The CBR Staff is counting down to the beginning of the 2012 regular season with dedicated preview weeks. To conclude Pac 12 Preview Week, our minds came together around the CBR Tailgate to offer a bold prediction for what awaits the conference in the coming season. Will Oregon continue their championship ways? Will USC bounce back to the top of the conference and the nation? And what about the well-known newbies stalking the sidelines in the league? Let's find out...
Aaron Torres: My big prediction for the Pac-12 this season is one that I've already said it in everything I've written, but one I stand by nonetheless: Oregon and USC split their regular season and Pac-12 championship game, both finish at 12-1 when it's all said and done, and like we had last year with LSU and Alabama, we have a good old-fashioned controversy at the top.
Why am I so confident this will happen? Well, for one, I've been banging the "USC is slightly overrated" drum basically since they were thrown into the role of the "Unanimous Preseason No. 1" in February. For all the excitement surrounding their 10-2 season, there were at least four games- Minnesota, Utah, Notre Dame and Oregon- that they easily could've lost. And that last one in Autzen? It's easy to forget now, but the Ducks were an easy, chip-shot field goal from winning it themselves.
The point? As much as I love USC, the idea that so many are penciling them into the BCS title game is preposterous, especially given that they'll almost certainly have to go through Oregon twice to get there.
Frankly, I don't think they will, meaning it could be another fun December for the BCS computers, deciding which- if either- 12-1 has the right to play for a title.
Andrew Coppens: Here's my bold prediction... UCLA will lead the nation in signing rappers sons... OK., all joking aside, my prediction is that we won't see USC vs Oregon twice this year like everyone is predicting.
USC could be a few injuries away from being just an average team & Lane Kiffin is their coach. Oregon has a lot of talent but a totally unproven QB and that means they could easily stumble at an unexpected moment. I could see them losing to the likes of Washington and Stanford if they don't have excellent QB play.
With that said I wouldn't be shocked to see a championship game that featured only one of the two favorites.
Michael Felder: A couple of different things; Lane Kiffin is a hell of a football coach. One only needs to look to Tennessee, a very average at best team during his time there and see what he was able to do; including getting Jonathan Crompton into the NFL. Secondly, Bryan Bennett has played plenty more than Darron Thomas had entering 2010. You know the year Thomas was a first year starter coming off a redshirt year and he led the Ducks to the national championship game. Chip Kelly's offense is setup to make transition at the quarterback position easy, it plays to their strengths and if Mariota gets the start then it is because he is as ready to play as Thomas was in 2010.
As far as predictions go, I'm going with Washington replacing Stanford as the second best team in the North Division. Stanford has a lot of pieces to replace on the offensive side of things and while their defense is going to be sound with Shane Skov and Chase Thomas; losing that steady offense will take its toll. Washington gets Justin Wilcox into the fold and he is a man that has a knack for getting solid production out of his defensive squad. He's going to help tighten up the Huskies defense and with Keith Price emerging as one of the nation's elite quarterbacks things are looking up in Seattle.
Aaron Torres: Yeah, Mike kind of beat me on all the points I was going to make. Forget Tennessee for a second (the same drum I've been beating for three years by the way) and only look at what Kiffin did last year and it's pretty clear the guy can coach. Yes, I mentioned earlier that some of those games were close, but the fact remains that he was running a program that was on probation with NO hopes for a postseason berth. To get them to 10 wins- regardless of how close some of those games were- was the best coaching job in college football last year. Bar none.
As for Oregon, it all goes back to what I said in 5 Big Questions earlier this week: Chip Kelly doesn't have one "bad" loss on his resume the last two years. Simply put, they haven't lost to a single game that they should've won. They don't take weeks off. When they're supposed to beat you by 30, they do.
So with that, I stand by original assertion: One will finish with 12 wins during the regular season (with home-field advantage, today, I'll take USC) and one will finish with 11. But to expect either to go through the other twice, might be a bit much to ask for.
Kevin McGuire: The one thing I'm looking forward to watching this season is the new coaches and what kind of impact they will have right out of the gate. The new minds being brought in to the mix have re-energized a number of programs that have been left in the dust by Oregon, Stanford and even USC while on probation. Rich Rodriguez is the guy I am most interested to watch. As we discussed earlier this week, will be he more like his West Virginia self or will what we watched at Mihcigan continue out west. I lean more toward the West Virginia Rodriguez. I think he is a good coach and he is ready for his shot at redemption. Clearly he has some catching up to do with the program before seriously challenging the Trojans in the Pac-12 South but I really like the way the schedule plays out for the Wildcats this season. The first half will be tough, with road games at Oregon and Stanford but they get a chance to make a splash early on at home against Oklahoma State (without Weeden and Blackmon) and the second half of the season gets USC and Arizona State at home. If they can get to the bye week in the thick of things, the second half could be a wild ride for the Wildcats.
That said, how many of us have been grounded before? I have. No TV for a week or two. You know, some basic punishments for acting up as a kid. I don't know about you but one of the first things I did the minute I was allowed to watch TV again was rush to the TV and turn it on and put in a video game. That is how I view USC this year. They have served their time and paid their dues, now they are ready to rock. Barring any unfortunate injuries along the way I think it would be difficult to not see USC playing in the conference championship game. Who will they play? Until somebody knocks off Oregon I guess I will have to play it safe and say the Ducks make a return trip to the final week of the regular season.
I have USC winning at home in a rematch of a November 3 match-up between the Trojans and Ducks. And I think they take both.