If there were any remaining doubts about the quality and depth of the Pac-12, they were eliminated last weekend. Arizona stunned No. 5 Oregon, Washington State became the conference's 9th bowl eligible team, and No. 19 Arizona State outlasted No. 14 UCLA to claim the South Division crown. The commitment to building first-rate programs throughout the league, as exemplified by the hiring of top coaches and the construction of new and improved facilities, is definitely paying off. Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats parlayed the running of Ka'Deem Carey (48 carries and 206 yards), the precision passing of B.J. Denker, and a surprisingly stout defense to manhandle the Ducks 42-16. It was the biggest upset in Arizona history. Mike Leach's fast-improving WSU Cougars (6-5) beat Utah 49-37 to qualify for post-season play, that coming on the heels of a big win over Arizona a week earlier. And Todd Graham's ASU team, champions of the 2012 Fight Hunger Bowl, sprinted out to a big lead over UCLA and hung on for a 38-33 victory. The Sun Devils will play Stanford (a 63-13 winner over Cal) for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 7.
I was in Corvallis Saturday night along with Jim Caylor, one of our longtime team hosts, to watch Washington take on Oregon State. Before the game, we visited with head coaches Mike Riley of OSU and Steve Sarkisian of Washington. The conversation focused on Arizona's impressive win over Oregon and how tough the conference is from top to bottom. Both coaches also expressed their strong interest in playing in this year's Fight Hunger Bowl.
This Week: For most conferences, this is the final week of the regular season, which means a lot of traditional rivalry games. In the Pac-12, although the division champions have been determined, there is still a lot on the line. Arizona State hosts Arizona in the Territorial Cup, with home field advantage in the Pac-12 championship game at stake. If the Devils win, they will host Stanford on Dec. 7. If they lose, the championship game will be played in Palo Alto. Meanwhile, the Apple Cup matchup between Washington and Washington State in Seattle will have an impact on both teams' bowl destinations, as will the UCLA-USC contest at the LA Coliseum. Stanford finishes up with a high-profile non-league game against Notre Dame. Last week the Irish beat BYU, which as all of you know will be coming to San Francisco to play in our game on Dec. 27. The Cougars, now 7-4, wrap up the regular season at Nevada on Saturday night.
Fight Hunger Bowl Matchup: So the obvious question is, who will BYU's opponent be in the Fight Hunger Bowl? Right now, we are looking primarily at Washington (7-4, 4-4), Arizona (7-4, 4-4) and Washington State (6-5, 4-4), although the outcome of this week's games could change things and put the loser of the USC-UCLA game in play. The Huskies were very impressive in dismantling Oregon State last week, and they have one of the best running backs in the country in Bishop Sankey. Cyler Miles filled in admirably for the injured Keith Price at quarterback, and the secondary, led by Sean Parker, stifled OSU's vaunted passing attack. Arizona and WSU, as noted above, are coming off signature wins. Any of these teams will provide a great matchup with BYU.
Off the Field: This year's Bowl will be our 12th, and final, game at AT&T Park. With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it seems a very appropriate time to thank the San Francisco Giants for all they've done for the Bowl. We owe the Giants a huge debt of gratitude. They helped launch the game, led by our co-founder and Board member Pat Gallagher, a Giants' employee for over 30 years. They've been tremendous partners in hosting and presenting the Bowl at the ballpark since its inception. Their support, operations expertise, and ticket sales efforts, in particular, have been instrumental in the game's growth and development. We will recognize and honor the Giants organization at the game in December, but I'd like to take this opportunity to give sincere thanks to Larry Baer, Giants' President and CEO, Stephen Revetria, Vice-President and General Manager of Giants Enterprises, and Jorge Costa, Sr. Vice President, Ballpark Operations, as well as three Giants' staff members who've been very involved with the game--senior event manager Brad Hansen, senior box office manager Todd Pierce, and senior director of special events Tom Zorn.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our colleagues, associates, volunteers and sponsors. The game is only 31 days away!