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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

August 28, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Pac-12 South forecast . . .

All right, call me crazy. I’ve been called worse. In making prognostications, I’ve always kind of held to a theory — why be like everybody else? So my Pac-12 South forecast is, well, not like everybody else’s.

1. Utah. Ask yourself this: Is it such a stretch to envision that on the night of Thursday, Oct. 4 in Salt Lake City, Utah finds a way to knock off USC? Remember a Thursday night game in Corvallis a few years ago, when a team with a good running back — paging John White — jumped out on the Trojans and held on in a stunning upset? If it happens, that means the Utes have, in essence, a two-game lead on USC because they’d hold the tiebreaker. Utah plays very good defense, it has a 1,500-yard back in White (who will get help this year), and now it just has to have solid quarterbacking from Jordan Wynn. Big “if” there, I realize. But I don’t think it’s not doable.

2. USC. You have to love the Trojans’ offense. You don’t have to love the Trojans’ defense. And you surely don’t have to love the depth issues that could bite USC, and in fact, have already made a mark after defensive end Devon Kennard was lost to a torn pectoral muscle. With Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, USC could have as dominating a pass-and-catch component as any team as we’ve seen in college football in some time. I’m just not convinced that’s going to be enough. It also remains to be seen whether the Fighting Kiffins are ready to coach a team of which so much will be expected.

3. UCLA. I think the Bruins have a chance to be sneaky good this year, depending on the debut of redshirt-freshman quarterback Brett Hundley. Nobody has ever questioned whether the Bruins have a lot of talent on the roster, and the fire lit by Jim Mora Jr. might

begin to bring it out of them. I look for people like defensive end Datone Jones to begin to fulfill their vast potential.

4. Arizona. There’s been an inference that what Rich Rodriguez inherited will fit neatly into his system, and indeed, quarterback Matt Scott appears to be that. But ‘Zona has been making defensive changes on the fly, things like making fullback Taimi Tutogi a third-down pass rusher (he’ll continue to play offense). I see some struggles as he implements his regime.

5. Arizona State. The Sun Devils aren’t without talent; they underachieved last year in a 6-6 regular season. Now, Todd Graham represents a change in culture. The quarterback he chose, Taylor Kelly, is inexperienced. The guess here is that at some point, Michael Eubank takes over the job.

6. Colorado. The Buffs likely will be the youngest team in the league; Jon Embree said Tuesday they’ll probably play 15 true freshmen. It shouldn’t be forgotten that they lost some good senior talent, people like running back Rodney Stewart. And while it’s a good story that Kansas transfer Jordan Webb came in in July and won the quarterback job, it’s probably not a resounding statement of strength at the position. CU begins to make a move in a year, but not in 2012.

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