The Pac-12’s division leaders, Oregon and Arizona State, can pad their playoff resumes with big wins this week in what figures to be the toughest test left for both teams.
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 8 Notre Dame at No. 11 Arizona State. So what if it’s a non-conference game? It’s one of the biggest in Arizona State’s history. The Sun Devils climbed to No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings and can make another major move up if they knock off Notre Dame, whose only loss came at undefeated Florida State. The Fighting Irish outlasted Arizona State 37-34 last year in Arlington, Texas. The Sun Devils are playing the best they have defensively under third-year coach Todd Graham, and they’ll need to be in top form to slow down quarterback Everett Golson, who did not play in last season’s game.
BEST MATCHUP: No. 5 Oregon at No. 20 Utah. The Ducks solved their Stanford problem last week, crushing the two-time defending Pac-12 champion Cardinal 45-16 in Eugene. Oregon, which moved into the fourth spot in the playoff standings, can clinch the North Division and claim a spot in the conference championship game with a win at raucous Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Ducks found success against physical defenses like Michigan State and Stanford, and the Utes present a similar challenge. Utah’s offense has been no slouch, either, averaging 33.4 points while alternating between Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson at quarterback.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (12,454) eclipsed Southern California’s Matt Barkley (12,327) for the most yards passing in Pac-12 history last week. The next mark in Mannion’s sights is Barkley’s conference record for total offense. Barkley ended his career with 12,214 yards, while Mannion is at 11,755 yards. … Utah’s Travis Wilson is the only quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision to attempt at least 150 passes without an interception this season. He’s completed 93 of 165 passes for 1,084 yards and 9 TDs. … Arizona State is playing its fifth ranked opponent in six games, the most in that span in school history.
IMPACT PLAYER: Washington’s two-way star Shaq Thompson rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in a win at Colorado. The converted linebacker, who has scored four defensive touchdowns this season, is also a defensive player of the year candidate. The Huskies host UCLA this week. The Bruins feature another two-way talent in linebacker and running back Myles Jack.
Complied by AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez.