Pac-12 - An Upset Winner?
By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor
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 out.
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 years.
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 years.
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 years.
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 years.
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 ratio.
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 ago.
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 years.
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 ago.
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).
08/17 14:05:26 ET