The conference gets an unexpectedly intriguing matchup this Thursday for its marquee game with Oregon and Arizona State.

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All along, this is what Larry Scott had in mind in his grand vision as Pac-12 commissioner: Thursday-night showcases for his league capable of captivating the college-football-watching nation.

A little unexpectedly, he gets that this week, with No. 2 Oregon’s visit to Arizona State, which might be the best unranked team out there.

If that was Scott’s intention, it has also been a preoccupation of ASU coach Todd Graham.

“I can tell you, for the last week and a half, I’ve been watching Oregon every day,” Graham told The Arizona Republic, once a landslide victory over Colorado was in the books.

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What We Learned

There’s not much competition for Pac-12 offensive player of the week.

Come on down, Cody Vaz. All the Oregon State backup quarterback did in his first start was complete 20 of 32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns as OSU, now ranked No. 8, stayed unbeaten at Brigham Young.

“I told y’all from day one, when we found out Cody was going to be the starter (because of Sean Mannion’s knee injury), we believed in him,” cornerback Jordan Poyer told The Oregonian.

In L.A., style points matter.

After he kept the shackles on Matt Barkley in USC’s win over Washington, coach Lane Kiffin was widely questioned. Seemingly annoyed after his postgame news conference, he asked a reporter, “Do you think we lost?”

Meanwhile, after UCLA’s 21-14 win over Utah at the Rose Bowl, LA Times columnist T.J. Simers asked first-year Bruins coach Jim Mora, “Were you bored most of the afternoon? Didn’t you find that a boring game?”

Mora wasn’t humored, responding, “I don’t know if I’ve coached a boring game in my life.”

Stanford got jobbed in South Bend.

There’s little question whether Stepfan Taylor’s last lunge got him over the goal line, which, with an extra point, would have tied undefeated Notre Dame, then ranked No. 7, in overtime. The referees’ only apparent refuge is the question of whether the whistle could have blown before Taylor got there.

The Cardinal also was peeved late in the fourth quarter at an apparent whistle from the crowd that Stanford players thought came from officials. Taylor was nailed at the 10-yard line for a seven-yard loss, necessitating a field goal.

“That one hurt,” coach David Shaw told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’ve heard from many people that it’s happened here a few times.”

The Huskies can’t exhale just yet.

Conventional thinking was that when Washington (3-3) got through the first half of its season, it had easy sledding toward bowl eligibility. But it next faces an Arizona team that put up 48 points at Stanford, an Oregon State outfit that likely comes to CenturyLink Field undefeated on Oct. 27, and then it goes to Cal, which may be finding its sea legs.

Utah’s bowl streak is in jeopardy.

The Utes (2-4), who started freshman quarterback Travis Wilson at UCLA, have a nine-year run in the postseason that’s now looking fragile.

Colorado doesn’t know what to fix first.

Reviewing the 51-17 loss to Arizona State, coach Jon Embree said the offense has to help out the defense. True, but the defense looked inept in defending ASU screen passes that continually went for big gains.

Freshman cornerback Kenneth Crawley called out some defensive teammates, saying he believes some of them gave up in the loss.

This Week

Besides the Thursday-night headliner, the best matchup — as well as the quirkiest, given the timing — is the Stanford-Cal game in Berkeley. It’s early because of the Pac-12 title game taking up a final-weekend date, new TV agreements and the two schools’ unwillingness to play the game Thanksgiving weekend.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or

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