DENVER – For their 2-0 debut, Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins will appear on “prime time” this weekend.
Same for the Pac-12, as the list of Conference teams remaining undefeated has been reduced to three after just two matches. This is the lowest number among the Power Five conventions.
The pressure to raise the Pac-12’s profile—and achieve that inside track in the college playoffs—could fall more squarely on the shoulder pads of No. 4 Oregon, No. 13 UCLA and No. 19 Arizona State.
“It’s really early. I mean, you’re still in a living and upfront kind of vibe to all these teams,” said Petros Papadakis, a college football analyst at Fox Sports. “They’re still trying to find their identity. trying. Almost everyone is in that mode, no matter who you are. So I’m not sure they’re feeling the pressure of, ‘Hey, we’re carrying the torch to the convention.'”
The Pac-12 currently has as many unbeaten teams as Conference USA. The league lags behind the other Power Five conferences – the ACC has five remaining; Big 12, Six; Big Ten, Seven; and the Southeastern Conference, 10, including six out of seven in the SEC West Division.
Those three spotless Pac-12 teams can’t afford one wrong move this week. The Pac-12 South favorite did not drop out of the Southern California rankings after losing to Stanford, which also led to the ouster of coach Clay Helton. Not with Utah losing to rival BYU a week ago. Washington did not start 0-2 for the first time since 2008.
Think the Pac-12 team has a shot at the national title game?
“Honestly, I think it’s more important for the Pac-12 that USC will hire the right ones going forward, as far as really big-name coaches and really big-name employees. It’s something like Which the whole conference can use to take advantage of the new TV deal, whatever it is going to happen,” Papadakis said. “It’s more important to play Oregon than, say, Georgia — as long as someone does it. Not everyone can win.”
The Ducks are riding high after victory at Ohio State – their first road victory over a top five team in 2011, beating Stanford.
“Big game for Oregon; big game for the Pac-12,” Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said on the team’s website.
Next up: Stony Brook, an FCS team out of New York. The Ducks are looking to extend their winning streak to 14 games in a row at Oetgen Stadium.
The Sun Devils travel to Provo, Utah to take on a strong BYU team that has already defeated Arizona and Utah.
Then there’s UCLA, an 11 1/2-point favorite, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook on Fresno State. Keep this in mind: The Bulldogs made a scare in Oregon on September 4 (fall 31-24) and defeated the Bruins in 2018.
Kelly resorted to an acronym, “TBU,” when describing the relevance of the loss from ’18: “‘True but worthless,’ so we’re good at that,” he said. “Nothing to do with what’s happening now. . . … We focus on this season and this season itself.”
Kelly said a late start doesn’t change much of preparation for his team. But it could mean that those East Coast fans will be in a deep sleep by the time this time comes to an end.
“At least people in Manila getting up on Sunday morning will have a chance to see the Bruins play,” Kelly said. “So hopefully there are some Bruins fans out there.”
A quick recap from last weekend: Arizona dropped its 14th straight game in a loss to San Diego State; Colorado couldn’t take longer to drop at Texas A&M, which fell to No. 7 in a recent poll; Oregon State beat Hawaii; Washington State surpassed Portland State; The state of Arizona took care of the business against UNLV; And Cal suffered a 34-32 loss at TCU despite Chase Garbers passing more than 300 yards.
What it’s all about: The Pac-12 looks top-heavy, behind Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona State. The real trick won’t be beating each other once league play is hit. The key dates to remember will be October 2 when UCLA hosts the state of Arizona and October 23 when the Bruins welcome Oregon to the city. The Ducks and the Sun Devils don’t meet this season until they both make it to the Pac-12 title game.
A little trivia: The last team from the Pac-12 (actually the Pac-10 back) to go undefeated through the conference was the Ducks in 2010, when they had a certain coach named Chip Kelly.
In Year 4 at Westwood, he made a rapid start to the Bruins, including a win over LSU.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world that there isn’t a bunch of more undefeated teams at this point,” Papadakis said. “The lack of undefeated teams is a small story compared to the way UCLA and Oregon dominated those games. It’s the biggest takeaway.”
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