Six Key Things to Know About Week 13 in Pac-12 Football…
1. Title game scenarios
A conference championship spot is locked, but USC won’t learn the identity of their opponent until Saturday afternoon or maybe late into the night.
Three teams are alive for the finals weekend.
If you are confused by the scenarios, allow us to simplify:
— Oregon has the cleanest trail. If the Ducks win at Oregon State, they’re in. Lose, and they need Washington to lose.
— The Huskies need to beat Washington State, but that’s not enough: They also need Oregon to lose and Cal to beat UCLA on Friday.
(There is another path for UW, but it depends on Colorado beating Utah – an extremely unlikely outcome.)
— Utah’s road is the most difficult. In addition to a win over Colorado, the Utes need Oregon State, Washington and UCLA to win.
(The resulting three-team tie would favor Utah based on the “strength of schedule” component in the tiebreaker formula.)
2. Apple sales
The hotline is impressed with the stylistic changes that will be seen in Pullman.
Last time the Cougars hosted the 2018 Apple Cup, they had the nation’s most prolific aerial offense (373.8 yards per game) while the Huskies went for a balanced offense with Stau Myles Gaskin.
The snowy conditions undermined the air attack with a 28-15 loss.
Four years later, attack styles have changed.
Washington leads the nation in passing (366.8 ypg) as the Cougars look to level with Nakia Watson.
The current weather forecast predicts dry conditions. If the snow planned for Sunday moves into the Palouse earlier, that could change the dynamic.
3. The Big Ten Brawl
How might the Ohio State-Michigan affair affect USC’s pursuit of a berth in the College Football Playoffs?
From our perspective, the Trojans’ preferred outcome is clear: they need Ohio State to win as decisively as possible.
The winner of the Big Ten is a suspension for the playoffs. USC’s contest for one of the four semifinals spots as the Pac-12 champion with a loss would be the loser of Saturday’s showdown in Columbus.
The Wolverines would appear to have a weaker argument for including the CFP as the 11-1 division runners-up due to their soft non-conference schedule.
Meanwhile, Ohio State was playing and beating Notre Dame.
In other words, Michigan’s decision to cancel a home game against UCLA could play a role in catapulting USC into the playoffs.
4. Rating bonanza
Week 12 brought the most anticipated Saturday in many Pac-12 seasons and delivered two notable television viewers:
– USC’s 48-45 win over UCLA drew 4.53 million viewers in the Fox primetime window, according to SportsMediaWatch, making it the most-watched conference game of the season.
— Oregon’s 20-17 win over Utah in the night slot drew 2.5 million viewers and was “ESPN’s most-watched Saturday game kicked off after 10 p.m. ET since 2015,” according to the network.
Here are the nine conference games that have drawn more than two million viewers this season, according to the SMW database:
- USC-UCLA: 4.53 million
- Washington-Oregon: 3.63 million
- UCLA-Oregon: 3.34 million
- USC-Stanford: 2.96 million
- USC-Utah: 2.74 million
- Utah-UCLA: 2.65 million
- Utah-Oregon: 2.5 million
- Oregon-WSU: 2.27 million
- Cal USC: 2.04 million
The collection could grow to 11 this weekend with the Oregon-OSU game on ABC (12:30 p.m.) and the Apple Cup on ESPN (7:30 p.m.).
5. The new ones
The Pac-12 has four new head coaches if we count Washington State’s Jake Dickert, who was promoted from the interim position at the end of the 2021 regular season.
The three true freshmen are UCLA’s Lincoln Riley, Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, and Oregon’s Dan Lanning, and all three have at least nine wins. (Riley has 10.)
According to Pac-12, it is the first time in conference history that three coaches have won nine games in the freshman year.
Dickert can also make it if the Cougars (7-4) beat Washington and win their bowl game.
6. Notes and Nuggets
— A win this week would see Oregon State win its first nine-win season since 2012.
– Only one team in the FBS can claim two 1,000-yard receivers: Arizona with Jacob Cowing and Dorian Singer.
– USC’s last win over Notre Dame when the Irish were ranked came in 2009. They are No. 13 in the current AP poll and have won five straight.
– Washington State’s last home Apple Cup win was November 23, 2012.
— Oregon has won 12 of their last 14 matchups against Oregon State. (Note: the rivalry has not been given a nickname since the schools decided the civil war was inappropriate.)
– Colorado plays against an AP Top 15 opponent for the fourth straight week. The Buffaloes lost to No. 10 Oregon, No. 5 USC, and No. 12 Washington by a combined 124 points. Next they get #14 Utah.