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Week 8 in the Pac-12: What to watch for

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Key to Chris Petersen's turnaround at Washington (1:11)

Desmond Howard and Paul Finebaum examine how Chris Petersen has been able to turn around the program at Washington. (1:11)

Here are five things to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12.

The great state of Washington: The Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars are both 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 1997, when both teams started 5-0 in league play. The No. 5 Huskies, fresh off of their bye week, play at home against Oregon State, which has put together back-to-back solid efforts. But the Beavers have had injuries in the offensive backfield. And that's trouble with a Washington defense that can get pressure without the blitz. The Huskies have 23 sacks this season when bringing four or fewer defenders. That's five more than any other Power 5 team.

Washington State brings its four-game winning streak to the desert and takes on an Arizona State team that has lost two of its past three. The Sun Devils looked soft against the run after Colorado ran for 315 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-16 win last week. Washington State, better known for its passing attack, has 16 rushing touchdowns, which ranks fourth in the conference. The Cougars are seeking their first five-game winning streak since 2003.

Defense a'plenty: Saturday afternoon's showdown between Utah and UCLA at the Rose Bowl should be a showcase of some of the top defensive players and schemes in the conference. Both teams rank in the top half of the league in scoring defense, with the Utes at No. 2 (18.3 points per game) and UCLA at No. 5 (23.1 points per game). Utah ranks better against the run. UCLA ranks better against the pass. The Bruins force a three-and-out on 33 percent of their opponents' drives, which ranks eighth in FBS. Utah, a turnover machine, has 171 points off of turnovers since the start of last season. That ranks fourth among all FBS teams.

Back from the bye: Oregon and California square off Friday night on ESPN with both teams coming off of a bye week. Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, whose team is trying to avoid its first five-game losing streak since 1996, said much of the bye week was spent in problem-solving mode. Cal, meanwhile, took the opportunity to get healthy. Head coach Sonny Dykes said he expects quarterback Davis Webb (hand) to play, and wide receiver Chad Hansen (ankle) will "probably" play, though the coach isn't sure how much. Both rank among the nation's best at their positions.

Boulder bowling? The Buffs haven't been bowling in almost a decade. Their last bowl appearance was in the 2007 Independence Bowl. So it has been a long time coming. They'll get an opportunity to become bowl eligible Saturday, when they travel to Stanford. The Buffaloes bring the nation's best turnover streak with them; they have forced a turnover in 20 straight games. The Cardinal avoided a three-game losing skid with their win last week at Notre Dame. And they did it sans Christian McCaffrey. The Buffs will look to become the league's third bowl-eligible team. Washington and Utah have already reached the six-win plateau. Arizona State could also earn its sixth win at Washington State.

Taking a breather: Two South Division teams have their byes this week. USC, which has salvaged its season with Sam Darnold at the helm (13 touchdowns, two interceptions), enters the break riding a three-game win streak. Two of those wins came against Arizona State and Colorado, which could prove to be critical head-to-head tiebreakers down the line. The Trojans pick up next Thursday night, when they host California.

Arizona will spend its bye week trying to get healthy after sustaining injuries across the board. The Wildcats are back in action next Saturday, when Stanford comes to town. Arizona has lost four straight for the first time under Rich Rodriguez and is trying to avoid its first five-game skid since 2011.