It's been fun to actually watch other teams in the conference on TV to see what the Utes will be going up against. Last week I saw some of Washington, UCLA, USC, Colorado, Stanford, Arizona and of course Utah. Would that have ever happened in the MWest? And I live on the East Coast, blaaaah...Week three is in the books. While it's an early time to evaluate the conference race, we do have some real information on each team rather than preseason hype and speculation.... And it's also nice to have some intrigue in the conference standings and wonder how things will shake out... Alright not completely. Still, here is a very, very early season look at teams in the South. There is a lot of football left to be played with some expected twists and turns in the road to be had.
UCLA- Blown out at home against a Texas team that needed everything to beat BYU by a single point. Haven't looked as good as predicted by K. Herbstreet who picked them to win the South. Defense is porous and spotty QB. They could still be sneaky though. Next game could be a momentum builder against a disappointing Oregon State.
Colorado - Loss at Hawaii, loss at Cal in OT. Still have Stanford, USC, Oregon, Utah, Arizona State on the schedule. I'm counting them out.
Arizona is tough to get a read on because they have played back to back top ten teams and have been blown out. What it does mean, they are not top ten material. They are ranked 5th in the country in passing yards per game and 116th in rushing yards. OL is still very inexperienced and plays like it. Has Oregon and USC in their next two games, likely putting them in a 0-3 hole to begin conference play. Will be tough to recover and be a factor.
USC is USC and remains the only undefeated team in the South Division. Still has the most talent and 5 years of top 10 recruiting classes...but can't play in the championship game this year. That leaves Utah and Arizona State (maybe UCLA).
Arizona State- Looked amazing against Missouri. They have a solid defense and 6' 8" athletic QB that throws a mean spiral. They lost to Illinois last week despite out gaining them in total yards, time of possession, and number of first downs. Illinois sacked Osweiler 6 times and ASU had three turnovers. Illinois didn't respect ASU's run game and brought the house. It paid off and a template has been created on how to beat them. Also plays @ Oregon.
Utah- Already have a conference loss but had a chance to at least force OT. Got back some swagger after beating BYU as badly as they did. Defense is bending but forcing turnovers at key moments and stopping opposing drives. Offense can't establish a run game in the first half but is moving the ball when needed. Looks paper thin at several key positions, which could be disastrous (OL, QB, RB). FG kicking could become an Achilles Heel in tight games. Utah has already played their toughest conference game while others still have Oregon, USC, Arizona State, and Stanford to contend with. Which leads to this weekend's monster matchup.
A huge game to determine the representative of the inaugural PAC12 South happens this Saturday when USC meets Arizona State. The Sun Devils are at home and are a 2.5 to 3 point favorite depending on the sports book. I'll be rooting for the Sun Devils with them coming to SLC in a couple of weeks. If Utah beats the injury depleted Sun Devils at home, they are in the driver seat to win the South. I've heard some fans wanting USC to win so that it'll knock ASU down in the conference standings and make it easier for us to have a better record. If Utah makes it far enough to play in the PAC 12 title game, let's hope they do it on their own accord and not because they finished second to USC (whether in standings or a tie breaker) in the division and fall through the back door to the championship. ASU and USC both have tough road games at Oregon too.
I think USC wins. They'll have a better front seven than Illinois and a better passing attack. M. Tyler will add balance to the offense. What are your thoughts for the USC-Arizona State game and how it will play into Utah's position in the conference standings?