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Checking in on the Pac-12 South

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The South has cannibalized itself already.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Utah
Everyone has fallen or will fall shortly
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a bit of buzz around the Colorado Buffaloes right now. The Buffs have started the season on fire, going 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference. Four of those wins — all played in Colorado — have been blowouts and the other was an insane road victory. The two others games were close losses on the road against excellent teams in Michigan and USC.

Colorado’s success is no illusion. Kirk Herbstreit and advanced metrics alike peg them as considerable favorites in the Pac-12 South. Apropos of that, it’s time to check in on Colorado’s competition in the division.

Standings!

  1. Utah — 6-1 (3-1)
  2. Colorado — 5-2 (3-1)
  3. USC — 4-3 (3-2)
  4. Arizona State — 5-2 (2-2)
  5. UCLA — 3-4 (1-3)
  6. Arizona — 2-5 (0-4)

Utah is actually ahead of Colorado in the standings right now, but it’s because they played San Jose State instead of Michigan they have a superior overall record at 6-1. But that shouldn’t last. Utah is banged up to say the least, as they have significant contributors out for the season and their overall depth is wearing thin.

This last weekend, they barely beat Oregon State in an unwatchable 19-14 slog. And that was supposed to be an easy game.

Things could get ugly for Utah in the coming weeks. Their next game is at UCLA, who has underwhelmed this season but is still dangerous. Then Utah plays Washington, which should be the biggest Utah loss since 2012 (when Obama was re-elected). After that is a road game against Arizona State and a home game against Oregon; they should win but those aren’t guarantees. Utah finishes their season with a game no one in the country wants to play: against Colorado in Boulder.

Pac-12 South by ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI)!

  1. USC — 13
  2. Colorado — 15
  3. UCLA — 26
  4. Utah — 41
  5. Arizona State — 52
  6. Arizona — 62

Would you look at that, USC is ranked ahead of Colorado. This is surprising, but not shocking. USC has three losses, yes, but they’ve come against Alabama (better than the Browns), at Stanford (used to be great) and at Utah (above average). In conference, the Trojans have blown out Arizona State and Arizona and they barely got by an excellent Colorado team. They’ve been much better than their mediocre record would indicate and they could make a serious run. Fortunately for the Buffs, USC still has those losses in the bag and they still have a road game against Washington.

UCLA is surprisingly high, as well. Considering their preseason expectations (CFP dark horse potential), this season has been disastrous. But the stats like them because all four of their losses have been single-digit losses to quality teams. Texas A&M, for instance, is a top 10 team in the country and UCLA was so close. Like USC, UCLA is capable of making a run, but their string of close losses essentially cost them the division.

Odds of winning the Pac-12 (per ESPN’s FPI)!

  1. Colorado — 58.8%
  2. USC — 24.7%
  3. Utah — 7.2%
  4. UCLA — 6.0%
  5. Arizona State — 0.3%
  6. Arizona — :’(

USC and UCLA have both dug themselves deep holes and Utah is very likely to drop several of their coming games. That leaves the door open for Ralphie to rumble to the Pac-12 Championship as King of the South.

Also, if Washington makes the College Football Playoff (this includes them beating CU in the Pac-12 Championship), there would be a spot to fill in the Rose Bowl. That bid would likely go to the Pac-12 runner-up, Colorado.

Also, if Ohio State or Michigan makes the CFP, there would be another spot to the Rose Bowl. That bid would likely go to the Big Ten runner-up, Nebraska.

So, uh, yeah.