Power Ranking: Pac 12 South

1. USC- Now entering a second season under sanctions, the Trojans are limited in goals, but certainly not in potential. You won’t find another roster in the South as talented as the one playing home games at the L.A. Coliseum. And though it finished with a disappointing record of 8-5 a year ago, you won’t find a member of the new South division that can boast a victory over that floundering group. Three of the top QB prospects for the NFL draft hail from the Pac 12. But of the three, it’s Matt Barkley with the best supporting cast. If August camp serves as a season preview, Barkley will be supported by a capable defense, unlike the 2010 version that failed to finish in the most critical moments of games. The words “No Distractions” are painted on the sideline of the team’s practice field, and without distraction and continued focus, it’s USC that easily runs the table in the South.

2. UTAH- Can the Utes handle the grind of a BCS conference schedule? We’ll soon find out. Since 2003, the program is 7-3 in games versus Pac 10 opponents, which includes a perfect record at home. Utah will play host to 3 of the 5 southern mates in 2011, traveling only to USC and Arizona. A key to success will be the development of quarterback Jordan Wynn. The Junior had his struggles down the stretch in 2010, which was reflected in ugly losses to TCU and Notre Dame. He now studies beneath quarterback guru Norm Chow, and progress will be determined by how quickly the two can get on the same page. Utah is the Empire’s choice to represent the South in the conference championship game, with NCAA sanctions disallowing USC to do so.

3. ARIZONA– The wildcats ended 2010 on a 5-game losing streak. In a search for excuses, one could say the team was gassed or simply lost focus. I’d rather say the team was overrated and not as good as advertised through the first 8 games. As Arizona approached the home stretch, it stared into the face of the superior programs on its schedule and eventually fell to each. Unfortunately, the Cats will face 4 of those same five teams to open 2011, which includes Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford, and USC. Nick Foles provides senior leadership for the offense, but the weapons surrounding him, though satisfactory, aren’t exactly game-changing. Juron Criner has resumed participation in team activities, but there is still mystery surrounding the receiver’s prior absence that sparked rumors that he could possibly miss the entire 2011 season. Arizona will make a push in the South, but won’t have enough weight behind it to force itself into the championship game.

4. ARIZONA STATE– Based on how other sources have rated the Sun Devils, I’m totally against the grain. I’ve seen ASU not only favored to win the South,  but at one point also appear in early rankings of the nation’s top-25.—Why?  It mostly stems from personnel retained and coupled with near misses.  I believe those predictions are flawed in focusing on a part and not the whole. A near miss still adds to the total in the loss colum, and doesn’t even score an “E” for effort. You say ASU returns as many as 20 starters to a team winning 6 games a year ago, while coming within an eyelash of winning more. I say the Sun Devils return those starters to a team that defeated just 4 FBS programs in 2010, and if not for a couple of  low trajectory attempts by Zendejas, that number decreases to 3. Vontaze Burfict is the headliner in Tempe, and deservingly so. But since the season ended back in December, the Sun Devils have watched the roster shrink through injuries and departures. Steven Threet and his 62 percent pass completion rate is gone, concussed out of a career. Also gone is Lawrence Guy, the disruptive force at defensive tackle now playing for the NFL Packers. Since taking over in 2007, Dennis Erickson has led a team supposedly showing promise and ready to take a step forward in each year. The record shows just one bowl appearance and 3 seasons at .500 or worse. 2011 is nothing more than renewed hype, so don’t anticipate that step forward, as much as you should expect another stubbed toe.

5. UCLA- The Bruins failed to take advantage of their neighbor’s misfortune, while consistently dwelling in misfortunes of its own. Rick Neuheisel has produced just one winning season in his tenure, and no more than 3 conference victories in any year. 2010 ended with another postseason whiff, and the termination of both offensive and defensive coordinators. The restructuring project is a shift of blame, when in truth the pistol misfires, quarterbacks are seldom healthy, and wasted talent has flowed into the NFL. This won’t be the breakthrough season that Neuheisel so desperately needs. And if the coach and his new staff can’t secure six victories and bowl eligibility, it’s a season that may be his last.

6. COLORADO- A team that can’t win on the road can’t contend for a division title—or much of anything else. We don’t know what Colorado can do in the new Pac 12, but history already tells us what it has done. The Buffs have lost 18 consecutive road games, last winning in 2007. It will host only 2 South opponents this year, playing road games at UCLA, Arizona State, and Utah. Not only will Colorado be an underdog in each of those games, it also won’t be favored against USC or Arizona in Boulder. Those are odds obtained by a program rebuilding from the ground up. And just like any other structure, you start in the basement, which is exactly where the Buffaloes will begin their introductory season.


~ by Anthony on August 12, 2011.

One Response to “Power Ranking: Pac 12 South”

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