Since the Oregon Ducks lost to Auburn in the NCAA FBS championship game in 2010, no other team from the Pac-12 has succeeded in going back to the national title game. In 2013, though, there are four Pac-12 teams in the Associated Press Top 25: #2 Oregon, #9 UCLA, #13 Stanford and #20 Washington.
The UCLA Bruins, at #9, have put together a pretty impressive non-conference schedule, rising from #21 in the preseason rankings to #12 after successive victories over Nevada, #23 Nebraska and #13 New Mexico State. They then won a close game against Utah in Salt Lake City before dismantling the Cal defense in Week 7, 37-10, and earning them a spot in the Top Ten for the first time in 2013. They have been especially effective at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, winning by an average of 37 points, but haven't been as potent on the road.
For their part, Stanford's ranking fell sharply, from #5 as of October 5 to #13 after a shocking 21-27 loss at Utah. The Cardinal are out to redeem themselves at home, where they have gone 3-0 by an average of almost 13 points a game. The knock on the Cardinal is their lack of offense; they have scored over 50 points only once this season and have allowed 22 points each game compared to 18 for UCLA.
This weekend's game will help determine who goes on top in the Pac-12 -- for now, the honor belongs to Oregon, which have gone 3-0 in conference play. But if UCLA trumps Stanford, they tie Oregon for at least a few hours. A Stanford win, on the other hand, will elevate them to 6-1 for a possible tie with Oregon State or solo second place should the Beavers lose against Cal.
One player to watch is Stanford starting quarterback Kevin Hogan, the latest in a long line of tall Stanford quarterbacks in the tradition of Andrew Luck and Josh Nunes. For Stanford, the UCLA game is also the Homecoming game, which means that Stanford Stadium will once again be packed to the rafters -- and even the aisles.