Spanning the college football world in six easy steps . . .
1. The theme of the Arizona-UCLA game will be desperation. It’s not like a loss would mean the season is over for either team, but that team would be two steps on the path to nowhere with darkness all around.
Yet, for as important as Saturday’s game is for both teams’ mojo, things are even more anxious in Tempe.
The team that nobody wants to be right now is Arizona State.
The Sun Devils skated on a favorable schedule last season, gliding toward a happy-happy 10-win season.
These things have a way of evening out.
Arizona State, at 2-1 and coming off a mostly incomprehensible loss to UNLV – there’s a lot of that feeling going around the Pac-10 this week – is staring at the realistic possibility of 2-5.
The Sun Devils play Georgia this week before going on the road for games at Cal and USC. ASU returns home to play Oregon.
That’s two national championship contenders, and two other of the supposed top challengers in the Pac-10.
The Oregon game looms as the most likely victory, but Ducks’ starting quarterback Justin Roper should be back from injury by the time the teams play Oct. 25. It’s not out of the question that ASU’s next victory will come in November.
ASU plays at Oregon State on Nov. 1.
2. If USC stays on track for the national title game, a spot in the Rose Bowl would open for the second-place Pac-10 team.
Since that team – whoever it might be -likely will have a couple of black eyes, the Rose Bowl might be better off looking at the champ of the Mountain West Conference.
For a team outside one of the big-six conferences to be included in the BCS, it must be among the top 12 in the final BCS standings, or be ranked in the top 16 and higher than a champ from a BCS conference.
Hmmm . . . BYU vs. Ohio State/Wisconsin/Penn State in the Rose Bowl?
The Cougars already have beaten Washington and UCLA – hey, that would be good for first place in the Pac-10 right now – but their toughest tests will come on the road against Utah and TCU.
Whoever it is, the Mountain West champ is going to be BCS-worthy.
3. I always keep an eye on Fresno State because I like coach Pat Hill, whose name should be in the mix if a coaching change happens at Arizona.
Beating Wisconsin last Saturday would have really helped his cause.
The Bulldogs came close, losing 13-10, prompting the AP to write that it “brought an early end to Fresno State’s hopes of following the path set by WAC rivals Boise State and Hawaii the past two years of going to a BCS bowl.”
Don’t agree with that “early end” part.
If the Bulldogs can win out and finish 11-1, with the only blemish being a three-point loss to Wisconsin, they have a good chance of being high enough in the BCS rankings to be considered for one of the big-boy bowls.
And that will mean a very high profile for Hill.
4. I’m not falling for anything regarding Notre Dame and its 2-0 start, but the Irish have the schedule to be a factor in the national rankings.
There is only one team on Notre Dame’s schedule that is currently ranked – No. 1 USC.
The flipside to that is that there aren’t many cupcakes on the schedule, either. This week’s opponent, Michigan State, is typical of the Irish’s good-but-not-great opposition.
Good but not great. Kind of like Notre Dame.
We’ll know more after the Irish play the Spartans, who have won eight of the past 11 meetings.
For now, be skeptical of the Irish.
5. Score one for the writers, who dropped Arizona State out of its Top 25 poll. A demerit for the coaches, who still have the Sun Devils at No. 24.
ASU’s loss to UNLV must have happened after the coaches went to bed Saturday night.
6. USC lost at home to Stanford last season as a 41-point favorite, so anything is possible, but it would be shock now if the Trojans don’t run through the Pac-10 undefeated.
In the league’s full round-robin format, this is the season in which USC plays five conference road games, but it is also a season in which the Trojans get the presumed top contenders – Oregon, Cal, ASU – at home.
No team has won the Pac-10 by two games since a great Washington team did so in 1991.
No team has ever won the league by three games.
This could be a first.