Most of the fun and intrigue is over in the Pac-12 for the regular season, but not quite all of it.
There’s still that little matter of what team will represent the North in the Pac-12 Championship Game next Friday. For most of the season, that seemed like a foregone conclusion, with Oregon running roughshod over their competition. But kudos to Stanford, who found a way to keep the Ducks out of the end zone in a 17-14 upset win that brought chaos to the conference race and uncertainty into the BCS Championship picture.
Cal’s season (and Jeff Tedford’s coaching tenure) have already ended, but there’s plenty of football on the schedule this week. Let’s dive in.
Ranking the Week 13 Games:
6. Utah at Colorado – The Utes will try and avenge their bitter loss from a year ag…ah, who cares?
5. #25 Washington at Washington State – It’s a rivalry game, and a bitter one at that. But there’s very little doubt about the winner of this game. Can somebody explain to me how the spread is only 13 points?
4. Arizona State at #24 Arizona – Arizona’s offense is clicking again, thanks to the running of Ka’Deem Carey, who has 570 yards over his last two games. After being ranked highly all season, ASU’s run defense is now 68th in the country — and that’s even after Washington State managed a single net yard against them. If the Sun Devil rushing defense from the first half of the season reappears in Tucson, this could be an interesting matchup.
3. #8 Stanford at #17 UCLA – The Cardinal are still flying high from their win over the Oregon Ducks last week, no doubt. But they still have business to tend to in the form of UCLA. David Shaw’s team needs a win to wrap up the Pac-12 North, and beating UCLA will be no easy task. The Bruins have averaged over 48 points in their last four wins.
2. #5 Oregon at #15 Oregon State – The Ducks tasted their own blood for the first time in a long time last week, losing to Stanford, and they’re faced with another tough task this week. Oregon State is 8-2 and undefeated on their home turf at Reser Stadium. The Ducks also need a win to keep alive any hope of winning the Pac-12 North. It’s amazing how the outlook has changed for the Ducks in just a week’s time.
1. #1 Notre Dame at USC – Hey, there’s only one Pac-12 matchup with BCS title implications (realistically) — so the 84th meeting of these two rivals gets the nod as the best game of the week. Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek has predicted a USC win…will his bravado prove to be prophetic?
Here’s what to watch for in Week 13…
• How well will Taylor Kelly take care of the football? – ASU head coach Todd Graham has preached “100% ball security” all season long, and when quarterback Taylor Kelly has heeded those words, ASU has been perfect. In the Sun Devils’ six wins, Kelly has 17 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. In their five losses, Kelly has tossed just 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Arizona’s defense has intercepted 10 passes this season.
• How will Kenjon Barner bounce back? – After exploding for a school-record 321 yards rushing in a win over USC, Oregon’s Barner has been bottled up. Against Cal and Stanford, the senior has rushed for 131 yards on 41 carries (just 3.2 yards per carry) and doesn’t have a run longer than 12 yards. Getting #24 untracked won’t be easy against an Oregon State defense that ranks 14th nationally against the run.
• Can Stanford contain Johnathan Franklin? – Franklin has been outstanding for UCLA this season. He’s second in the conference in rushing with over 1,400 yards and has eight 100-yard games this season. But running against Stanford can be tough sleddings…just ask Kenjon Barner. Stanford is 2nd in the country against the run. Only Alabama is better. Advantage: Stanford.
• Is Max Wittek full of hot air? – He held a clipboard the whole season, but Max Wittek thinks he’s the answer for the Trojans to beat the top team in the country. Never mind the fact that USC has been the biggest disappointment in the country and haven’t beaten a ranked team all season long. Wittek and USC will have to earn whatever they get. The Irish are sixth in total defense and tied for first with Alabama in scoring defense.