Athlon picks ASU to win Pac-12 South

A case can be made for Arizona State, UCLA, USC and possibly even Arizona as the team to geat in the Pac-12 South this football season. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

As summer inches toward fall and the start of training camps, those cases will start to be made, and Athlon Sports weighed in Tuesday with an argument for ASU.

“Ultimately, we picked Arizona State because the Sun Devils have the fewest issues heading into the 2013 season,” Athlon’s Steve Lassan wrote. “They are set at quarterback with Taylor Kelly, solid at running back and on the offensive line, and the defense, led by Will Sutton, should be strong once again.”

The article also contends ASU should have one of the Pac-12’s “best front sevens on defense,” a fair assessment considering the entire starting line returns, along with three of four starting linebackers.

Here’s where we might disagree with Athlon’s assessment: “The schedule is also in favor of Arizona State, as Todd Graham’s team misses Oregon in conference play and hosts USC and Arizona.”

Sure, hosting conference Arizona and USC is an advantage, but consider ASU, after opening with Sacramento State, has to play Wisconsin, Stanford, Notre Dame and USC consecutively. That’s as tough a stretch as any Division I team faces, and Athlon actually seems to account for it in their prediction that ASU will finish 8-5 overall, 6-3 in the Pac-12. And that, Athlon predicts will be good enough to win a South tie-breaker with USC (9-4, 6-3).
While the Sun Devils would be happy to win the South and get a shot at the Pac-12 Championship, it’s hard to imagine they would be pleased finishing with the same record as they did last season.

By the way, Athlon predicts Oregon taking down Stanford to win the North. And it’s got Arizona at fourth in the South: 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-12.