NCAA Football

Stanford may be the front runner, but the Pac-12 is wide open

No. 11 Stanford steamrolled an over matched Colorado squad on Saturday, but the Cardinal still needed a Cal win to clinch the Pac-12 North with three games to go.

Vernon Adams torched Cal's defense through the air and on the ground as Oregon picked up its sixth win. (Scott Olmos/USA TODAY Sports)

Vernon Adams torched Cal’s defense through the air and on the ground as Oregon picked up its sixth win. (Scott Olmos/USA TODAY Sports)

Unfortunately for Stanford, the Oregon Ducks used an offensive explosion in the second quarter to pull away from the Golden Bears…and to keep the Pac-12 North race wide open. Cal’s decision to contain quarterback Vernon Adams often gave the Oregon quarterback too much time to find receivers down field, which allowed the Ducks to rip off long passes to get the offense into scoring position.  Oregon would then find a way to score, putting the game out of reach.

The victory was Oregon’s sixth of the season, ensuring another bowl game for the Ducks, it kept the Pac-12 North in doubt for at least another week.

Stanford currently has the tie breaker over Washington State — which earned its sixth win on Saturday as well — but the Cardinal have yet to play the Oregon this season. When these two teams face off on Nov. 14th, the Cardinal could snag their second division title in three years; and Oregon could make it a horse race between three teams going into the last couple weeks of the season.

If Oregon and Cal beat Stanford — with the Coug and Ducks winning out — it’s going to come down to division records to determine which team is going to win the North — because WSU beat Oregon, whom beat Stanford, whom beat WSU. In this instance, Oregon would win the North. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Ducks and Cougs in the standings if they win out and each finish with a 9-3 (7-2) record.

Of course, this speculation is all moot if Stanford beats Oregon on November 14th to capture the Pac-12 North title.

In the Pac-12 South, is just as weird. The November 21st game between No. 12 Utah and No. 25 UCLA will knock one of these two teams out of the division race, and make it a little easier for USC to make a serious push.

USC can win the Pac-12 South if the Bruins beat the Utes, and lose one more conference game (either WSU or the Battle of LA); the Trojans would then need to win out to represent the South in Santa Clara in the Pac-12 title game. A loss in any of their remaining games would knock the Trojans out of the South race.

It’s a little more cut and dry for UCLA, the Bruins need to win out to capture the South. A victory over Utah would give them the tie breaker, and a win over USC would knock the Trojans out of the picture. That being said, UCLA cannot afford another conference loss. The Bruins next conference loss would be their third, and it would knock them out of the Pac-12 South race.

Utah has the clearest picture of all, win out and win the division. The Utes victory over Washington on Saturday firmly entrenched them in the driver seats in the South as it was their fifth conference victory, one game ahead of USC and UCLA. If Utah wins out, they win the South; if Utah beats UCLA, and USC loses one more conference game, they win the South.

For Utah and Stanford, it’s got to feel nice being in the diver seat.

For everyone else, bowl games are likely…winning their respective divisions is not.

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