Behind the mighty SEC, other BCS Conferences duke it out every year for the title of second-best conference in all of college football. In 2013, the battle continues, and the Pac-12 looks to be among the front-runners. Victories in two BCS Bowl Games last year were the highlights for the conference, and looking forward more BCS wins could be coming. But for now, here is my preview of the Pac-12 South Division in 2013.
1. UCLA Bruins
I went back and forth several times on which L.A. team would take home the South Division title, but in the end I chose the Bruins. With fantastic pass support from wide receiver Shaquelle Evans, Brett Hundley will surprise everyone and become the best sophomore quarterback in the country (I’m looking at you, Johnny Manziel). UCLA’s main problem ill lie in the running game, as they do not return a back that rushed for more than 262 yards in 2012. However on defense, the team will also overachieve. Linebacker Anthony Barr is one of the nation’s finest, and he will also get support from other talent including defensive end Cassius Marsh and linebacker Eric Kendricks. If UCLA is able to fix their minimal problems on both sides of the ball and win the big games, then there are no limits on where they could be at the end of the season.
2. USC Trojans
Led by the most explosive receiver in the country in junior Marquise Lee, the Trojans will dominate the Pac-12 on offense, despite the graduation of Matt Barkley. Sophomore Max Wittek has the potential to be the school’s next great quarterback, and he will get tremendous help in the running game with back Silas Redd. On defense, USC will dominate up front, as they are tainted with stars such as defensive end Leonard Williams and linebackers Morgan Breslin and Dion Bailey. Altogether, the Trojans return seven on D, and the group will be much improved. Expect the team to forget a lackluster 7-6 season and overachieve in 2013.
3. Arizona State Sun Devils
Entering the 2013 season, quarterback Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devils have high aspirations. For the team to win the division, however, many things would have to go right. Running back Marion Grice will be Kelly’s best friend on the gridiron during the year, as he is a threat on the ground and through the air. If this team is to struggle on offense, it will be because of the inability to find a reliable passing target, but on defense the Sun Devils should be consistent. Eight starters return to the squad, including nose tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford. Like UCLA, the success of the team will be dependant on their ability to win the big games, but look for Arizona State to improve in the coming year.
4. Arizona Wildcats
Led by the darkhorse Heisman candidate Ka’Deem Carey, the Arizona Wildcats enter the year with a load of talent on offense. Senior quarterback B.J. Denker’s main task will be to find a reliable receiving, after losing the team’s top two from a year ago. But even if the passing game goes well for ‘Zona, the defense is a serious issue. The Wildcats will have to fix a defense that allowed over 35 points a game last year, and with very limited talent. Safety Jared Tevis returns and could be a highlight of the squad, but the overall team will need some work to be successful in 2013.
5. Utah Utes
If the Utes are to have success in 2013, it all starts with sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson. If he is to have a breakout season, Utah could find themselves bowling, if not, the team may only win a couple of games. Senior running back John White will again rush for over 1000 yards, but the receiving core is at the bottom of the conference. It will also be important that someone steps up defense, but all in all Utah does not have much to work with. Look for the Utes to struggle mightily in the Pac-12 this year.
6. Colorado Buffaloes
For some time now, Colorado has resided as the bottom-feeders of the Pac-12, and that very well could continue in 2013. On offense, a couple of seniors in quarterback Jordan Webb and running back Christian Powell will have to work on drastically improving on what was a downright abysmal squad last year. The bad news is that the defense could be worse. In 2012, the Buffaloes’ D was dead-last in the country after allowing 46 points a game, and much of the same should be expected. Colorado could be headed in the right after the signing of new head coach Mike MacIntyre, but the program is much more than a one-year project.