Here’s a look at what to expect from the Pac-12 in 2013 for our College Football Picks:
Sleeper: USC (over 9.5 wins -105 at 5Dimes)
This is a weird reality to contemplate, but USC really is more “sleeper” than “expected contender” in the Pac-12. Look past the brand name and you’ll see that the Trojans have an uncertain situation… not just at quarterback, where head coach Lane Kiffin has waited a long time to name a starter, but throughout the roster, especially on the offensive line and at linebacker, where this program really dropped in 2012. The Trojans are seen as being the third-best team in the Pac-12 South. Since the South is the weaker of the two divisions in the Pac-12, USC’s place in the larger pecking order of the Pac-12 is closer to the middle (sixth) than the top. If USC was considered the third-best team in the league, not just the South, by season’s end, a lot of pundits would say that USC overachieved this season.
Team With The Easiest Schedule: Arizona State (+390 at 5Dimes to win Pac 12 South)
The Sun Devils don’t exactly have a cake schedule – no one in the Pac-12 does since teams play nine conference games instead of eight, which is the industry standard in most of college football’s other power conferences. However, Arizona State doesn’t have to play Oregon in the Pac-12 North. The Sun Devils do have to go to Stanford, but they host Washington and Oregon State. They do have to visit UCLA in the Pac-12 South, but they get to host USC and Arizona. Really – this is not a bad conference schedule when compared to the other top-tier contenders in the league. (USC, which has a favorable schedule as well, is not quite a top-tier contender.) Being given only one tough road game against a Pac-12 North Division team will give Arizona State a great chance to make its first-ever appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Sun Devils, if they get that far, would be able to compete for their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1997 game, when Arizona State lost in the last minute to Ohio State and fell just short of the first (and only) national championship in the history of the school.
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Team With the Toughest Schedule: UCLA (under 7 wins -140 at 5Dimes)
The Bruins are going to find it hard to vault past Arizona State and defend their Pac-12 South championship precisely because they’ve been dealt a brutal hand by the schedule maker. The Bruins must go to both Oregon and Stanford, getting the bingo card of death among all Pac-12 South teams. That’s two almost-guaranteed losses for UCLA. The Bruins have to go to USC this season, and they must also play Washington (a threat in the Pac-12 North), even though that game is at home in Pasadena, Calif.
It’s an Oregon-Stanford world in the Pac-12. However, Oregon will be playing not just for a championship, but for revenge, when the Ducks meet the Cardinal. Oregon remembers how painful it was to lose to Stanford last season. That reality alone should give the Ducks the urgency needed to turn the tables on the Stanford Cardinal this season.