With many key starters returning on both sides of the football, the Utes are poised to make a run for the PAC-12 South title in 2012. This will be an interesting year for Utah as they will face USC –who is now eligible to win the division and conference championships—and many teams that have had coaching changes. So in a division with a lot of new faces, where will the Utes finish, and who will win the division championship?
After a posting a 3-10 record a season ago, things can only get better in Boulder. The highlight of the season came in the finale against Utah, who would have played in the PAC-12 championship with a win. Colorado should be better this year, but not that much better.
After losing starter Nick Foles to the NFL, and hiring an offensive genius in Rich Rodriguez, it’s hard to say just how good the Wildcats will adjust in the ’13. Rodriguez’ spread offense was near unstoppable at West Virginia, while at Michigan it was quite the opposite. The offensive changes should help the Wildcats, they just don’t have the personnel to compete with the rest of the division right now.
4. Arizona State
The Sun Devils got off to a promising start at the beginning of last season. Some “experts” even had the ASU as a dark horse for the national championship. Seriously. State lost arguably their two best players as the athletic Brock Ossweiler and the psycho Vontaze Burfict both went pro. Arizona State got rid of Dennis Erickson after a more than disappointing finish last season, and brought in former Pitt coach Todd Graham. Graham, although he was a defensive player, was supposed to have a high-power offense at Pitt. He also had one of the nation’s best running backs. When the Utes played Pitt last year, Pitt scored 14 points, and only had one offensive touchdown. The best thing about Graham’s new appointment as head coach for the Utes, is that they will have the opportunity to face that offense once every year.
Jim Mora Jr. is taking the reins in Westwood this year as they look to improve on a second-place finish in the South from last year. Mora brings a lot of experience to the table. Not only was his father a head coach in the NFL, but little Jim has also coached in the league with the Michael Vick led Falcons. While Kevin Prince is no Michael Vick, he does have some running ability, and let’s face it, he doesn’t have an arm (see UCLA vs. Utah from last year). The Bruins are making a defensive change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 formation which should allow some room for defensive playmaker Datone Jones to have a big impact. He is definitely a player to watch this season.
The Utes figure to be the only team to stand a chance against the division’s big dog USC this year. With the strongest defensive front in the conference, and one of the best running backs in the nation coming back, Utah is going to be a strong contender for a division title. The wildcard for the Utes is going to be if Jordan Wynn can stay healthy. Wynn didn’t show a lot of arm strength last year, but he showed that he had accuracy, and was smart with his throws. Former Ute passer Brian Johnson is calling the shots on offense this season, and Utah will change their offense from the pro style, to a spread attack. The same offense that took the Utes to two BCS games, and the same offense that Jordan Wynn played with, and excelled in as a Freshman. Utah pushed USC down to the last play in the Coliseum last year, and forced Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley to one of his worst games last year, so the idea of the Utes beating USC isn’t too farfetched. Even if Utah does beat USC in their Thursday night showdown, I believe they will lose one or two other games that they should win, which would prevent them from winning the division.
I’m as big a hater as there is when it comes to USC, but let’s face it, USC has the best talent not only in the South, but probably in the conference as a whole. They have the size in their offensive and defensive fronts, the speed on the outside, and the experience to maybe even make a run at a national title. USC is off probation this year which makes them eligible for the conference championship game and a bowl game. The Trojans have one of the best Quarterbacks in college football, and it would appear that they are the best shot at ending the streak of national champions from the SEC.
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