Pac-12 revs up for second half of seasonPosted: Updated:
The Pac-12 rounds the corner toward the second half of the season with a couple of big games and what could be the fastest game in the West - or anywhere else, for that matter.
Here's what to look for:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 20 Southern California at No. 19 Utah. Two teams fighting for positioning in the Pac-12 South will pit strength against strength at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. USC is led by quarterback Cody Kessler, who threw for a conference-record seven touchdown passes against Colorado last week, and running back Javorius Allen, the conference's leader in rushing and all-purpose yards. They'll be butting up against a Utah defensive line that leads the nation with 33 sacks and tackles for loss, with 10.2 per game. Needless to say, the line of scrimmage is where this one will be won. No. 14 Arizona State faces Washington in the other big game of the week.
BEST MATCHUP: No. 15 Arizona vs. Washington State. This won't just be the fastest game in the West this weekend; it could be the fastest anywhere. Both teams like to play quickly and put up prodigious numbers offensively. The Cougars lead the nation in passing with 490 yards per game behind Connor Halliday, who broke the all-time single-game record by throwing for 734 yards against California two weeks ago. The Wildcats are fourth nationally with 557 yards of offense per game and divvy it up a little more, throwing for 357 and rushing for 200 a game. The question is whether Washington State can slow down Arizona at all.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Oregon State's Sean Mannion needs 316 passing yards to break USC quarterback Matt Barkley's Pac-12 record of 12,327 yards set from 2009-12. ... Road teams are 16-7 in conference games this season. ... Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly is expected to return this week against Washington after missing three games with a right foot injury. ... Stanford has scored a rushing touchdown in 29 consecutive games, tied with Navy for the nation's second-best streak behind Kansas State (44).
IMPACT PLAYER: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. A Heisman Trophy front-runner, he leads the nation with a passer efficiency of 191.0 and has thrown 19 touchdown passes without an interception. This week's opponent, Cal, has had some defensive troubles this season, so Mariota could be in for a big game.