Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip: Week 9


We're taking a look at the can't-miss games of the 2013 Pac-12 season. The Ultimate Road Trip continues.

Welcome to Week 9.

Saturday, Oct. 26

  • Arizona at Colorado

  • Utah at USC

  • UCLA at Oregon

  • Stanford at Oregon State

  • California at Washington

My choice: UCLA at Oregon

Why: So I says to the wife: "Honey, Oct. 25 is our 10-year anniversary. Whatcha wanna do? Rome? Paris? Hooters?"

She says back to me: "A romantic dinner Friday night in Portland, and then the next day: Autzen, baby. Autzen."

And I've fallen in love all over again. OK, it probably won't go down like that (but how awesome would that be!?).

We're heading to Eugene for the first time this season -- our eighth different city in nine weeks -- for the Bruins' first contest against the Ducks in the Jim Mora era.

Just as the Week 4 showdown of Arizona State at Stanford was a potential preview of the Pac-12 championship game, this too has to be considered a possible matchup of the top teams from each division. The North will likely be decided two weeks later when the Ducks visit Palo Alto. And the South might not be finalized until the final week of the season.

But as of today, no one would be shocked if these teams end up meeting again on Dec. 7.

The last time these teams met was in the asterisk-coated 2011 Pac-12 championship game, a 49-31 win for Oregon and Rick Neuheisel's swan song as UCLA's coach. Some might recall UCLA going on to lose to Illinois in the Interim Coach Bowl.

But this is a different team under Mora. The Bruins asserted themselves by winning the South last year, asterisk-free, and pushed Stanford in the title game. It's also a new look for the Ducks with Mark Helfrich at the helm. How much different remains to be seen. But anything beyond minor tweaks would be a surprise.

There are plenty of great storylines in this matchup. For starters, you have two of the league's most explosive quarterbacks in UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Both have received preseason Heisman buzz, and voters will be keying in on this game. The Bruins were also one of the league's best pressure teams (though they didn't fare well keeping pressure out) in 2012, so watching the chess match between Anthony Barr & Co. and a very good Oregon offensive line should make for some great analysis. Also worth noting that UCLA will have played at Stanford the week before, making the Bruins two-week road stretch against potentially top-five teams as difficult as any two weeks in college football.

Stanford at Oregon State has plenty of intrigue as well. The Beavers were a fumble away from knocking off the Cardinal on The Farm last year. So, if kickoff times allow for it (they probably won't), perhaps trying to squeeze in a 2-fer might not be a bad call. But if you can only pick one game in the state of Oregon this week, the novelty of Mora's first trip to Autzen Stadium and a potential preview of the Pac-12 title game makes it the game to see.