Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can't-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we'll work in two).
Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 11.
Saturday, Nov. 8
Colorado at Arizona
Notre Dame at Arizona State
UCLA at Washington
Oregon at Utah
Washington State at Oregon State
Byes: California, Stanford, USC
My choice: Notre Dame at Arizona State
Why: I’m really, really intrigued by UCLA at Washington for a few reasons. And it was a tough call between that game vs. the Domers in the Desert. There was all sorts of innuendo flying around when Steve Sarkisian left Washington. And at the center of those rumors was UCLA coach Jim Mora, who has plenty of ties to Seattle and was thought to have been contacted about the vacancy. Whether it happened officially or through back channels is still fodder for debate. But we know a couple of days later UCLA announced an extension for Mora. You do the math.
But the Notre Dame-ASU game has some intrigue of its own. For starters, that was a game last season (played in Arlington) that the Sun Devils lament. I’ve talked a few times with Sun Devils’ coaches and players and they frequently point to that game as the one that got away. So there is a bit of a revenge element.
Second, there was the whole controversy about Notre Dame trying to pull out of its trip to Tempe and the Sun Devils essentially telling the Fighting Irish to stick a fork in it, you’re coming. (You could probably come up with several other creative uses for ‘fork’ on your own).
This is what then-Athletic Director Steve Patterson told the Arizona Republic:
“The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director call the athletic director at ASU to discuss it. They had their PR guy call (ASU Associate Athletic Director) Mark Brand to give us a message on Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four.
“At least in the little Catholic town I grew up in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, the good nuns wouldn’t have thought that was a very appropriate way to honor your word.”
Shots fired, indeed.
This will be the second of three games between Notre Dame and the Pac-12. The Irish host Stanford on Oct. 4 and wrap the season Nov. 29 at USC. You might recall the Irish have had some success against the league lately. They went 2-0 in 2012, topping Stanford at home in overtime and USC on the road. And then last year season went 2-1, beating ASU on neutral footing, USC at home and falling only to Stanford.
Here’s the thing about ASU. We don’t know yet what the defense is going to look like, but we have a pretty good idea of how explosive the Sun Devils can be on offense. If that defense comes together quickly, there is a good chance the Sun Devils could be a top-20 team. Which means this game could have significant ramifications for the national perception of the league.
You can check out the rest of the road trip here.