Ranking the Best Pac-12 Football Matchups of Week 11

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USC takes a five-game win streak into Saturday’s game at unbeaten Washington.

With three weeks left in the regular season, very little is decided in the Pac-12 thanks to right races at the top of both divisions. And with no more byes left on the schedule, there’s a full field of games every weekend from here on out.

That starts with a solid Week 11 lineup, one in which all three South Division contenders are on the road while the two schools fighting to win the North are at home. Six Pac-12 teams have secured bowl eligibility with a seventh able to get there with another win.

This weekend’s games are ranked in order of the quality of the matchup as well as the likelihood fans will want to watch.

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6. Oregon State (2-7, 1-5 Pac-12) at UCLA (3-6, 1-5)

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When: Saturday, Nov. 12; 9 p.m. ET

Barring a major late-season rally, neither team in this matchup is going to be playing in the postseason. Oregon State has already secured its third straight losing record while UCLA needs to win out to avoid finishing below .500 for the first time since 2011.

The Bruins have to go the rest of the way with senior quarterback Mike Fafaul, who has subbed in after Josh Rosen went down with what’s become a season-ending shoulder injury. Fafaul has thrown nine touchdown passes but also nine interceptions during UCLA’s four-game losing streak.

Oregon State has used three QBs and they’ve combined for just seven passing TDs along with 10 picks, so this contest could feature plenty of rushing from Beavers sophomore Ryan Nall and UCLA sophomores Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi.

5. No. 12 Colorado (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) at Arizona (2-7, 0-6)

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When: Saturday, Nov. 12; 10 p.m. ET

Colorado has had quite a few firsts during this breakout season, including its first time being bowl-eligible in nine years and the Buffaloes’ first assured winning record since 2005. They’ve also earned their first wins in Pac-12 play against Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.

The Buffs have beaten Arizona in league play before, doing so in 2011, but since then they’d been outscored by 18.5 points per game. Each margin has gotten smaller, with last year’s 38-31 home loss to the Wildcats coming after Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre guaranteed a win.

No need to make such a promise this year since Arizona is having its worst season since 2011, the year before Rich Rodriguez was hired. The Wildcats’ scoring output has decreased every game during their six-game losing streak.

4. No. 15 Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) at Arizona State (5-4, 2-4)

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When: Thursday, Nov. 10; 9:30 p.m. ET

The Week 11 slate begins early with a South Division battle in which a win will go a long way for each team.

Utah sits in third place in the South but is only a game behind first-place Colorado, whom it will face at the end of the month with the division title possibly on the line. To ensure that, the Utes have to avoid tripping up before then and that starts with facing a desperate Arizona State team.

The Sun Devils have lost three straight and four of five as they’ve had to cycle through numerous quarterbacks because of injury. Their biggest problem, though, is a pass defense that ranks last in FBS and has allowed 12 plays of 50 or more yards.

A win for ASU would lock up a sixth straight bowl bid, the longest streak in program history.

3. Stanford (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) at Oregon (3-6, 1-5)

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When: Saturday, Nov. 12; 4 p.m. ET

The Pac-12 has held a title game since 2011 and every year the North Division representative has been Oregon or Stanford. And each season the conference champion has been on of those teams, but neither scenario will occur this time around due to their respective struggles in league play.

Stanford lost three straight Pac-12 games at one point as its offense came to a screeching halt, even all-purpose star Christian McCaffrey unable to generate anything. The Cardinal have since turned it around with two consecutive wins, and not surprisingly McCaffrey has been a catalyst with 368 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Oregon must win out to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004, which doesn’t look likely based on the Ducks’ yearlong defensive performance. They’re allowing 42.6 points per game, fourth-worst in the country, with five of their last six opponents gaining at least 579 yards.

2. California (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) at No. 23 Washington State (7-2, 6-0)

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When: Saturday, Nov. 12; 10:30 p.m. ET

Offensive production in college football is soaring once again, and teams like California and Washington State are at the forefront of this onslaught. All but one of the Golden Bears’ games have featured at least 69 points while WSU just put up that many in its last game and is averaging 43 per contest.

And the last time they met in Pullman, in October 2014, the scoreboard almost couldn’t handle it. Cal won 60-59 after WSU missed a short field goal, ending a wild game that saw Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday throw for an FBS-record 734 yards in a loss.

The QBs in this battle are each capable of matching that number. Cal senior Davis Webb has thrown for 3,176 yards and 30 touchdowns while WSU’s Luke Falk has thrown for 3,237 yards and 28 TDs on an FBS-best 74.1 percent completion rate.

1. No. 20 USC (6-3, 5-2 Pac-12) at No. 4 Washington (9-0, 6-0)

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When: Saturday, Nov. 12; 7:30 p.m. ET

Washington moved up a spot in the playoff rankings after scoring 66 points in a win at California and seeing Texas A&M slip up. The Huskies’ road to the semifinals is no different, though, as the clearest path remains winning out to ensure playoff inclusion.

That starts with taking on a USC team that’s playing as well as any team in the Pac-12, if not the country. That’s a far cry from the Trojans squad that began 1-3 and dropped their first two league games, as since then they’ve won five straight in increasingly impressive fashion. Quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II have spearheaded this rise, with Jones rushing for 394 yards and five touchdowns in the past two games.

Washington is doing it the same way it has all season, through balanced and efficient offense led by Jake Browning—whose 34 TD passes are tied for the FBS lead—and a defense that doesn’t give up big plays. The Huskies have lost a big piece of that unit, though, as senior linebacker Joe Mathis is out for the year with a foot injury.


All recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted. All statistics provided by CFBStats, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.