The last Saturday in October is upon us, the first official BCS rankings were released later in the week and that means the race for conference championships and bowl bids is in full swing. TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage is breaking down the week with a separate post for each conference. Let’s take a look at Pac-12 Week 9…
UCLA-Oregon (7 PM ET, ESPN)
Stanford-Oregon State (10:30 PM ET, ESPN)
Utah-USC (4 PM ET, Pac-12 Network)
Arizona-Colorado (8 PM ET, Pac-12 Network)
Cal-Washington (11 PM ET, Fox Sports 1)
Oregon has no margin for error, as the current BCS race has the Ducks and Florida State battling for a spot alongside Alabama in the January 7 BCS National Championship Game, and Oregon is currently stuck at #3. If anyone at UCLA is thinking about being a dark horse in the national championship race, they have to hope the Bruins can pull a shocker as a 23-point underdog in Eugene.
With UCLA losing last week in Stanford, and likely to fall again on Saturday (though the point spread looks excessive, even allowing for the return of De’Anthony Thomas and the continued absence of Jordan James), there’s a lot of intrigue in the Pac-12 South race.
UCLA, even at two losses, would control its destiny, since they play Arizona State and the Sun Devils have already lost once. But a Bruin defeat also means that USC can stay in contention if they knock off Utah. We’ve now seen the Trojans beat Arizona and play Notre Dame tough on the road since Lane Kiffin’s firing and the USC defense seems to be back in lockdown mode.
Everything is on the line for Stanford in the late show against Oregon State. With a home game against Oregon looming, the Cardinal still controls its destiny for winning the Pac-12 and could certainly get right back in the national championship race. Even if they lost to Oregon, an at-large bid to the BCS would play for a 10-2 Stanford team. All that goes out the window if they lose at Oregon State, and the Beavers are unbeaten in Pac-12 play. A win here and Mike Riley’s team is suddenly poised to play Oregon in their traditional season finale for a possible division title in the Pac-12 North.
Finally, Washington must stop the bleeding. Their three consecutive losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State, the latter on the road, are nothing to be ashamed of, but the Huskies gave up 53 points to Arizona State. We’ve seen how a team like Northwestern got knocked down from a string of tough games and didn’t get back up afterward. Saturday night’s home game with Cal will tell us where Washington stands in that regard.