Mannion’s Minions beat two ranked teams to become a ranked team.
Photo by Jaime Valdez-US PRESSWIRE

Wait, we’re already a handful of weeks into the 2012 college football season? Why does the summer take eight months while the fall flies by?

It’s sad but true. Most teams are already a third of the way through their schedule. Embrace the football!

The Pac-12 digs deeper into conference play with no battles between ranked teams (there are only two such games nationwide). What does the bowl picture look like and have the Arizona Wildcats had success wearing new helmets?

But first the TWit-Pac TV schedule (all times Arizona/Pacific):

Date Away Home Time TV
Thu Sep 27 Stanford Washington 6 p.m. ESPN
Sat Sep 29 ASU Cal 1 p.m. FX
  UCLA Colorado 3 p.m. P12N
  OSU ARIZONA 7 p.m. P12N
  Oregon WSU 7:30 p.m. ESPN2

Here is an early look at how the Pac-12 stacks up in terms of bowl chances:

Team Record Non-Conf Home Left Misses
Oregon 4-0 3-0 3 UCLA, Utah
Stanford 3-0 2-0 3 ASU, Utah
OSU 2-0 1-0 6 Colo, USC
USC 3-1 2-0 5 OSU, WSU
UCLA 3-1 3-0 4 Ore, Wash
Washington 2-1 2-1 4 ASU, UCLA
ARIZONA 3-1 3-0 5 Cal, WSU
ASU 3-1 2-1 3 Stan, Wash
Utah 2-2 2-1 4 Ore, Stan
WSU 2-2 2-1 4 Ariz, USC
Cal 1-3 1-2 5 Ariz, Colo
Colorado 1-3 0-3 5 Cal, OSU

I put them in order of likelihood to win at least six games based on current record and remaining schedule. The top four teams look strong due to quality of talent and/or remaining home games.

Of the middle four, UCLA and Washington rank highest because of the strength of the teams they miss. Arizona is slotted ahead of ASU because of the extra home games.

It looks like you draw the bowl eligibility line either above or below Utah. The Utes have the easiest Pac-12 schedule but with their struggles on offense I don’t see them beating USC or winning on the road against UCLA, OSU or Washington. That means it’ll come down to beating both Cal and Arizona at home.

Poor Cal and Col. They’re each 1-3 and don’t even get to play each other.

Will the deck get shuffled after this week? On we go!

Stanford (3-0 / 1-0) at Washington (2-1 / 0-0)
The Huskies came into the season as the favorite to claim the title of Pac-12 Breakout Team but they fell off the radar after being flattened by an LSU tornado (tornadeaux?). This is a great chance for Washington to climb back into the spotlight as they face the favorite to claim the title of Pac-12 Team That Has Been Good for a While but Is Still Better than We Thought This Year.

ASU (3-1 / 1-0) at Cal (1-3 / 0-1)
A starting quarterback! A starting quarterback!! It might only be Zach Maynard but he may as well be Aaron Rodgers compared to the guys Arizona State has faced thus far.

UCLA (3-1 / 0-1) at Colorado (1-3 / 1-0)
The Bruins looked very impressive in sweeping their non-conference games only to lose their Pac-12 opener at home. The Buffaloes looked awful in dropping every non-league game then opened conference play with a road win. This game is silly sometimes.

OSU (2-0 / 1-0) at ARIZONA (3-1 / 0-1)
Team In-N-Out is the current owner of Pac-12 Breakout status. Not bad for a group picked to finish last in the North division. After the Beavers’ first two wins maybe it’s a good thing the Wildcats aren’t ranked this week.

Oregon (4-0 / 1-0) at WSU (2-2 / 0-1)
The new worst team in the Pac-12 takes on the three-time defending best in Seattle. You may have heard about the most recent game at CenturyLink Field.

USC (3-1 / 1-1) – bye
Utah (2-2 / 0-1) – bye
The Trojans and Utes are resting up in preparation for next week’s Thursday night game. Last year’s Utah/USC matchup came down to a failed kick. Utah’s last home game came down to a failed kick. If you let it come down to a kick you have failed.

* * *

Quick, when’s the last time you saw the Wildcats beat Oregon State at Arizona Stadium?

If you’re having trouble recalling it’s because it hasn’t happened since 1997.

The Beavers are in the middle of a five-out-of-six and 11-of-13 run against the UA. That’s a bad trend.

Arizona’s inability to finish drives is also officially a trend. The Cats’ four red-zone possessions against Toledo in regulation resulted in a field goal, a fumble and two missed field goals. The Wildcats went eight-for-eight in red-zone opportunities against Oklahoma State but three of the first four were field goals. And then…Oregon.

So if you take the first four red-zone trips against each of the UA’s three FBS opponents you have one whole touchdown. The others consisted of four field goals, four failed field goals, two turnovers and one failed fourth-down attempt. Trouble inside the 20 was expected with last year’s pass-heavy offense but the hope was Rich Rodriguez’s famous rushing attack would alleviate it.

The thing to remember is this isn’t RichRod’s famous rushing attack yet. The Arizona offense is still slanted toward the pass with 486 more yards through the air than on the ground. The Wildcats, in fact, are 11th in the nation in passing yards.

In time Rodriguez will build up the running game but for right now? If you can’t power into the end zone you have to quick into the end zone and that means Matt Scott being a true dual-threat quarterback on the goal line. Stretch the defense out and if no one is open, tuck it and head for paydirt.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one guy – especially one banged-up guy – but that’s the situation with the 2012 Wildcats. For this team to be successful Matt Scott needs to be healthy and he needs to be Arizona’s best player.

* * *

So what else is new?

Oh. Hello, copper.

Arizona has had mixed results recently when debuting new helmets. The blue helmets got a win against NAU in Mike Stoops’ first game but then proceeded to lose seven straight. Everyone remembers the debacle that was the plain white helmets in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.

The most successful helmet tweak was the addition of the fading stripes on the white helmets in 2010. The Cats beat Toledo by 39 in them en route to a 4-0 and 7-1 start.

The first time wearing the white-on-white-on-white uniform combination worked just as well for RichRod (49-0) as it did for Stoops (33-0). Stoops ended up with an 0-3 record using the all-whites. Tim Kish, on the other hand, went undefeated with them, beating ASU last year.

I am 100% in favor of breaking out the copper helmets this week. It’s a challenging yet winnable game (unlike, for example, wearing them for a game like last week). Arizona’s season may be at a crossroads. If this provides even the smallest spark among the players and fans it’s worth it.

The Copper Cats are mining for a big victory.

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Scott Terrell likes shiny things. Get from-the-stands thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.