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PAC-12 Games to Watch: Week 8

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The PAC-12 is down to one single ranked team in Oregon. For years, the perceived strength of the conference has fallen seemingly every week, and we’re now at a critically low level with few teams remaining who are capable of reaching a high enough ranking to warrant a potential at-large New Year’s Six/College Football Playoff bid. Week eight will provide several opportunities for teams to rebound, and potentially help Utah crack the top 25 themselves.

#10 Oregon vs UCLA - Saturday 1:30 PM MT - ABC

ESPN’s Game Day crew will be broadcasting live from Pasadena, putting the conference back in the national spotlight as the struggling Ducks take on their former coach in Chip Kelly’s Bruins. UCLA is still in the hunt for a PAC-12 South division title as they’re only one game back from the Utes, so a Ducks victory will give Utah a little breathing room at the and would likely keep Nike University inside the top 10, giving the Utes a much-needed boost in their strength of schedule if they keep that undefeated record alive through Colorado, Washington, and Washington State before their trip to Salt Lake. However, the most direct impact this matchup will have on the Utes will come by way of scheduling for next week. A UCLA victory will put their trip to Utah next week in the primetime slot at 1:30 PM, while an Oregon win pushes the Ute’s annual Dark Mode game to a more natural 8:00 PM kickoff, potentially throwing a wrench into your late-night Halloween plans.

BYU vs Washington State - Saturday 1:30 PM MT - FOX Sports 1

BYU’s back-to-back losses have wiped them out of the top 25 and ensured the Cougars won’t be in contention for an at-large New Year’s Six bid, but CougarBoard’s imaginary claim to PAC-12 superiority is still on the line as they travel to Pullman to take on a turbulent Wazzu team that is still scrambling to fill the holes left in their coaching staff after head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistance were fired for refusing to comply with Washington’s vaccination mandate. This game could be an ugly, sloppy mess, but a BYU win could help put the Cougars in blue back in the bottom of the top 25 to help the Ute’s earlier loss look a little better in the eyes of voters, and more importantly, the CFP committee when they convene to reveal their own top 25 on November 2nd.

USC vs #13 Notre Dame - Saturday 5:30 MT - NBC

The .500 Trojans are in must-win territory with next week’s matchup against Arizona being the only game remaining that can be marked as an easy win. Despite their favorable ranking, the Fighting Irish have squeaked out some close wins over subpar competition, while losing convincingly to Group of Five power, Cincinnati. USC enters as +7 point underdogs, suggesting a potential upset is absolutely within reach and would go a long way to restoring some of the PAC-12’s glimmer and adding a little something extra to Utah’s ho-hum strength of schedule.