2016 Pac-12 ultimate road trip: State of Washington gets its closeup in Week 5

We're taking a look at the best week-by-week trips to make in the Pac-12. My editors call it the Ultimate Road Trip. I call it dangling meat for you guys until we can start writing about actual games. Chow down, gang.

Welcome to Week 5.

Friday, Sept. 30

  • Stanford at Washington

Saturday, Oct. 1

  • Arizona at UCLA

  • Arizona State at USC

  • Oregon State at Colorado

  • Utah at California

  • Oregon at Washington State

My choice(s): Stanford at Washington and Oregon at Washington State

Why: To the Evergreen State!

It’s been a while since the Ultimate Road Trip has tiptoed this closely to the Idaho border. But if Washington State is going to live up to the preseason expectations of some, then taking out the Ducks for a second-straight season has to be a necessity.

Truth be told, this is a huge week for all Washingtoninians ... Washingtononians ... Washingtonites ... fans of college football from the state of Washington. With the Cardinal in Seattle looking to defend their crown against a surging UW squad and the Ducks across the state looking to avenge an overtime loss from last season, a lot of national eyes will be on the state.

Plus, with the (preseason) top four teams in the North Division expected to gut each other, this could set up great drama heading into next week’s Oregon-Washington showdown in Eugene (hint, hint for Week 6).

First in Seattle, we’ll see if the Huskies are also ready to live up to their preseason hype. Beating the defending league champs would be a good way to do that. Washington’s defense had few answers for Christian McCaffrey last year as he went for 109 and a touchdown on the ground and 112 and a touchdown in the air. Though the Oregon game is looming, something tells me Chris Petersen will have his squad thinking only about the Cardinal.

Heading east the next day, the name of the game is going to be Oregon’s defense. Specifically, how far have they come in the first four games of the season under new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke? Have they plugged some of the leaks that made them the worst defense in the Pac-12 last season in terms of scoring average? Will they be able to lock down one of the nation’s most prolific passers in Luke Falk and his go-to guy Gabe Marks?

Conversely, are Washington State’s defensive strides from 2015 the real deal? Does it have enough to stop Royce Freeman and a fantastic supporting cast?

Neither of these teams has an issue moving the football. Both ranked in the top five in total offense in 2015, though the Ducks led the league in scoring (43 points per game) while Washington State ranked eighth (31.5). I would expect that number to climb for the Cougars in 2016.

For as much as we’re going to want to play up the two offenses -- and it will be a spectacular offensive display -- it’s the defenses that will quietly take center stage.