No week night made for ESPN mismatches this week, so we are back to 6 Saturday games. But there's only one that's the game of the season, and it comes up this week.
The Pac-12 Northern Division Championship is probably to be decided here, as well as the sight of the first ever Pac-12 Championship. A BCS bowl, and possibly even a shot at the national championship are at stake as well.
A Stanford win assures the Cardinal of both the division title and getting to host the championship game. Oregon will still need another win or a Stanford loss to Cal to accomplish the same thing if they overcome the Cardinal and their slower playing surface (which could become a factor in an otherwise close contest).
Oregon put down any thought of Washington horning into the Pac-12 North race with a 34-17 win in the last game in Husky stadium before it is largely rebuilt. LaMichael James ran for 156 yards, and the game's first touchdown, on 25 carries, but it was the Duck defense that stood out. Oregon only allowed a little over 100 rushing yards (before sacks of Keith Price were subtracted), and just 278 total yards, despite the Huskies having 12 more minutes to run plays. Eddie Pleasant picked off Price twice in the first half, and both led to Oregon scores. Pleasant was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week as a result.
Stanford pulled away from Oregon St. late in the third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points to turn a 17-13 game into a 38-13 victory. The Cardinal used their favored formula, controlling the game on the ground both ways. Stanford ran for 300 yards, while allowing Oregon St. only 33, after almost that many sack yards were subtracted. As a result, it opened up opportunities for Andrew Luck to throw 3 touchdown passes, and Stanford controlled the ball for more than 2/3 of the game.
It's the Pac-12 South basement bowl, as the 'Cats and 'Buffs try to overcome disappointing seasons with a win they could build upon going forward.
Utah ended Arizona's last hope for a bowl game by beating the 'Cats 34-21 in Tucson. And they did it despite Nick Foles' latest big game, where he threw for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns. And Arizona ran for over 130 yards. But Foles also threw 2 interceptions, and the 'Cats also lost a fumble, whereas the Utes played turnover-free football.
The Buffs gave up 318 passing yards and 6 touchdowns through the air by USC's Matt Barkley, which obliterated an early 7-0 Colorado lead, and produced a 42-17 blowout loss to the Trojans. It doesn't make the prospect of successfully containing Foles look particularly likely.
Price's second touchdown pass had the Huskies within 7 points of the Ducks midway in the third quarter. But the Ducks took control after that. Chris Polk was held to 80 yards rushing, and 111 total, and he was kept out of the end zone. Three turnovers, two on Price's interceptions, further hampered the Huskies.
The Trojans ran for 243 yards to go with Barkley's air show, which earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, and USC basically had an ESPN televised tuning and recruiting show. Now, they will look to break an unusual losing streak against Washington. Husky kicker Eric Folk has delivered the game winning field goal as time ran out the last two years. Imagine the atmosphere if this game comes down to a Folk field goal attempt. Which it very well could.
The Beavers saw their last hope for a bowl bid get trampled as Stanford romped away over the last third of the game, something that hasn't happened so early in the season since 1997. Sean Mannion threw for 252 yards, the 8th. game in a row that he has thrown for over 200 yards, but the Cardinal ran 32 more plays, 31 of which were runs, and that effectively crushed Oregon St.'s hopes for an upset.
The Golden Bears moved within one win of becoming bowl eligible by blasting Washington St. 30-7. Isi Sofele ran for 138 of the 288 rushing yards California trampled over the Cougars for, which doesn't bode well for the Oregon St. defense, which has given up 525 rushing yards the last 2 weeks.
The Bruins took control of their own fate as far as winning the Pac-12 South, and moved within one game of becoming bowl eligible, when Arizona St.'s Alex Garoutte missed his third field goal of the game, and UCLA, who had taken the lead with 49 seconds left on Derrick Coleman's second touchdown, held onto a 29-28 win.
Coleman rolled up 119 of the Bruins 220 rushing yards, and Kevin Prince threw for 196 yards and a score, but also added 61 rushing yards, as UCLA strung multiple wins together for the first time since the first half of last season.
The Utes won their second consecutive game, and third of four, to also move within one win of becoming bowl eligible with their win at Arizona. John White IV ran for 109 yards, and 2 touchdowns, and Jon Hays threw for 199 yards, and 2 touchdowns as Utah had good balance as well as no turnovers.
The Sun Devils fumbled twice to go along with the three missed field goals, and the miscues negated an otherwise good offensive effort. Brock Osweiler threw for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, and ran for 29 more yards, and another touchdown, while Cameron Marshall ran for 168 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
A cold night in Pullman might not be what the Sun Devils are looking for, given that they are 5-0 in Tempe, but just 1-3 on the road.
The Cougars are playing just their second true home game in Pullman since Sept. 10, and have now dropped 5 games in a row, the last 4 all by multiple touchdowns. Marshall Lobbestael completed only 15 of 37 passes, for only 155 yards, against California, and Washington St. only managed 69 net rushing yards, after a 28 yard loss on a bad snap on a punt.
The Cougars probably need at least a couple of wins down the stretch to save coach Paul Wulff's job, and with Utah and a trip to Seattle for the Apple Cup yet to come, capitalizing on that cold night at Martin Stadium probably qualifies as a must win opportunity.