The best conference in college football? To me, until proven otherwise, it’s still the SEC. My personal criteria for conference strength varies a little from others. Yes, it’s important to have numerous conference teams ranked (the SEC currently has seven in the AP Top 25), but I feel that parity in a conference plays an important role as well. Some feel that teams beating up on one another in-conference and suffering in the postseason is a bad thing, but it’s great for the fans. Why wouldn’t we want marquee matchups throughout the season?
That’s what the Pac-12 has given us so far this season. Similar to the SEC, the conference elite are clear (still Oregon and Stanford). But the teams right below them are doing big things as well (see Arizona State and UCLA both beating two good Big East teams in Week 2).
And as they enter the bulk of the conference schedule, there are plenty of big games on the horizon:
Saturday: #5 Stanford vs. #15 Washington
October 12: #2 Oregon vs. #15 Washington
October 19: #12 UCLA vs. #5 Stanford
October 26: #12 UCLA vs. #2 Oregon
November 7: #2 Oregon vs. #5 Stanford
Of course, Oregon and Stanford’s Thursday night meeting is the most high-profile of the bunch, but if Washington or UCLA can win either of the games above, the games will only become more entertaining. Keep an eye on teams like #22 Arizona State, Utah, and Oregon State, would have also started well.
#12 UCLA vs. Utah, 10pm (Fox Sports 1) *Thursday Game*
Quite the road schedule for the Bruins this season. Having already won at Nebraska last month, they’ll travel 3-1 Utah, #5 Stanford, and #2 Oregon before November 1.
#25 Maryland vs. #8 Florida State, 12pm (ESPN)
The only team standing between Florida State’s marquee matchup with Clemson is C.J. Brown and #25 Maryland. Yes, that’s right — the Terrapins are ranked, they’re 4-0 for the first time in 12 years, and they’ll be looking to make this a game in Tallahassee.
#20 Texas Tech vs. Kansas, 12pm (Fox Sports 1)
The Jayhawks have already won as many games as they did last season and a win this weekend they’ll accomplish a much more important feat: their first conference win since 2010.
#3 Clemson vs. Syracuse, 3:30pm (ABC/ESPN2)
The Tigers have two more games before meeting Florida State. Both seem winnable on paper, but “trap games” all the same.
#6 Georgia vs. Tennessee, 3:30pm (CBS)
With both LSU and South Carolina now out of the way, a November meeting with #18 Florida could be the only thing standing between the Bulldogs and an SEC Championship appearance.
#24 Ole Miss vs. Auburn, 7pm (ESPNU)
The Rebels of Ole Miss will face #9 Texas A&M and #10 LSU the next two weeks. Though both games are at home, they can’t afford to look past Auburn.
#22 Arizona State vs. Notre Dame, 7:30pm (NBC)
Arizona State’s coming in red-hot after putting up 62 points on USC last week, while Notre Dame would love a win here as they enter a more manageable five-game stretch.
#4 Ohio State vs. #16 Northwestern, 8pm (ABC)
A bowl-eligible 2012 Ohio State team would have made the BCS Championship. If the 2013 version can win a tough Northwestern game on the road, they may not face another real challenge until the end of November.
#15 Washington vs. #5 Stanford, 10:30pm (ESPN)
As mentioned earlier in the post, the schedule only getting harder for these Pac-12 teams.