As we pointed out in the water-cooler chat on Tuesday, the Pacific-12 Conference is just too balanced and tough to go undefeated through the season. It’s not like the SEC, which has a few strong teams and a lot of weaklings, so that top-heavy benefit isn’t there for the Conference of Champions when it comes to chasing down a College Football Playoff slot.
(Of course, our tournament projection has two Pac-12 teams in it, because we’re wise.)
Still, there are five teams from the league ranked, from No. 13 Oregon to No. 21 Southern California. That’s some depth.
Now, on to this weekend’s games … starting Friday night, all times Pacific. Welcome to the full-bore conference schedule, although Colorado and Oregon do have byes this week.
Arizona State at No. 15 California (7:30 pm Friday): The Golden Bears are the only undefeated team left in the conference, so it would be par for the course for them to lose this game. The Sun Devils have been underwhelming this year in three wins, and they lost last week at home to the Buffaloes. Look for Cal to win a close, low-scoring game at home in Berkeley. California 21, Arizona State 17.
No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington (12:30 pm Saturday): This suddenly becomes a huge game for each team. The Trojans won a big one at home last week against Utah, but they can go on the road and do it again? The Huskies already lost a home game this year in conference play to Cal, so they can’t afford another loss. Washington is the better-coached, more-talented team right now, too. Washington 34, USC 24.
Stanford at Oregon State (4 pm Saturday): The Cardinal look mediocre this year, while the Beavers are striving for respectability. Stanford is 1-3, and it’s hard to see it losing this game. Oregon State is 1-2 and will be harder to beat at home than at any time in the last few seasons. Still, the Cardinal have more talent. Stanford 31, Oregon State 24.
Washington State at No. 19 Utah (7 pm Saturday): This is literally a must-win game for both teams. The Cougars blew that huge lead last week at home, and they have a nasty schedule this year, which starts now. The Utes dropped a game last week to USC on the road they could have (or should have?) won, and now Utah basically needs to run the table to win the South Division as predicted. The edge here goes to the home team that didn’t blow an epic lead last week. Utah 37, Washington State 34.
UCLA at Arizona (7:30 pm Saturday): This game may be an afterthought on most fans’ radars, but it also could end up being the most exciting conference matchup of the weekend. The Bruins should be a whole new team now that they know what they can do, and the Wildcats are usually quite entertaining. This could be another wild shootout that ends up with a basketball score. UCLA 54, Arizona 51.
Check back here frequently for new Pac-12 content: Tuesday weekly wrap-ups and Thursday weekly previews!