We're taking a look at the can't-miss games of the 2013 Pac-12 season. The Ultimate Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 5.
Saturday, Sept. 28
Arizona at Washington
USC at Arizona State
Colorado at Oregon State
California at Oregon
Stanford at Washington State
My choice: USC at Arizona State
Why: We have two games this week that I believe are equal in entertainment value: Arizona at Washington and USC at Arizona State.
But since we visited Seattle in the season opener for that nip-and-tuck game against Boise State (and I have a sneaking suspicion we'll get up there again in the next couple of weeks), we cruise to the desert (temperatures should be a little more mild in late September) for our second consecutive game featuring Arizona State. This game also gets the nod because it's intradivision, whereas the UW-UA game is cross division.
Looking at that game briefly, however, no doubt revenge will be on Washington's mind after a 52-17 drubbing at the hands of the Wildcats last year in Tucson, Ariz. I believe it's going to be a much closer, much more entertaining game this time around and -- if I may be so bold as to offer an early prediction in June -- I expect both teams to be undefeated at the time, making for a fun matchup.
But we turn our attention back to ASU, now into Hell Week, Take 3. After back-to-back bruising games against Wisconsin and Stanford (don't think those won't take a toll), the Sun Devils have yet another challenging matchup against the Trojans. Both USC and ASU have a chance to grab an early foothold on the South Division with a victory -- the real determining factor for picking this game this week. And when we look at the South participant in the Pac-12 title game in December, we may very well point to this week as the reason why one team is in and another is out.
The Trojans exploded for 28 second-half points last season in a 38-17 home win over the Sun Devils. This is obviously going to be a different USC team than we saw last season. And as noted in Week 2 of this series, quarterback play is going to be a season-long storyline for the Trojans. Is the starter against Hawaii still starting? Or are the Trojans still playing mix and match?
We're going to know a lot more about ASU by this point in the season -- specifically just how mature this team is. Have the Sun Devils lost two straight to Wisconsin and Stanford? Are they 2-1? 3-0? Coaches preach short memories, but if the Sun Devils are 1-2 out of the gate -- in a year where the hopes are high -- this game could either get them back on track or push them further down the ladder.
After what should be a 4-0 start, things pick up for the Trojans with back-to-back games against the Arizona teams and then a trip to Notre Dame. Plenty of momentum can be had by going into the desert and improving to 5-0.
There are lots of intrigue and unknowns with this one. And from a pure entertainment standpoint, you've got two of the best pressure teams in the country from last year (with their marquee pressure guys, Will Sutton and Morgan Breslin). Stanford and ASU ranked first and second, respectively, while USC was fourth. Extra Icy Hot for the quarterbacks is on standby.
The reason USC switched to the 3-4 was so it could limit and contain some of the perimeter speed in the league. ASU has plenty of speed. So it should be fun to see how USC's new scheme matches with the Todd Graham/Mike Norvell offense.