The world of college football was finally starting to come around. At last, the praises of the Pac-12 were starting to be sung by the national media, murmurs of the Pac-12 being the best conference outside of the swamplands with some even suggesting that it might be better than the SEC. It seemed as if everyone east of the Colorado River was beginning to see the light.
I hate to be the one to break it to everyone, but based on what I have seen so far in 2014, I just don't see it. At least not in regards to the Pac-12 challenging the SEC as the greatest conference in the land. Primarily because the middle and upper-middle of the conference look so questionable.
The Pac-12 looks to have a healthy national title contender in Oregon, but where they seem to be coming up short in 2014 is what rests right below the Ducks. That lower-upper crust that the SEC thrives so well with (think those teams just outside of the Playoff cutoff - think LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi right now), is faltering right now in the Pac-12. Right now, Stanford, USC and UCLA are near that region, but just not really looking that impressive.
Unless these teams, along with a Washington, Arizona State or Arizona, can start showing that they can healthily populate the Top 25 and stay there, the Pac-12 is probably going to remain a second class citizen to the SEC.
Game of the Week - Cal at Arizona - 7 p.m. p.t. Pac-12 Network
AK: Two teams who are definitely trying to hunt for bowls with somewhat questionable defenses and high-flying offense. Settle in on your Saturday night and watch some fireworks.
JF: With Cal looking solid this has turned into what could sneakily be one of the best Pac-12 games of the year. Both teams can move the ball and score, but might not be able to stop anyone and are fighting tooth and nail to creep into the upper half of their divisions. This is one that could end up being a 56-49 shootout on a Saturday night.
2. Utah at Michigan - 12:30 p.m. p.t. ABC
AK: Is Utah about to suffer from the "man we looked really good beating Fresno State" syndrome that USC was just afflicted with in Boston? This seven point line in favor of the Wolverines is concerning and I'm not happy that everyone is down on Michigan and the B1G right now. Feels like a classic trap.
JF: In a lot of seasons, this one would be chalked up as game where the Utes are heavy underdogs, but the Wolverines are as questionable as they have ever been, opening the door for Utah to steal a win in one of college football's best venues. Still, the Utes are questionable themselves and they will have to put up a great performance to get one on the road here, but I think they might have it in them.
3. San Diego State at Oregon State - 7:30 p.m. p.t. FOX Sports 1
AK: I never know what to make of the Beavers. They are always a team that I know less about after their non-conference schedule than more. Win by 3, win by 35, it'll have no bearing on their Pac-12 performance.
JF: Two teams that can be very hard to read could meet up for a very intriguing match-up. The Beavers have looked average at best thus far in 2014 and the Aztecs nearly won on the road against a pretty good North Carolina team. If the Beavers aren't careful, the Aztecs could come up and pull off an upset.
4. Oregon at Washington State - 7:30 p.m. p.t. ESPN
AK: This looked like a really fun game a few weeks ago! Good news is this game is at Pullman, so I'm really intrigued to see how many points the Cougars can throw up there.
JF: Agreed, this looked like a much better game going into the season and now looks more like one of those late night East Coast showcases for the Ducks to see how many points they can score, but don't completely count out the Cougars to at least score some points here with their passing game at home.
5. Hawaii at Colorado - 11 a.m. p.t. Pac-12 Network
AK: Colorado is looking pretty punchy this season, so I expect the Buffs to stay at .500 here. And Hawaii isn't close to being the same team on the road that they are on the isles (last road win at Idaho, 2011).
JF: The Warriors played Washington and Oregon State exceptionally well but then almost lost to Northern Iowa last week so who the hell knows how good they actually are. The Buffs looked decent at home against Arizona State last week, but still look like a team that could struggle to beat just about anybody. I expect this to be one of those games that is always close, but one team holds an advantage just distinct enough to make it not that exciting.
6. Georgia State at Washington - 3 p.m. p.t. Pac-12 Network
AK: Georgia State's offense looks a bit better than it did last year. They also look like they won't be able to stop anyone, as they're already giving up 500 yards a game. This should just be a game where Washington feeds the ball to their RB committee.
JF: The Huskies nearly lost to an FBS team a couple of weeks ago in Husky Stadium, but Georgia State would probably get stomped by a lot of FBS teams and might be the worst team in all of the FCS. Tune into this one to see if John Ross and Shaq Thompson add to their highlight reels.