When USC shut down Utah in Pasadena last week, it may have left the door a bit open for the rest of the Pac-12 South. The Utes still appear to be in a favorable spot at 3-1 in conference play, but with UCLA still to play on the schedule the fate of the Pac-12 is not nearly as locked down as it may have been had the Utes beaten the Trojans last week.
UCLA, Arizona State and USC are all 2-2 in Pac-12 play, which puts them each one game behind Utah in the loss column. USC, of course, now owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah and UCLA will have an opportunity to get a similar edge on November 21. Arizona State has already lost to Utah, putting the Sun Devils a bit behind the curve. Arizona State would have to win out the rest of the way and hope Utah takes not one, but two losses to avoid having to to worry about tiebreakers not going Arizona State’s way. The question is whether or not any team currently chasing Utah will be able to run the table to make catching and passing Utah a possibility.
We already know that USC or UCLA are guaranteed to lose one more game in Pac-12 play; the two crosstown rivals square off November 28. If UCLA tops Utah, the Bruins and Trojans could very well determine the winner of the Pac-12 South. This assumes USC avoids tripping up on the road at Oregon the week leading up to the rivalry game and wins on the road at Cal this week. The way things have been going, it is not unfathomable to see both USC and UCLA lose one more time before facing each other. That would be good news for Utah.
Arizona State is currently in a position to slide into the Pac-12 Championship Game with some help. As mentioned, USC or UCLA are guaranteed to lose one more game. Arizona State scored a head-to-head win against UCLA but lost to USC. If UCLA edges Utah, that head-to-head win against the Bruins could be a huge advantage for Arizona State. Arizona State still needs to win games against Oregon, Washington State, Washington, Arizona and Cal, but there is not one game that would be deemed impossible to win.
The Pac-12 South is going to be wildly entertaining coming down the stretch. The pressure is on in Salt Lake City.
On Tap This weekend
California (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) vs. USC (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12)
USC is coming off a big win over Utah and now looks to flex some more muscle against Cal. The Golden Bears are looking to shake off a two-game losing streak against Utah and UCLA. The Trojans played with some extra motivation in their first game since Steve Sarkisian was fired. Can they do it again on the road? A win for Cal makes the Golden Bears bowl eligible after falling just shy of the postseason last season.
No. 24 UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) vs. Colorado (4-4, 1-3 Pac-12)
The Bruins got back to their winning ways with a solid win last week against Cal, and now they can become bowl-eligible with a win at home against Colorado. UCLA leads the all-time series with an 8-2 edge on the Buffs and have won four straight times. UCLA has scored 40 points in each of those wins.
Washington State (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) vs. No. 8 Stanford (6-1, 5-0 Pac-12)
Mike Leach has Washington State on the cusp of becoming bowl eligible, a feat few could have predicted before the season started. The Cougars host perhaps the Pac-12 team to beat in Stanford. The Cardinal have been on a mission with Christian McCaffrey becoming a rising running back leading the charge.
Southern Utah (5-2, 4-0 Big Sky) vs. Cal Poly (2-5, 1-3 Big Sky)
Cal Poly is coming off a second straight close loss against one of the top teams in the Big Sky. Last week, the Mustangs came up three points shy against Portland State, a week after losing by one to Eastern Washington. This week, they take on another top contender in the Big Sky in Southern Utah. Last year Southern Utah won a tight one, 42-39, so another close call could be in the works.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.