Pac-12 Week 13 viewer's guide: Apple Cup will decide North champ

Despite 3 losses, USC is one of nation's best teams (1:25)

The eye test suggests the Trojans have the talent to hang with College Football Playoff contenders. Advanced analytics show that, since Oct. 1, USC has played top-four football. (1:25)

Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for family, friends, football and meaningful rivalry games being played the last weekend of November.


No. 23 Washington State vs. No. 5 Washington, 12:30 p.m. PT, Fox

The Apple Cup: The stakes couldn’t be higher as the winner of this game will represent the North in the Pac-12 title game. This rivalry was first played in 1900 but wasn’t a yearly occurrence until 1945. Despite all those matchups, this is just the second time that both teams have entered this game with at least eight wins apiece. Keep an eye on offensive efficiency -- they’re tied for fourth in FBS in TD percentage (44 percent). Both teams also rank in the top 15 in FBS in margin per game with Washington sitting at No. 4 (26.8 points per game) while Wazzu is at No. 13 (16.9 points per game).

Arizona vs. Arizona State, 6:30 p.m. PT, ESPN/WatchESPN

The Territorial Cup: The Sun Devils have won three of the last four, but Arizona was victorious a year ago in Tucson. Despite Arizona’s struggles, the run game has been strong, ranking third in the Pac-12. In the past month, the Wildcats averaged 5.3 yards per rush against Washington State (third-best vs. Cougars this season) and 4.9 yards per rush against Colorado (second-best vs. Buffaloes this season). Arizona State is searching for win No. 6 and its third conference win. And though the season has been injury-riddled for the Sun Devils, a bright spot has been kicker Zane Gonzalez, who leads the nation with 23 field goals (made the last 17) and has made 7-of-8 from at least 50 yards.


No. 12 USC vs. Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. PT, ABC/WatchESPN

The Trojans could make the Pac-12 title game if the Buffaloes lose to Utah, so while their fate lies in the hands of others, a big win in this historic matchup (despite Notre Dame being down) could be a statement to the committee. Much focus has gone to Sam Darnold and the USC offense of late, but the Trojans' defense has been strong, holding the last three opponents to fewer than 300 yards and keeping quarterbacks to a Total QBR of 76 or worse. In the month of November, the Trojans have held opponents to 2.1 yards per rush (fourth-best in FBS during that time frame) and held opposing quarterbacks to a 50 percent completion rate.

Oregon State vs. Oregon, 1 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks

The Civil War: ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Ducks a 58 percent chance to win the 120th matchup in the Civil War, so this game could prove to be far more competitive than many might’ve assumed at the beginning of the season. The run games could rule the day. Oregon’s Royce Freeman looked like himself last weekend against Utah. The junior’s 129 yards were the second-most the Utes have given up this season to a single back. Better news for Ducks fans: 97 of his yards came after contact and 81 yards came outside the tackles. But the Beavers have their own rushing attack in Ryan Nall. Though the redshirt junior has appeared in only three of the Beavers’ last five games, it’s safe to expect him to come out swinging. Last season he accounted for 174 yards against Oregon at 9.2 yards per carry.

Cal vs. UCLA, 4 p.m. PT, ESPN2/WatchESPN

Both of these teams are looking for win No. 5 in the regular-season finale. UCLA’s key will be great defense. The Bruins have accounted for 12 of their 25 sacks and seven of their 15 interceptions in the last four games, but the UCLA defense ultimately didn’t get enough done against Sam Darnold and USC. His passer efficiency rating (135.2) was the best any QB has registered against UCLA. Against Cal and Davis Webb, that won’t cut it. The Bears are 1-6 when Webb completes fewer than 63 percent of his passes and 1-6 when Webb throws at least one interception. Cal’s key will be getting offensive yards in chunks. The Bears lead the conference in 20-plus yard completions (52).

No. 9 Colorado vs. No. 22 Utah, 4:30 p.m. PT, Fox

If the Buffaloes win this game, they win the South and head to the Pac-12 title game. They’ll continue to rely on their Pac-12 leading defense (322 yards per game), which has propelled them to nine wins. The Buffs have forced 22 turnovers (T-16th in FBS) and have held opposing quarterbacks to 28 completions of 20-plus yards this season (second-best in Pac-12). But the Buffs will be up against a tough challenge. The Utes are second in the conference in rushing (213 yards per game), and in the last three games quarterback Troy Williams has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions. On the defensive side, the Utes are even better than Colorado at turning over opponents. They’ve forced 26 this year (T-2 in FBS).

No. 24 Stanford vs. Rice, 5 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks

ESPN’s FPI gives the Cardinal a 98.8 percent chance to win this game, but don’t let that dissuade you from tuning in because this could be Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey’s final college game. He leads the country with 205.6 all-purpose yards per game, and his 1,399 rushing yards rank seventh in FBS. McCaffrey has converted 70.4 percent of his third-down rushing attempts. Just 24 of his rushing attempts (10.8 percent) have been held to negative or zero rushing yards.