The Pac-12 has been blown to smithereens. Forget everything you thought you knew. We're starting from scratch. It'll be tough to match the madness that Week 6 brought to the West Coast, but perhaps Week 7 can deliver an entertaining sequel. It's time to begin the transition.
Game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications: No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA
Both the Ducks and Bruins lost for the first time this past weekend, so some many think their highly anticipated showdown has lost some of its luster. The pair of setbacks, though, may have added even more intrigue to Saturday's battle at the Rose Bowl. It's now abundantly clear that both Oregon and UCLA must address potentially fatal weaknesses (Utah sacked Brett Hundley 10 times in its 30-28 win while Arizona wore the Ducks' defense into submission in a 31-24 triumph), and neither team has much time to make the necessary improvements and adjustments.
For that reason, expect Saturday's showdown to be a dogfight between two vulnerable conference powers, both hungry to get back on track and re-assert themselves as favorites in this Pac-12 race. A second loss on either squad's resume could easily cripple College Football Playoff hopes a week after they took a punch to the stomach, so eyes out West will be on the Rose Bowl to see how the two preseason favorites react to adversity.
Team with the most to prove: No. 25 Stanford
Speaking of adversity, the Cardinal's catastrophic downturn on offense has created its fair share of it in the Bay Area. Stanford's 3.0 yards per play and 1.5 yards per rush in Saturday's gut-wrenching 17-14 loss at Notre Dame were both low marks of the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw era. Statistically, Stanford hadn't been that inefficient on offense since Walt Harris coached the team to a 1-11 record in 2006 (one game during that miserable season featured only 52 yards of total offense).
The Cardinal's new-look offensive line, stocked with formerly touted blue chip recruits, has been a disappointment so far. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is struggling in the absence of the bona fide power rushing threat that used to be a Stanford staple, and -- to make matters worse -- receivers are dropping many of his good passes.
Are the Cardinal balanced enough to win the Pac-12 again this season, or is this team's rugged defense providing unsustainable life support for an erratic offense that has ranged from inconsistent to inept this season? Stanford must prove its attack can carry at least some of the load, and that task begins on Friday against Washington State's struggling defense.
Most desperate team: Washington State
Connor Halliday threw for an FBS-record 734 yards Saturday, yet the Cougars still found an unfathomable way to lose 60-59 at home to Cal. This time, the knockout punch came courtesy of a missed 19-yard field goal as time wound down. Yes, from the Washington State perspective, it would be impossible to write a more nauseating script. There's no way to sugarcoat it: Wazzu snatched defeat from the jaws of what would have been a much-celebrated victory on Saturday.
For Mike Leach, the problem is his team has already blown a handful of opportunities this season. The Cougars are 2-4 now, and if they're intent on making a bowl game, they'll have to find at least four more wins in this slate: at Stanford, vs. Arizona, vs. USC, at Oregon State, at ASU, vs. Washington. If last season's 55-17 whipping is any indication, the Cougars' high-flying attack is not well-equipped to handle Stanford's rugged defense because it can't establish a running game capable of neutralizing ferocious pass rushes. The 2014 window of opportunity is closing for Leach's team, which will have to scratch and claw its way into a shot on the road this Friday.
Diamond in the rough game: Washington at Cal
The Bears, who did not beat a single FBS opponent in last season's miserable 1-11 campaign, are in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North. Let that stunning factoid settle in as you ponder the parity that has turned this conference into a weekly roller coaster ride. It all means that Cal will return home to an energized Memorial Stadium crowd this Saturday for an anybody's-guess matchup with fellow 4-1 foe Washington.
Jared Goff has supercharged Cal in his second season. He's thrown 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions. That presents an intriguing test for a young Husky secondary that surrendered 475 passing yards to Eastern Washington in Week 2. Can Chris Petersen's havoc-inducing defensive front seven put a damper on Cal's ebullient vibes? Will the Bears' struggling defense be the cure for Washington's sputtering offense? Will both of the above happen and create a fourth straight heartrending game for Sonny Dykes? Those will be Saturday's money questions.
Oh, and keep an eye on the Bears' Trevor Davis. He returned consecutive kickoffs for touchdowns on Saturday in the Palouse.
This week's top chance at redemption: USC at No. 10 Arizona
It looked as if the Trojans would be undefeated in conference play heading into next Saturday's showdown at fellow unbeaten Arizona, but that will no longer be the case. The Trojans blew a 34-25 lead in the final three minutes Saturday, and that doesn't even begin to illustrate how demoralizing their 38-34 loss to ASU was. Jaelen Strong's Hail Mary reception at the final gun shocked the Coliseum and turned USC victory into defeat. Steve Sarkisian's squad must now rush to right the ship before it drops out of the conference race. In that regard, a test in the house of the Pac-12's only remaining unbeaten team is a golden opportunity. Of course, the undefeated Wildcats see a big-time chance here, too.