USC went 4-1 against its division brethren and 7-2 in conference play last year, but it was not able to represent the South Division in the PAC 12 Championship Game due to its probation status. The Trojans, no longer in football purgatory, are all but a lock, according to the latest 2012 PAC 12 South Division Odds and Picks, to win the South this season. USC is a 1-5 favorite ($500 to win $100) to reach the conference title game and most books, both Vegas and offshore based, expect the school to contend for the BCS National Championship. This year’s second pick to win the South Division is Arizona (5-1 odds), which will be guided by former West Virginia and Michigan front man Rich Rodriguez.
2012 Pac 12 South Division Picks
USC Trojans (1-5): The Trojans were slow out of the gates a season ago, slipping past Minnesota and Utah, but by season’s end they were one of the best teams in the country. USC finished up at 10-2, losing only to Arizona State and Stanford. This year Head Coach Lane Kiffin welcomes back 16 starters, including Heisman candidate Matt Barkley, leading rusher Curtis McNeal, and all world receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. USC should cruise to the South as they are head and shoulders above their nearest competitor.
UCLA Bruins (8-1): Despite UCLA’s poor four year run under Rick Neuheisel, new Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. steps into a good situation here. The Bruins got stomped by division rivals Arizona, Utah, and USC last season, but they also beat Cal, Arizona State, and Colorado. Sixteen starters and 51 lettermen are back, and UCLA also welcomes several highly touted recruits. The Bruins will not challenge the Trojans for the division title, but they should give the rest of the division trouble.
Utah Utes (8-1): Utah had a string of three straight double digit win seasons snapped last year, but it still finished with a respectable 8-5 record in its inaugural Pac 12 campaign. With winnable road games at Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington, and Colorado, the Utes, who return 16 starters and 58 lettermen, could be a surprise contender in the South.
Arizona Wildcats (5-1): While most expect Rodriguez’ presence to result in a quick turnaround at Arizona, history has proven, in most cases anyway, it often takes a year or two for a new head coach to make an impact. The pieces are in place for the Wildcats to recover from their 4-8 season quicker than most, but they are still a step below the Trojans, Bruins, and Utes and they face two of those three teams on the road.
Colorado Buffaloes (15-1): The Buffaloes Pac 12 debut was less than spectacular with the team putting together a 3-10 record (2-8 conference). Second year Head Coach Jon Embree only returns nine starters from last year’s squad, but that may be a good thing. Colorado looks years away from competing for a division title, but they might be able to improve on last year’s finish and crawl out of the South cellar.
Arizona State Sun Devils (8-1): ASU had big expectations going into last season, and it looked as though it would fulfill them early on, jumping out to a 5-1 start while getting wins over Missouri, USC, and Utah. The Sun Devils went 1-6 down the stretch, though, and that disappointing run resulted in the dismissal of Dennis Erickson. New coach Todd Graham had success at Tulsa, where he compiled a 36-17 record in four years, but he finished 6-7 at Pitt last season. With just eight starters back in Tempe, Graham has some major work ahead of him this year.
Odds to Win the 2012 Pac 12 South Division:
USC Trojans 1-5 ($500 to win $100) Arizona Wildcats 5-1 ($100 to win $500) Arizona State Sun Devils 8-1 ($100 to win $800) UCLA Bruins 8-1 ($100 to win $800) Utah Utes 8-1 ($100 to win $800) Colorado Buffaloes 15-1 ($100 to win $1500)
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