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Forecasts put USC, Oregon in PAC-12 title game, but there are spoilers waiting in the wings

So a couple of magazines have placed USC and Oregon in the PAC-12 title game, winning the South and North Divisions respectively. Some even see USC as a Top 5 team nationally.

It’s a fair prediction and the most likely scenario, but there may just be a couple of spoilers in the conference who might have something to say about who will be kings of the PAC-12.

See, Oregon will be without quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James and the Ducks will be counting on running back De’Anthony Thomas to carry the load. USC, on the surface, is primed for a run at the national title with quarterback Matt Barkley at the helm, but the Trojans have lost top defensive end Nick Perry and did show some vulnerability last season.

Arguably, the North Division is tougher from top to bottom and the stronger division of the two. Stanford, Washington and even California could win the right game here and there and find themselves atop the North. Washington, led by quarterback Keith Price, is on the rise and probably has the best chance at unseating Oregon when everything is said and done. Meanwhile, Stanford will be playing with a new quarterback now that the Andrew Luck era is over. They’ll pick between Josh Nunes and Brett Nottingham.

In the South, Utah seems primed to make a run at USC, though UCLA could surprise. The Bruins will have a new head coach, Jim Mora, on the sidelines and had some momentum as last season ended. In fact, UCLA found itself in the conference title game last season as USC was still under NCAA sanctions and therefore could not play in the post-season. The Utes will bring offensive power and an improved defense to the field while the Bruins will pick from five quarterbacks while relying heavily on returning Jonathan Franklin and a talented but unproven defensive line.

Still, it’s hard to argue with a USC-Oregon finale, yet no one is willing to cut that into stone and walk away for the 2012 season. Keep your eyes on the Huskies, the Cardinal and the Utes.

One of them could upset the whole thing.