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UCLA freshman linebacker Myles Jack already was becoming the talk of the Pac-12 this season, and that was before he became the conference's offensive player of the week.
The Bruins used Jack as a running back in a specialty package against Arizona, and the results were spectacular. Jack carried the ball six times for 120 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown that proved critical in UCLA's 31-26 victory.
Pac-12 coaches including Utah's Kyle Whittingham are very familiar with Jack, having tried to recruit him from the Seattle area. Arizona wanted him as a running back, coach Rich Rodriguez said, and everybody's watching him now.
"I'm as curious as anybody in the nation to see what he does next," said Stanford coach David Shaw.
The Bruins host Washington on Friday, and an reported shortage of running backs likely means Jack will get even work on offense. In case you're wondering, the extra playing time has not affected his defensive performance. Jack made eight tackles and recovered a fumble against Arizona, receiving his school's nomination for the Pac-12 defensive player of the week award. The dual candidacy probably helped him win the offensive vote, but he was deserving.
Somebody has to win
For vastly different reasons, Saturday's Colorado-California game in Boulder has been anticipated almost as much as last week's Stanford-Oregon contest. This game once and for all will determine the No. 11 spot in The Tribune's Pac-12 rankings.
The Buffaloes and Bears have lost a combined 26 consecutive conference games, with each team's last win coming at Washington State in 2012. One of those skids will end; the other likely will extend into next season.
Yet the coaches would not play along with the angle of their teams' finally having realistic hopes of winning. "We should be able to think we're going to win every football game," said Colorado's Mike MacIntyre.
"I don't know that this week is any different," said Cal's Sonny Dykes. "Our guys go into most of the games thinking they've got a great chance to win."
This is the teams' first official meeting in the Pac-12, although they staged a previously scheduled game in 2011 as a nonconference contest. That turned into a classic game, with Cal winning 36-33 in overtime. Who knows, this one might be just as good.
The Pac-12 already lists eight bowl-eligible teams, and conference has seven contracted slots. The math works well, as long as Oregon wins out and presumably becomes a second team invited to a BCS game.
Utah and Washington State each need two more wins to reach the required six. Unless they do something spectacular, the Utes and/or Cougars would remain at the bottom of the Pac-12's selection order and have to search for a vacancy outside of the conference's affiliations with no guarantee.
The conference's middle tier is so crowded that Arizona, USC, Washington and Oregon State are all in play for the No. 6 selection, opposing BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Any of those teams would be attractive, particularly Arizona, where BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae formerly worked, and Washington, coached by ex-Cougar quarterback Steve Sarkisian.
Pac-12 bowl affiliations, in order of selection:
Bowl Date Opponent
Rose Jan. 1 Big Ten
Alamo Dec. 30 Big 12
Holiday Dec. 30 Big 12
Sun Dec. 31 ACC
Las Vegas Dec. 21 Mountain West
Fight Hunger Dec. 27 BYU
New Mexico Dec. 21 Mountain West
Pac-12 power rankings
1 -Stanford (8-1)
Cardinal defenders earned Pac-12 weekly honors after each of last three wins
2 Oregon (8-1)
Ducks ended Utah's 16-game winning streak in last meeting (2009)
3 UCLA (7-2)
Tough closing stretch: Washington, Arizona State, USC
4 Arizona State (7-2)
Sun Devils have allowed 19.3 points during four-game winning streak
5 USC (7-3)
Trojans scored three TDs via punt returns vs. Cal
6 Washington (6-3)
Huskies totaled 100 points, 1,270 yards vs. Colorado, Cal
7 Arizona (6-3)
Junior RB Ka'Deem Carey needs 250 rushing yards for school career record
8 Oregon State (6-3)
Brandin Cooks already tied for school season receiving record (91)
9 Utah (4-5)
Utes have been described as best four-win team in the country
10 Washington State (4-5)
Cougars might have something to say about Utah's distinction next week
11 Colorado (3-6)
Paul Richardson's nine TD catches have covered average of 51.7 yards
12 California (1-9)
Bears last in league with minus-14 turnover margin