Tempe, AZ – Another crucial week in the Pac-12 begins, and the road to the Rose Bowl is moving full steam ahead. This late in the season, many teams are being left by the wayside.
For Sun Devils fans, the team is still leading the charge for a conference championship. As the leaders at the top half of the conference are jockeying for position, these last three weeks for ASU are critical and games between other contenders could likely play a role in the final standings at the end of November.
Once again, the action begins early this week with an important Friday night match-up. So let’s have a look at this weekend’s 6 Pac-12 games and how they play out in the DieHard Devil’s Best Interest in the Road to the Rose Bowl.
Washington @ #13 UCLA (Friday night)
The last time the Huskies went on the road to face a Pac-12 South opponent they were blown out, embarrassed, and kicked out of the national rankings by the Sun Devils in Tempe. Washington is now 6-3 on the year and is trying to position themselves for a decent bowl game.
This game is huge for the Sun Devils. On one hand, it would be good for UCLA to win and move up in the rankings for when the Devils play them next week. Knocking off a possible top 10 team on the road would be great for the Devils. However, since neither team will be in a BCS bowl hunt outside of the Rose Bowl, the rankings don’t really matter at this point.
If the Huskies can pull an upset, it will give the Devils some margin for error in their quest to win the Pac-12 South. If Washington and ASU both win this weekend the Devils would only need to win 2 of their final 3 games to clinch the South. UCLA is favored in this game by 3 points but don’t be shocked if the Huskies pull off an upset here.
Oregon State @ #19 Arizona State
This is the third week in a row that ASU faces a team coming off a bye week with extra time to prepare. It didn’t help Wazzu, but we know it did wonders for Utah’s strategy last week. Before the season, Oregon State was picked by many to contend in the Pac-12 North. Much like the Sun Devils, they have slipped in and out of the rankings all season.
Quarterback Sean Mannion’s statistics say that he is one of the best in the country. However, I think the Sun Devil defense will do to him what they have done to other quality quarterbacks, slow him down and apply plenty of pressure. The Devils have to be careful not to overlook the Beavers as they head into UCLA next week with the Pac-12 South championship potentially on the line. ASU has been playing well at home and is favored by 14 points. I see them winning by a similar margin, ASU 24 Oregon State 13.
Utah @ #6 Oregon
This game is interesting on a few fronts. It has no bearing on ASU’s spot in the standings but we will see if Oregon can bounce back after losing to Stanford last week, or if they will lack intensity since it appears that their national championship, and possibly Pac-12 championship hopes ended with their loss to the Cardinal.
Utah can be tough at home but not so much on the road. The Utes are still trying to get to six wins and bowl eligibility so they should come out fighting. Oregon is favored by 26 points but I think it will be a lot closer, I see the Ducks winning by about 14.
#4 Stanford @ USC
Had ASU lost last week at Utah the Trojans would be right in the hunt for the Pac-12 South title. However, they still sit behind the Devils and need some help to make it to the championship game. Stanford is the highest ranked team with one loss in the BCS at #4 but right now are on the outside looking in as far as the national championship race goes.
ASU fans have a choice here on who to root for. For a moment, let’s assume the Devils win the South. If you want a rematch with the Cardinal in the conference championship you will be pulling for Stanford to win out. If you would like a shot at the Ducks in Autzen Stadium you want Stanford to lose and let Oregon back into the picture. Personally, I prefer Stanford. The Devils know what to expect there and Autzen is a difficlut environment. USC has been playing well lately under their new coach and this should be a good game either way. The Cardinal are favored by 3.5 points.
Washington State @ Arizona
Arizona wasn’t able to pull off an upset win against UCLA last week. That win would have really helped the Devils but it didn’t happen. After the loss to the Bruins, this week they should bounce back against the Cougars. The Cats will probably pull off a close one, even though they are double digit favorites here.
CAL @ Colorado
In a battle between basement dwellers, Colorado should win at home but neither team has been very good this season. It doesn’t impact the conference race in any way, but Sun Devil fans might as well root for the Buffaloes since they are from the Pac-12 South. This unpredictable game will feature two young quarterbacks trying to lead their team to victory, and anything can happen.
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The focus for ASU has become very clear, and that is to handle their own business in these next 3 games starting tomorrow with Oregon State. Because if they do, they will be playing one more game to get back to the Rose Bowl.
There is one quarter of the season remaining and it will be exciting. Champions will be determined and Bowl bids will become more clear for each qualifying team.
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