The biggest of the big games in the Pac-12 is this week, with the showdown between #2 (#3 in the BCS) Oregon and #6 (#5 in the BCS) Stanford Thursday night that will probably decide the Pac-12 North race.
There are 4 more conference games Saturday, and since Oregon St. (and Washington St.) aren't involved in any of them, Beaver fans can take most of it in.
#2 (#3 in the BCS) Oregon (8-0, 5-0) at #6 (#5 in the BCS) Stanford (7-1, 5-1) is the game of the year, at least in the conference, and its at 6 PM Thursday night, with ESPN on hand. Both teams had last week off, in order to be well rested for the "big one".
The Ducks pulled away from UCLA in the second half in their last action, running off 28 unanswered points after the Bruins had played Oregon to a 14-14 tie at half time. Marcus Mariota led a balanced Oregon offense, throwing for 230 yards and a touchdown, while Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner combined for over 200 yards rushing, and 4 touchdowns.
The Cardinal held off Oregon St. for a 20-12 win in Corvallis, as Tyler Gaffney ran for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Stanford's defense stopped Oregon St. on downs 4 times inside their own 35 yard line.
Home field is usually a big deal in college football, but in recent years, that hasn't been the case in this matchup. The teams have not only split the last 4 games, they have also split in each stadium, with Stanford upsetting Oregon 17-14 last year at Autzen.
If Big [over the air] Fox seems like a strange place for a game involving the last place Bears, and the time slot seems like an unusually favorable one for a 1 win team, even one in a major market, it is. But its the result of Fox having steered numerous games onto Fox Sports 1, aka the UFC channel, in an attempt to generate viewership and make a case for better distribution of Fox Sports 1 on cable systems, and now having to scramble to fulfill their contractual obligation of the number of games they must air. Conference Commissioner Larry Scott negotiated a minimum number of over the air games be covered, he just didn't put any criteria on the relevance of the games into the language.
The Trojans played their best game of the season in dominating Oregon St. 31-14 last Friday night. Both Silas Redd and Javorius Allen ran for over over 130 yards apiece, and Cody Kessler completed 17 of 21 passes.
The USC defense also intercepted Sean Mannion, the nation's leading passer, 3 times, 1 shy of the number of picks Mannion had suffered in the 7 prior games this season. The first one came in the Trojan's own end-zone, by Josh Shaw, who also had a game high 7 unassisted tackles, which led to him being named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
The Bears actually played better than they have in 2 months last Saturday. California not only scored first against visiting Arizona, the rallied to within 1 score 3 different times after the 'Cats had run off 19 consecutive points before falling 33-28.
Jared Goff completed 34 passes, to 11 different receivers, out of 56 throws, and with the help of 4 other rushers, the Bears ran for 130 yards as well.
USC will be looking for their 10th win in a row over the Bears, and to become bowl eligible with a win, since the Trojans are playing 13 games this year, and need a 7th win to earn a post-season berth.
The Sun Devils played their first good game away from Tempe this year, blowing Washington St. out of Pullman 55-21 on Halloween night to get their first road win of the season.
Marion Grice's 94 yards led the Sun Devil rushing attack that rolled up 282 yards against the Cougs, so it was a well balanced win for Arizona St.
The Utes had last week off, and needed the time for quarterback Travis Wilson's injured throwing hand to heal. An index finger injury and a major cut caused Wilson to have to leave Utah's last game at USC early, and Adam Schultz wasn't much more successful.
As a result, Utah only managed 201 yards of total offense, and USC won the game 19-3. It was the Ute's lowest scoring output in 3 years.
The game will also feature Utah Co-Defensive Coordinator Dennis Erickson going against his former team, which he coached from 2007 through 2011.
The Buffs hung with UCLA for a half, but gradually saw the Bruins pull away for a 45-23 win. Freshman Sefo Liufau continues to learn the Pac-12 ropes, and completed 25 of 36 throes, for 247 yards, and importantly, didn't throw an interception.
Christian Powell came up just 3 yards short of a 100 yard rushing day as well, but the Colorado defense couldn't contain the Bruins' Brett Hundley, though they were pretty effective against the rush otherwise, which gives them a chance against Washington.
The Huskies had the week off, taking advantage of the opportunity to get some banged up bodies well, most notably quarterback Keith Price. Price kind of got well 376 yards and 2 touchdowns as Washington snapped a 3 game losing streak against the conference's best teams, the last 2 in blowout fashion, with a 41-17 rout of California.
And Bishop Sankey really carried the Huskies much of the way to the win, with 241 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries.
Washington also spent the extra time working on how best to work around the absence of WR Kasen Williams, who was lost for the season to a surgery requiring foot injury suffered early in the game against the Bears.
The evening ends with #16 (#19 in the BCS) UCLA (6-2, 3-2) visiting Arizona (6-3, 3-2) at 8 PM AST (7 PM PST), and its ESPN's Saturday evening game. The Bruins haven't won in Tucson in 10 years, and the 'Zona Zoo will be working to help their 'Cats keep it that way.
The tortilla tossing 'Cats will also be looking to avenge last year's 66-10 demolition that the Bruins administered to them.
The Bruins snapped a 2 game losing streak, with the 3 score + win despite having 9 freshmen in their starting lineup. Injuries have made UCLA even more dependent on Hundley, though not one dimensional. Hundley ran for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns, and threw for 2 more, and 273 yards, spreading 19 completions across 8 different receivers.
