Pac-12 play opened in earnest last week with no big surprises, other than perhaps USC’s lethargy in a 17-14 win over Oregon State.

But now with everyone in the league getting a taste of familiar competition, we might start to see some shockers. The easiest one to predict would be the Beavers bouncing back to knock off the No. 12 Utah Utes, but No. 15 Washington better be on the lookout for UCLA in a Friday night marquee matchup at the Rose Bowl.

Here’s a look at my final thoughts heading into Week 5 of the Pac-12 slate.


No. 15 Washington at UCLA, 7:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN

This matchup of unbeaten squads somehow feels like a mismatch, even though both teams have put up nearly identical numbers through 4-0 starts. With league-leading quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in control, Washington leads the league at 44 points per game, but UCLA is not too far behind at 41.8, while the Bruins give up 18 points per game compared to the Huskies’ 19. Washington’s 530.8 yards per game also paces the league, with UCLA on its tail with 508.3 yards per game; similar to the scoring, the Bruins’ defense has been just a tad better at 295.0 yards allowed compared to Washington’s 302.0

One major disparity underscores all those numbers: The Huskies have a big win over then-No. 11 Michigan State, while UCLA hasn’t played anyone better than South Alabama — and the Bruins struggled to a one-point win in that game.

There’s a reason Washington is ranked No. 15 and the Bruins are unranked despite 4-0 starts.

If UCLA pulls off the home upset — the Bruins are 2.5-point underdogs — then they’ll vault up in the rankings.

Final Verdict: Washington’s passing game is too much for UCLA’s defense

Oregon State at No. 12 Utah, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Network

The scheduling gods paid no favors to the Beavers, who square off against the 12th-ranked Utes a week after hosting the then-No. 7 USC Trojans in a 17-14 loss. Oregon State was in position to upset the Trojans last week before a little late-game Caleb Williams magic combined with four Chance Nolan interceptions.

The Utah defense, while perhaps the best in the conference, is not nearly as opportunistic as USC’s, as the Trojans have 14 turnovers this year while the Utes have 9. If Utah pressures Nolan and disguises coverages like USC did, Nolan is in for another long night.

Cam Rising won’t have it much easier against an Oregon State that flummoxed Williams for 3-plus quarters, especially with the loss of his top target, tight end Brant Kuithe. The Utes survived the loss of their star tight end against the overmatched Arizona State Sun Devils last weekend, but how will their offense be affected against a good defense like Oregon State’s?

Final Verdict: Utes deal Oregon State its second straight loss

Cal at Washington State, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

What a fascinating matchup between one of the best rushing teams in the country and one of the conference’s top passing offenses.

On one sideline, Jaydn Ott, fresh off the country’s high mark of 274 rushing yards in a 49-31 win over Arizona. Odds are he’s not going break off touchdown runs of 73 and 72 yards, but he’s shown the ability to consistently generate positive yardage.

On the other sideline, Washington State quarterback Cam Ward, who has already proven himself as one of the league’s most exciting quarterbacks, off to a terrific start after transferring from Incarnate Word during the offseason. Ward has thrown for the third-most yards in the league and is tied for second with 10 touchdowns on the year.

The game might just come down to red-zone defense. Both teams have been tremendous near the goal line, with Washington State scoring on 17-of-18 red-zone opportunities and Cal converting on 15-of-16.

Final Verdict: Cougars bounce back from loss to Oregon, but Ott continues his breakout year

Colorado at Arizona, 6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

This game presents yet another very interesting study in contrasts, two teams going in vastly different directions.

The Buffaloes won last year’s matchup, 34-0, in Boulder, arguably the high point in a low season. Colorado has only gotten lower this season, cratering out with four straight blowout losses to open the season.

Arizona, which won just one game last season, already has two this year, even if the Wildcats reminded fans they are still a work in progress with a 49-31 loss to Cal last week. A convincing win over a Buffalo squad that has shown little bite would be another big step for Arizona, which hasn’t been above .500 this late in the season in years.

I am intrigued by Colorado quarterback Owen McCown, however. He showed some promise in the Buffaloes’ big loss to UCLA last weekend.

Final Verdict: Wildcats show how much progress they’ve made with big win over Buffaloes

Arizona State at No. 6 USC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

The Sun Devils provide the perfect foil for the Trojans, who are coming off a sluggish 17-14 win at Oregon State, a win that included plenty of slumped shoulders and sideways glances.

USC needs the kind of opponent that it kick around, and Arizona State offers just that.

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, they just don’t match up well against the Trojans. Arizona State’s passing game has struggled behind Emory Jones, and the Sun Devils are a little beat up after playing the Oklahoma State Cowboys (currently ranked 9th) in Week 2 and the Utah Utes (currently ranked 12th) last Saturday. That’s tough sledding — No. 9, No. 12 and No. 6 in the span of a month?

USC, meanwhile, hasn’t faced a schedule nearly that tough, though the Beavers presented a nice challenge last week. Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams was in a funk all game against OSU, completing just 16-of-36 passes. I expect Lincoln Riley to put him in position to succeed to build his confidence early against the Sun Devils.

Final Verdict: Trojans regain their mojo against woeful Sun Devils

Stanford at No. 13 Oregon, 8 p.m., FS1

Even in down years, even when the gap in talent and team success has been pronounced, Stanford has proven to be a thorn in Oregon’s side.

The Cardinal have won 6 of 10 matchups with the Ducks, including last year’s 31-24 win in Palo Alto, when Stanford finished just 3-9.

But with the game shifting to Eugene and Oregon boasting a much better team and tons of momentum, Stanford will have a tough time even hanging around in this game.

Oregon is ranked 3rd in the conference in yards per game and Stanford ranks 6th, but the gap is significant: nearly 60 yards per game. The main difference is on the ground, where the Ducks average 198.3 rushing yards per game and Stanford averages 158.7.

That’s a marked increase for the Cardinal, but not enough to translate into points, and worse, star running back E.J. Smith is out for the rest of the season.

Where these two teams do match up is on the defensive side, where Oregon allows 388.0 yards per game compared to the Cardinal’s 400.3. The teams are also remarkably close in points per game allowed at 31.0 for Oregon and 30.3 for Stanford.

One important caveat, though: The Cardinal started the season against Colgate, while Oregon opened up with current No. 1 Georgia.

Final Verdict: Ducks run their win streak to four straight