Week 9 is that rarest of weekends, one where all the conference teams are in action, and all on Saturday, with no non-conference interlopers. And if last week was blow-out week, with all the games decided by 2 touchdowns or more, this could be separation week, at least for the games between the LA and Arizona schools.
The downside is only 2 of the games have true national distribution, with 4 of the 6 games on Pac-12 channels, and their distribution shortcomings, and 2 of them are in competition with each other, meaning many customers, those who have carriers only providing one channel, won't have access to one of the evening games.
Half the slate is in direct mid-day competition with each other as well, and oddly, both Arizona schools are playing mid-day games, when temperatures will be in the upper 80s and climbing, while the night games are late starts in Seattle and Salt Lake City, with temperatures in the 40s and falling. A schedule obviously put together by suits in a climate controlled office who won't be in any of the stadiums come game time.
UCLA (5-2, 2-2) at Arizona St. (5-2, 3-1) at Noon AST (Noon PDT) on FX.
The Bruins had last week off, after they edged Utah 21-14 behind their usual 1-2 punch of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin, who accounted for all 3 of UCLA's scores. Hundley completed 15 of 21 passes, for 183 yards, including a 64 yard touchdown toss to Shaquelle Evans, and also ran for another 68 yards and a score.
Franklin had a workman-like day, with 79 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, leading a Bruins rushing attack that rolled up 171 yards, and added an 11 yard catch.
The Sun Devils capitalized on an Oregon turnover to jump ahead 7-0 less than a minute into the game last Thursday night in Tempe, but were then shell-shocked, as the Ducks blitzed Arizona St. with 43 points in less than 18 minutes, and the game was effectively over before the middle of the second quarter. The Sun Devils also lost Will Sutton, who is "uncertain" for this game as well as a result, to a bone bruise on his knee on the second play of the night.
With most of the game garbage time, Arizona St. battled back to only lose 43-21, and Michael Eubank came off the Sun Devil bench to complete 10 of 19 passes for 123 yards, slightly better than starter Taylor Kelly, who completed 10 of 18 tosses, but for only 93 yards. Both Kelly and Eubank threw a touchdown, but both also threw 2 interceptions.
The game probably determines which team might be able to mount a challenge in the weeks to come to USC for the Pac-12 South Division's berth in the Conference Championship game.
Colorado (1-5, 1-3) at No. 2 Oregon (7-0, 4-0) at Noon PDT on the Pac-12 Channel.
The Buffs were blown out of the LA Coliseum by USC, as the Trojans threw for 7 touchdowns on their way to a 50-6 win. This despite the fact that Colorado had the ball for nearly an entire quarter of the game more than USC.
Colorado was beat 51-17 the game before, and 42-14 the week before that. With Stanford and a trip to high-scoring Arizona to follow this week's visit to Autzen, the Buffs may be in the midst of one of the worst 5 game series of blowouts in conference history.
The Ducks couldn't get De'Anthony Thomas going, as the Sun Devils concentrated on stopping him, but Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariotta made sure it didn't matter. Barner romped through the Arizona St. defense for 143 yards on just 15 carries, with nearly half of them coming on a 71 yard breakaway for the Ducks' first score.
Mariotta ran for another 135 yards, including an 86 yard scoring sprint, and completed 9 of 12 throws, for another 46 yards, and another score. And Mariotta completed the tri-fecta, catching a touchdown pass from Bryan Bennett.
No. 10 USC (6-1, 4-1) at Arizona (4-3, 1-3) at 12:30 PM AST (12:30 PDT) on ABC in the west, and ESPN2 elsewhere.
The Trojans re-wrote some record books in their rout of Colorado. Matt Barkley completed 19 of 20 passes, for 298 yards, and 6 touchdowns, tieing his own single game USC record for touchdown passes in a game. The 6 scoring tosses pushed Barkley's career total to 102, breaking Matt Linehart's USC and conference record of 99. Barkley's 95% completion rate (the only incompletion was a drop by Curtis McNeal) also broke Rick Neuheisel's conference record for completion percentage with a minimum of 20 throws. It made Barkley the obvious and overwhelming choice for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
8 of the completions went to Robert Woods, for 4 touchdowns, which set a USC record for touchdown catches in a game, and 132 yards. The 8 catches also increased his career total to 220, moving him past Dwayne Jarrett for the USC career mark.
It almost caused Marqise Lee's 6 catches for 103 yards, including a 55 yarder for the Trojan's first touchdown of the day to get lost in the shuffle.
The 'Cats were rolling up some impressive offensive numbers of their own, running out to a 31-10 lead over Washington, and then adding 21 unanswered second half points enroute to a 52-17 blowout of the Huskies in Tucson.
