One of the upsides of the Pac-12's conference schedule is nine conference games and ultimately one less cupcake on the schedule. This does, however, make the schedule usually a little bit more taxing on a team (unless you're Arkansas or Auburn and you struggle with cupcakes). This week features the Pac-12 mostly all its own, with intriguing and meaningful games conference-wide. While for the most part, the rest of the country is still playing Patsies.
The Pac-12 has recently struggled to generate massive interest -- outside of Oregon -- around the country. Despite a national network, the big-name programs have yet to live up to hype created during the preseason. This weekend gives the conference an opportunity to showcase its talent to the country with a number of intriguing and meaningful contests.
1) #9 UCLA at # 16 Arizona (+5.5), 7 p.m., ABC
The Bruins survived last week versus BYU and begin conference play undefeated, on track for a playoff spot. This was large part because of a game-saving interception by linebacker Myles Jack. Jack, one of the country's most dynamic players, sustained a knee injury during practice and will miss the rest of the season. And while UCLA challenged themselves in non-conference play, the Wildcats seemed to avoid any competition so we actually know very little about this team going at this point.
2) No. 18 Utah at No. 13 Oregon (-11), 7:30 p.m., FOX
Another undefeated conference opener for two ranked Pac-12 teams (That's SEC-type stuff). It is yet to be seen if the Ducks will be back to his starting position after suffering a broken finger in practice the previous week. Oregon wasn't overly impressive last week on the defensive side against the worst team in college football, giving up 421 yards to Georgia State. If the Utes can avoid mistakes like dropping the ball before actually scoring the TD (ex. 2014) like last year it will have a chance to cover.
3) No. 19 USC at Arizona State (+5.5), 9:30 p.m, ESPN
Yet again, two Pac-12 teams in similar situations. Both the Trojans and Sun Devils are hoping to wake up Sunday morning with only one conference loss. A second loss will almost assuredly mean a disappointing season, which is a hard reality to face when you have only played the one quarter of the season. USC is looking also to avoid losing their third straight to ASU, something that has never happened before. In order to win and take coach Steve Sarkisian off the hot seat, the men of Troy will have to step up defensively. Arizona State has to play all four quarters.
4) Tennessee (+1) at Florida, 2:30 p.m., CBS
To say the Vols have struggled with the Gators is an understatement. Even through some lean years down in the swamp, Florida has managed to beat UT for the last decade. Both teams are loaded with NFL talent and the Gators should provide a strong challenge to the potent Vol offense It's a different team that travels to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this year for Tennessee than in years past. Getting this monkey off it's back will go a long way in proving the Vols are back.
5) Mississippi State (+2) at Auburn, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2
Is Auburn really this bad? Again this week, it will have its hands full with a talented, experienced offense. This week, however, the Bulldogs will try to gain yards mostly by way of Dak Prescott's arm. The difficulty for the Tigers will be when they have to tackle, an almost impossible task last week.
6) No. 14 Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas, 6 p.m., ESPN
Same question, different team: Is Arkansas really this bad? After struggling with a fast-paced, spread-you-out offense last week, the Hogs will be challenged with a very similar attack. A&M is getting better each week is a completely different defensive team than it was a year ago thanks to new DC John Chavious. The Razorbacks will be improved, but it will not be enough to fend off an ever-improving Aggie squad.
7) No. 3 TCU (-6.5) at Texas Tech, 3:45 p.m. FOX
After embarrassing the Hogs last weekend, the Red Raiders continue their revenge tour by hosting the Horned Frogs. Last season, TCU dropped 82 points and quarterback Trevone Boykin tossed seven touchdown passes, and that is with coach Gary Patterson taking the foot off the gas. TCU has suffered several injuries at key positions this season which is playing to its lack of dominance so far this season. Look for the Toads to get back on track in an ole fashioned Texas shootout.
8) No. 25 Missouri at Kentucky (-2.5), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Mizzou has looked horrendous offensively against what was considered to be lesser teams. Defensively, the Tigers are playing traditional Pinkle ball with a strong outside rush and solid play from the linebackers. Kentucky comes off a week in which it thought it could end a 28-loss streak to the Gators. Being back in Commonwealth Stadium should help, but it's still so hard to trust the Wildcats in big spots.
9) Vanderbilt at No. 3 Ole Miss (-24.5), 6 p.m., ESPNU
The Commodores won a game for the first time in almost 11 months, albeit against a far inferior FBS opponent. To rebound they'll get the Rebels, who accomplished a feat never before achieved in program history. So much momentum everywhere...
10) No. 22 BYU at Michigan (-5.5), 11 a.m., ABC
The Mormon Magic ended last week as UCLA held off a late attempt from BYU. The Cougars will play in a different timezone for the fourth consecutive week as they visit The Big House. Quarterback Trevor Mangum continues to maintain a high level of play and just maybe some of that will rub off on Michigan QB Jake Rudock who hasn't demonstrated much improvement over the first three weeks of the season.
Season Record: 12-18
Last week was as miserable of a week I've ever had against the spread (2-8), adding insult to injury to the Razorbacks' loss.