With only four games left in the regular season, the Pac-12 South is a Rubik's Cube. Four teams have a realistic shot at winning the division and representing the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game, though Arizona State is in the driver's seat with a 4-1 conference record.
Nov. 9 Utah: Utah (4-4) had a bye week, and it came at a very good time for the Utes. An extra week of rest and recovery leading up to a home game against a ranked opponent is often a great recipe for success -- Utah's victory over Stanford came after playing a Thursday night game the week prior. Utah is 4-4, with three of their losses coming to the final three teams on ASU's schedule (Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona).
A road game in Salt Lake City will be a serious test for Arizona State, but if they play with the same confidence that was exhibited in Pullman on Halloween, the Sun Devils will prevail by a wide margin.
Nov. 16 Oregon State: Oregon State (6-3) has a bye week this Saturday, and it also comes at a good time. The Beavers looked listless in a Friday night home loss to USC, a team that has struggled to maintain a cohesive identify over the course of the season. This was easily Sean Mannion's worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions. At the same time, OSU gave up 242 rushing yards and could not stop the Trojan horse.
ASU should be able to expose the running defense with Marion Grice and DJ Foster, both of whom have looked good in recent weeks gashing defenses on the ground. However, playing a team coming off a bye is always dangerous - problems can be solved with an extra week, aches and pains can heal, and players can be motivated.
Nov. 23 UCLA: The Bruins (6-2) defeated Colorado handily, but they are prone to needless penalties -- against the Buffaloes, UCLA surrendered 122 yards on 11 penalties. This team is its own worst enemy, giving up 80 yards a game due to penalties, worst in college football. ASU, on the other hand, is the 13th-least penalized team in the nation, giving up only 35.7 yards a game. Something's gotta give.
UCLA's next game is against Arizona on Saturday night. In a nationally televised affair against Wildcats, we'll get a good look at whether the Bruins can right the ship when it comes to penalties and take down a pretty solid offensive team. Discipline will be needed to stop Ka'Deem Carey.
Nov. 30 Arizona: Arizona (6-2) won ugly against California (1-8), though we know that road games in the Pac-12 are often much more difficult in reality than they are on paper. Regardless of how it went down, the Wildcats return to Tucson with a 3-2 conference record and an outside shot at the Pac-12 South crown. Their next step is to play UCLA at home, and it should be an interesting affair.
Despite a good record, Arizona has only defeated two teams with winning records: an FBS school (NAU is 7-2) and UNLV (5-4). The time has come to determine if Arizona can hang with the big boys or if their record is solely an indication of the quality of their schedule.