UCLA has New Mexico State to worry about on Saturday night, with the Bruins only 42.5 favorites over the Aggies. While every Bruin fan will be watching, perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the week four slate (a weak one, by the way) is a Pac-12 game with serious implications.
Arizona State is set to travel to Palo Alto, CA, to take on the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal in the most important Pac-12 game thus far.
This game is important for UCLA, folks. The Bruins, ranked 13th themselves, will take on both of these teams and will shape the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 South Division races.
There’s two rooting interests here. A Stanford win essentially places UCLA on a pedestal. If you’re into instant gratification, root for Stanford since an ASU loss would, for the time being, destroy any speculation that the Sun Devils could challenge UCLA in the South race. Additionally, it keeps Stanford’s record unblemished and gets us another week closer to an epic UCLA-Stanford tilt with both teams in the top-10 (assuming UCLA holds up their end of the bargain).
An Arizona State win ain’t bad either, and if we’re totally honest, benefits UCLA more in the long-term. While the UCLA-Stanford match-up will look far less appealing, an ASU win ultimately hinders traction of the idea that the South division of the Pac-12 is of lesser quality than the North. Not only that, but if ASU doesn’t do what it normally does (that is, start hot and stumble towards the finish line), then the UCLA-ASU match-up could have serious implications for the Pac-12 South race with the winner likely locking up a spot in the Pac-12 title game. As is the case with any college football seasons, signature wins against good teams hold more weight as they occur later in the season. From a narrower viewpoint though (such as mine), a Stanford loss could somehow make us all feel better for UCLA losing to the Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game in 2012.
Regardless, whatever you’re rooting for, this game is going to be good. Damn good. Great, even. With ASU looking like a team that belongs in the Top 25, and with Stanford poised to continue carrying on their reputation as a legit title contender, this game has the potential to shake up the BCS outlook just four weeks into the season.
This game could shape the Pac-12 season’s too, and perhaps the entire trajectory of the conference that extends past the 2013 season.
Or not. Just enjoy it, will you?