Pac-12 South: Which team emerges from league's shallow end?

Arizona enters league play with schedule advantages

(Audio above from my radio appearance with Bob Kemp on NBC Sports Radio 1060 in Phoenix).

The good news for Arizona: The Pac-12 South is there for the taking.

The bad news for Arizona: The Pac-12 South is there for the taking ... and the Wildcats might be completely unable to bust through this huge window of opportunity.

Arizona has stumbled to a 1-2 start, with the win coming against lower-division Southern Utah and one of the losses coming to a better-than-expected BYU team that won at then-No. 5 Wisconsin (but also lost to Cal ... so, college football).

Arizona still has schedule advantages (no Stanford or Washington in the cross-division slate), while Utah already has a home loss to the Huskies, and Arizona State plays in Seattle on Saturday.

But which team can get lucky, get hot, stay healthy, make a play? The Pac-12 South might not be good, but the shallow end of the Pac-12 pool might not lack for unpredictable drama.

Twice in the seven seasons since the Pac-12 expanded and split into divisions, a 6-3 conference record has been good enough to win the South. Given this year's weakness, maybe 5-4 with the right kind of tiebreakers would do the trick.

As the Wildcats get ready to open Pac-12 play Saturday at Oregon State, let's do a Pac-12 South power rating.

1. Colorado (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12)

The win at Nebraska comes with plenty of caveats (namely, the Cornhuskers aren't very good right now), but it counts as a good result, as far as the Pac-12 South goes.

What's gone right: The defense has seven takeaways, sophomore receiver Laviska Shenault has emerged as an elite threat, Virginia Tech grad transfer running back Travon McMillian has boosted the "Folsom Fast" attack ... and quarterback Steven Montez has been great.

"I watched him last year a little bit," former NFL general manager Scot McCloughan said on the Instinctive Scouting Podcast with NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang.

"I noticed him, like 'Who is this quarterback? He's making throws; boom, boom, boom. ... He's a good football player."

This week: Off

2. Utah (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12)

If not Colorado, then Utah looks like the most balanced, most together team in the South. The Utes scored only seven points against the Huskies last week, but credit the Huskies for that. There is no defense like that one in the South.

This week: off

3. Arizona State (2-1, 0-0)

The home win over Michigan State is a keeper. The ensuing loss at San Diego State, when the defense was flattened by the Aztecs' rushing attack, sounds about right, too. ASU can surprise on a given Saturday but this will be an up-and-down season ... which, hey, might be better than average in the South.

This week: at Washington

4. USC (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

USC is first in talent, so what's new? The Trojans are playing a true freshman at quarterback, and that's not their biggest problem. This is: When's the last time anyone described USC as being "tough?"

This week: vs. Washington State (Friday night)

5. Arizona (1-2, 0-0)

The Wildcats rode to a 5-4 league mark last season on the strength and speed of Khalil Tate's legs. Can his arm save the day in 2018?

This week: at Oregon State

6. UCLA (0-3, 0-0)

The Chip Kelly Experience isn't going well in Westwood, including the father of true freshman starting quarterback criticizing the coach on Twitter. With the Bruins' next three games being at Colorado, vs. Washington and at a decent Cal team, UCLA could be 0-6 when it plays host to Arizona on Oct. 20.

This week: off

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