|No one wants to take the ball and run with it in the Pac-12. (US Presswire)|
Without looking at the standings, how would most people define the pecking order in the Pac-12? Something like this: Arizona at the top, Oregon and UCLA a notch below, then a bit of a drop-off until Arizona State and Colorado, with Stanford and California somewhere after that -- and then a major drop-off to the rest of the league.
In reality, there isn't much of a pecking order. Arizona, Oregon and UCLA are all tied at 8-3, with Arizona State one game back. Then there are four teams at 6-5 -- meaning that eight teams are within two games of each other at the top of the standings.
It's certainly better than it was last year, but the Pac-12 has still had one of the strangest six-week periods of conference play in the country.
Arizona should be on top of the league, but the Wildcats seemingly can't take control of the Pac-12 when the opportunity arises. A perfect example is Sunday, when a win over California would have given them sole possession of first place (and perhaps a spot in the top three of the AP poll). The Golden Bears had lost three of their previous four games -- yet they went into Tucson and knocked off Arizona by eight.
Oregon has looked thoroughly mediocre since Dominic Artis went down with a foot injury, losing three of its last four, yet the Ducks are still tied for first. UCLA epitomizes the Pac-12 -- win at Colorado and Arizona, get blown out at Arizona State and lose at home to USC. Both the Bruins and Arizona State have five of their final seven games on the road, which should make for an interesting stretch run. Meanwhile, bubble team Colorado has five of its final seven at home, which gives the Buffaloes an edge in the final month.
The two teams to watch for in the standings could be the northern California duo of Stanford and California. The Cardinal have plenty of momentum, winning four of its last five games. The Golden Bears have defeated both Oregon and Arizona in the last nine days, and they head home for five of the final seven games.
By the way, don't look now -- but USC has won three in a row in the league and is now 6-5 in Pac-12 play. That's right, the disappointment that was the Trojans – losing to Nebraska and UC-Irvine, starting 8-13 – is only two games out of first place in the Pac-12.
No one seems to want to take the ball and run with it in the Pac-12. Arizona has the ability to do that, but it has slipped up at inopportune times. Oregon and Arizona State both had chances in the past month, but both are struggling; and Washington has lost six of seven since starting 4-0.
Trying to figure out the final seven games of the season is an exercise in futility. Want to look at who has the most home games left? Well, the top four in the league have suffered six home losses this season, compared to seven road defeats. Momentum is useless. Colorado went to Oregon and won just five days after losing at Utah.
The Pac-12 will end up with four or five bids to the NCAA tournament, but who gets those final bids -- and who wins the league -- is anyone's guess right now.
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