Publish date:

USC, UCLA wins bring Pac-12 South race into focus

USC Trojans

USC Trojans

The Pac-12 South race got a little clearer in Week 5.

UCLA took a two-game lead on Arizona State. USC fixed its defensive issues and sits atop the South at 2-0. Utah missed a huge opportunity to enter the fray by choking away a big lead at home against Washington State.

UCLA's impressive victory over Arizona State on the road cannot be overstated. Brett Hundley returned to the field and destroyed the defending division champs totally reworked defense. He looked as good as he has looked at any point during this season.

Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:



Subscribe:iTunes | Stitcher

Recommended Articles

The win gives Jim Mora the first big leg up on the race to Levi's Stadium. Arizona State, without Taylor Kelly, is essentially two games behind UCLA and doesn't look like a team that will be capable of jumping back into first place. The Sun Devils next three games are road trips to USC and Washington sandwiched around a home game with Stanford.

Frankly, the only hope ASU had of repeating was a win over UCLA at home and it wasn't even competitive. Todd Graham's bunch could be out of Pac-12 contention by the first week of October if it can't beat the Trojans this weekend.

Speaking of the Men of Troy, USC was extremely impressive on both sides of the ball against a team it should defeat if it wants to contend with the Bruins. Against Oregon State, the Trojans defense was suffocating, and Cody Kessler was masterful. When this team is healthy on defense and balanced on offense, it's capable of beating anyone in the nation.

Meanwhile, Kyle Whittingham missed a major opportunity to get his team into the conversation. Utah hasn't been to the postseason in either of its first two Pac-12 campaigns and a bowl game would quiet a lot of Whittingham doubters in Salt Lake City. With a 21-0 lead after one quarter, a 24-7 halftime lead and a 13-point fourth quarter advantage at home, the Utes should have entered Week 6 with a perfect record. However, Utah's bowl hopes may have disappeared as Connor Halliday threw two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to complete the shocking comeback.

Arizona, which was off this weekend, should figure into the mix as it has yet to play a divisional game yet. Rich Rodriguez won't have to wait long to find out if his young team can contender in the South, however. The Wildcats will face Oregon, USC, Washington State and UCLA in the next four weeks with all but the Cougars coming on the road. Odds are Arizona will pull an upset somewhere along the line but likely won't be capable of contending week in and week out in the South just yet.

No, after five weeks of play, all signs point to USC and UCLA duking it out for the Pac-12 South championship over the next eight weeks. The two will meet on Nov. 22 in Pasadena. UCLA has a heavy depth advantage and gets the key late season game at home but the Trojans have a significant schedule advantage. UCLA still has to face Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington and Arizona.

After hosting the Kelly-less Sun Devils this weekend, USC faces just one ranked opponent in league play the rest of the season and that's the Bruins.