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Is UCLA the favorite to win the Pac-12 South?
The Pac-12 South was expected to be a one-team race in the preseason. USC was a heavy favorite in August but already has two losses in Pac-12 play. The Trojans, UCLA and Arizona State all have two losses within the conference and Arizona isn't far behind with a 2-3 record.
Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA or USC: Which Team Wins the Pac-12 South?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Shockingly, this may be Arizona’s to lose. USC’s third conference loss may come against Oregon this week, which would tie the Trojans with the Wildcats in the loss column. Arizona finishes with UCLA in the Rose Bowl, Colorado, Utah on the road and Arizona State. The Wildcats have proven then can defeat teams better than their final four opponents, even when their starting quarterback spent the final minutes being tested for a concussion. Arizona’s surge has been weeks in the making, starting with going toe-to-toe with Stanford in a wild 54-48 overtime loss on the road. Then, Arizona overwhelmed Washington’s improved defense 55-17 before completing the statement against USC last week. Certainly, Arizona is vulnerable against UCLA, Arizona State and perhaps Utah, particularly against the run. But I’m starting to believe more in Arizona than a USC team that may get trounced by Oregon this week.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
This race got a lot more interesting with Arizona's win over USC this weekend didn't it? The Trojans have to be considered the favorites still, however, as a 2-1 record the rest of the way likely gives them the Division Crown. UCLA hosts Arizona — whose margin for error is slim and none — this weekend, and a Bruins win over the Cats would give Rich Rodriguez a fourth Pac-12 loss. Meanwhile, Arizona State's schedule is clearly the toughest of the bunch with three nasty road trips in the final four games and a second straight upset over the Men of Troy is highly unlikely considering how ASU has played of late. That leaves USC's game UCLA left to determine who gets sacrificed to Oregon on December 1. The Trojans were 50 points better than the Bruins last fall and UCLA hasn't closed the gap enough. So while a 6-3 Pac-12 mark and potential 8-4 overall record isn't exactly what USC fans were hoping for this fall, it could still be could enough to give them a shot at the Rose Bowl.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
With USC’s loss to Arizona, the battle to win the Pac-12 South is wide open. The Trojans were a heavy favorite to win this conference in the preseason but have suffered two disappointing road losses. After looking at the remaining schedules, I believe this race won’t be settled until the final weekend. The Wildcats are at a bit of a disadvantage with three conference losses, while USC, Arizona State and UCLA each have two. The Trojans will likely lose to Oregon and should be favored to beat Arizona State and UCLA to close out the Pac-12 portion of their schedule. Arizona is in good shape, but the Wildcats have to go on the road to play UCLA and being one-game behind the rest of the pack could be too much to overcome. Arizona State seems to have the toughest path to the title, especially with road trips against Oregon State, USC and Arizona remaining. UCLA has a favorable schedule and will have opportunities to beat Arizona and USC in the Rose Bowl. Even though USC has been a major disappointment, I think the Trojans finish Pac-12 play at 6-3, which is just enough to edge UCLA and Arizona for first place in the South (and the right to lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game).
I think it's pretty safe to remove Colorado and Utah from the discussion right away, so that leaves the two Los Angeles schools and the two Arizona schools. There are still plenty of games to be played, but I can't help but look at the Nov. 23 match up between Arizona State and Arizona and think this game will decide the Pac-12 South winner. Arizona already holds the tiebreaker over USC thanks to last week's win and still has the aforementioned Buffaloes and Utes on the schedule. If the Wildcats can beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, they are looking at a 5-3 mark headed into their game against the Sun Devils. Arizona State has to take on Oregon State and USC on the road these next two Saturdays, but as long as they split those games and beat Washington State, the Sun Devils will have an identical 5-3 conference mark entering that Thanksgiving Friday showdown in Tuscon. The Trojans and Bruins still have a say in this, but one is going to essentially take the other out of the running when they face off on Nov. 17. And don't forget that USC plays Oregon this Saturday, while UCLA ends its regular season against Stanford. Call me a sucker for symmetry, but I just like the way this appears to be shaping up for the two Arizona schools. Besides what better way to decide a division title than a head-to-head desert duel on the Friday after Thanksgiving? And if this match up does in fact occur under the circumstances I have outlined? I like Rich Rodriguez in his first season at Arizona to lead his Wildcats to the Pac-12 title game by beating their arch rivals in front of a raucous home crowd.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
While three South teams — USC, UCLA and Arizona State — only have two league losses, I’m going with the Arizona Wildcats despite a 2-3 Pac-12 record. Rich Rodriguez has rallied the team after three straight losses earlier this year, and I think Arizona wins out while also owning the tiebreaker over preseason favorite USC. As long as intrepid quarterback Matt Scott is healthy, the Wildcats should be able to win high-scoring contests against the Bruins and Sun Devils. The Trojans have to deal with undefeated Oregon this week, while UCLA and ASU still have to play USC as well as the Wildcats. It should be a fun race until the end, and I’ll go with the dynamic duo of Scott and Ka’Deem Carey to lead Arizona to the league title game.
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