PASADENA, Calif.– To be the Pac-12 South champion, Arizona State must beat the champions.
It is almost that simple when the 19th-ranked Sun Devils (8-2 overall, 6-1 Pac-12) face No. 14 UCLA (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday.
A victory over the defending division champs puts Arizona State into the conference-title game with the chance to earn a more significant trip to Pasadena in January. Although the Sun Devils still could win the division by other means, they would prefer to earn their berth on the Rose Bowl turf.
“It’s hard for me not to point to the game here when we’ve been talking about winning a championship for two years,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said.
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But both teams have had this date circled on their calendars since early in the season, when it became likely the South title could be decided in UCLA’s final regular-season home game. The Bruins are unbeaten at the Rose Bowl this season, and their own division-title hopes are alive.
UCLA would get its third straight trip to the Pac-12 title game with consecutive victories over Arizona State and USC.
“We understand the implications of this game,” said Bruins coach Jim Mora, a former Seahawks coach. “We understand the type of team we’re getting ready to play, and we’re excited we’re playing them at home this year.”
Mora is 8-0 against Pac-12 South opponents.
Arizona State has won five straight games for the first time since 2007.
The game matches two of the nation’s top young quarterbacks — UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly — at the controls of two prolific offenses. Both teams average more than 36 points.
Myles Jack remains a UCLA linebacker, but the freshman from Bellevue High School is also one of the nation’s most exciting running backs. He has 180 yards rushing and five touchdowns in the past two games.
Jack scored four times in last week’s 41-31 victory over Washington.
Mora is working on ways to maximize Jack’s production on offense without hampering the player’s work on defense.
“Arizona State knows he’s going to carry the ball for us a couple of times,” Mora said. “That package has been effective for us. The question is just how much. Carrying the ball on offense and playing a full load on defense, that’s hard. I have to do a good job managing that, because it’s not easy. It’s a conundrum.”
UCLA running back Jordon James reportedly might return from an ankle injury suffered seven weeks ago.
Showdown set in Big 12
STILLWATER, Okla. – Third-ranked Baylor will seek control of the Big 12 race when it visits No. 11 Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The Bears (9-0, 6-0 Big 12), powered by the nation’s most dynamic offense, also have hopes for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
For Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1), having the opportunity to contend for the Big 12 title seemed improbable after a 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28. But the Cowboys have won six straight, including last week’s 38-13 rout of then-No. 23 Texas.
• The prosecutor leading the investigation of the sexual-assault allegation made against Florida State’s Jameis Winston said there are still “four or five” things that need to be done before a decision is made on whether to bring charges against the quarterback.
State Attorney Willie Meggs said prosecutors spoke with the accuser in the case this week but there is more work to be done in the investigation. He said the interview with the woman might be a “preliminary” interview.
“We don’t have everything yet,” said Meggs, who did not provide an updated timetable as to when he expects the investigation to be completed. He said after he got the case Nov. 13 he hoped it would be completed in a couple of weeks.
“We just came up with four or five things that we know we need to do that either we are waiting for somebody to come back with information or we need to go do this and we haven’t done yet,” Meggs said.
• Sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA record by scoring seven rushing touchdowns, including the winner in the third overtime, and Navy beat host San Jose State 58-52.
• When California (1-10, 0-8 Pac-12) visits Stanford (8-2, 6-2) on Saturday, it will be the biggest underdog — 32 points — in Big Game history.