PULLMAN – The 2015 Pac-12 champion will once again hail from the state of California as only Stanford, UCLA and USC enter the final regular season week with a shot at the title.
Stanford has already wrapped up the Pac-12 North, while the rivalry game between UCLA and USC will literally have everything on the line.
Four championship games have been played since the Pac-10 expanded in 2011, and no school other than Oregon or Stanford has won, although Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA have each tried to claim a victory for the south.
This year Utah seemed poised to bring the trophy home from the Beaver and Golden States, but lost its chance by losing to both Los Angeles schools. But while a California school will win the conference title, I maintain that the two teams playing the best right now reside in the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon (8-3, 6-2; last week: 2) Oregon had to navigate some uncharacteristic struggles this year, but at the end of the season nobody is playing better ball.
Washington State (8-3, 6-2; last week: 1) The Cougars did nothing to lose their perch atop the conference standings, they just weren’t quite as impressive as the Ducks last week.
Stanford (9-2, 8-1; last week: 3) Maybe the Cardinal does still have a slim shot at the playoffs. All Stanford has to do is blow out No. 5 Notre Dame and decisively win the Pac-12 championship game. Easy, right?
UCLA (8-3, 5-3; last week: 5) The UCLA Phoenixes keep blowing opportunities, but simply have to beat their rival for a Pac-12 title shot.
Utah (8-3, 5-3; last week: 4) Frontrunners for most of the year, the Utes have to pick themselves up after seeing their conference championship hopes dashed with just a week left.
Arizona State (6-5, 4-4; last week: 8) In the last two weeks, Antonio Longino has six sacks and two Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week awards. Good luck, Jared Goff.
USC (7-4, 5-3; last week: 7) The Trojans aren’t playing like a Pac-12 champion, but they have the talent and opportunity to be one.
Washington (5-6, 3-5; last week: 10) The Huskies have the two biggest blowouts in conference play this year (UA and OSU), but seem incapable of getting a normal, hard-fought win.
California (6-5, 3-5; last week: 9) This might have been Cal’s year, and it appears the Golden Bears have squandered the career one of the best quarterbacks in school history.
Arizona (6-6; 3-6; last week: 6) The offense was never good enough to carry an injury-ravaged defense.
Colorado (4-8, 1-7; last week: 11) The Buffaloes only put up three points at WSU, but Cade Apsay showed some real promise at quarterback.
Oregon State (2-9, 0-8; last week: 12) That note about UW having the two biggest conference blowouts? That won’t be true after OSU plays the Ducks.
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