The Wildcats rolled up 448 yards on California, getting most of it from their 1-2 punch of B.J. Denker, who threw for 261 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for 3 more scores, and Ka'Deem Carey, who carried 32 times for 152 yards.
The Arizona defense also picked Goff off twice.
The winner stays alive in the Pac-12 South race, and probably assures themselves of a "better" bowl, while the loser will find themselves scrambling a bit down the stretch.
The Beavers only converted 2 of 11 3rd downs against USC, and that led to not getting the ball to their play makers enough. Terron Ward ran for 53 yards on only 8 carries, and Brandin Cooks had 40 on 2 carries. Cooks, who averages over 10 catches a game, had only 6 catches, and as a result only 88 yards and just 1 touchdown.
The focus of the off week will be getting a banged up defense semi-healthy again, and getting the offense back in gear before taking on Arizona St. in Tempe, where some offensive fire power will surely be needed.
The Cougars had no such problem with their passing game against the Sun Devils, as Connor Halliday threw for 300 yards. But Washington St. has become the ultimate 1 dimensional offense, rushing for only 27 yards on 7 plays before Halliday's losses were subtracted.
Washington St.'s defense, which was playing well early in the season, has also come unraveled of late; the Cougs have allowed 169 points in their last 3 games, all losses, and all losses by at least 4 scores. The Cougs will need to find some support for Halliday on one side of the ball or the other for the stretch drive, which begins with a trip to Tucson next week.
Here's the complete weekend schedule, complete with times adjusted for east coast bias:
|TIME||ROAD TEAM||HOME TEAM||NETWORK|
|Noon ET||Western Kentucky, 5-4||Army, 3-6|
|Noon ET||SMU, 3-4||Cincinnati, 6-2|
|Noon ET||Vanderbilt, 4-4||Florida, 4-4|
|Noon ET||TCU, 3-6||Iowa State, 1-7|
|Noon ET||No. 8 Missouri, 8-1||Kentucky, 2-6|
|Noon ET||UAB, 2-6||Marshall, 5-3|
|Noon ET||Penn State, 5-3||Minnesota, 7-2|
|Noon ET||Iowa, 5-4||Purdue, 1-7|
|Noon ET||No. 9 Auburn, 8-1||Tennessee, 4-5|
|Noon ET||Kansas State, 4-4||No. 25 Texas Tech, 7-2|
|Noon ET||No. 2 Florida State, 8-0||Wake Forest, 4-5|
|12:21 p.m. ET||Arkansas, 3-6||Ole Miss, 5-3|
|12:30 p.m. ET||Appalachian State, 2-7||Georgia, 5-3|
|12:30 p.m. ET||Virginia, 2-7||North Carolina, 3-5|
|1 p.m. ET||Western Michigan, 1-8||Eastern Michigan, 1-8|
|2 p.m. ET||Tulane, 6-3||UTSA, 4-5|
|3 p.m. ET||USC, 6-3||California, 1-8|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Nevada, 3-6||Colorado State, 4-5|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Illinois, 3-5||Indiana, 3-5|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Syracuse, 4-4||Maryland, 5-3|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Nebraska, 6-2||Michigan, 6-2|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Hawaii, 0-8||Navy, 4-4|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Boston College, 4-4||New Mexico State, 1-8|
|3:30 p.m. ET||UTEP, 1-7||North Texas, 6-3|
|3:30 p.m. ET||Mississippi State, 4-4||No. 15 Texas A&M, 7-2|
|3:30 p.m. ET||BYU, 6-2||No. 24 Wisconsin, 6-2|
|3:45 p.m. ET||Tulsa, 2-6||East Carolina, 6-2|
|4 p.m. ET||NC State, 3-5||Duke, 6-2|
|4 p.m. ET||FIU, 1-7||Middle Tennessee, 5-4|
|4 p.m. ET||Kansas, 2-6||No. 14 Oklahoma State, 7-1|
|4 p.m. ET||No. 22 Arizona State, 6-2||Utah, 4-4|
|4:30 p.m. ET||Tennessee-Martin, 6-3||Memphis, 1-6|
|5 p.m. ET||Old Dominion, 6-3||Idaho, 1-8|
|7 p.m. ET||Southern Miss, 0-8||Louisiana Tech, 3-5|
|7 p.m. ET||Virginia Tech, 6-3||No. 11 Miami, 7-1|
|7 p.m. ET||Houston, 7-1||No. 21 UCF, 6-1|
|7 p.m. ET||Arkansas State, 4-4||ULM, 5-4|
|7 p.m. ET||Texas, 6-2||West Virginia, 4-5|
|8 p.m. ET||No. 13 LSU, 7-2||No. 1 Alabama, 8-0|
|8 p.m. ET||No. 23 Notre Dame, 7-2||Pittsburgh, 4-4|
|8 p.m. ET||Utah State, 5-4||UNLV, 5-4|
|8 p.m. ET||Colorado, 3-5||Washington, 5-3|
|10 p.m. ET||No. 19 UCLA, 6-2||Arizona, 6-2|
|10:15 p.m. ET||No. 16 Fresno State, 8-0||Wyoming, 4-4|
|10:30 p.m. ET||San Diego State, 4-4||San Jose State, 5-3|