Pac-12 early-season outlook

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
12:31
PM PT
De'Anthony ThomasScott Olmos/US PresswireDe'Anthony Thomas has Oregon on top of the Pac-12 with dreams of a national championship.
The 2012 Pac-12 football season has been unpredictable to say the least, with upsets and surprise performances completely shaking up the landscape on a weekly basis. Here’s a look at how the race to the conference championship game is shaping up so far, and just where the Trojans fit into it all.

Pac-12 North Standings
Oregon (2-0 Pac-12, 5-0 overall)
Oregon State (2-0 Pac-12, 3-0 overall)
Washington (1-0 Pac-12, 3-1 overall)
Stanford (1-1 Pac-12, 3-1 overall)
Washington State (0-2 Pac-12, 2-3 overall)
California (0-2 Pac-12, 1-4 overall)

North Division Breakdown:
Here we are five weeks into the season, and just about the only constant has been the standout play by North Division leader Oregon. With an explosive offense led by running backs De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, the Ducks haven’t seriously been challenged by anyone.

What is a bit stunning is how the chips have fallen within the rest of the division. Oregon State came up with another huge win against Arizona on Saturday, and the Beavers have emerged as one of the surprise stories in all of college football. What was particularly impressive in the Beavers’ most recent victory was the way the ground game came alive to support the standout play of quarterback Sean Mannion. It’s still too early, but it’s hard not to look ahead to that November 24 Civil War matchup between Oregon and Oregon State, and just imagine what it could mean.

Like the Beavers, Washington controls its own destiny after a 17-13 victory over Stanford that completely changed the outlook of the division. The Huskies face Oregon this Saturday in what is now a pivotal game. Meanwhile, a Stanford team that upset USC just two weeks ago, now needs to win out in Pac-12 play, and see Washington lose at least two conference games, in order to win the North.

Pac-12 South Standings
Arizona State (2-0 Pac-12, 4-1 overall)
UCLA (1-1 Pac-12, 4-1 overall)
USC (1-1 Pac-12, 3-1 overall)
Colorado (1-1 Pac-12, 1-4 overall)
Utah (0-1 Pac-12, 2-2 overall)
Arizona (0-2 Pac-12, 3-2 overall)

South Division Breakdown:
The Trojans still control their fate, with an important clash with Utah coming up on Thursday night. But the USC offense will need to come together and be more consistent if it's going to fend off a much stronger collection of South Division opponents than anyone ever imagined.

Arizona State sits atop the standings, although its conference victories have come against California and Utah -- two squads that have struggled so far. But with a high-scoring offense and a defense that currently ranks No. 1 in the conference in total yards allowed, the Sun Devils shouldn't be overlooked. ASU and the Trojans meet up on Nov. 10 in Los Angeles.

Like USC, UCLA is 1-1 in conference play, and the turnaround in Westwood under Jim Mora Jr. has been dramatic. Since the Bruins’ only loss came at the hands of Oregon State out of the North, they too can determine their own future. The November 17 crosstown rivalry game with the Trojans could have extra meaning this year.

Picked to finish No. 2 in the Pac-12 preseason poll, Utah has underperformed, but it’s important to note that the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford on this year’s schedule, so a turnaround is possible.

Colorado is theoretically still in the mix, although its 1-4 record doesn’t exactly instill confidence. And a talented Arizona team is unexpectedly in the cellar of the division.

Key Pac-12 games:

Oct. 6
Washington at Oregon

Oct. 13
USC at Washington

Oct. 18
Oregon at Arizona State

Oct. 27
UCLA at Arizona State
Oregon State @ Washington

Nov. 3
Oregon at USC
Arizona State at Oregon State

Nov. 10
Arizona State at USC
Oregon State at Stanford

Nov. 17
Stanford at Oregon
USC at UCLA

Nov. 24
Oregon at Oregon State
Stanford at UCLA

Johnny Curren

WeAreSC, Reporter

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30