Pac-12 division races taking shape
A month into the conference season, the Pac-12 division races are taking shape. Each division has front-runners and teams that already are all but out of contention.
A rundown of the races in the Pac-12′s North and South divisions:
No. 7 Washington is not only the front-runner in the North, the Huskies (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) are still in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot. Washington’s lone loss came in the opener, by five points to then-No. 9 Auburn. Since then, the Huskies have won five straight, including last week’s 31-24 victory over UCLA.
Washington has one of the nation’s top defenses, as usual, and a balanced offense between quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, so the Huskies will be tough to catch. Washington has a tough couple of weeks coming up, facing No. 17 Oregon and No. 19 Colorado.
The Huskies also close the season against one of two teams behind them: rival Washington State.
The Cougars (5-1, 2-1), like Washington, have one loss so far, but it came in conference, by three points to Southern California. Washington State, behind quarterback Gardner Minshew, has the nation’s top passing offense with 413 yards per game and is putting up nearly 42 points per game, so the Cougars are never really out of a game. They have a tough remaining schedule, with games against Oregon, Stanford, California, Colorado and Washington still left.
Stanford (4-2, 2-1) was a top-10 team but dropped out of the rankings completely following a loss to No. 5 Notre Dame and last week’s 19-point loss to Utah. The Cardinal are still in the mix for the North but have some potentially tough games coming up against Arizona State, Washington State, Washington and California.
Oregon (4-1, 1-1) already is 1½ games out of the division lead, but don’t count the Ducks out yet. They bounced back from an overtime loss to Stanford by rolling over Cal last week and have two big opportunities the next two weeks against the Washington schools. The Ducks also are back to having a prolific offense, ranking 12th nationally with 45 points per game.
Colorado (5-0, 2-0) has been one of college football’s biggest surprises, leading the South after being picked to finish fifth. The Buffaloes rolled through an easy opening portion of their schedule and survived a test last week by knocking off Arizona State.
Colorado plays USC next, then has a tough road game against Washington, with Washington State, Utah and Cal still on the schedule. The surprising season is still in the Buffaloes’ hands.
USC (3-2, 2-1) was the runaway pick to win the South but has yet to live up to those expectations. The Trojans have been inconsistent so far this season, beating Arizona, Washington State and UNLV and losing to Stanford and No. 9 Texas.
USC is still just a game back in the South, with Colorado, Utah and rival UCLA left before closing out the season against Notre Dame.
Arizona (3-3, 2-1) is hovering at .500 in coach Kevin Sumlin’s first season, but two of its three wins have been in conference: against Oregon State and Cal. The Wildcats would lose a tiebreaker to USC after losing to the Trojans two weeks ago but could have a big opportunity against Colorado on Nov. 2.
Arizona also has Oregon, Washington State and rival Arizona State left on its schedule.