2011 could be a very interesting year for Arizona football. Coming off a five-game losing streak to cap off an up-and-down campaign sent a lot of fans into an apathetic state and the conclusion of the season put a serious damper on expectations.
There is hope for Arizona though. With the conference being split up into new divisions, UA looks to compete for the Pac-12 South title in 2011. Of course, this is much easier said than done. The Wildcats are going to have to prove they can play consistently over the course of a 12-game schedule; something they have failed to do since Dick Tomey was roaming the sidelines.
In terms of competition, the southern division looks to be pretty close. USC is the perennial powerhouse, but its recent appeal to the NCAA to reduce the punishment handed down to the Trojans was denied, so USC is incapable of winning the division or playing in the Pac-12 title game.
Arizona State could be a scary bunch this year. Sure, the Sun Devils have a ton of questions across the board, but the hope is that Brock Osweiler has developed enough in the offseason to become one of the top passers in the conference. ASU was a much more competitive team than anyone anticipated in 2010 and many predict it to be much better in the upcoming campaign.
With a year in the spread offense under its belt, ASU could be a surprise team next season. The defense took a slight step backwards, but it still possesses arguably the best linebacker in the country heading into the 2011 season in Vontaze Burfict. If he continues to mature and his teammates feed off of him, Arizona State could be strong on both sides of the ball.
Utah is another potential contender, but the Utes are new to the conference and have to prove they can win consistently against a tougher schedule before anyone anoints them a Rose Bowl contender in this conference. Utah has a track record of recent success that includes a perfect 2008 season capped off with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. Utah actually suffered its first defeat in a bowl game since 1996 this past season.
The Utes have been to eight consecutive bowl games and have defeated some pretty strong competition in the process. If Utah continues to play quality football against stronger competition, it should be just fine in the upcoming campaign.
Arizona will have just as good of a shot as any of these other teams. This does not count UCLA or Colorado, but anything is possible in the world of college football and it wouldn't be a surprise to see either of these teams be competitive against the rest of the Pac-12 South. The Wildcats have a tough schedule to start, but that doesn't eliminate them from the race in any way.
UA should have a strong offensive attack once again and while there are several question-marks across the board, that's the norm for the rest of the teams in the Pac-12 South. Should Arizona get off to a good start in conference play, anything is possible for the Wildcats. That's the key; starting off well. UA has a very tough first half of the schedule and should it struggle, it could be a tough climb to the top.
While there may not be any world-beaters in the Pac-12 South, it will certainly be a competitive bunch and could develop into one of the more interesting races in the country in 2011.
Pac-12 South will be competitive
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