DENVER – For their 2-0 start, Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins will appear in “prime time” this weekend.
“In the Philippines,” the Bruins coach cracked around 10:45 p.m. in the East on Saturday against Fresno State. “So let’s do a good show for the people of Manila.”
For the good of the Pac-12 too, as the roster of conference teams that remain undefeated has dropped to three after just two games. This is the lowest number among the Power Five conferences.
The pressure of raising the profile of the Pac-12 – and winning that route inside the college playoffs – could fall more directly on the shoulders of No. 4 Oregon, no. 13 UCLA and No. 19 State of Arizona.
“It’s really early. I mean, you’re still in a kind of survival and forward mood for all of these teams, ”said Petros Papadakis, college football analyst for Fox Sports. “They are still trying to find their identity. Almost everyone is in this mode, no matter who you are. So I’m not sure they feel the pressure of “Hey, we’re carrying the conference torch.”
The Pac-12 currently has as many undefeated teams as Conference USA. The league lags behind other Power Five conferences – the ACC has five remaining; the big 12, six; the Big Ten, seven; and the Southeastern Conference, 10, of which six of the seven are in the Western Division of the SEC.
These three spotless Pac-12 teams can’t afford a misstep this week. Not with Pac-12 South favorites Southern California, which dropped out of the standings after a loss to Stanford, which also led to the sacking of coach Clay Helton. Not with Utah falling a week ago in a loss to rival BYU. Not with Washington on a 0-2 start for the first time since 2008.
Do you think a Pac-12 team has a chance to win the national title game?
“Honestly, I think it’s more important for the Pac-12 that USC recruit the right person in the future, as a very renowned coach and staff. It’s something the whole conference can use to capitalize on whatever new TV deal it is, ”Papadakis said. “It’s a lot more important than having an Oregon, say, Georgia game – unless somebody can win it all.”
The Ducks are riding high after a win at Ohio State – their first road victory against a top-five team since defeating Stanford in 2011.
“Big game for Oregon; big game for the Pac-12, ”Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said on the team’s website.
Next: Stony Brook, an FCS team from New York. The Ducks are looking to extend their winning streak at Autzen Stadium to 14 straight games.
The Sun Devils travel to Provo, Utah to take on a tenacious BYU team, which have previously beaten Arizona and Utah.
Then there’s UCLA, an 11 1/2 point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, out of Fresno State. Keep this in mind: The Bulldogs scared Oregon on September 4 (fall 31-24) and beat the Bruins in 2018.
Kelly used the acronym “TBU” to describe the relevance of a loss from 18: “true but unnecessary,” so we’re good at that, ”he said. “Has nothing to do with what’s going on now. … We are focusing on this season and this season only. “
Kelly said preparation doesn’t change much for her team with the late start. But that may mean those East Coast fans will be sound asleep by the end of this one.
“At least the people in Manila who wake up on Sunday morning will have the chance to watch the Bruins play,” said Kelly. “So I hope there will be Bruins fans there.”
A quick recap from last weekend: Arizona lost their 14th straight game in a loss to San Diego State; Colorado couldn’t hold on as they fell to Texas A&M, which slipped to No. 7 in the most recent poll; the state of Oregon defeated Hawaii; Washington State has overtaken the State of Portland; The State of Arizona handled the cases against UNLV; and Cal lost 34-32 to the TCU despite passing Chase Garbers for over 300 yards.
What to do with it all: The Pac-12 feels very heavy behind Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State. The real trick will be not to fight once the league play takes place. The key dates to remember will be Oct 2 when UCLA hosts Arizona State and Oct 2. 23 as the Bruins welcome Oregon to town. The Ducks and Sun Devils don’t meet this season, unless they both reach the Pac-12 title game.
A quick trivia: The last Pac-12 team (actually Pac-10 at the time) to go undefeated at the conference was the Ducks in 2010, when they had a certain coach named Chip Kelly in charge.
In the fourth year at Westwood, he gave the Bruins a quick start, including a win over LSU.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world that there aren’t a lot more undefeated teams at this point,” Papadakis said. “The lack of undefeated teams is a little story compared to how UCLA and Oregon dominated these games the way they did. It’s the biggest takeaway.”
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