Reigning Pac-12 South Division winner ASU finished below UCLA and USC in a preseason poll of college football reporters to determine who the favorite is this year.
Of the 39 media members participating in the poll, ASU received one first-place vote and tallied 163 points. The Sun Devils ended up 18 points behind USC and 68 points behind UCLA, who garnered 37 first-place votes.
Oregon finished as the favorite to win the North Division as well as the Pac-12 Championship, receiving 37 first-place votes for its division and 24 votes to win the Championship game. UCLA collected the second-most Pac-12 Championship votes with 13.
Of the two schools, ASU and Stanford, that were in the Pac-12 Championship game last year, only Stanford received a single vote to win the title game.
Since ASU joined the Pacific Conference in 1978, it has never been picked in the preseason media poll to win the conference. The Sun Devils won the Pac-10 outright twice in 1986 and 1996, were co-champions in 2007, and were the South Division winners last season.
This is also the second year in a row Oregon and UCLA have been picked to win their respective divisions.
Last season, Oregon finished the regular season 10-2 and had the highest scoring offense in the Pac-12 but finished behind Stanford in the North Division and had to settle for an Alamo Bowl appearance against the Texas Longhorns. UCLA finished 9-3, including a crucial late-season loss against ASU, and was second in the South Division. The Bruins ended their season playing in the Sun Bowl against Virginia Tech.
Despite not having correctly predicted the conference champion since 2011, the preseason media poll has been correct 11 times in 14 polls since 2000.
Oregon was predicted to win the conference game last season but the title went to Stanford. In 2012, it was the USC Trojans were picked to come out on top in their first year of postseason eligibility after a two-year bowl ban. However, it was again Stanford that won the Pac-12, while USC finished 7-6 and second in the Pac-12 South.
The reason the Sun Devils are not predicted to repeat as Pac-12 South champions is most likely because of the turnover in defensive personnel. ASU lost many of its starters on that side of the ball, including key contributors Will Sutton and Carl Bradford, while the offense remains poised to be as explosive a group as it was last year.
At Pac-12 media day, redshirt senior offensive lineman Jamil Douglas spoke about how the team will try to get that inexperienced defense ready for the season.
“We have to attack them and make them play us,” Douglas said. “If we get after them in practice, and also at the same time tell them what they’re doing good and tell them what looks bad, then that will help them with their confidence.”
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