Pac-12 football season starts stretch run
A light slate of games is on tap in the Pac-12 this week, with four of the 12 teams getting a bye. A few things to look for as the conference heads into the stretch run:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 25 Utah at Stanford. In a conference full of up-tempo, spread offenses, this will be a rare power matchup in the Pac-12, more sumo wrestling than race. The Utes and Cardinal are physical up front and like to punish teams with brute force, so it could be rough in the trenches. Both teams are coming off losses to No. 2 Oregon; the Utes 57-27 last Saturday, the Cardinal 45-16 before last week's bye. Utah ended Stanford's undefeated streak and its national title hopes with a 27-21 win in Salt Lake City last year, so the Cardinal will be looking for payback, especially in their home finale and with a chance to become bowl eligible.
BEST MATCHUP: Oregon State QB Sean Mannion vs. Arizona State's defense. Despite the Beavers' struggles, Mannion is still one of the nation's top passers, with over 2,700 yards and 10 TDs passing this season. He's also the Pac-12's all-time passing leader and needs 90 yards to break the conference record for total yards, set by USC'S Matt Barkley from 2009-12. Mannion and the Beavers should have their hands full against the Sun Devils. Arizona State's defense is on non-stop attack and will try to put loads of pressure on Mannion. The Sun Devils sacked Notre Dame's Everett Golson seven times last week and returned two interceptions for scores.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Four teams have a bye week: No. 2 Oregon, UCLA, Colorado and Washington State. ... Washington senior LB Hau'oli Kikaha has a sack in 14 straight games and set a school record by accounting for 116 yards lost. ... USC QB Cody Kessler is fourth nationally in passing efficiency at 168.2, with 25 TD passes and two interceptions. ... Arizona State's Taylor Kelly has broken the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,396. Mark Malone set the previous mark with 1,390 from 1977-79.
IMPACT PLAYER: Utah punter Tom Hackett. Time for some punter love. Utah and Stanford might turn into a field-position game and Hackett could be the difference maker. The rugby-style kicker from Australia is second nationally with a 47.2-yard average and is first with 14 punts inside the opponent's 10-yard line.
Complied by AP College Football Writer John Marshall.