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Is Oregon headed for an unbeaten season?
At the midpoint of the Pac-12 season, it has been Oregon and whichever team wants to try and lineup for second place. No team has scored more, allowed less and is better in turnover margin. That said, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is the nation’s leading passer (418.5 YPG), teammates Brandin Cooks (157.3 YPG) and Steven Nelson (5) lead the nation in receiving and interceptions, Washington’s Bishop Sankey is the nation’s best rusher (149.8 YPG), Arizona State’s Marion Grice leads the nation in scoring (90), Colorado’s Chidera Uzo-Diribe is tops in the nation in forced fumbles (4), and Utah walk-on Andy Phillips has the nation’s most field goals — a perfect 11-for-11.
Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC | Big 12 |Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Kyle Whittingham, Utah
After a five-win season and no bowl for Utah for the first time in nine years, Whittingham felt a little pressure going into 2013. Clearly, Whittingham has Utah back on track, guiding the Utes to a 4-2 mark with wins over No. 5 Stanford — the highest-ranked team ever defeated in Utah’s home stadium — and in-state rival BYU to go along with an OT loss to now-5-1 Oregon State and a seven-point loss to then-No. 11 UCLA. Utah has played five of its first six at home, and will close with four of its final six on the road against teams currently a combined 8-10 in league play. The eight wins come from Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State — all teams Utah will face away from Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Newcomer of the Year: Addison Gillam, LB, Colorado
Gillam drew rave reviews throughout the preseason, and the true freshman has backed up that play through the first half of 2013. He leads the Pac-12 in tackles per game (10.6), is fifth in tackles for a loss per game (1.3) and is tied for 14th in sacks (2). Gillam, who did not start playing football until his junior year in high school, was only offered one FBS scholarship — by then-San Jose State and now-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre — and he is well on pace to set the school record for tackles by a freshman (85).
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Turnover-free ball leads to good things, and Mariota is capitalizing on all of his touches. He’s carried 41 times for 426 yards and thrown 165 times for 1,724 yards. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns on those 206 touches, and averages a score every 8.24 touches. The Pac-12’s most efficient passer (184.1), is second in the league in TD passes (17) and total offense (358.3 YPG), sixth in passing yards per game (287.3), eighth in rushing (71 YPG) and 10th in scoring (8 PPG).
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Barr has been everywhere on the field for the Bruins and a defense ranked second in the Pac-12 in scoring (18.2 PPG) and fourth in yards allowed (344.8 YPG). The senior is tops in the Pac-12 in tackles for a loss with 10 for 60 yards and fumbles recovered (2), and is second in sacks (4) and fumbles forced (3).
Midseason Disappointment: USC
Projected by Athlon to finish outside the top 25, the Trojans are having no trouble with that. Problem is: they were projected to finish 26th, and have the players to win the Pac-12 South. It comes as no surprise, though as Lane Kiffin was the No. 1 coach on the hot seat in the preseason. And five games into the 2013 campaign, Kiffin was fired. Let go with a 3-2 record, the Trojans were 0-2 in league play and were thumped 62-41 at Arizona State. Interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to have ignited this team, but it may be too late to get back into the Pac-12 South title picture.
Midseason Surprise: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Remember when there was that preseason question of whether it would be Mannion or Cody Vaz to start for the Beavers? Um, neither do we. After preseason uncertainty at quarterback in Corvallis, six games into the 2013 season and Mannion leads the nation in passing touchdowns (25), yards (2,511), points responsible for (154) and is 11th in passing efficiency (166). The junior has just three interceptions while leading the nation in attempts (289) and is second in completions (194).
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
USC under interim coach Ed Orgeron
Orgeron’s first game in place of a fired Lane Kiffin started with the Trojans’ best scoring output of the season and their first Pac-12 win (38-31 against Arizona). USC still has road games at Notre Dame and Oregon State and home games against a resurgent Utah, and top-15 teams Stanford and UCLA. The offense has posted 79 points in the last two games, but a normally stellar defense has given up 93. There’s a lot to fix in L.A., and a schedule that will not allow for much error.
