As the 2015 season approaches and we start to project some key matchups throughout the year, it’s pretty clear that some of the rivalries in the league are peaking to a nice toasty sizzle. Others, however, have gotten frostbite.
Which rivalries in the Pac-12 are heating up and which are cooling off?
UCLA vs. USC
Just because the Bruins have dominated the last three seasons doesn’t mean it’s a forgone conclusion they’ll make it a fourth on Nov. 28. This year, the Battle for Los Angeles could determine the champion of the vicious Pac-12 South and as the Bruins continue their rise under Jim Mora, there are plenty of recruiting implications that go along with this annual contest. The game also is likely to feature several first-round draft picks on both sides of the ball, not to mention potential playoff implications. USC holds the all-time edge 44-31-7.
Our Campus Blitz is in L.A. today to check out UCLA & USC. The rivalry has gone the Bruins' way in recent years. pic.twitter.com/7ASpPkiVYC— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) August 12, 2015
Arizona State vs. Arizona
The Pac-12 South title came down to this game last year. That’s good for the division, it’s good for the conference and it’s good for college football when championships are won and lost with rivalry games. The addition of coaches Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) and Todd Graham (Arizona State) has elevated this rivalry to new heights. Both coaches have won the Pac-12 South and both have their teams in the preseason national rankings. The Cats hold the all-time edge in this one, 48-39-1.
Arizona State vs. UCLA
Is it any surprise that we’re picking another South-on-South game? This was the game that determined the South Division in 2012 and 2013. The Bruins pasted the Sun Devils something fierce last season, but with both teams expected to again be in the hunt for the division crown, this game has taken on a level of excitement and importance unseen in recent history. It's also worth nothing that heading into the Oct. 3 matchup this season, each team will have played a significant South Division game the previous week, with ASU opening up against USC and UCLA against Arizona. The Bruins lead the series 19-11-1.
Cal vs. Stanford
Might this be the year that the Big Game regains a little traction in the rivalry department? The Cardinal have won five straight, and four of the last five have been laughers. But some folks seem to think Cal could be a darkhorse in the North, given their talented quarterback and impressive stable of wide receivers. Defense will dictate how far the Bears go. Last year they gave up 38 to Stanford in what was a down year offensively for the Cardinal. In the previous three games, Cal has only scored 33 total points. This once great rivalry has a chance to become relevant again if there are North Division implications at play on Nov. 21.
Oregon vs. Washington
I know Washington fans want to believe that every year is the year they break the spell. But come on, folks. The last time Washington beat the Ducks, Outkast's “Hey Ya!” was burrowing into our ears, Madonna kissed Britney at the VMAs and “Friends” was still making new episodes (that’s 2003 for all you millennials). The Ducks have won 11 straight – the longest streak in the series. And none of them have been close. I do believe Chris Petersen is the man to bring Washington back to relevance in this rivalry. But this isn’t the year. Washington does lead the overall series 58-44-5. But for now, Oregon is going to keep shaking it like a Polaroid picture.
Oregon vs. Oregon State
Another series in which the Ducks have dominated of late. Oregon has won the Civil War seven straight times – that’s tied for the second-longest winning streak in series history. There have been a couple of close calls (2013, 2009), but as the Ducks pull further away, the less importance this game takes on – at least nationally. Like Washington, the Beavers hired an outstanding coach who might restore some relevancy in the series. But that’s going to take time and patience. Oregon has a strong lead in the series, 62-46-10.
Colorado vs. Utah
This one never really got off the ground – at least the current revival hasn’t yet. Once an outstanding rivalry in the early- to mid-1900s when both teams were part of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Association, the Rumble in the Rockies went on hiatus from 1962 until both teams joined the league in 2011. Colorado won the first year, and all four games have been close. But until this game takes on some significance in the Pac-12 South race, it’s just another game for these teams. Rivalries can’t be forced. They have to happen organically.