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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Diagnosing the Pac-12

By Ted Miller

Our question today across the major FBS conferences today is simple: What's ailing [conference X]?

That's a good question for the Big Ten and the Big 12. And maybe even for the doughty SEC. But not really for the Pac-12.

What’s ailing the Pac-12? Not much. The Pac-12 is off to a rollicking good start, at least if you aren't USC and coach Lane Kiffin.

Still, not every team is content. A few have at least a case of the sniffles. Some have a legit fever.

What’s ailing the Pac-12?

California: The Bears, at 1-2, are the only Pac-12 team with a losing record. Of course, part of that is playing two ranked teams -- No. 18 Northwestern and No. 4 Ohio State.

Oregon State: The Beavers have won two in a row since opening with a shocking loss to Eastern Washington, an FCS team, including a thrilling overtime win at Utah. Still, this was a ranked team coming off a 9-win season.

Kiffin
USC coach Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat now, but winning can cure that.
USC: Coach Lane Kiffin entered the season sitting on one of the nation's hottest coaching seats. The 10-7 loss to Washington State in Week 2 set his seat afire, particularly considering the anemic offense and passing game was his responsibility.

Utah: The Utes were so close to a 3-0 start and making a strong opening statement in Pac-12 play. But close only gets you a sympathetic sigh from Kevin.

What’s the cure?

California: Another schedule, perhaps? The Bears get Oregon next on Sept. 28 -- on the road! -- an ominous matchup for the nation's 120th-ranked defense. What Cal really would like is to get healthy. Even if a bunch of wins aren't forthcoming in year one under Sonny Dykes, it would be nice to at least know what would happen at full-strength.

Oregon State: The Beavers' offense has been fine all season, but the defense has struggled, most notably against the two mobile QBs it has faced. Oregon State also is dealing with some injury issues. Getting healthy and stout on D would be a good start. By the way, the schedule is, as often noted, heavily backloaded. The Beavers need to win now because it won't be as easy going in late October and November.

USC: Winning is the only thing that will cool Kiffin's hot seat. He's got a defense that's good enough to secure double-digit victories. The offense showed signs of life in a 35-7 win over Boston College. The turnaround game, however, is at Arizona State on Sept. 28. If the Trojans win in Tempe to improve to 4-1, fans might starting looking at the Pac-12 South Division race instead of at lists of potential new coaches.

Utah: Utes fans will feel a lot better if their team wins at BYU on Saturday. Beating a state rival typically eases pain. But the upcoming schedule is brutal. The Utes are going to need at least one upset victory to earn bowl eligibility.