The idea behind eliminating the north and south divisions in the Pac-12 was to create a landscape where the two best teams would meet in the conference championship and, as a result, give the league its best chance to qualify a team for the College Football Playoff.
Well, it’s worked. And it hasn’t.
It’s worked because we’ve watched a dynamite Pac-12 season in which five teams — with no regard for their geography — made for an exciting race.
And it didn’t work — or at least ultimately probably didn’t matter — because the two teams that would have won their divisions seem headed to the the Pac-12 title game anyway.
Of course, that premise is based on the notion that USC will beat UCLA and Oregon will top Utah on Saturday. The Trojans and Ducks both are at home, which enhances their prospects and likely contributed to how Jake Curtis and I made our picks this week.
The Pac-12 has more teams in the CFP playoff rankings this week — six — than any other conference. But only USC, at No. 7, is positioned to have any chance at a spot in the four-team tournament.
The Trojans are going to have to do their part — win their next three, including the Pac-12 championship — and still probably may need some help.
As for the Big Game, Cal coach Justin Wilcox in the video at the top of this story dismisses the idea that any single game can rescue a season but embraces the importance of the Bears’ rivalry game.
We can only hope that something unexpected unfolds when the Bears and Cardinal pit their 3-7 records against the other at Memorial Stadium.
Seems like something unusual happened in this game about 40 years ago.
Week 11 records: Jake 3-3, Jeff 2-4
Season records: Jeff 47-30, Jake 43-34
All picks against the spread
Betting line from sisportsbook.com
— Washington State (minus-4) at Arizona, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks
Jake: Arizona can score a lot of points and WSU QB Cameron Ward is capable of making a big mistake. Pick: Arizona
Jeff: I’m just not buying Arizona, despite its win at UCLA last week. I can’t get past the fact that the Wildcats have allowed 45 points or more five times in Pac-12 play. Pick: Washington State
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— Oregon State (minus-7.5) at Arizona State, 11:15 a.m., ESPN2
Jake: Oregon State is great at home, but they are mediocre on the road. Pick: Arizona State
Jeff: I am a Beaver Believer. Jonathan Smith should be Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and OSU’s defense is for real. Pick: Oregon State.
— Stanford (plus-5) at Cal, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Jake: Both teams should be underdogs, but I guess somebody has to win. The Cardinal’s starting running back is a fifth-stringer who was a safety three weeks ago. Pick: Cal
Jeff: This is Cal’s best chance in a month to get freshman running back Jaydn Ott untracked. Stanford’s run defense is a sieve, a major reason the Cardinal has allowed 132 points over the past three games. Pick: Cal
— USC (minus-1.5) at UCLA, 5 p.m., FOX
Jake: UCLA has to be down emotionally after the loss to Arizona, but the Trojans’ defense will let the Bruins stay close. Betting on a Caleb Williams TD pass in the final minute. Pick: USC
Jeff: One of these teams still has a (very small) chance to get into the College Football Playoff. The other blew its chance a week ago. Pick: USC
— Colorado (plus-31) at Washington, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Jake: Washington’s heavy dependence on its passing game makes it difficult to be consistent week to week. And the spread is just too big – even for the Buffaloes. Pick: Colorado.
Jeff: Washington’s The Huskies just beat Oregon and Colorado . . . well, the 1-9 Buffaloes somehow beat Cal last month. Even with this spread . . . Pick: Washington.
— Utah (plus-3) at Oregon, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Jake: If this game were in Salt Lake City, the Utes would be the obvious pick. In Eugene . . . Pick: Oregon.
Jeff: The Utes beat Oregon 38-7 in Salt Lake City last year, then 38-7 in the Pac-12 title game at Las Vegas. This one will be played in Eugene, where the Ducks are coming off a loss to Washington, which snapped a 23-game win streak. I don’t see Oregon losing again one week later. Pick: Oregon
Cover photo of the Stanford Axe at Memorial Stadium in 2020 by Kyle Terada, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo