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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM

We’re most of the way through our summer series of college football conference previews already, with only the Big 12, American Athletic, and Southeastern Conferences remaining for July coverage. Yet, this is the first time we’ve been able to talk about a truly exciting divisional race.

In the mid-majors, any sort of competitive race is going to involve relatively mediocre teams by national standards. In the majors, few divisions have three teams who are real threats. The ACC Coastal did with Virginia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina, but all three of those teams are projected to be worse than the three teams who will be fighting for the Pac 12 South crown. At the moment, the battle between UCLA, USC, and Arizona State is projected to be the most exciting divisional race in all of college football given quantity AND quality.

With that in mind, let’s get to the numbers. Remember that returning starter data comes from the respected Athlon publication.

 

Pac 12 South

 

UCLA

2013 Record: 10-3

2013 Rankings: 38 on offense, 54 on defense

Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense

Head Coach: Jim Mora

Notebook: The Bruins are getting the preseason nod from most pundits because they return a better balance of returning starters while maintaining stability at head coach and quarterback. Brett Hundley was a bit too mistake-prone in big games last season. But, you can’t fault a team for losing to Oregon, Stanford, and ASU in their only blemishes. For now, this seems to be a legitimate top 10 team. A brutal schedule that once again includes Oregon and Stanford from the other half, as well as Texas (in Arlington) in mid-September will probably prevent a run at history. A divisional title is definitely possible if the Bruins can take care of business vs. USC and ASU.

 

USC

2013 Record: 10-4

2013 Rankings: 72 on offense, 13 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense

Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian

Notebook: Coach Sarkisian has moved down the coast from Washington to try and fix what ails the disappointing offense. He should provide immediate dividends. But, it’s hard to know if the experienced defense can hold up under what will now be more of a fast break football approach. USC’s schedule is slightly friendlier than UCLA’s because the Trojans miss Oregon. A big test on September 6 at Stanford will set the tone for the new coaching regime. There’s a lot to like about this team…but Sarkisian never set the world on fire at Washington.

 

Arizona State

2013 Record: 10-4

2013 Rankings: 32 on offense, 42 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 2 on defense

Head Coach: Todd Graham

Notebook: Taylor Kelly returns to run a high octane offense that put up some huge numbers on the conferences weakest defenses last year. They don’t match up well with Stanford, who they lost to twice last season (once in the Pac 12 title tile) and who they face again on October 18. They swept the LA schools in 2013, and face them in back-to-back outings this year on September 25 and October 4. You can tell the season is front-loaded for the Sun Devils! ASU also misses Oregon on the league schedule, but having only two starters back on defense could make a lot of opponents seem as productive as Oregon.

 

Arizona

2013 Record: 8-5

2013 Rankings: 31 on offense, 62 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense

Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez

Notebook: Can the Wildcats crack the top three? They’re really behind the eight ball because they’re the only South team that doesn’t return its starting quarterback. They finished behind the big three last year, and couldn’t beat any of them head-to-head. A relatively soft early schedule could be a confidence builder. But, don’t let it create illusions in your handicapping.

 

Utah

2013 Record: 6-5

2013 Rankings: 76 on offense, 60 on defense

Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense

Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham

Notebook: At home last year, Utah beat eventual Pac 12 champion Stanford, and hung very tough with UCLA and Arizona State. On the road, they were much less scary in league play. No reason to expect much of a change with Travis Wilson back at QB for a sluggish offense. Utes will host USC and Oregon this season, which means they can at least play spoiler once again.

 

Colorado

2013 Record: 4-8

2013 Rankings: 87 on offense, 106 on defense

Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense

Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre

Notebook: Probably the worst 4-8 team in the country. Two of their wins were over Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern. Their only league win was over hapless California. You should think of them as a 2-10 team in 2013…but one that at least has a promising head coach, a feisty returning quarterback in Sefo Liufau, and potential home field advantage at altitude if the program ever gets back on track. We expect a few steps forward this year, but probably still last place in a tough division.

It’s back to baseball tomorrow…where you should be building your bankrolls to get ready for Fall Football! You can purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Combination packages offer the most bang for your buck.

We’ll pick up with college football again this weekend. Here’s the coming NOTEBOOK schedule.

Friday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at San Francisco

Saturday: College Football…Big 12 Preview

Sunday: College Football…American Athletic Conference Preview

Monday: MLB Series Preview…either Pittsburgh at SF, or Boston at Toronto

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…either LA Angels at Baltimore or Atlanta at LAD

Can Texas catch Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12? We’ll talk about THAT for you football fans on Saturday, after previewing the even hotter than normal baseball rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants Friday. No time to rest at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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