Pac-12 South title race
It is potentially a three-horse race with plenty of obstacles in the way for UCLA, Arizona State and Utah. UCLA already has a win over Utah, but still faces Arizona State on Nov. 23. The Bruins’ two toughest remaining games are not even against the South, but are games that will set the tone for the remainder of the regular season. They travel to Stanford and Oregon the next two weeks before closing with three of five at home against five teams that are a combined 4-10 in Pac-12 play so far. The Sun Devils’ trip to Pasadena will be the last of their three road games over the next six weeks, which also includes trips to Washington State and Utah in back-to-back games. The path is likely the bumpiest for Utah, which plays four of its last six on the road. The Utes' must-win home game to close the season is Arizona State on Nov. 9. So Nov. 9 and 23 will be the weeks to watch to see who claims the South.
Can Oregon finish unbeaten?
Why not? The Ducks play four of their last six at home, and travel to Stanford on 12 days rest. No Pac-12 team is scoring more points on offense (56.8), allowing less points on defense (13.8) and has a better turnover margin (plus-11) than Oregon. The six teams left on the schedule have a combined turnover margin of plus-10, and only Arizona and UCLA are giving up less than 20 points per game on defense.
Top Five Games in the Second Half
UCLA at Stanford (Oct. 19)
Utah put a scare into UCLA two weeks ago, and then upset Stanford last week. Now UCLA and Stanford meet in Palo Alto for the second straight year — both trying to keep their Pac-12 division title hopes alive. Last season’s Pac-12 championship saw Stanford score the final 10 points to post a 27-24 win over the Bruins.
UCLA at Oregon (Oct. 26)
Oregon will arrive at this game off of a home date vs. Washington State; UCLA will be playing its second straight road game after traveling to take on a Stanford team seething from an upset loss at Utah. It will be the biggest defensive test the Ducks have faced when they take on a Bruins team currently surrendering 18.2 PPG — second to Oregon’s 13.8.
Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7)
Oregon starts its mini-gauntlet a week after UCLA’s. Following the home game against the Bruins, the Ducks travel to face a Stanford team trying to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 North title. Both teams will be on 12 days rest as this is a Thursday game, and should make for another exciting contest after Stanford’s 17-14 OT win in Eugene a season ago.
Arizona State at UCLA (Nov. 23)
This will likely be the Pac-12 South title game after UCLA and Arizona State have tough road tests before meeting in Pasadena. Currently holding a one-game lead over the Sun Devils, if the Bruins can arrive at this one healthy, and perhaps having collected one road upset en route to this meeting, the South will be theirs for the taking.
UCLA at USC (Nov. 30)
If UCLA were to make it through games at Stanford and Oregon it is likely the Pac-12 South title will have been clinched when the Bruins arrive in L.A. Since chances of that happening are slim, the Trojans would love no more than to play spoiler against their rival long after their season was already spoiled.
Pac-12 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|Wazzu||UCLA||at Stanford||Utah||at Arizona||Oregon State||Final Record|
|UCLA||at Ore. State||Oregon||at USC||California||ND||Final Record|
|at Ariz. State||California||Colorado||at UCLA||at Ore. State||Wazzu||Final Record|
4. Oregon State
|at California||Stanford||USC||at Ariz. State||Washington||at Oregon||Final Record|
5. Washington State
|at Oregon||Arizona State||at Arizona||Utah||at Washington||Final Record|
|Ore. State||at Washington||Arizona||USC||at Colorado||at Stanford||Final Record|
|at Stanford||at Oregon||Colorado||at Arizona||UW||Ariz. State||at USC||Final Record|
2. Arizona State
|at Wash. State||at Utah||Ore. State||at UCLA||Arizona||Final Record|
|at ND||Utah||at Ore. State||at California||Stanford||at Colorado||UCLA||Final Record|
|Utah||at Colorado||at California||UCLA||Wazzu||Oregon||at Ariz. State||Final Record|
|at Arizona||at USC||Ariz. State||at Oregon||at Wazzu||Colorado||Final Record|
|C. Southern||Arizona||at UCLA||at UW||California||USC||at Utah||Final Record|