Following a heartbreaking loss to Oregon State and an emotional fourth-straight victory over BYU, it may seem like a letdown for the Utes to take a break now. However, Utah has a grueling Pac-12 schedule ahead and its bye week will give the team an extra week to prepare.
Unfortunately fans wont be able to watch the Utes; next opponent, UCLA, as it is also on a bye week ― but there are still plenty of other reasons to keep up with Pac-12 play in the coming days. From intriguing games to high-velocity quarterbacks to Pac-12 underdogs with a slight chance, there will be enough action to keep fans entertained.
Here are the 10 best matchups and reasons to watch the Pac-12 this weekend:
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
Colorado feels good about its 2-0 start, but it is yet to prove anything. For the first time this season, the Buffs' much improved secondary defense will be tested this Saturday against Oregon State.
Sean Mannion, as Utah found out firsthand, is no joke. His prolific passing game ranks him second in the nation in passing yards, averaging 401 yards per game. He has completed 71 percent of his pass attempts and thrown for 15 touchdowns through four games.
Colorado will face another challenge in this game as well. The Buffaloes haven't played a game in 20 days. Two weeks ago, flooding forced Colorado to postpone a contest against Fresno and last week was the Buffaloes' bye week.
This won't be a battle on the field, but rather in the stat columns. Arizona's prize back Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey are arguably the two best running backs in the Pac-12. Both average nearly 150 rushing yards per game and are just shy of seven yards per carry.
Arizona heavily relies on the run game while Washington presents a much more balanced attack, so it will be interesting to see the impact these two stars have on Saturday's game.
This week's Pac-12 play pins three ranked teams against three unranked teams. This will present a chance for the underdogs to gain some national street cred. Despite ESPN's Pac-12 blog predicting wins for each of the ranked teams, Washington State and Arizona should at least put up a good fight if not pull off an upset. California, however, likely doesn't stand a chance against the country's No. 2 program.
Washington State, a usual Pac-12 doormat, already upset USC and proved it will punish teams for sleeping on a game. Meanwhile, Arizona is 3-0, although the Wildcats haven't played a respectable opponent yet. Both matchups should prove interesting if WSU and Arizona manage to keep the scores close.
Both Arizona and Washington are undefeated heading into Saturday's game in Seattle, and early season perfection for one team will be lost.
Arizona is 3-0, but hasn't been tested in a close game yet. The Wildcats have beaten all three opponents by a minimum of 25 points. Arizona's first test to see if it can hang in this year's competitive Pac-12 will be Washington.
Washington, on the other hand, beat Boise State 38-6 in week one when the Broncos were ranked No. 19. Then they turned around and beat Big 10 foe Illinois 34-24. Last week, Washington had a break in its tough schedule, and ran circles around Idaho State.
This is an absolute must-win game for both sides. Both USC and Arizona State already have one conference loss and another would create a difficult hole to crawl out of.
USC already lost to Washington State, cannot seem to figure its offense out and has a restless group of fans that expected to see a ranked team this season. Meanwhile the Sun Devils will need to put together a full game and quarterback Taylor Kelly will need to stand tough against the USC defense.
Another stats battle is set to take place between two of the league's best defensive players when USC visits Arizona State Saturday. The late-night affair will feature USC linebacker Morgan Breslin, who has four sacks and nine total tackles on the season. On the opposite sideline, ASU's senior defensive tackle Will Sutton has a less impressive stat line — mainly due to the amount of double teams thrown his way.
With USC's pass game yearning for a breakout game, Sutton could play a huge role defensively by pressuring quarterback Cody Kessler. Breslin faces a running-focused team, which could present new challenges for the defensive force.
Astonishingly, if Washington State manages to beat Stanford this weekend, the Cougars will sit atop the entire Pac-12 (possibly tied with Oregon State). Not bad for the team that started out the season ranked among the worst in the Pac-12.
A key to the Cougars even standing a chance against the powerful Cardinal is a clean game. Washington State has the highest amount of turnovers in the league with 11 in four games.
Last year, Washington marched into Arizona Stadium looking for road win, but instead was completely destroyed by the Wildcats. The Huskies lost 52-17 against a team that was 0-3 in conference play.
The tables are turned this year as Washington hosts the Wildcats this year for both teams' conference opener. The Huskies will surely have a bitter, lingering memory of last year's defeat in the back of their minds as they seek revenge on a South Division foe.
Last week, Utah's quarterback Travis Wilson was honored as a Pac-12 player of the week, alongside Oregon State's cornerback Steven Nelson and USC punter Kris Albarado. Last week, Nelson intercepted a San Diego pass and returned it 16 yards for the game-winning touchdown. For USC, Albarado's precise punting pinned Utah State within its own 20-yard line five times.
This week it will be interesting to see how Nelson and Albarado respond, as both teams could benefit from another outstanding performance.
This is the first official week of league play for the Pac-12. No more 50-point blowouts against FCS teams. With the exception of UCLA and Utah, who will be after each other's throats next Thursday, all Pac-12 teams will face off against each other.
The Pac-12's grueling nine-game conference schedule is sure to feature several upsets along the way, and it all starts this Saturday.