Pac-12 South Standings and 2017 Championship Game Forecast: Week 8

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Khalil Tate
TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Khalil Tate /

USC’s win over Utah cemented their place atop the Pac-12 South standings, but could Arizona serve as a roadblock on the road to the Pac-12 Championship Game?

Clay Helton’s USC Trojans got a massive win Saturday over Utah, not only avenging last year’s loss to the Utes, but ensuring a solid lead in the Pac-12 South race. The victory gives the Trojans a valuable tiebreaker and keeps them on pace to control their own destiny, as they seek their first Pac-12 championship since 2008.

Let’s look at how the Pac-12 South shapes up after Week 7 and going into Week 8…

Pac-12 South Standings (as of 10/14)

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

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

USC (4-1)

Tiebreakers held: UtahTo win the South: Win outThis week: Off (at Notre Dame)

The Trojans have not performed to their lofty expectations and are just 1-6 against the spread. But fortunately for Clay Helton’s squad, the Pac-12 is decided by actual wins, a category no one has done better in than the Trojans of late. USC has won 11 of their last 12 conference games, and with wins over Stanford and Utah already in the bank, it’s downhill from here in the South. They’ll be favored by double-digits the rest of the way in conference play, with only ASU, Arizona, Colorado and UCLA standing in their way. The only question is whether or not they’ll continue to avoid defeats, as they have against teams like Texas and Utah thus far.

Arizona (2-1)

Tiebreakers held: Colorado, UCLATo win the South: Win outThis week: at Cal

Are the Wildcats the biggest opposition to USC in the South? It sure looks like it. Arizona dismantled UCLA in Tucson on Saturday, as Khalil Tate once again looked like Pat White in Rich Rodriguez’s spread-option attack. The former Serra quarterback and USC receiver target has rushed for an ungodly 557 yards on just 29 carries in his last two games since taking over for Brandon Dawkins. Yes, those numbers are correct. Tate is averaging 19.2 yards per carry in Pac-12 play and the Wildcats control their own destiny in the South. But it won’t be easy. Arizona has a vicious schedule which sees them travel to Cal, USC, Oregon and ASU, not to mention a tough home tilt against Washington State. Good luck with that, Cats.

Arizona State (2-1)

Tiebreakers held: n/aTo win the South: Win outThis week: at Utah

If you predicted ASU would control its own destiny deep into October, you should probably be handing out lottery numbers. The Sun Devils have the conference’s two best wins, toppling both Oregon and Washington at home thus far, with the latter being perhaps the most shocking result of the college football season to date. And don’t look now, but ASU’s schedule sets up nicely for an outside shot at the Pac-12 South. Their November slate is full of winnable games against Colorado, UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona. That’s if they get through a daunting end of October, however. Todd Graham’s team gets Utah at Rice-Eccles this Saturday, followed by hosting USC. If they somehow win both, they’d be the Pac-12 South favorite.

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Utah (1-2)

Tiebreakers held: ArizonaTo win the South: Win out, with USC losing twiceThis week: vs. Arizona State

While there was only a couple yards separating the Utes from USC on the field Saturday, they now sit several places away from the Trojans in the race for the Pac-12 South. They’re 2.5 games back with two games in hand, and USC’s soft schedule to end the season doesn’t help.  Utah’s best bet could be a three-way tiebreaker at 7-2 or 6-3 that includes Arizona to cancel out the USC loss. But it’s hard seeing that happening. The Utes still have Washington and Washington State on the schedule, plus a roadie at Autzen Stadium against Oregon. And if they somehow win out to go 7-2, what are the odds Arizona goes 5-1 the rest of the way, with that lone loss not coming to USC at the Coliseum? There’s still a ton of football to play and anything can happen, but the Utes are up against it.

UCLA (1-2)

Tiebreakers held: ColoradoTo win the South:  Win out, with Arizona losing twiceThis week: vs. Oregon

The Bruins’ defense is not very good. Unless that changes, it’s hard to see how they’ll have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South. However, the good news is that much of UCLA’s schedule is still ahead of them, giving them chances to obtain some almighty tiebreakers. And they’re only a pair of Arizona losses from controlling their own destiny, which is a good bet given the Wildcats’ ridiculous schedule. But that assumes the Bruins could win out despite road games at Washington, at Utah and at USC, which goes back to the whole not very good defense thing.

Colorado (1-3)

Tiebreakers held: n/aTo win the South: Win out, force three-team tiebreaker at 6-3This week: at Washington State

There has yet to be a team repeat as winners in the Pac-12 South —UCLA’s 2011 pseudo crown notwithstanding— and Colorado is on pace to keep that streak alive. While the Buffs got their first conference win of the year on Saturday in Corvallis, the schedule is only getting significantly more difficult from here. That’s bad news for a 1-3 team that needs to win out to have some sort of chance.