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Pac-12 Notebook: Pac-12 flexes some muscle

The SportsXchange

The Pac-12 Conference boosted its national reputation on Saturday.

The conference went 8-1 in nonconference games this week, including three wins over the Big Ten and one over a Southeastern Conference school.

There were four potential Rose Bowl match-ups on the schedule with the Pac-12 facing the Big Ten. The west coast schools won three of the four games.

No. 16 UCLA rallied for a victory over No. 23 Nebraska, No. 19 Washington beat Illinois, and Arizona State upset No. 20 Wisconsin. The only loss for the Pac-12 in nonconference play was a respectable one as Cal lost to No. 4 Ohio State, 52-34.

Oregon gave the Pac-12 a big national boost by blowing out Tennessee, 59-14. It was the worst loss for the Volunteers in the modern era. The last time the Vols gave up that many points in a game was in 1893.

Stanford, USC, Washington State, and Arizona also added wins for the conference.

There was only one conference game as Oregon State held off Utah, 51-48, in overtime to join Washington State as the only two teams with a Pac-12 win so far.

Saturday was the last big week of nonconference games as no conference team plays a team from a BCS conference next week. Utah's visit to BYU is the biggest opportunity to build the conference's nation brand this week.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 3 IN THE PAC-12

1. Oregon is a legitimate national title contender. Oregon has blown out its first three foes, scoring 59 points in back-to-back games and averaging more than 60 points per game. The second-ranked Ducks will be favored in every Pac-12 game and should be in the BCS Championship game if they win out.

2. USC seems to be finding itself on offense. After two sluggish offensive performances while Lane Kiffin tried to figure out who was going to be his starting quarterback, Chad Kessler won the job, and that seemed to give him a jolt of confidence. Kessler was 15-for-17 and threw for 237 yards in a win over Boston College.

3. The Pac-12 South may be catching up with the North. Oregon and Stanford still seem to be the class of the conference, but Arizona State upset Wisconsin and UCLA won at Nebraska, giving reason to think the Pac-12 title game should be close.

4. The conference is stronger than it has been since expanding to 12 teams in 2011. Pac-12 teams have gone 23-4 in nonconference games and the only upset was Oregon State losing at home to Eastern Washington.

5. The Pac-12 may be the strongest conference in the nation when it comes to passing quarterbacks. Oregon's Marcus Mariota threw for 456 yards, Washington State's Connor Halliday threw for 383 yards, Cal's Jared Goff threw for 371 yards, and Keith Price of Washington threw for 342 yards last week.
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