Pac-12 Roundtable: Which Division Is Better, North Or South?

After Week 1 (After Week 2 responses come later on after the jump)


Which division would you consider the best in the Pac-12?

There was a lot of hype about the North being the best division in college football going into this year, but at first glance it's starting to look like that prediction could be an absolute bust. Washington and Stanford struggled with pedestrian opponents. Cal laid an egg at home against Nevada. Washington State looks another year away after getting pantsed by BYU. Barring a massive rehaul in Corvallis, Oregon is in prime position to cruise to the Pac-12 Championship once again.

But what about the South?

Utah's defense looked absolutely dominant against a crappy foe, which should be enough to carry them to eight-nine wins. Arizona State's offense is starting to look like an alternative Oregon with the way they rack up points and their fresh new get-ups. UCLA is probably a step behind those two, but you have to like the talent they have now that they have a gamer at quarterback. Arizona has at least proven they can rack up yards, even if capitalizing on that offense is still an issue. Only Colorado looks overwhelmed by the proceedings. But that's four teams that could at least give USC a heck of a time on the way to the Pac-12 Championship.

Which division would you pick as the better one, top to bottom?

thecassino, UW Dawg Pound: I think it's dangerous to draw too many conclusions from Week 1 games. So many teams are still figuring stuff out, and you never really know just how good the nonconference foes actually are.Last season, the North was completely dominant over the South, and that's not going to completely change in the span of one season. The North teams didn't look as good, but they also played teams that are head and shoulders above who the South played. San Jose state is a program that is improving under Mike MacIntyre. San Diego State has been a very good MWC for a few years now. BYU wins a ton of games every year. Nevada has gone to 7 straight bowl games. Those are dangerous teams to open against, and it's a lot easier to look good against Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona and Rice. When all is said and done the North is going to win the majority of the cross divisional matchups, though it probably won't match the 17-9 record it posted against the South in 2011.

Jack Follman: While I did think the North division would be pretty strong heading into the season, I think best in the country would be a huge stretch with Alabama and LSU, maybe the nation's two best team along with Arkansas and some other good teams all being in one division in the SEC. I think both of the Big 10 divisions are fairly strong too and the Pac-12's best team isn't even in the North.

I don't think you can take too much from an opening weekend, but the Pac-12 overall didn't look very good, especially the North. Going into the season, I would have said that the North was overwhelmingly stronger than the South, but after one week, I would give a slight edge to the South. I think USC is a little better than Oregon and Utah possibly the third best team. I think there will then be a group of average teams that are very similar with Washington, Oregon State, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State and two bad teams with Colorado and Washington State, but I think the South's average teams looked better in week one than the North's did.

Overall though, I think with the possible recession of Stanford, that the conference will be viewed as "USC, Oregon and everyone else" unless Stanford can sustain or a school like Utah, Washington or UCLA can step up. While I don't think this is ideal, it is a step up from recent history when it was always just viewed as "USC, and everyone else.

Cory Williams, House of Sparky: If you're comparing from top to bottom, you must give the nod to the Pac-12 South. USC and Oregon can be considered equals, so you must go bottom 5 in each.

While Colorado is a dud and can clearly be marked the worst team in the conference, the North isn't exactly overflowing with greatness. Wazzu will need at least two years under Leach before they can be considered a legitimate contender, and Cal just lost to Nevada ... at home.

I had high hopes for Washington this season, but defeating a reloading SDSU by 9 points put a damper on that. Stanford also struggled mightily in a game that should have been a blowout. Oregon State will reveal their true colors against Wisconsin.

While the North struggled, the South surged. ASU, Utah, UCLA and USC all won in blowouts, while Arizona edged out a moderately tough Toledo squad. Not impressed with the Wildcats, but I won't pretend like Toledo is Northern Arizona, either.

In the end, Colorado weighs down the South, but until the North can pull off some big wins, the South will rise again.

norcalnick, California Golden Blogs: I suppose how you answer this question may largely depend on how strongly you react to the results of one week. Four North division teams played significantly below expectations on Saturday, while four South division teams earned easy wins.
Granted, wins over Rice, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado shouldn't really count for anything meaningful. Do we throw out everything we thought we knew about these teams because Washington St. played BYU while ASU and Utah beat up on directional U?
The reality is that the South still contains four schools going through varying phases of rebuilding with very new coaching staffs. It is true that the first week results suggest that it's possible that some of those schools might be ahead of schedule.
But it's generally a big mistake to overstate the meaning of one game, especially the first game of the year. In 2006 Cal got blown out by Tennessee in the first game of the year and went on win 10 games and a share of the conference title. In 2007 they convincingly beat Tennesse and finished 7-6. Last year, USC struggled against an awful Minnesota team and finished the year in the top 10. There are too many examples of first week mirages to count. So until we add a few more games of evidence, I'm going to continue with the conventional wisdom that the North is stronger, until football proves me wrong. It tends to do that a lot.

