The first shot was fired across both the Pac-12 North and Pac-12 South bows last weekend as Stanford and UCLA earned critical division wins over two conference contenders.
But in what could be the best league in football, there is no rest for the weary (well, except Washington) as Stanford, Oregon, USC, Arizona State and UCLA all have critical showdowns in this Week of Doom in college football.
Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
ACC| Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC
Pac-12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings
1. Stanford at Notre Dame
3:30 p.m., NBC
There is more than just rivalry bragging rights on the line in this heavyweight bout. A loss for either highly ranked team could knock them out of the College Football Playoff picture. These are two of the most physical teams in the nation and are, statistically, two of the best defenses in the land. Stanford leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed a nation’s best three trips into the red zone and is totally legit. It will be a great test for a surging and electric Everett Golson. Notre Dame, which is fourth in the nation in scoring defense (11.5 ppg) has forced 10 turnovers in four games, might not be as good as its numbers indicate. Playing Michigan, Syracuse, Rice and Purdue doesn’t exactly create an accurate portrayal. So while Stanford's offense has had its red zone woes, Brian Kelly should find out just how good his defense (and offense) could be in 2014 after hosting the Cardinal.
2. Arizona St at USC
7:30 p.m., FOX
This was considered one of the critical round-robin Pac-12 South matches between the contenders (UCLA being the other). After ASU was smoked at home by the Bruins, Todd Graham’s championship hopes are dangling by a thread as he leads his team into the Coliseum. Backup signal-caller Mike Bercovici was adequate in his first career start as he threw for 488 yards in the loss. But he gave the ball away too much and will have to be much better in that department if he wants to top a Trojans defense that looked healthy, fast and physical against Oregon State last Saturday night. Cody Kessler is playing as well as any QB in the league and isn’t likely to give Arizona State too many chances so the Sun Devils' conference title hopes likely hang on the strong right arm of Bercovici once again.
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3. Arizona at Oregon
Thurs., 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Late last season in the desert with a Pac-12 North title hanging in the balance, a less-than-healthy Marcus Mariota watched his Heisman hopes disappear at the hands of the Wildcats in an ugly 42-16 defeat. Mariota, now healthy and clicking on all cylinders, is likely to exact some revenge on the solid but unequipped Arizona defense. The Ducks quarterback is completing 74percent of his passes, has 1,349 yards of total offense and has scored 16 times without throwing an interception in four games. Unless Oregon’s offensive line issues are worse than excepted following two weeks of rest, Arizona isn’t likely to keep this primetime showdown respectable.
4. Utah at UCLA
10:30 p.m., ESPN
This game lost some luster when the Utes choked away a big lead against Washington State at home last weekend. So topping a UCLA team coming off its most complete performance with a healthy and surging Brett Hundley under center will be a tall order. Utah’s nasty front line — fifth nationally with 18.0 sacks — will have to take advantage of a Bruins offensive line that is one of the worst in the Pac-12 — tied for last with 12.0 sacks allowed — if the Utes want any chance at pulling off the upset. This game featured six Utah turnovers last year in Salt Lake City, so Travis Wilson will have to protect the football as well. A few big plays from Kaelin Clay (and his four return touchdowns) on special teams would certainly help.
5. Cal at Washington St
10:30 p.m., P12 Net
Both the Bears and Cougars escaped Week 5 with critical Pac-12 victories and are looking to build upon momentum. Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Connor Halliday combined for 866 yards and 11 touchdown passes in these wins and should once again be on full display. Needless to say, whichever defense can get stops in the second half and on third down will likely win the game.
6. Oregon St at Colorado
4 p.m., P12 Net
Both teams are looking to get back on track using two of the more productive quarterbacks in the nation. Colorado’s Sefo Liufau is coming off one of the best games of his career (449 yds, 7 TD) while Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is coming off one his worst (123 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT). In fact, the 181 yards of total offense posted against USC was just the second time since 2010 the Beavers failed to reach 250 yards of offense. It appears OSU star wideout Victor Bolden will be out again while Colorado will turn to its own star playmaker. Nelson Spruce will attempt to maintain his hold on the national lead in receptions (56), yards (694) and touchdowns (10). This would be a breakthrough win for Mike MacIntyre.
Off: Cal, Washington
Stanford (-1.5) at N. Dame
Ariz. St (+12) at USC
Arizona (+23.5) at Oregon
Utah (+13.5) at UCLA
Cal (+3.5) at Wazzu
Ore. St (-7) at Colorado