Pac-12 South standings and 2017 championship game forecast: Week 9

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

The 2017 Pac-12 South race has turned unpredictable, with Arizona and Arizona State surging while USC looms. Who’s got the best shot at Santa Clara?

Going into the 2017 season, the Pac-12 South seemed to be potentially decided by the annual USC-UCLA game. But could the division crown actually be on the line next week in Tempe?

Arizona State got its second-straight dominant win Saturday over Utah, to go from being a non-threatening road game for USC next week, to an unlikely all-out battle for first place in the division.

The Trojans, fresh off an unthinkable undoing at the hands of Notre Dame in South Bend, will need to prove they can pick themselves up off the mat. Otherwise, a 2012-like second-half slide could be in the works for Clay Helton’s 6-2 team.

Let’s look at how the Pac-12 South shapes up after Week 8 and going into Week 9…

Pac-12 South Standings (as of 10/21)

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

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

USC (4-1)

Tiebreakers held: UtahTo win the South: Win outWeek 8: Off (Lost at Notre Dame, 49-14)Week 9: at Arizona State

Saturday night’s beating at Notre Dame was downright embarrassing for the Trojans. But while the 35-point shellacking eliminated them from contention for the College Football Playoff, USC still has first place in the Pac-12 South as a consolation. For how long is the question. They control their own destiny as Clay Helton often mentions, though a roadie at suddenly dominant Arizona State followed by a homecoming date with suddenly explosive Arizona may decide the division in the next two weeks.

Arizona (3-1)

Tiebreakers held: Colorado, UCLATo win the South: Win outWeek 8: Beat Cal, 45-44 in OTWeek 9: vs. Washington State

Another week and another Wildcats win over a mid-to-lower tier Pac-12 team, their third-straight in as many weeks under quarterback sensation Khalil Tate. The victory, a one-point double-overtime thriller at Cal, keeps Arizona on pace with USC and ASU as teams who control their own fate in the Pac-12 South. But how good they are will be decided in the next two weeks. The Cats host Washington State Saturday, followed by a road trip to USC. They’ll need at least a split to keep their title hopes thriving.

Arizona State (3-1)

Tiebreakers held: UtahTo win the South: Win outWeek 8: Beat Utah, 30-10Week 9: vs. USC

Beating Oregon raised eyebrows. Beating Washington turned heads, especially to the tune of 13-7. But is it possible that thoroughly dismantling Utah is ASU’s most impressive win to date? Possibly, given their newfound consistency and the ability to win on the road with strong quarterback play from Manny Wilkins, in addition to a defense that went from being a perennial sieve to a sudden re-creation of the 1985 Bears. Now Todd Graham’s team gets a downtrodden USC team in Tempe. If the Sun Devils can find a way to win again, they’ll be in first place at 4-1 in the Pac-12, while going into an easy November slate against some of the conference’s worst teams.

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

UCLA (2-2)

Tiebreakers held: ColoradoTo win the South:  Win out, with Arizona losing twiceWeek 8: Beat Oregon, 31-14Week 9: at Washington

Are the Bruins good again? While a three-possession win over Oregon at the Rose Bowl could argue they are, the Ducks didn’t have quarterback Justin Herbert and UCLA’s offense wasn’t overly exceptional. What matters is that it was a key win for the Bruins to stay alive in the Pac-12 South before a daunting five-game stretch highlighted by Washington, Arizona State and USC to close the year. If they win out, they’ll have a chance pending Arizona’s finish. But it’s an extremely tall task, considering they may not be favored in a single game.

Utah (1-3)

Tiebreakers held: ArizonaTo win the South: Tiebreaker at 6-3 with ArizonaWeek 8: Lost vs. ASU, 30-10Week 9: at Oregon

A disastrous October continued for the Utes on Saturday, when they were housed by ASU at Rice-Eccles. Whether it was the price to pay for playing back-to-back games against Stanford and USC, or just an awful return from injury for quarterback Tyler Huntley, the loss was the death blow to Utah’s hopes at winning the Pac-12 South. The bulk of their remaining games are against the North, and a potential tiebreaker over UCLA could only go so far for a team with three conference losses.

Colorado (1-4)

Tiebreakers held: n/aTo win the South: Pray for unlikely chaosWeek 8: Lost at Washington State, 28-0Week 9: vs. Cal

Things are unraveling for the Buffs. They’ve lost four of five since starting the season 3-0, and have opened up the quarterback competition following the struggles of Steven Montez. At this point, Colorado just needs to worry about figuring out how they’ll get two more wins for bowl eligibility.