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Good news for Wildcats: The new Pac-12 South is down to a five-team race

Arizona coach Mike Stoops leaves the L.A. Coliseum a winner after the 2009 game vs. USC. Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

With the NCAA rejecting USC’s appeal of sanctions that were handed out last season, the race to the first Pac-12 South title just got easier.

The Trojans will serve their second year of a postseason ban, which means they cannot play this season in the first Pac-12 championship game, even if they win the new South division.

That leaves five schools vying for that South spot in the championship game — Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and new conference members Utah and Colorado.

The Sun Devils are the trendy pick — and I’m guilty of that, too, having helped make the predictions for Lindy’s College Football Annuals. It wasn’t with the strongest conviction, but I picked ASU to win the South and be ranked No. 25 nationally.

But, basically, the South is wide open — mostly because each team appears to have multiple, perhaps, fatal flaws.

Arizona — All-new starting offensive line; injuries on defense already have made Cats critically thin.

Arizona State — Is Brock Osweiler, who could have thrown five interceptions against Arizona last year if the Wildcats’ defenders could have held on to the ball, really a full-time quarterback?

Colorado — Transition to new coach, and just a lot of rebuilding to do after five consecutive losing seasons.

UCLA — New coordinators; heat’s on Rick Neuheisel; quarterback position, passing game a mess.

Utah — QB Jordan Wynn coming off shoulder surgery; significant personnel losses; can the Utes handle weekly fare of BCS teams?

The Trojans, who will also be docked 30 scholarships over the next three seasons, might still have the most front-line talent. They could have a say in who wins the South, even if they are not eligible.

USC, starting in 2012, can have only 75 players on scholarship for three years. That is down from the maximum of 85.

Here is USC’s response to the rejection of the appeal.

Arizona plays at USC on Oct. 1.

The Pac-12 South champ will play the North division winner on Dec. 3. The game will be played at the home site of the team with the better overall conference record.

Last season, because of the postseason ban, USC’s seniors were allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year.

According to the story on NCAA.com, “The appeal’s rejection apparently means USC’s seniors still could transfer without sitting out a year.”

Hmmmm …

Makes you wonder how senior linebacker Chris Galippo would look in Cardinal and Navy … well, if the Pac-12 would waive its own transfer rules, which the league did not do last season.

Additional reading: Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times — USC fans should view NCAA ruling on appeal as ‘get on with it’ moment

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