Oregon Ducks

It only feels like the Ducks are the only ones on the field.
Photo by Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

The race for the 2012 Pac-12 Championship Game starts now.

OK, it started last week when Stanford beat USC but for the Arizona Wildcats and eight other schools their first conference game is Saturday. (Washington, on the other hand, is just taking its sweet time.)

Get the TV schedule and wee notes on the first full weekend of Pac-12 play now!

This Week in the Pac-12 (TWit-Pac) wants you to watch these games (all times Arizona/Pacific):

Date Away Home Time TV
Sat Sep 22 OSU UCLA 12:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2
  Colorado WSU 1 p.m. FX
  Cal USC 3 p.m. P12N
  Utah ASU 7 p.m. P12N
  ARIZONA Oregon 7:30 p.m. ESPN

The good news is the Pac-12 is playing itself so these games count for real. The bad news is there are fewer games to watch, especially with a couple teams taking the week off.

OSU (1-0 / 0-0) at UCLA (3-0 / 0-0)
It’s not often that a team has to play someone that has played three times as many games. Now is the time of year when you start rooting for teams in the other division to beat teams in your division. Wildcat fans should be either pro-Beaver or anti-Bruin.

Colorado (0-3 / 0-0) at WSU (2-1 / 0-0)
OK, Buffs, this is the easiest game left on your schedule…you hope. But I do know CU is the easiest game left on everybody else’s schedule.

Cal (1-2 / 0-0) at USC (2-1 / 0-1)
Now you know why I don’t make picks. My first and only game prediction of the year and, not only did I say USC would win, but I said the Trojans would “roll” the Cardinal. Oops. I did predict Josh Nunes would be exposed a bit, and he only completed 47% of his passes and threw two interceptions, but Matt Barkley was even worse. The Heisman hopeful threw 21 incompletions, no touchdowns and had two INTs of his own. A couple more games like this and Barkely will have to warm up to the idea of playing in the Holiday Bowl after all.

Utah (2-1 / 0-0) at ASU (2-1 / 0-0)
The Sun Devils’ string of facing a backup quarterback reaches three games. They play Cal next week so Zach Maynard has to be terrified for his health.

ARIZONA (3-0 / 0-0) at Oregon (3-0 / 0-0)
One of four games between ranked teams this weekend and all of them have an Arizona connection: Kansas State at Oklahoma (Mike Stoops!), Clemson at Florida State (Mark Stoops!) and Michigan at Notre Dame (RichRod’s recroots! I mean, recruits!).

Stanford (3-0 / 1-0) – bye
The Cardinal vaulted into the top 10 after sacking Troy but Stanford plays three of its next four and six of its final nine on the road. I wouldn’t put them back in a BCS bowl just yet. Not that I’m picking against them or anything.

Washington (2-1 / 0-0) – bye
This is Stanford’s next opponent. The Huskies will be very eager to take another crack at a ranked team with the beating in Baton Rouge still hanging over them.

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So have you made your decision? For those happily living in Section 2, what must the game look like for the Cats to pull off the shocker in Eugene?

Arizona needs the sloppy Ducks to show up on Saturday. Oregon is tied for the conference lead in penalties committed and third in penalty yardage. They actually have a negative turnover margin (-2) on the season thus far.

The UA can’t expect a gift basket as large as the one Oklahoma State delivered, but cheap yards and extra possessions would be a big help.

Could Oregon’s starters’ stamina be lacking due to not playing four quarters in any game yet? Will there be some missed blocking assignments with senior guard Carson York out due to injury? How about getting someone behind free safety Avery Patterson, the replacement for injured John Boyett?

Arizona absolutely needs to hit some big plays, especially in the passing game. Against South Carolina State the UA’s longest rush was only 19 yards. Matt Scott completed 30 passes but only three of them went for 20+ yards. Scott can’t miss on deep throws this week. If there’s a blown coverage in the Oregon secondary it needs to be exploited for six.

On defense…well, just hope Oregon commits turnovers and penalties. Assuming De’Anthony Thomas hasn’t gone pro maybe the UA can frustrate him by holding him to, I don’t know, only 12 yards a touch.

The Wildcats are the underdogs with nothing to lose and they need to play like it from the opening kick. Arizona was able to survive a two-touchdown hole in front of a supportive crowd two weeks ago. Any hole in front of the Autzen crowd will just get deeper and darker.

Are you feeling this team as a Pac-12 contender? You have my full support if you do. Me? I can’t get myself to put all my emotional eggs in this week’s basket. But, as with every game, as soon as the ball goes in the air, I’ll believe the Cats can win and root like mad for it to happen.

Rich Rodriguez will eventually lose a game at Arizona. What’s one more week?

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Scott Terrell is in no hurry to get to the losses. Live the wins on Twitter and Facebook.