The second half of the season is rolling in and the Pac-12 Conference dynamics are starting to take shape. There are a couple surprise teams and one in particular will have a chance to prove themselves. 10 of the 12 teams will be matched up in an all-conference weekend with four close contests and one potential blowout. Here's a quick look at each game.
Big Thursday night showdown
#3 Oregon Ducks (6-0 overall, 3-0 in Pac-12) at the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0) - The Sun Devils have the national stage for this huge game in Tempe against what is currently the best team in the league. On paper, this contest looks too close to call with Arizona State's Top 10 defense keeping them in every game. The Sun Devils fell apart at this point last year, with head coach Dennis Erickson being replaced - but will that happen again in 2012? Probably not but they aren't quite at the Ducks' level yet, so Oregon will prevail by a touchdown in what will be an exciting game to watch.
The Big Game
#20 Stanford Cardinal (4-2, 2-1) at the California Golden Bears (3-4, 2-2) - This rivalry was started 120 years ago. The Bears looked like losers a few weeks ago but a couple wins now has Cal thinking they can still make a bowl game. But, they'll need to get by a very strong Cardinal team. This too, is a game too close to call but I'll give it to Stanford by a field goal.
Colorado Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2) at the #10 USC Trojans (5-1, 3-1) - Sunny Southern California with its beautiful weather and beaches is where this game resides (see related articles). But the Buffaloes have yet to prove they belong here or anywhere in the Pac-12. Their offense is missing the ability to score and their defense is just plain missing. Colorado played one good game when they won at Washington State and they'll need that effort and more against a Trojan team that has been victorious with defense and the running of Silas Redd. Buffaloes don't surf well and I'd be surprised if they didn't get wiped out by a wave of five touchdowns … or more.
Washington Huskies (3-3, 1-2) at the Arizona Wildcats (3-3, 0-3) - A couple of tough losses to the top teams in the Pac-12 have the Huskies scrambling to save their season. The Wildcats won three and then lost three but except for their blowout loss to Oregon in Eugene, Arizona has been competitive. If either one of these two teams wants to go bowling, this contest is critical to win. I analyzed this one closely and it was very hard to pick a winner but the game is in Tucson and that will be the difference as the Wildcats win in a squeaker.
Utah Utes (2-4, 0-3) at the #8 Oregon State Beavers (5-0, 3-0) - What happened to the Utes? Were they overhyped? That's possible but injuries have not been their friend. Utah's offensive woes in an offensive league aren't good and their lack of a running game has almost ruined any chance they have at a bowl game. This would be the game to win and move back up in the standings, playing a surprising Top 10 team in the Beavers. Oregon State doesn't jump out at you with anything in particular although they do have a good passing attack. Both defenses are solid which probably makes this game low scoring and close - the Beavers triumph by a touchdown.
If Utah loses, you can probably write them out of the bowl picture. Also, if Arizona wants to stay in bowl consideration, they will need to win. If Arizona State upsets Oregon, they jump squarely into the conference championship scene.
Washington State and UCLA have byes this week. All 12 teams play each other the following Saturday with several make or break games on tap.
Sources - Pac-12 Conference
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
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