Week five of Pac-12 football has come and gone revealing the contenders and pretenders of each division are beginning to form. The North continues to prove it is the stronger division, but we might be getting some clarity as to who the best teams in the South are. Both division races are wide open, and it will be an exciting race to see which teams end up in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship.
The game of the week in the conference last weekend proved to be a complete flop for the Pac-12. With a chance to win a statement game, Stanford was beaten handily by Notre Dame 38-17. While Notre Dame is a talented team, Stanford did not play well in this game. With the loss, a Pac-12 team making the playoff is nearly impossible. The loss stings for Stanford, but they still have a great chance to go to a New Year’s Six bowl. Oregon, had a big bounce back game against Cal that keeps them in the division race. Washington had one of the best performances of the week by dominating BYU 35-7. Elsewhere, Washington State managed to squeak by Utah with a 28-24 victory, and Oregon State got pummeled by ASU 52-24. Oregon, Stanford, and Washington keep proving that they are the class of the conference.
Through five weeks, there is still very little clarity as to who the best team in this division is. The game with the biggest division implications this past weekend was Arizona vs USC. USC gained a big lead against Arizona, only to almost throw it all away barely winning 24-20. This was a game that appeared as if neither team wanted to win because of the amount of mistakes and penalties. Either way, a win is a win which means USC has a slight edge in the division race. The only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 is somehow Colorado. They handled UCLA this past weekend beating them 38-16. While Colorado is undefeated, they have played four teams with a combined record of 1-17. That is the exact opposite of strong strength of schedule. They play ASU this coming weekend which will be the greatest test they have had all season, and speaking of the devils, they dismantled Oregon State this past weekend. Right now no team looks like they want to win this division so it will be exciting to see who steps up and who folds in the second half of the season.
Best Performance of the Week: Oregon Ducks
In an early season must-win game, Oregon went on the road and took care of business. This could have easily been a trap game for the ducks because of the heart breaker they suffered against Stanford one week prior. The key to the game was the Oregon defense forcing five turnovers and also scoring a touchdown. The turnovers allowed the Ducks to control the ball, and control the game. Justin Herbert had another solid game that was definitely aided by Oregon having two 100 yard rushers. This was a huge bounce back game for the Ducks in a game they needed to win.
Worst Performance of the Week: Arizona Wildcats
While Stanford did not play well this past weekend, they lost to a top ten team on the road. That was going to be a tough game to win no matter what. Arizona, on the other hand, hosted a USC team that hadn’t played well most of the season. On Saturday night, USC once again did not play well, but Arizona was arguably worse. Early in the third quarter, Arizona was down 24-0 after a long touchdown run by USC. The offense never seemed to get going until the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late. Along with the offensive struggles, there was also a blocked field goal and missed extra point that cost the Wildcats four points, which would have tied the game. Arizona was lucky to only lose 24-20, but this was also a game they could have easily won. In the end, they lost an important division game in a sloppy fashion earning them my worst performance of the week.
Upcoming Game of the Week: #21 Colorado vs ASU
In a division that has no clear front runner, this game has become important for both teams. Win, and you control your own destiny, or lose and hope you get help from other teams along the way. As Herm Edwards would say, “You play to win the game!” Colorado is looking to prove that their 4-0 start is because they are a talented team, not a byproduct of the teams they have played. ASU will be looking to build upon their win over Oregon State, continuing to prove that hiring Herm Edwards was a smart decision. This will be one of the games that begins to clear up the Pac-12 South race, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.