvement each of the last three seasons.
Nevertheless, that string will end as the front seven returns just one player
who accumulated more than 25 tackles a season ago.
Prediction - It's probably best to go with the under early in the year as the
predicted totals will be much higher than they should be (4-8, 2-7).
5) CALIFORNIA (27-1) - The Golden Bears are 17-3 as home favorites the last
four years, but 3-13 as road favorites the last five.
Offense - The Golden Bears averaged just two more ppg than in 2011 despite
picking up 67 more yards per game. That anomaly was probably due to 16 field
goal attempts inside the red zone. Expect more consistency and better
production this season.
Defense - California has had one of the better defensive backfields in the
Pac-12 of late and last year was no exception as the Golden Bears ranked first
in pass defense. The unit will have to work twice as hard this season with a
very inexperienced front seven.
Prediction - The Golden Bears were 8-2 to the under in their final 10 games.
Look for many more overs in 2012 (5-7, 3-6).
4) OREGON STATE (70-1) - The Beavers are 2-8 as home favorites the last three
Offense - Sean Mannion came out of nowhere to complete almost 65 percent of his
passes for over 3,300 yards. If he cuts down on his interceptions (18) and a
running game can be found, the offense will move from ninth to fifth in scoring
inside the Pac-12.
Defense - The Beavers defense has gotten worse each of the last five seasons.
However, this will be the year it moves in the right direction as nine of the
top 11 tacklers are back.
Prediction - The Beavers are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 games. Look for
improved numbers this season (5-7, 4-5).
3) WASHINGTON (28-1) - The Huskies are 7-15 as road underdogs the last five
Offense - This unit might regress this year with a young and banged-up
offensive line along with an unproven running back. Given that, don't expect
Keith Price to improve on his 67 percent completion percentage and 3-1 TD/INT
Defense - The defense looked rejuvenated in the spring, helped by a new
coaching staff. Still, the unit faced the Huskies' watered down offensive line.
Look for a slight decline in points allowed after giving up 36 ppg a season
Prediction - This year is just a stepping-stone to what could be a very special
2013 season if Keith Price stays in college. Until then, .500 SU and ATS
records are expected (6-6, 4-5).
2) STANFORD (25-1) - The Cardinal are 14-6 as a home favorite the last four
Offense - Two things are for certain for Stanford's offense. First, it will not
connect on 49 of 50 red zone opportunities as it did last season. Second, it
will not average in the 40s as it has the past two years. On the other hand,
don't count the offense out as there is still a fair amount of talent on board.
Defense - Even though the defense allowed just three yards per carry, it gave
up 3.8 ypc inside the Pac-12. That figure should drop with a more experienced
front seven. However, the secondary loses three starters.
Prediction - Stanford is an amazing 16-2-1 ATS in its last 19 games. Expect a
sharp decline in the winning percentage (9-3, 6-3).
1) OREGON (5-2) - The last time the Ducks finished below .500 ATS was 10 years
Offense - The Ducks have topped the 40-point scoring mark in three of the last
four seasons, including twice with new quarterbacks. Even with the loss of
Darron Thomas, the offense will still be difficult to stop.
Defense - Oregon allowed 3.6 ypc last season but only 3.2 inside the Pac-12.
With a more experienced front seven in 2012, that number could drop even
further. This will be the No. 1 defense in the conference after ranking second
in scoring in league play in 2011.
Prediction - The Ducks will be one of two unbeaten teams in the country during
the regular season. They also will continue their streak of 10 straight .500 or
better ATS finishes (12-0, 9-0).
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