Arizona State still has path to Pac-12 South title despite no control of destiny

Oct 21, 2021, 12:13 PM | Updated: 12:15 pm
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels throws a pass during the first half of the team's NCAA col...

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels throws a pass during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Utah on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Arizona State may have lost control of its Pac-12 South destiny this past Saturday after a 35-21 loss against Utah. However, things are far from over in the divisional title race.

If anything, the remaining schedules of all three teams in the Pac-12 South title hunt signify that the race is only heating up.

ASU, Utah and UCLA all have at least five games remaining on their schedules. The back half of the Pac-12 schedule for all three teams contain difficult tasks that can allow the other teams to capitalize if a slip-up occurs.

ASU’s two biggest divisional rivals both have big games this week while the Sun Devils watch all of the action on their bye week.

Utah travels to Corvallis on Saturday for a matchup with Oregon State. The Beavers are putting together a solid season behind an explosive offense with a Pac-12-leading 34 points per game and 441.7 yards per game, good for second in the conference.

UCLA has an even tougher opponent in No. 10 Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Bruins have had a hard time with the Ducks in recent history, winning only one of the last nine meetings. That win came in UCLA’s last home game against Oregon in 2017.

Utah and UCLA will face off on Oct. 30 in Salt Lake City in a crucial divisional matchup, one that the Bruins need to win to stay in the divisional hunt. ASU, meanwhile, takes on Washington State in Tempe.

November presents a mixed bag for all three schools.

The Sun Devils start the month at home against USC before a two-game road trip against Washington and Oregon State. Both Seattle and Corvallis are difficult places to play for ASU, even with the Sun Devils winning two of the previous three road meetings against the Beavers. The Sun Devils have not won in Seattle against Washington since 2014.

ASU wraps up the season against Arizona, an in-state rival on its third starting quarterback.

Utah’s toughest November game is against Oregon on Nov. 20 at home. Utah has struggled against Oregon in recent memory with losses in six of the last eight meetings, including the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game.

The rest of Utah’s schedule is relatively tame with road games against Stanford and Arizona to start the month and Colorado at home to end the month on Nov. 26.

UCLA’s November schedule is favorable, but is filled with long-standing rivalries. After a bye week to begin the month, the Bruins welcome Colorado to the Rose Bowl on Nov. 13.

A road game against USC, an opponent that the Bruins have looked better than multiple times this season, follows on Nov. 20. Going to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been a difficult task for the Bruins with 10 losses in the last 11 meetings at the Coliseum, dating back to 1999.

The Bruins finish the season against California on Nov. 27 in another rivalry game, this time at home in the Rose Bowl.

Overall, ASU has the easier schedule with an average ESPN Football Power Index of 64.6 remaining on its schedule. Utah is not too far behind at 61.2, but the Utes have to deal with Oregon, a team that the Sun Devils do not face this season. UCLA plays a much tougher schedule the rest of the way with an average FPI of 50.6 remaining.

That may be key, as the Sun Devils will have to rely on Utah losing at least once, and possibly even twice, to have a chance at the Pac-12 South title.

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