Pac-12 second-half preview

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
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There were some nice moments in the first half of the Pac-12 season, but it was more about injuries and a poor nonconference showing.

Here's hoping that the second half is chocked full of great games and great performances and the end result is national relevance and a successful bowl season.

And no more fired coaches!

Here's a look ahead with thoughts, predictions and hopes.

Bold Prediction: 9-3 Arizona State will play 11-1 Stanford for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 2.

[+] EnlargeArizona State Sun Devils
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireArizona State's fast start has them on the path to contend in the Pac-12's inaugural title game.
The Sun Devils will be favored in all their remaining games after their trip to Oregon this weekend, but they figure to get upset once. For this prediction to happen, the Cardinal -- with a loss -- would need to either beat Oregon on Nov. 12 or the Ducks would need to lose twice or the Cardinal's lone defeat could come to Notre Dame the final weekend of the season, which could cost it a berth in the national title game.

We're not saying which it will be. Hey, a "bold" prediction only goes so far.

Top three second-half games

  • Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12: It almost certainly will decided the Pac-12 North Division and it could have Heisman Trophy and national title implications, too.
  • Oregon at Washington, Nov. 5: Of late, Oregon has dominated the conference's most bitter rivalry -- just look at the blog's comments section -- but at some point the Huskies will win again. Might it be at home when the Ducks look ahead to Stanford? Maybe.
  • UCLA at USC, Nov. 26: USC has won 11 of 12 and four in a row in the rivalry series. Rick Neuheisel is 0-3 in the series since he returned to Westwood as the Bruins coach. You may have heard his seat is hot. Here's a guess that if he beats USC to finish 6-6, he could survive, whereas if he loses to USC to finish 6-6 -- or even 7-5 -- he probably won't. In other words, beating the Trojans is the best way for Neuheisel to keep his job.
What I'm Looking Forward To

  • First off: A quick return of Oregon running back LaMichael James from a dislocated elbow.
  • No more major injuries. The Pac-12 has contributed enough to the national injury pool.
  • James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck back in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony (which Luck should win).
  • Colorado and Utah getting their first Pac-12 victory.
  • UCLA and Washington State playing well enough that Neuheisel and Paul Wulff keep their jobs, thereby making Arizona the only program looking for a new head coach.
  • A huge game from Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers, which tells the NFL he's back and ready to become a multi-purpose star on Sundays.
  • Something good to happen to Arizona. Don't know what. Just something.
  • Oregon fans getting nervous when Washington pushes the Ducks until late in the fourth quarter and wins eight games.
  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Arizona quarterback Nick Foles playing well enough that they join Luck as likely first-round NFL draft picks.
  • A Pac-12 championship game that is meaningful nationally.
  • Two BCS bowl teams.
  • A winning bowl record.
  • Two BCS bowl teams that win.
  • World peace and economic recovery.
  • A pill that allows you to eat everything you want and not get fat.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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