The Pac-12 took a devastating blow in the College Football Playoff picture last week when both Stanford and Utah took a loss in conference play. Oregon’s upset of Stanford was bad for the Pac-12’s playoff chances, but Utah being taken down by Arizona did not help the cause. To make things a bit more complicated for the Pac-12, UCLA also lost a game at home to Washington State. All three ranked teams in the Pac-12 losing put quite the dent in the plan, but Stanford remains in the running if it can avoid another loss.
Stanford, with two losses, looks to keep their playoff dream alive with a win in The Big Game against rival Cal. Stanford has held the upper hand in this series over the last few years as Cal’s seniors surely know. No player on Cal’s roster or coach on the staff has experienced a win in the rivalry. If Jared Goff and company are to snap that losing streak to their rivals, Cal’s defense will have to find a way to slow down Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who remains one of the most dynamic players west of the Mississippi and remains in the Heisman Trophy discussion despite a loss last week.
A win for Stanford will clinch the Pac-12 North Division and send the Cardinal to the Pac-12 Championship Game in a couple of more weeks. If the Cardinal happen to stumble against Cal, then the door to the Pac-12 North will be wide open for Oregon. A Stanford loss and an Oregon win will give the Ducks the division championship and send the Ducks to the championship game. Stanford’s late-season playoff push continues with a win this week and next, with No. 4 Notre Dame making a trip out west next week.
Down in the Pac-12 South, things are still up for grabs as well between Utah, USC and UCLA. The Utes and Trojans are currently tied for first-place in the South, although USC has a head-to-head tiebreaker working in its favor. Utah takes on UCLA this weekend in Los Angeles. A win by the Bruins and UCLA will set-up a winner-takes-all in the Pac-12 South next week against the Trojans, regardless of what happens to USC on the road at Oregon this weekend.
Buckle up. This is going to be a wild and bumpy finish for the Pac-12.
On Tap This Weekend
No. 11 Stanford (8-2, 7-1 Pac-12) vs. Cal (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12)
A win for Stanford clinches the Pac-12 North. Cal is already eligible for postseason play, but would love to score a victory against their Bay Area-rivals.
No. 13 Utah (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (7-3, 4-3 Pac-12)
First-place is on the line. A Utah win keeps the pressure on USC to keep pace. Simply put, the winner stays in the Pac-12 South hunt, the other takes a seat.
Sacramento State (2-8, 1-6 Big Sky) vs. UC Davis (1-9, 1-6 Big Sky)
A long, disappointing season comes to an end for both Sacramento State and UC Davis, but at least one will get to end the season with a win.
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.