I can't help but think of that USC loss to Boston College. If USC had managed to pull out that game, the Pac-12 South would be undefeated in non-conference play (sans Colorado) and, if ASU and USC managed to beat Notre Dame, would be able to claim a more impressive resume than even the SEC West. Instead, we simply think of all of those teams as decent but not great. In any case, it's as fantastic a division race as I can remember in a long, long time. Meanwhile, the North title will be decided on Saturday in Eugene as Stanford makes the trip north.
Here are your rankings:
1. Oregon (7-1, 4-1) 59-41 over Cal
Oregon has clearly established itself as the best team in the North, even as the defense has failed to impress on any level this season. The Ducks can all but seal up the North title win a win over Stanford on Saturday....if Marcus Mariota can lead the team to his first win over the Cardinal.
2. Stanford (3-2, 5-3) 38-14 over Oregon State
Stanford's offense is no great shakes, but when Oregon State rushes the ball for 12 yards on 29 carries, you have a whole lot of opportunities. As bad as the offense has been for the Cardinal, the defense has still been great. Can Oregon finally figure out how to move the ball against them?
3. California (2-4, 4-4) 41-59 vs. Oregon
California can put up points in spades, but the defense isn't there yet. Can Cal pick up the two more wins it needs to get bowl eligible? A win in Corvallis next week would be a big step in that direction.
4. Washington (1-3, 5-3) 10-24 vs. Arizona State
With Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State on the schedule, Washington will achieve bowl eligibility. But Cal is the only win the Huskies have against a team with even a semblance of a pulse. With their QB issues, how many points can they really put up?
5. Oregon State (4-3, 1-3) 14-38 vs. Stanford
The pillow soft non-conference schedule masked it, but this is a team that is secretly really bad. Their offensive line is one of the worst in the country, and their defense is only mediocre. They finish with four of their last five at home, but could easily be a favorite in only one of those games.
6. Washington State (2-6, 1-4) 37-59 vs. Arizona
Anyone want to tell me how the hell this team won in Salt Lake City?
1. Arizona (6-1, 3-1) 59-37 over Washington State
Their win over Oregon in Eugene still stands as the best win the conference has to offer. They could drive a stake in the heart of UCLA's South chances with a win in Pasadena next week. Personally, I think the Wildcats blow the Bruins out, but you never know with the #Pac12AfterDark.
2. Arizona State (6-1, 4-1) 24-10 over Washington
Arizona State lacks a signature win--but with Utah and Notre Dame coming to Tempe in consecutive weeks, that could all change soon. Could we see a Territorial Cup vs. Arizona be a Pac-12 South title game? That would be must see television.
3. Utah (6-1, 3-1) 24-21 over USC
Utah's defense is what has gotten it to this point in the season, and that defense has a shot to have them in the thick of the hunt. But they have the toughest remaining schedule in the conference, with trips to Arizona State and Stanford, and home games with Oregon and Arizona left on the schedule.
4. USC (5-3, 4-2) 21-24 vs. Utah
Seven Win Sark demands that the Trojans split their last four games, and it would be fitting for the Trojans to lose at Washington State next weekend. Somewhere, Ed Orgeron is nodding happily at USC's performance this season. Speaking of Oregeron, somebody hire that guy already.
5. UCLA (6-2, 3-2) 40-37 over Colorado 2OT
UCLA is the worst two-loss team in the country. I'm calling it now. The remaining schedule is Arizona, at Washington, USC, and Stanford. They lose at least three. They have looked impressive all of one game this season.
6. Colorado (2-6, 0-5) 37-40 vs. UCLA 2OT
Colorado's been really competitive in their conference games this season, even though they haven't managed to pull one out yet. It has all the markings of a team that is ready to break into respectability next season. For this season, though, they'd better hope they beat Washington next week, because Arizona, Oregon, and Utah loom after that.
Stanford at Oregon
Washington at Colorado
USC at Washington State
California at Oregon State
Arizona at UCLA
Utah at Arizona State