The start of the four Pacific Northwest schools would have all the hallmarks of an exciting race in the Pac-12 North Division.
If only the Northern Division still existed.
This Pac-12 season marks the first time that the two teams with the highest winning percentages in conference games will meet in a championship game. This year, Pac-12 decided to do away with divisions after the NCAA Division I Board changed a rule requiring conferences to have divisions for championship games.
At most conferences, there is often an imbalance of divisions, but this was especially noticeable at the Pac-12. In five of the 11 years since the conference expanded in 2011, teams from the same division would have met in a title game. In all but one of these scenarios, it would be two teams from the North.
While Utah’s No. 13 and Southern California’s No. 7 receive the most attention nationally, the northern conference brothers will have something to say about who plays in Las Vegas on December 2. The team from the Northern division has won nine tournaments. 11 championship games.
Washington, Washington State and Oregon State started 3-0, while Oregon State 2-1. The Huskies and Ducks had their most significant wins this past weekend, with Washington beating No. 11 Michigan State 39-28 and Oregon beating No. 12 BYU 41-20.
AT Kalen DeBoerIn the first season, the Huskies were an unexpected conference team and could quickly bounce back from last year’s 4-8 campaign. Their convincing win over the Spartans took them to 18th on the AP Top 25 this week.
Washington opens Saturday’s Pac-12 game against Stanford, but the Huskies also have an advantage going forward. Because this season’s schedule is still division-based, the Huskies will not play USC or Utah.
They also have away games, but the biggest test will come later this season when they visit Oregon on Nov. 12 and Washington State two weeks later.
“I think we are clearly bringing fame to our programs. He tells us that we must be the best and that is why we must continue to improve. These games are going to be big in the future, and they’re going to be against really good football teams,” DeBoer said. “Speaking with both sides of my mouth here, it’s nice to see, but it’s also an understanding that we’ll be busy throughout the season.”
The next two weeks could determine Oregon’s chances of reaching the conference title game. The Beavers will host USC on Saturday and head to Utah next week. The Beavers took their first win at the Los Angeles Coliseum since 1960 last year, but under a freshman coach, the Trojans have become a different team. Lincoln Riley and protector Caleb Williams.
“That’s what we were aiming for,” coach Jonathan Smith said of Oregon State’s first 3-0 start in eight years. “You start the season, you have a non-conference schedule, and I think we played well. But the real season is starting now, the first of nine conference games where we want to do the same.”
Washington State scored one of the most significant road wins in the conference on September 10 when it eliminated 18th in Wisconsin. Saturday’s game against Oregon starts over the next five weeks, where she will also face USC, Oregon State and Utah.
“I think we’re in a great place,” Dickert said. “They worked hard to get here and they deserve it. We are confident in what we need to do. Our guys understand the moment. They understand the challenge.”
No. 15 Oregon bounced back well from a 49-3 crushing loss to Georgia on September 3 and signaled that he would still be a factor in the conference race with his three-touchdown win over BYU. After Washington State, the Ducks’ most violent period comes in the last three games against Washington State, Utah and Oregon. They also don’t face USC this year.
First year coach Dan Lanning likes how his team bounced back after the first match and praised his group’s ability to take criticism and improve.
“I think we play a little more physical football, actually on both sides of the ball, as we were able to set the run up and then did a good job on the perimeter. games,” he said. “Our training has been very good over the past few weeks and it has come through and carried over into the game. I think we’ll see the same thing this week.”
With Oregon being choked out by leading Georgia and Utah losing to Florida, it looked like the Pac-12 was headed for another college football playoff miss.
The week before the start of the season, the top two teams in the conference had already failed big early tests.
Fast forward three weeks and it looks like Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.
The Ducks and the Utes took the win with big wins, and the conference leader looks strong with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.
It’s still early, but Pac-12 is positioning itself to take the team to CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.
Watch how the Pac-12 peak stacks up on the first weekend in October:
The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. Former Oklahoma Coach Brought Quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they did well in the first four games.
Williams threw for 1,054 yards and threw for nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scoring shots. USC’s defense was opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions and tied for the lead with 14 clearances.
The Trojans survived a panic against the bully Oregon State over the weekend and started 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC is scheduled to play in Utah on October 15 but has avoided Washington and Oregon this season.
12th-place Utes opened the season with a heavy road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but won three lopsided games in a row.
Short of a costly interception against the Gators, the quarterback cam growth was sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has physical defense and is third in FBS with 132.8 yards per game.
The Cliff also has a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. Bad news: hard ending Brant Kuittheir lead wide receiver, out for the season with a knee injury.
Utah will play Oregon State this weekend and have tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.
The Ducks’ playoff chances plummeted after a 49-3 loss to defending national champion Georgia in the first game.
No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive victory over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.
The Ducks couldn’t match the Bulldogs in any way – there aren’t many of them – but they’ve averaged 51.6 points in their last three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is his pass defense. The Ducks allow 72.5% of passes to be completed, the third worst in the country.
Oregon’s biggest test left this season will come in back-to-back games against Washington and Utah.
The Huskies quickly changed in their first season under a coach. Kalen DeBoer.
defender Michael Penix Jr. now that he’s healthy, he had an FBS-best tally for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns in a single interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) has a solid home win over Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.
On Saturday, the Huskies will play their first road game at undefeated UCLA before facing Oregon on November 12.
University of California at Los Angeles
After winning in Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have the longest winning streak since winning their first eight games in 2005.
UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a victory over the struggling Buffaloes.
The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on October 22.
ROSEMONT, Illinois. On Tuesday, the conference commissioners, who run the college football playoffs, spent nearly seven hours working on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams by the 2024 season.
There is still a lot of work to be done.
“We won’t be summarizing this week,” the CFP chief executive said. Bill Hancock said.
The CFP Steering Committee, consisting of 10 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame Athletic Director, is scheduled to meet again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are going to meet again in person in Dallas on October 20th.
“It will be important,” Hancock said.
Expansion talks have been reopened by university presidents and presidents who oversee the College Football playoffs last month.
By adopting a 12-team plan that has been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed panel members to try to implement the new format before the current CFP contract with ESPN expires. This deal ends after the 2025 season.
The expansion from four to 12 in 2024 and 2025 will require rescheduling the semi-finals and championship games, for which dates and locations have already been set, as well as adding four new first round games in mid-December to be played on campus.
Squeezing it all in about a month and working with the NFL for TV is going to be tough.
Hancock said the idea of moving the start of the college football season to a week before Labor Day was discussed to create more room at the end for the playoffs, but was discussed more after the 2025 season.
“I think most people…