Staying Out West for Most of the Action

It’s Week 4, yet we’re still not into full conference schedules. Since the Big Ten, ACC and SEC teams only play eight conference games each, most of them are still in their preseason phase with plenty of cupcakes sprinkled about the schedule.

Well, at least there’s the Pac-12, which is the only Power 5 to play nine conference games plus a title game. Five Pac-12 conference games are on the docket, with all six ranked teams playing conference games. After Stanford upset USC in the conference opener last week, there promises to be even more of a shakeup in the Pac-12.

Here’s the full list of this week’s games on national TV, but here are the ones that are better than most:

Game of the Week

UCLA at Arizona, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Six Pac-12 teams are ranked and four are unbeaten, but this is the only game pitting two of those undefeated teams. The loser of this one will be playing catch-up in the brutal Pac-12 South for the rest of the season.

Arizona is unbeaten but untested, having defeated three nondescript non-Power 5 teams. UCLA, on the other hand, had an impressive opening victory over Virginia and also survived a ranked BYU team last week. But this will be the first real road test for Bruins freshman QB Josh Rosen, who has gotten a bit shaky after a smashing debut against the Cavaliers.

Other games the committee will be watching

LSU at Syracuse, noon ET, ESPN

TCU vs. Texas Tech, 4:45 p.m. ET, FOX

Utah at Oregon, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX

USC at Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Believe it or not, LSU’s road trip to Syracuse is the only game of the season out of the SEC footprint for an SEC team. That’s right, the SEC will play only six true road games out of conference the entire season (two, or one-third of them, by bottom feeder Vanderbilt) and this is the only one north of the Mason-Dixon line. But LSU promises to bring lots of fans who will consume copious amounts of adult beverages and also one Leonard Fournette.

Fresh off kicking Arkansas’ ass, Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech must go up a weight class to take on TCU, which is on a playoff-or-bust mission this season. The early-season showdown of two Big 12 unbeatens will give us a better idea about how good the Frogs are, after their somewhat lackluster 3-0 srtart.

Utah-Oregon pits two ranked Pac-12 teams as the Ducks can ill afford to lose another game after having lost to Michigan State. The Utes so far have emerged as potentially the darkhorse in the Pac-12 South, and they will challenge Oregon’s not-exactly stout defense. USC and Arizona State, meanwhile, are essentially in an elimination game for their slim playoff hopes after disappointing losses to Stanford and Texas A&M, respectively.

Also keep an eye on …

BYU at Michigan, noon ET, ABC

After losing its opener on the road at Utah, Michigan has progressively improved under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh, with easy victories over Oregon State and UNLV. Now comes a new test to see how far the Wolverines have come since Week 1. QB Jake Rudock’s play remains shaky, but Harbaugh has indicated that he’s the best Michigan has got and “not by a small margin.”

BYU’s playoff hopes were dashed after blowing a late lead at UCLA last week, but it can still play for a New Year’s Six bowl spot. The Cougars already own a Big Ten road victory this season when freshman QB Tanner Mangum tossed a Hail Mary pass to beat Nebraska in the season opener.

The last time these two teams met was at the 1984 Holiday Bowl. BYU beat Michigan (whose quarterback Harbaugh was out with an injury), 24-17, and won the national championship.

Despicable Meet

Southern at Georgia, noon ET, SEC Network

The SEC continues its cupcake tour of the lower-level opponents – which will last all season, all the way into November. This week’s slaughter will take place between the hedges with the Jaguars of Southern University offered up as the sacrifice.

There are already pretty good indications that the Jaguars will not put up much resistance. In their first matchup against an FBS team this season, Southern was waxed by Louisiana Tech, 62-15, as former Florida QB Jeff Driskel threw for 274 yards and four TDs in just about one half of work.

Last week’s Despicable Meet: Tennessee 55, Western Carolina 10.

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