UCLA’s hopes for South title still alive facing No. 8 Utah
Here are some things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: UCLA at No. 8 Utah. Strange as it sounds, the Bruins could throw a giant wrench into the Pac-12’s hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff by pulling an unlikely upset in Salt Lake City. Utah holds a one-game lead over UCLA in the Pac-12 South, but if the Bruins can somehow run the table and win their final three games — at Utah, at Southern California, vs. California — then UCLA would be the South champion and play in the Pac-12 title game. Utah had a week off to recover from its 33-28 win at Washington on Nov. 2. The Utes are 21-point favorites against the Bruins and a win will keep alive hopes of a clash with No. 6 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: It’s a little off the radar but Stanford’s trip to Washington State could end up being a bowl elimination game. Both teams are 4-5 overall and need two more wins to become bowl eligible and that may be difficult to come by for the loser. After facing each other, the Cardinal close with Cal and Notre Dame, while Washington State finishes its schedule against Oregon State and Washington. Stanford has gone to a bowl game in 10 straight seasons, while the Cougars have made a bowl game in the past four.
TIME TO PARTY: Oregon will clinch the North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 title game with a win over Arizona or an Oregon State loss to Arizona State on Saturday. The Ducks haven’t won the North since 2014. Stanford and Washington have split time as the North representatives in the title game each of the past four years.
REST UP: Washington and Colorado have the open weeks ahead of playing each other next week in Boulder.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: There are 11 quarterbacks nationally who have thrown two or fewer interceptions this season with a minimum average of 15 pass attempts per game. Four are in the Pac-12: Utah’s Tyler Huntley (one INT in 191 attempts); Oregon’s Justin Herbert (two INTs in 288 attempts); Oregon State’s Jake Luton (two INTs in 283 attempts); and Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels (two INTs in 223 attempts). ... UCLA has rushed for 200 or more yards as a team in five straight games but will be facing the best run defense in the country at Utah. ... Arizona State WR Kyle Williams has a reception in 37 straight games, the fourth-longest streak in the country. ... Washington State kicker Blake Mazza is 15-for-15 on field goal attempts and 42-for-42 on extra points this season. He’s one of five kickers nationally who is still perfect on field goal attempts. ... Home teams are just 19-19 in conference games this season. Oregon and Utah are the only teams that are unbeaten at home in conference games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: USC QB Kedon Slovis threw for a career-high 432 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over Arizona State that kept alive the Trojans’ hopes for a South Division title. Slovis was great early as the Trojans rolled up 315 yards of offense in the first quarter against the Sun Devils. It will be a tougher task this week facing a California secondary that’s been solid all season. The Golden Bears gave up 407 yards passing to Washington State’s Anthony Gordon last week but held the Cougars to just 20 points, only 16 yards rushing and forced two turnovers.
UPSET WATCH: Arizona State should be on alert traveling to Corvallis to face Oregon State. The Beavers need two wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013 but close the year with road games at Washington State and in the Civil War against Oregon. The Sun Devils have lost three straight but should be getting Daniels back after he missed last week’s loss to USC due to injury.
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