Pac-12 South Standings and 2016 Championship Game Forecast: Week 9

Oct 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre (left) and USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton before a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre (left) and USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton before a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

After a 45-24 Thursday night victory over Cal, USC got to sit back on Saturday and watch the Pac-12 South standings become a little clearer.

The biggest game of the weekend was No. 17 Utah playing host to red-hot No. 4 Washington in Salt Lake City. The undefeated Huskies would ultimately escape with the help of a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:25 remaining, knocking the Utes into a tie with USC in the Pac-12 South.

With both teams sporting a 4-2 conference record, the Trojans remain looking up at Utah, given the result of last month’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

But the loss gives USC some rope on their pursuit of repeating as Pac-12 South Champ, and Saturday’s close battle has to give Clay Helton’s team something to think about.

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Utah took Washington to the wire, proving that the Huskies aren’t the unbeatable super-machine they’ve appeared to be in the last month. UW beat Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State by a combined 111 points, but never truly put the Utes away.

USC’s season essentially comes down to the November 12th trip to Seattle, a game that could wind up being a Pac-12 Championship Game preview, if the Trojans have their say.

Washington is the only quality opponent left on the schedule and might be the only way to truly judge how far the Trojans have come since starting the season 1-3.

But it won’t mean anything if USC can’t by Oregon next week at the Coliseum. For now, let’s look at how the Pac-12 South shapes up after Week 9 and going into Week 10…

Pac-12 South Standings (Through 10/29)

  1. Colorado (4-1)
  2. Utah (4-2)
  3. USC (4-2)
  4. Arizona State (2-4)
  5. UCLA (1-4)
  6. Arizona (0-5)

How will they make it to the Pac-12 Championship Game?

Colorado: Even though USC beat Cal, this was nearly a perfect bye week for Colorado. Utah’s loss to Washington gives them some breathing room in the race for the Pac-12 South, and puts the Buffaloes in sole possession of first place in the division. That’s an incredible feat for a team that entered the season with one conference win in the last two years.

Now Colorado is staring at a potential Rose Bowl berth, win or lose in the Pac-12 Championship game, should they win out to get there and Washington does their business.Tiebreakers held: Arizona StateTo win the South: Win out OR Go 3-1 with win vs. Utah and USC loss

Utah: The Utes could have taken a big step forward with a win over Washington, making it highly improbable for USC to catch them. But a tight loss wasn’t the end of the world. Utah still controls their own destiny, and as long they beat Colorado to end the season, they would hold every meaningful tiebreaker in the division.Tiebreakers held: USC, UCLA, ArizonaTo win the South: Win out OR Go 2-1, Beat Colorado, With CU and USC both losing another game

USC: The Trojans kept their Pac-12 South hopes alive with a win on Thursday over Cal, which completed a perfect month of October. USC now stands at 4-2 in Pac-12, with a trip to Washington standing as the biggest hurdle in a mostly manageable November slate.

Due to the September 23rd loss to Utah, there’s still a lot that has to break the Trojans’ way to get to Santa Clara, but the Utes’ loss to Washington on Saturday makes for the simplest of ways. Should USC win out and both Colorado and Utah lose at least one game in November, the Trojans would win the division.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, a Utah win over Colorado to create a three-way tie at 7-2 would fall to the Utes, based on intra-divisional record eliminating the Buffaloes and diverting back to Utah’s head-to-head win over USC.Tiebreakers held: Arizona State, Arizona, ColoradoTo win the South: Win out, while Utah & Colorado lose once

Arizona State: How bad are things for ASU right now? Not only are they down to third-string quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole, but the Sun Devils fell on Saturday to a bad Oregon team that had lost five in a row.Tiebreakers held: UCLATo win the South: Wait for baseball season

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UCLA: A bye week should do wonders for the health of the Bruins, who have played two-straight games with quarterback Josh Rosen. But with a difficult Thursday night trip to Colorado looming, it’s not looking bright for UCLA, losers of three-straight.

Even if the Bruins somehow rattle off four wins to finish 5-4 with tiebreakers over the Buffaloes and USC, they would need winless Arizona to knock off both Utah and Colorado, along with downtrodden Oregon getting a win at Rice-Eccles. Not happening.Tiebreakers held: ArizonaTo win the South: Wait for softball season

Arizona: It’s been a really unfortunate season for Rich Rod’s Wildcats, who have been ravished with by the injury bug and are likely a better team than their winless Pac-12 record shows. Even still, getting back both Brandon Dawkins and Anu Solomon at quarterback wasn’t enough to beat struggling Stanford on Saturday night.Tiebreakers held: Bueller…To win the South: Wait for basketball season