Matt Scott completed 14 of 22 passes, for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns, and ran 8 times for another 43 yards, plus another score. Ka'Deem Carey ran for 172 yards and another touchdown on his 29 carries, and the 'Cats collectively ripped through the Washington defense for 256 yards on the ground, and 533 total, reminiscent of last year's horrendous Husky defensive outings.
USC has won the last 2 meetings with Arizona, and the Trojans have defeated the 'Cats in 9 of the last 10 games. But the last 5 have all been tight, and year's shootout was a 48-41 affair. It might take 50 to win this time.
Washington St. (2-5, 0-4) at No. 19 Stanford (5-2, 3-1) at 3:15 PM PDT on the Pac-12 Channel.
The Cougars had a week off to try to figure out who to play at quarterback, after falling 31-17 to California, in Washington St.'s only appearance in Pullman between Sept. 22 and November 10. Jeff Tuel replaced an ineffective Connor Halliday, who completed only 4 of 10 passes, and more importantly threw 2 interceptions, to start the game. Tuel proceeded to put the ball up 53 times against the Bears, completing 30 of them, for 320 yards, an air show made necessary because the Cougs were only able to run for 36 net yards.
Meanwhile, the Washington St. defense was allowing the Bears to run wild for 318 yards, and allowing over 500 total yards.
The Cardinal won the moderately "Big Game" 21-3 at California, mostly due to a stark difference in the ground game. Stepfan Taylor had a 189 yard, 1 touchdown rushing day on 28 carries, which moved him to second place on the Stanford career rushing list, ahead of Toby Gerhardt, and behind only Darren Nelson.
Meanwhile, the devastating Cardinal run defense held the Bears to 3 net yards. 3. Chase Thomas led the stifling defensive effort, with 7 tackles, which included 4 for a loss, and a sack, and also a forced fumble and another fumble recovery, earning him the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor. Stanford's dominating defense recorded 11 tackles for loss total, and 4 sacks.
After taking the 21-3 lead before the middle of the second quarter, the Cardinal went into clock killing mode, and was content to do nearly nothing the rest of the day, other than torment their rivals, and retain the ax for a 3rd straight year.
This game features a team that can run the ball and play defense, and one that can do neither. It may not matter who lines up at quarterback for the Cougs.
California (3-5, 2-3) at Utah (2-5, 0-4) at 7:45 PM MDT (6:45 PM PDT) on the Pac-12 Channel in the Bay Area and the Mountain region.
The Bears had the ball nearly 14 minutes less than Stanford, and it contributed to being out-gained 475 yards to 217. Zach Maynard completed only 19 of 31 passes, for 214 yards, but he did throw an interception.
Its not as though California didn't try to run the ball, but Isi Sofele only got 13 yards on 10 carries, and C.J. Anderson only managed 5 yards on 7 carries.
Brendan Bigelow's 96 yards on 4 kickoff returns was the best offensive weapon the Bears had.
The Utes out rushed Oregon St. by 82 yards, out-possessed the Beavers by nearly 9 minutes, and freshman Travis Wilson almost matched Oregon St.'s Cody Vaz passing, throwing for only 2 yards less. But Utah suffered 4 turnovers, and 2 of them, including a costly fumble on a reverse inside the Beavers' 5 yard line, were unforced turnovers.
No. 7 Oregon State (6-0, 4-0) vs. Washington (3-4, 1-3) at Century Link Field in Seattle at 7:15 PM PDT on the Pac-12 Channel *.
* Except not in the Bay Area and the Mountain regions.
The Beavers welcome back quarterback Sean Mannion, after Vaz guided Oregon St. to a 21-7 win over Utah, his second win as a starter in place of Mannion. A big reason was a second consecutive turnover free outing by the Beavers, while their defense was harvesting the 4 Ute turnovers, 2 of which led to 2 play drives, capped by 2 of the 3 touchdowns Storm Woods ran for.
Markus Wheaton had 7 catches for 90 yards, easily the best offensive effort of the evening by anyone on either team.
The Huskies' Keith Price completed 29 of 52 passes, for 256 yards, but just 1 touchdown, but also threw 2 interceptions in the loss to Arizona. Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was the game's leading receiver, with 8 catches for 110 yards, and a touchdown.
But the emerging weapon for the Huskies is Bishop Sankey, who ran for 87 yards and a touchdown, on 19 carries, and also had 6 catches for another 32 yards, against Arizona.
Oregon St. has won 7 of the last 8 games against Washington, with only a 1 point, double overtime loss 2 years ago having interrupted the run.