Pac-12 Country is home to the nation's marquee matchup of Week 12. No. 4 Stanford, fresh off its BCS-altering upset of Oregon, steps into a potential trap at USC.
The Trojans are still playing for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and could be alone in second come Saturday if their crosstown rivals lose Friday. UCLA kicks off Week 12 in an intriguing matchup with Washington.
Both the Bruins and Trojans are currently looking up at Arizona State, which returns home after a successful two-game road swing through Washington State and Utah—both of which are playing for their bowl-game lives at 4-5 this week.
Savor the Pac-12 action while you can. The 2013 season is down to its final stretch, and the finish line is in sight.
Record Last Week: 4-1 (4-1 against the spread)
Record This Season: 62-10 (43-29 against the spread)
Friday, Nov. 15, 9 ET, ESPN2
UCLA is in control of its Pac-12 South destiny. The road-map to a third straight Pac-12 championship game is as simple as win out, starting Friday with Washington.
The Huskies regrouped from their three-game tailspin with lopsided wins over Cal and Colorado, but the Bruins are the first real test since Washington went 0-3 against Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.
The Bruins gave up 239 yards rushing to Arizona last week. Washington needs to establish star running back Bishop Sankey in a similar capacity to how Arizona utilized Ka'Deem Carey to open the field for senior quarterback Keith Price.
Price's renewed consistency and ability to spread the ball among a diverse receiving corps, even without Kasen Williams, give the Huskies' offense a much more difficult-to-defend look for UCLA.
The Huskies also bring an outstanding pass rush defense to oppose UCLA's battered offensive line. Josh Shirley and Hau'oli Kikaha should be able to get pressure on Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley.
The difference, though? The Rose Bowl. Washington played one of its best games this season on the road—a 31-28 loss at Stanford—but getting that big road-win has been especially challenging.
UCLA gets just enough from its defense, and Hundley makes a few big plays, to give the Bruins a hard-fought win and to remain in the Pac-12 title race.
Prediction: UCLA 31, Washington 27
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2 ET, Pac-12 Network
Since routing Cal 44-22 to improve to 4-2, Washington State has hit the skids. The Cougars dropped three straight by a combined 86 points and are in danger of missing the postseason for a 10th consecutive year. That doesn't quite make Saturday's trip to the desert to face Arizona a must-win for Washington State, but it's pretty close.
Washington State's struggled defensively since getting into the meat of Pac-12 play, giving up 52, 62 and 55 in its last three. The Cougars have struggled particularly against the run, which doesn't bode well when pitted against the nation's No. 12 overall rushing offense.
The Cougars must force Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to throw into coverage, thus allowing defensive backs Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton, who have nine combined interceptions, to make game-changing plays. That means stopping Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, which just isn't likely.
Prediction: Arizona 42, Washington State 27
Saturday, Nov. 16, 4 ET, FOX Sports 1
Pity Utah as Oregon hasn't taken to losing well in recent years. The Ducks' average margin of victory following its three losses in 2011 and 2012 is 33.7 points per game.
Of course, scoring points won't necessarily be easy for Oregon. Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is nursing a knee injury that limited him in the Ducks' Week 11 loss at Stanford, and the Utes' defense is similarly constructed as the Cardinal's.
Save the 51 points it gave up to Oregon State early in the campaign, Utah's defense has been stingy. Defensive end Trevor Reilly is capable of making plays in the backfield, much like Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov did last week.
However, Utah simply hasn't been consistent enough on offense to capitalize on the play of its defense. Oregon may not blast the Utes out of the gate, but expect the Ducks' tempo to wear down Utah over the game's course.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Utah 14
Saturday, Nov. 16, 5:30 ET, Pac-12 Network
Something's got to give when 0-7 Pac-12 North cellar-dweller meets 0-6 Pac-12 South bottom-feeder Colorado.
Aside from their matching bagels in the conference win column, these teams share other noteworthy traits. Both are led by first-year head coaches; Cal has Sonny Dykes, Colorado with Mike MacIntyre. Each will start a freshman quarterback on Saturday. For the Golden Bears, it's Jared Goff. Sefo Liufau gets the nod for the Buffs.
Both could also desperately use the building block of a conference win to instill confidence in their young returners for next season.
Because the two sides are evenly matched, this could be one of the conference's more closely contested Week 12 affairs. But, since Cal has no one in its secondary capable of containing wide receiver Paul Richardson, look for the Buffs to end their Pac-12 misery while adding to Cal's.
Prediction: Colorado 35, Cal 31
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8ET, ABC
The national ABC, prime-time broadcast for Week 12 emanates from the Coliseum, where the big-game feel is back. Great timing, too, because the suddenly hot Trojans host No. 4 Stanford in a showdown with both Pac-12 and BCS implications.
Both teams have big-play wide receivers in Stanford's Ty Montgomery and USC's tandem of Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, but each offense prefers a run-heavy, ball-controlling style. Establishing a consistent rush against their stout defensive lines is no easy feat—Stanford is No. 9 nationally against the run, and USC ranks 17th.
Every outcome between these teams in the last three years was decided by single digits. This season's installment should not deviate from the trend. Neither defense will yield an inch, but Stanford's experience and depth should win out in a war of attrition.
Prediction: Stanford 24, USC 17
Saturday, Nov. 16, 9:30 ET, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State's "Conquer November" campaign returns home to Sun Devil Stadium, where it has been markedly better than on the road. The Sun Devils survived the kind of late-season test that tripped up past Arizona State teams, rallying to down Utah 20-19.
In Oregon State, the Sun Devils see a much different style team. Arizona State should be able to get more going offensively against a Beavers defense that has had past struggles against the zone-read spread. However, containing the Oregon State offense is much more of a challenge than limiting Utah.
Arizona State needs to establish its pass rush early to throw quarterback Sean Mannion out of rhythm, as both Stanford and USC succeeded in doing in the Beavers' two losses. That shouldn't be a problem—Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman and the rest of the Sun Devils' front is clicking at just the right time.
Prediction: Arizona State 42, Oregon State 24