To put it lightly, the Pac-12 burst into a thousand bits of fiery ember last week. Utah and Stanford were left on their knees, sobbing, trying to collect the rubble that was once their hopes and dreams of a college football playoff bid. Arizona and Oregon robbed them of their chance to play for the national championship, exemplifying just how crazy the Pac-12 is this year. If your memory is a bit hazy on the Wildcats this season, Arizona lost 49-3 against Washington a mere three weeks ago. Saturday, they beat Utah, who has been one of the most consistent forces in the Pac-12 this entire year. Washington State also pulled off a nice little upset, beating UCLA 31-27. With the way Wazzu has played of late I can't say I am really that surprised, but those who have not been keeping up with the Cougs this year may have choked on their coffee looking at the final results of that game. In other news, the football spirits teased Colorado fans in their narrow loss to USC, but even the spirits could not get the gutted Buffalo roster to pull off an upset.
The Pac-12 now has five teams in the top 25, albeit none that will be competing for the national championship. Washington State is ranked #24 (for the first time since... wait, have they ever been ranked? surprisingly yes, in 2006) Oregon is back in the polls at #23, USC is up to #22, Utah dropped to #18 and Stanford fell to #15. May Stanford and Utah's title bids rest in peace.
Speaking of #18 Utah (8-2, 5-2), they will be hosting now-unranked UCLA (7-3, 4-3) at home on Saturday. Despite being ranked for most of the year, most saw right through the young Bruins. They have not been the same team since losing star LB Eric Kendricks at the beginning of the year and often displayed erratic play under QB Josh Rosen. They have a good opportunity to prove the people wrong and bounce back against a similarly reeling Utah team. Watch this game at 7:30 pm PT on FOX.
Starting at the same time on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes will be the "clash of the cacti" (trademark pending), better known as the Territorial Cup, between Arizona (6-5, 3-5) and Arizona State (5-5, 3-5) in Tempe. ASU and UA are both fresh off of atoning wins against Washington and Utah, respectively. A week ago, I pondered if either team would win another Pac-12 game outside of playing of each other. Things turn around quickly. The 'Cats have achieved bowl eligibility, but the Sun Devils need a win in either this, one of the nastiest of nasty rivalries around, or next week at Cal to qualify. Just last year, this was the Pac-12 South Championship game, and both teams originally expected to be better this season. Things changed, but it might actually increase the intensity this time.
This week's marquee matchup may well kickoff when #22 USC (7-3, 5-2) takes on #23 Oregon (7-3, 5-2) in Eugene. Oregon and USC have both experienced their fair share of bumps and bruises this season, but have both responded resiliently. USC played on the edge against Colorado last week, though, and are still adjusting to playing under their new head coach. Meanwhile, Royce "Move, Get Out the Way" Freeman is the best running back in the Pac-12 and the UO defense actually showed some life against Stanford. Oregon could run away with this one. Watch on ESPN at 12:30 pm PT to see who takes it.
Next up on the docket will be Washington (4-6, 2-5) at Oregon State (2-8, 0-7). Thinking about this game makes me sad. Playing OSU this year is a lot like playing a "choose your own adventure" video game. Do you prefer to win football games by running, passing or by strangling your opponent to death on defense? Because all of those options are completely feasible ways to beat the Beavers! Press "A" to begin instantly thrashing OSU mercilessly. Press "B" to allow them to hang in there in the first half before laying the hammer down. Press "C" to let the Beavers beat themselves by having all of their half-way decent players get injured. One can only wonder which path Washington will go down. Watch this game at 3:00 pm PT on Pac-12 Networks.
California (6-4, 3-4) will travel to #15 Stanford (8-2, 7-1) to take on the freshly beaten Cardinal. Hopefully Cal is ready, because something tells me that Christian McCaffrey is ready to take his anger out on some fools. Cal has not beaten Stanford for five years, and they will be hard pressed to stop McCaffrey and Co. this time around. If Stanford loses, they will likely also be losing their spot in the Pac-12 championship, so this really is a pretty Big Game. There is quite a bit at stake in this game, and the Cardinal should deliver against the Bears' notoriously shoddy defense. Check it out on ESPN at 7:30 pm PT.
Colorado (4-7, 1-6) will travel to Washington State (7-3, 5-2) for the last Pac-12 game of the week. We now take you live to the Cougar film room in Pullman, Washington:
Mmm, I'm gonna eat me some Buffalo this week, Mike Leach gently whispers to himself, eyes fixated on the screen as he watches tape of Oregon State piling up 400 yards of offense on Colorado. I'm gonna have me a nice, tasty Buffalo snack.
Watch the Cougars satisfy their hunger at 7:45 pm PT on ESPN 2, and stay safe out there, kids.
Here's the complete national schedule, adjusted for east coast bias times.