Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conference Previews: Pac 12

The Pac 12 is a conference on the rise. They last had an appearance in the BCS Championship Game in 2010 when Oregon fell on a last second field goal to Auburn. The last BCS Title for the Pac 12 was in 2004 when USC walloped Oklahoma 55-19. The Pac 12 is 10-7 overall in the BCS bowls though USC did have to forfeit their 2004 victory in the BCS Championship Game. The Pac 12 looks to be a very strong conference this year with two legitimate BCS contenders in USC and Oregon. Here are seven things to watch for in the Pac 12 this year.

Rising Star of the Pac 12: Jordan Wynn is the rising star of the Pac 12. After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Washington, Wynn has been working hard to return to form. Wynn was the first true freshman starter for Utah since freshmen were granted four years of eligibility. He was granted a medical redshirt for the 2011 season and did not lose any eligibility for his injury. Wynn has a career record of 13-6 as well as throwing for 4,390 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He should be able to lead the Utes to a great season and have them competing for the Pac 12 South title.

Fading Star of the Pac 12: The fading star of the Pac 12 has to be the Stanford Cardinal. After losing their star head coach at the end of the 2010 season and Andrew Luck at the end of this past season, the Cardinal are going to be hurting on offense. Stanford does return 9 of their top 10 tacklers from last year on defense but the quarterback situation looks to be in question as they continue on with camp. After going to back-to-back BCS Bowls, the Cardinal will be lucky to even make a bowl this year.

Best Conference Game of the Pac 12: The best conference game of the Pac 12 has to be on November 3rd, when Oregon visits USC. USC cost Oregon a shot at the BCS Championship Game last year by going into Autzen Stadium and upsetting the Ducks. This year has even more at stake than last year as both teams are gunning for a BCS Championship Game appearance. There is even a chance that both of the squads could meet a second time in the Pac 12 Championship Game if the chips fall right. Look to see an offensive display unlike any other in the nation when these two squads get together.

Best Non-Conference Game of the Pac 12:The best non-conference game of the Pac 12 this year is when Notre Dame comes to play USC on November 24th. Washington's trip to LSU on September 8th could be a good game, but the more competitive game looks to be Notre Dame at USC. Last year, the game went down to the wire with USC pulling it out late. Notre Dame was on the USC 1 yard line when Dayne Crist fumbled the ball and USC safety Jawanza Sterling returned it 80 yards. Look for Notre Dame to be nursing this grudge and wanting to be the spoiler to the USC party this year.

Surprise Team of the Pac 12: The surprise team of the Pac 12 is Washington State. After suffering through five consecutive losing seasons, look for Mike Leach to implement his offense and turn around the Cougars' fortune. Mike Leach never suffered a losing record while the head coach of Texas Tech and his system has been shown to work in a place where it was hard to recruit blue chip talent. Leach has a favorable schedule this year with a good chance to finish above .500. Look for the Cougars to become relevant again in the Pac 12 for the first time since the Mike Price era.

Dark Horse Conference Champion: The dark horse conference champion of the Pac 12 is Utah. Utah has a lot coming back from last year's squad with 9 starters retuning on offense and 7 starters returning on defense. The Utes have a healthy Jordan Wynn and an understanding of the competition they'll face in the Pac 12. If Utah would have hit one of three missed field goals against Colorado last year, the Utes would have been the Pac 12 South Champion. Look for the Utes to give USC all they can handle when the Trojans come to visit Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday, October 4th. The Utes will definitely finish in double digit wins this year.

Predicted Conference Championship Game: It's really hard not to go chalk here but Oregon and USC look so good on paper you just can't. I think that the loser of the first game will be thirsty for vengeance and win the second game. I like USC to beat Oregon and head to the BCS Championship Game.

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