Utah’s loss sends Pac-12 South into big jumble
Utah and Stanford appeared to be on a collision course for the Pac-12 championship game, two power programs that had the look of the dominant team in each division.
The eighth-ranked Cardinal took care of their end of the bargain last week by rolling over Washington to maintain a comfortable lead in the Pac-12 North.
Utah could not keep its roll going, losing to unranked Southern California to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The Utes’ loss also threw the Pac-12 South into chaos.
With five weeks left until the Pac-12 championship game, five of the six teams in the South still have a shot at winning the division – everyone except 1-3 Colorado.
A quick rundown of the teams still in it and their chances to win the South:
Record: 6-1, 3-1 Pac-12.
Title chances: Good.
Outlook: Despite their loss to the Trojans, the 13th-ranked Utes still control the South; win out and the title is theirs. The problem is Utah played its worst game of the season at an inopportune time. Travis Wilson threw four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and the Utes had a hard time matching up with USC’s talent in the 42-24 loss. Utah has a pair of what should be relatively easy games against Oregon State and Colorado left, but also has road games against Washington and Arizona, along with UCLA at home on Nov. 21.
Record: 4-3, 2-2.
Title chances: Solid.
Outlook: Beating the No. 3 team in the country would be a huge boost to any program. Doing it in their second game under interim coach Clay Helton made it more impressive. Despite all that’s happened to the Trojans, they still match up with just about anyone, their roster full of NFL-caliber talent. USC lost to Notre Dame five days after coach Steve Sarkisian was fired and led in the second half before the Irish scored 17 points to win by 10. The Trojans were favored over Utah and proved odds makers right with perhaps their most complete game of the season. USC has road games against Cal, Colorado and Oregon, with home games against Arizona and UCLA to close out the season.
Record: 5-2, 2-2.
Title chances: Solid.
Outlook: The Bruins bounced back from losses to Arizona State and Stanford nicely last week, rolling over California 40-24. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was sharp against the Bears after a couple of so-so games, setting a school record with 34 completions while throwing for 399 yards and three touchdowns. The Bruins’ defense also hounded Jared Goff, one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, into a second-straight below-average game. Despite a litany of injuries, particularly on defense, UCLA has enough talent to contend for the South title. The Bruins face Colorado and Oregon State the next two weeks, but close the season against Washington State, Utah and USC.
Record: 4-3, 2-2.
Title chances: Average.
Outlook: Coach Todd Graham told his players Thursday’s game against Oregon is essentially an elimination game and he could be right. The Sun Devils were in decent shape after beating UCLA and Colorado, but failed on a chance to take control of the South with a loss to Utah. Get past the Ducks and Arizona State still has a tough road ahead with road games against resurgent teams Washington State and California, along with Washington and Arizona at home. Their goal of winning the South is still a possibility, but they need to get things rolling now to have a chance.
Record: 5-3, 2-3.
Title chances: Not great.
Outlook: Despite opening the Pac-12 season with lopsided losses to UCLA and Stanford, the Wildcats were in OK shape heading into Saturday’s home game against Washington State. Arizona couldn’t keep up with the Cougars in a 45-42 loss, leaving its prospects for the South title pretty bleak. The Wildcats will likely need to win out and get some help, which won’t be easy with the schedule they have left. Arizona plays three of its final four games on the road – against Washington, USC and Arizona State – and its lone home game is against Utah. The Wildcats also are banged up, particularly on defense, and don’t have a bye week this season to heal up.