Five nuggets for Week Five …
1. This is it for USC and the North (unofficially).
The Trojans have beaten Stanford and Cal, and they don’t play Oregon or Washington.
Once they depart Pullman late tonight, they will have one game left against the North: a gimme home win over Oregon State.
Thus far, there is zero indication that UCLA or the Arizona schools is up to the challenge, leaving only Colorado and Utah as a potential conference losses.
The Trojans get Utah at home and trek to Boulder in November.
Which is all another way of saying: If USC wins tonight, 9-0 become a real possibility.
2. It’s strength on strength in Eugene.
Few teams in the country have produced more big plays (i.e., 20 yards or more) this season than the Ducks, who have 10 runs and 23 passes of that distance.
Meanwhile, Cal hasn’t allowed a play of 20 yards or more in the past six quarters, and four of those quarters were against USC.
The Bears rely heavily on freshman cornerbacks, Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks, which makes their defensive success thus far all the more impressive.
3. Derailing the aerial game?
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is on pace to set conference records for passing yards and touchdowns in a single season.
Don’t bet on that pace continuing.
Rosen has faced four of the worst pass defenses in the nation (in efficiency rating) thus far: No. 91 Texas A&M, No. 92 Memphis, No. 104 Stanford and No. 115 Hawaii.
But six of the Bruins’ last eight games are against top-50 pass defenses: No. 13 Utah, No. 20 Oregon, No. 21 USC, No. 24 Washington, No. 30 Colorado and No. 46 Arizona.
4. Red zone showdown.
Seven teams from Power Five conferences have converted on every red zone opportunity this season (minimum: 10 attempts).
Two of the seven will be on the field in Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal is 19-of-19 in red zone conversions, while Arizona State is 14 of 14.
There’s a decent chance the perfection will continue for both: Neither defense has shown a propensity for stopping opponents inside the 20.
5. Finalizing start times.
The unannounced kickoff times for Oct. 7 (Cal-Washington and Oregon-WSU) will be determined Saturday night or Sunday.
The available windows are 5 p.m. on FOX and 7:45 on ESPN.
The outcome of the Cal-Oregon game will enter the calculation, but it might not be the only consideration. (The networks sometimes work in mysterious ways._
My one cent: The conference should do what it can … exert whatever influence it has … to get WSU-Oregon slotted into the 5 p.m. window.
Otherwise, the Cougars would have to play at 7:45 in Eugene with a Friday night road game, in Berkeley, next week.
Scheduling is extremely complicated, with far less flexibility than you might think. But the Pac-12 should implement a policy that forbids Saturday night road games followed by Friday night road games.
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