10 things to watch in the Pac-12: Battle of undefeateds


Here are 10 things to watch this week in the Pac-12.

  1. Get up for GameDay … again: ESPN's College GameDay is in Pac-12 country for the second time in three weeks to see the Utah Utes host the California Bears. Cal is going for its first 6-0 start since 1950, when it finished 9-1-1 and went to the Rose Bowl. No. 5 Utah made its first appearance in the AP top 10 since 2010 and in the top five since finishing second in 2008.

  2. Backfields in the spotlight: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson leads the country with a QBR of 93.8. And he's making it count when it counts. He's completing 76.2 percent of passes in the second half. His running back, Devontae Booker, has more yards from scrimmage after contact (1,235) of any Power 5 player since 2014. On the flip side, Cal's ability to be balanced offensively has benefited quarterback Jared Goff greatly. The production and threat of the run has allowed Goff to thrive on play-action, where he's completing 71.6 percent of his throws with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

  3. Turnover give-and-take: Cal's defense has forced and FBS-high 18 turnovers this season, one more than it had all of last year. But it is facing an efficient Utah offense that has only turned the ball over four times all season -- tied for the second fewest in the conference.

  4. Have we met before? Three of the five games this week feature teams playing each other for the first time since 2012: Washington at USC, Cal at Utah and Oregon State at Arizona. In each game, either one or both coaches are different than when the teams last met. Only Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez were still coaching their same teams in 2012.

  5. Smith-Schuster vs. the Huskies: The storyline for USC-Washington, obviously, is Steve Sarkisian facing his former team. But those types of stories fade quickly after kickoff. The main story will be Washington's ability to stop USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 10 receptions in which he gained at least 10 yards after the catch. That's tied for the most among Power 5 receivers. Washington's defense, however, has only allowed two touchdown passes all season, tied for second fewest in FBS. And they've only missed 21 tackles, tied with Stanford for second fewest in the league.

  6. Poll watching: The Pac-12 has five or more teams ranked in the AP Top 25 for the eighth straight week. Oregon, which hosts Washington State, fell out of the rankings after being there for 98 consecutive weeks. Utah is the fourth different Pac-12 team this season to be ranked in the top 10. Over the last two seasons, nine different Pac-12 teams have been ranked.

  7. Arizona State to continue scoring tear? After dropping 38 on UCLA last week, the Sun Devils look to continue their offensive outbreak against Colorado. In the last four meetings against the Buffs, ASU has averaged 47.8 points. But as we saw last week, these aren't the same ol' Buffs. Colorado is fifth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 21.4 points per game. That's almost 18 points off of last year's average of 39 points per game.

  8. Can Arizona stop the bleeding? The Wildcats have allowed 111 points in the last two weeks. And that doesn't include any defensive or special teams touchdowns. This might be the week they get to catch their breath, because Oregon State is only averaging 23 points per game -- last in the Pac-12. But the Beavers are coming off of a bye, and Arizona will have to account for quarterback Seth Collins, who averages 76.5 rushing yards per game and has three rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats start a four-game stretch in which they face the 12th (Oregon State), eighth (Colorado), 10th (Washington State) and ninth (Washington) scoring offenses in the league.

  9. Making them pay: The Pac-12 has been the best league in college football this season at creating points off of turnovers. The league as a whole averages nearly a touchdown per game (6.96) in points off of turnovers. Cal has a lot to do with that. The Bears lead the nation with 65 points off of their 18 turnovers. But they aren't the only ones. Oregon (45), UCLA (42), Arizona (42) and USC (41) all rank in the top 20.

  10. Taking a breather: Stanford and UCLA are on bye this week. They'll return to action against each other next Thursday -- Oct. 15 -- when David Shaw will try to move his Cardinal to 5-0 all-time against Jim Mora's Bruins.