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Pac-12 The Good, The Bad & The Unknown Week 9: Utah makes a major statement

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It was a great weekend for Utah and the Arizona schools.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Utah - It was a great Saturday for the Utes as they grabbed what was probably their biggest win since joining the Pac-12 and made themselves not just a frontrunner for the South crown, but also a serious contender to win the whole conference. The Utes look like they are becoming the Stanford of the South as a big, punishing opponent that can control the lines and keep opponents from putting up too many points. Just think if they had been able to hold on against Washington State?

Arizona schools in Washington - Saturday was a test for the Arizona schools to see if they could play on against at least solid teams in the wet and wild Northwest and both desert schools passed, the Wildcats with flying colors. Arizona pretty much put the Cougars away before viewers could finish their first beer and the Sun Devils went into a terrifyingly wet and windy Husky Stadium and ground out their second win against a powerful opponent from the North. The Duel in the Desert could very well decide the South.

Stanford being Stanford - I think a lot of people saw it coming. Stanford was going to come off a disappointing road loss and pound a decent opponent into oblivion with a quiet, convincing win. The Cardinal did just that and showed that their recipe for success is still just that, even if it isn't quite as a effective as it has been the past few years.

The South - The North has pretty much been the best conference in the Pac-12 since the formation of the division, but the power is clearing swinging southward in 2014. The South has dominated the North in head-to-head match-ups (especially if you take out Colorado) with even Oregon only being 1-1 against the division and 4/5's of the conference's ranked teams hail from the South. This dominance is especially impressive considering that the LA schools are having disappointing seasons.

The return of Travis Wilson - Wilson wasn't spectacular against USC, but he faced a good defense and did just what he needed to do to give the Utes the win, especially at crunch time. The Utes will be a better team if they can lock in a permanent starter and if Wilson can keep up his play from Saturday, he will be just that.

The Bad

Oregon and Cal's defenses - I love great offense just as much as the next guy watching a Pac-12 game on a Friday night, but Cal and Oregon's defenses simply made it too easy on each other to get to 100 total points. The Ducks had far and away their best offensive performance against an FBS opponent and the Bears put up a ton of yards and points with efficiency against a defense that had actually looked like it was improving the past couple of weeks.

The Washington schools against the Arizona schools - Washington and Washington State had chances to get big wins at home against what were expected to be at least somewhat close match-ups against Arizona schools, but neither answered the call. The Cougars were down 31-0 in the blink of an eye and the Husky offense really only put up three points at home against a solid, but far from invincible Sun Devil defense, dropping them to 1-3 in-conference. Both Washington schools are going to have to have near perfect Novembers to get anywhere near living up to pre-season goals.

Oregon State's offensive explosion - Stanford can make just about any offense look pedestrian, but this isn't a one-week problem for the Beavers, they simply struggle to put up points and make defenses be scared of their offense. The most damning testament to Oregon State's ability to score this season is that I wouldn't be surprised if they are the team (outside of probably Colorado) that most Pac-12 fans would be the least worried about facing in a one off match-up.

USC's late-game execution - Another week, another gut wrenching, last-second loss for the Trojans. USC keeps showing that they have the talent to grab a lead against a good team, but they showed again that they have a hard time hanging onto it in the final moments with their lack of depth and execution.

Colorado's heartbreak - The Buffs are once again improved under Mike MacIntyre, but it isn't showing in the win column due to tough, tough. The further bad news is that the Buffs might have the toughest November schedule of any team in the conference.

The North - After a few years of dominance, it looks like the North has officially become the Pac-12's much weaker division. Oregon still looks like the conference's best team for the time being, but it is a big drop off after that and the rest of the division's teams have been horrible against the South.

The Unknown

Oregon vs. Stanford - Oregon is going to come into what used to be the Pac-12's annual November Super Bowl as heavy favorites at home, but it will be very interesting to see how the Cardinal defense, which is still looking strong despite getting little to no help from the Stanford offense against better opponents, will match-up. Can Stanford exploit a questionable Oregon defense, smother the Duck offense again and keep their success against the Ducks going, or is this the year the Ducks break through and pretty much lock up the North on the first day of November?

Can Colorado get a Pac-12 win - The Buffs keep proving that they can take Pac-12 teams down to the wire, but they still can't get a win. Their schedule only gets tougher from here and their best chance at grabbing a Pac-12 win will be Saturday when a struggling Washington team comes to Boulder (After that they head to Tucson and Eugene and then host Utah). Can they finally get the Pac-12 upset they have been so close to grabbing?

The South picture - Things are a little clearer after another week of action, but still far from crystal clear. Can the Arizona schools and Utah hand onto the power? Or can the LA schools bounce back and make it a true five-team race again?