The Pac-12 isn’t dead yet.
Last Saturday couldn’t have gone better for the conference, with Utah winning at Washington and Oregon routing USC in Los Angeles. The Ducks and Utes are both and 8-1 now and ranked seventh and eighth, respectively, in the Associated Press Top 25.
Oregon’s win gave Utah sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South, and the Ducks are undefeated in conference play — their only loss came to Auburn in the season opener.
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While most of the College Football Playoff talk this week — the committee released its first rankings on Tuesday — will center on No. 1 LSU’s trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face the No. 2 Crimson Tide, the Pac-12 has a shot at sending two 11-1 teams to its conference championship game in December.
And the conference’s overall depth should help.
Eight of its 12 teams have appeared in the Top 25 at one point this season, and only Colorado (3-6) has less than four wins so far.
While neither the Ducks nor Utes will leap over a one-loss LSU or Alabama next week, a 12-1 Pac-12 champ would certainly get a long look from the CFP committee.
In addition to those two SEC schools, Oregon and Utah are still looking up at No. 3 Ohio State, which returns from a bye week to take on lowly Maryland, No. 4 Clemson, No. 5 Penn State, which faces the Buckeyes on Nov. 23, and a one-loss Georgia team that got a big win over Florida on Saturday.
Oregon is 6-0 in the Pac-12 North and leads Oregon State by two games in the loss column. After this week’s bye, the Ducks finish with Arizona at home, a trip to Arizona State and the Beavers at home in the finale.
Utah, which is also off this week, hosts UCLA on Nov. 16 before traveling to face Arizona and taking on Colorado in Salt Lake City in the final game.
Both teams should be double-digit favorites the rest of the way.
The LSU-Alabama winner would likely face Georgia in the SEC title game, and either Ohio State or Penn State will emerge as a favorite in the Big Ten.
A probable end-of-season question for the committee might be: Are potential one-loss schools that didn’t win a conference title in the SEC or Big Ten more worthy of inclusion than a 12-1 Pac-12 champion? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
Penn State -6.5 at Minnesota: Before the Nittany Lions can seriously entertain thoughts of the College Football Playoff, they have the Golden Gophers to contend with.
After a shaky start to the season close calls against South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue Minnesota has rolled to its first 8-0 start since the Gophers’ 1941 national-championship season. They’ve done it with a mix of ball-control offense they’re sixth nationally in time of possession and an improving defense: Minnesota’s past three opponents have averaged less than 234 yards of total offense. MINNESOTA
Baylor -2.5 at TCU: The 8-0 Bears have combined with Minnesota to form the quietest pair of undefeated teams in the country. Baylor has been defined mostly by its offense this season 480 yards per game but last Saturday, it was the defense that was key in a 17-14 win over West Virginia. It was the Bears’ first win in a game in which they failed to reach 20 points since 2006.
The Horned Frogs have lost three of four, and Baylor has a perfect road record that includes a 19-point win over Kansas State and an 18-point victory over Oklahoma State. BAYLOR
LSU at Alabama, Total 65: This won’t be a Tigers-Crimson Tide 9-6 game. Alabama and LSU are second and fourth in scoring offense, while both defenses have surrendered points this season. Texas and Vanderbilt each scored 38 points in losses to the Tigers, while Florida had 28.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t been challenged yet in 2019, but this isn’t a vintage Nick Saban defense. Alabama gave up 31 against Mississippi and 28 to Texas A&M, and neither of those offenses have LSU’s firepower. OVER
Iowa at Wisconsin, Total 38: There won’t be many offensive fireworks here. Wisconsin is first in the nation and Iowa sixth in total defense, and they both rank in the top eight in defending the run. No Iowa game has gone over the total since the Hawkeyes’ 38-14 season-opening win over Miami, Ohio, and the under is 6-2 including five in row in Badgers games this season. UNDER
Last week: 2-2