Jon Woods, Ralphie Report: The South certainly had a better weekend than the North did over the Labor Day holiday. Cal's loss combined with somewhat disappointing openers from Washington and Stanford didn't help the Pac-12's perception. But it's hard to say that enough was done by the South to now be considered the better division. Utah played a nobody (sorry, Bears), Colorado lost and Arizona couldn't score points. Oregon and USC still obviously look to be the class of the conference, but let's give Stanford and Washington a slight reprieve for a slow start.

With match-ups against Utah State, Washington, Nebraska and Illinois coming up in week two, we'll soon know a whole lot more about the strength of each respective division.


Week 2

Cory Williams: After: The South spoke for itself in Week 2.

Andy Wooldridge, Building The Dam: My take is it will float back and forth for a few weeks until the quirks of the schedule sort themselves out. Obviously, Arizona, Arizona St., and UCLA are all off to about as good a start as could be hoped, but Utah's season took a bad turn, and could again, with the loss of Jordan Wynn.

For all the talk (hope?) of chinks in the armor at both Oregon and USC, both teams are still as explosive as need be. California has come up with some clunky play (which wasn't that big of a surprise), but Stanford might have snapped out of their opening day funk. We'll know a lot more after they face the Trojans. Washington's issues could be a product of how good their opposition was as much as any problems they have. And of course Oregon St. has a win of national importance, and Colorado has a loss to Sacramento St. And while it wasn't pretty, Washington St. is right where they were expected to be, and how that happened won't matter in a month.

The Pac has a tendency in modern times to balance itself out over time, and the incomplete evidence so far doesn't suggest that it has changed.

David Piper, Addicted to Quack: I think the obvious answer at this point has to be the South--although things can change. In the North, Oregon has looked fine, blowing out both teams they've played. Oregon State dominated Wisconsin--but the Badgers have been surprisingly inept, and we need another data point on the Beavers. Stanford is 2-0 but has looked vulnerable. Washington has looked mediocre. And Cal and Washington State have been flat out bad.

In the South, four teams have looked really solid so far. The Arizona schools have wildly exceeded my expectations, and UCLA is playing with an edge on defense they haven't had recently. Sure, Colorado is awful, and Utah lost a game they shouldn't have, but Colorado is really the only bad team in this division at this point.

We'll get a better feel in a few weeks, but at this point, I would put the South on top in a Power ranking.


norcalnick: The South Division somehow found out what I wrote last week, because Arizona, Arizona St. and UCLA look to have proven that my skepticism was badly misplaced.

Much of the North's perceived pre-season advantage rested on the troika of Stanford, Washington and Cal battling it out behind USC and Oregon. Many (most?) have dismissed Cal and Washington after four iffy performances, and that trend will only intensify as Cal and UW pick up losses to ranked teams because of front-loaded schedules. While there's no doubting that UCLA, Arizona and ASU have proven much more, I'm one of the few who believe that both Cal and Washington will bounce back to at least be competitive with the rest of the teams fighting for the scraps left behind by the Trojans and Ducks.

Jeff Nusser, CougCenter: How dare you suggest that WSU has been flat-out bad! We beat one of the best teams in the country! (What? That was an FCS team?)

In all seriousness, when talking about the strength of a division, I look at the bottom, and right now, WSU, UW and Cal all aren't good -- none of them have loaded/reloaded the way we expected. The Air Raid has sputtered in Pullman, Washington's line is a flat-out disaster (if you're trying to run a pro style offense, you better have good line play), and while I didn't see Cal's loss to Nevada, the view from 800 miles is that it's fair to wonder if Tedford's message is getting through anymore.

In the South? Colorado might be the worst major conference team in the country, and Utah is fairly screwed without competent quarterback play. But where the three seemingly upwardly mobile schools in the North have struggled, ASU, UCLA and Arizona all look not just better, but much better than we expected. And even Utah will continue to be a tough out for people with that elite defense.

Gun to my head, I'd say the South, simply because of the quality depth that doesn't appear to be there in the North.

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