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The good, the bad & the unknown week 12: Stanford locks up the North and the South goes through LA

The Pac-12 Championship starts to take shape with just one week left.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

UCLA's defense in the red zone - The Bruin defense gave up some yardage, but was lights  out in the red zone, basically winning the game by forcing Utah to kick field goals and by forcing turnovers. The Bruin defense might have lost more talent to injury than any in the conference, but held strong and took control of the South.

Oregon - The Ducks basically look like the team they were supposed to be going into the season. A lot of the credit goes to the offense for picking it up with big plays, but the improvement of their defense has maybe been a bigger development. The Duck defense isn't going to shut anyone down, but they have become strong enough to where they can give their offense a chance to win games.

Oregon's receivers - Vernon Adams is getting a lot of buzz, but the fact is that these guys are getting wide open, especially Saturday. It was kind of forgotten that the Ducks easily had the best (especially deepest) receiver unit in the conference going into the season and it is starting to show.

Vernon Adams - Adams seems to get better each week and teams' fear of his improvisation skills in the pocket have forced them to play cautiously on defense.

Demario Richard & Kalen Ballage - It's clear why D.J. Foster moved to receiver, these two young backs are a scary combination. They averaged almost seven yards per-carry against Arizona and both have the rare combination of power to punish defenses inside and speed to break runs on the outside.

Christian McCaffrey - McCaffrey probably put away the Pac-12 Player of the Year award with a monster performance that iced the North for the Cardinal. There is no question who is the conference's most-dynamic playmaker.

The North - Speaking of the North, despite all of the hype about the South, the North is still easily the better division. Oregon, Stanford and Washington State are the conference's best teams and I Cal and Washington can compete with the South's best teams.

Washington State's defense - Luke Falk and Gabe Marks are the stars, but the Cougar defense is also damn good. They held Colorado to three points and are the main reason the Cougars are having their best season in more than a decade.

Washington - The Huskies showed again they can take off when they have an opponent down as they blasted Oregon State 52-7 in a game that wasn't even as close as that score indicates.

The Bad

Utah's scoring/explosion - The Utes ended up losing the South for the exact reason most suspected they would all season, they simply aren't explosive enough on offense and losing Devontae Booker pretty much sunk their offense as a whole. You simply can't win a division in the Pac-12 if scoring is as difficult for your team as it seems it is for the Utes.

USC, especially their defense - Holy s***, the Trojans are playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game. All credit to Oregon for their performance against the Trojans, but USC simply hasn't looked that good all season other than for a couple of games. Their defense looked especially lost as they blew coverage after coverage and couldn't bring down Adams.

The South - The South has five solid teams in it, but the fact that the LA schools are fighting to win the division is not a good sign of its strength. The South is deep, but maybe just above average this year.

Cal in the red zone - The chance to spoil Stanford's season was right there for the Bears as they moved the ball up and down the field in The Big Game, but they couldn't punch it in whenever they got to the goal line.

Luke Falk injury - It would be a shame if the quarterback who I think is having the best season in the Pac-12 isn't able to close out the season.

Injuries in general - Maybe I am just imagining it, but it seems like it has been a really rough year for injuries. Devontae Booker, Juju Smith-Schuster, Anu Solomon, Sefo Liufau and Falk are more big names to suffer injuries.

Oregon State - I knew the Beavers weren't very good, but I thought they would put up more of a fight on senior day against a struggling Washington team. I was wrong, very wrong.The Beavers are in big trouble in The Civil War.

The Unknown

The South? How good is the South and does either of the LA schools have a chance against Stanford and in the Rose Bowl?

Second New Year's Bowl? The winner of the Pac-12 Championship is going to the Rose Bowl, but will another Pac-12 school sneak into a New Year's bowl like the Fiesta? It will be huge for the conference as it slides up everyone in the bowl slots, but there will be no Pac-12 team available for an at-large  that doesn't have at least three losses in a year with a lot of good teams that will be available with just one or two losses. Oregon might be the conference's best shot.

Will the conference's best team not play in the Championship? The Ducks don't deserve to be in the championship after their terrible start, but it is hard to argue against them probably deserving to be called the best team in the conference right now. However, having a slow start is a problem that can go hand-in-hand with relying on a transfer quarterback.

10 bowl teams? The Huskies will give the conference 10 bowl eligible teams if they can win the Apple Cup. If the Huskies can pull off the win, it is very likely the Pac-12 gets almost the entire conference into bowls.

Luke Falk? With the secrecy of injuries these days we might not know if Falk will play in the Apple Cup until game time.