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 7. (And FYI, the road trip will go on hiatus for a couple of days in lieu of media days coverage).
Friday, Oct. 10
Washington State at Stanford
Saturday, Oct. 11
USC at Arizona
Oregon at UCLA
Washington at California
Byes: Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah
My choice: Oregon at UCLA
Why: This one is a no-brainer -- even with an enticing showdown of USC going to Arizona.
For starters, there is a very strong possibility that at least one of these teams will be ranked in the top five and there’s a good chance that both will be ranked in the top 10. That means there will be huge national interest in this game. Second, when the preseason media poll is released tomorrow, here’s guessing that Oregon will be the preseason favorite in the North and UCLA in the South. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it’s going to play out. But projecting from July, you have what are perceived to be the two teams that will play in the Pac-12 championship game squaring off in Pasadena the second week in October.
And the other major storyline, of course, is the quarterbacks. Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley have already received considerable preseason Heisman hype. And that’s only going to increase as the season wears on and as they (presumably) put up monster dual-threat numbers. Of course, there’s really nothing either of them can do while the other one is on the field. But this will still be billed as a matchup of Heisman hopefuls and likely top 10 draft picks.
For the Bruins, this is a big one. If they want to be considered an elite Pac-12 team, these are the kinds of games they are going to have to start winning. For as great of a job as Jim Mora has done since coming in, he hasn’t beaten Stanford or Oregon -- the two best teams in the league. If UCLA wants to announce itself to the rest of the country, beating Oregon is a nice way to do it.
On the flip side, Mark Helfrich has a team that many believe is equipped to make a run at the College Football Playoff and beyond. A win sets the stage for another classic showdown with Stanford a couple of weeks later and puts them in the driver’s seat for tops in the conference. A loss, however, could put the Ducks and Helfrich on uneven footing.
Long story short, the winner of this game takes a commanding lead atop the Power Rankings with showdowns against Stanford yet to come.
You can see the rest of the road trip here.