World Series

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Two teams that truly believe they are part of destiny collide in the World Series starting here Tuesday night.

The Kansas City Royals, nearly wiped out by Oakland in the Wild Card Game, arose from the dead that night and have swept through the playoffs  since, going a record 8-0 in the postseason.

The Royals, making their first World Series appearance since 1985, have done so with some old-fashioned baseball — spectacular defense, speed on the basepaths and a suffocating, shutdown bullpen.

The San Francisco Giants simply expect to be here. As they aim for their third World Series title in five years, they will bank their hopes on timely hitting, experience, excellent starting pitching and a terrific bullpen of their own.

So how do the teams match up?

STARTING LINEUPS

Neither team can be described as an offensive juggernaut, especially in the playoffs.

The Giants, hitting just .244 with a .313 OBP and five homers in the postseason, rely on veteran plate appearances from guys who have been there and done that — catcher Buster Posey, right fielder Hunter Pence and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.814 OPS in the playoffs). And then there’s left fielder Travis Ishikawa, who blasted a walk-off homer in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series that got the Giants here.

Posey (.656 OPS in the postseason) and Pence (.674) have yet to sizzle in the playoffs, and the Giants have not gotten much up the middle from shortstop Brandon Crawford, second baseman Joe Panik and center fielder Gregor Blanco, although Panik and Crawford each has delivered a homer.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who has six RBI and a .781 OPS in the playoffs, is a talented young hitter a bit like Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

The Royals, hitting. 259 in the playoffs, counter with speed (13 postseason steals) and a penchant for manufacturing runs.

But for a team that was last in baseball in homers (95) during the regular season, Kansas City also has delivered some rare punch in the postseason. Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, both former first-round draft picks, are shining in the playoff spotlight. Hosmer is hitting .448 with a 1.314 OPS, and Moustakas leads all of baseball with four postseason homers (tied with Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals).

The top of the order — shortstop Alcides Escobar (.714 OPS), right fielder Nori Aoki and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (.820 OPS) — has done a decent job of table-setting. DH Billy Butler (five RBI) and left fielder Alex Gordon (nine RBI) haven’t been smoking the ball but have come through with clutch hits.

Catcher Sal Perez (.118 average) and second baseman Omar Infante (.207) have continued their dreadful late-season slumps into the playoffs.

Both teams are solid defensively and will have to be to defend two of the biggest ballparks in baseball. The Royals’ outstanding trio of Gold Glover Gordon, AL Championship Series MVP Cain and speedy Jarrod Dyson (a late-inning defensive replacement) will have to get used to the quirky dimensions of AT&T Park but has the speed to make up for most mistakes.

Ishikawa, Blanco and Pence can’t match the speed of the Royals’ outfield but are savvy defenders.

EDGE: Royals

ROTATION

Giants Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner (four playoff starts, two wins, 1.42 ERA) has been a horse in the playoffs, and clearly has been the best starter in the postseason. The Giants also are benefiting from a revived Jake Peavy (1.86 ERA) and can get a quality start out of veteran Tim Hudson (two starts, 3.29 ERA). Ryan Vogelsong (5.19 ERA) is the shakier option after that.

The Royals will counter in Game 1 with Big Game James Shields, who has wobbled mightily (5.63 ERA, 1.63 WHIP) in the postseason. Fireballer Yordano Ventura had one terrific start against the Angels (seven innings, one run) but also struggled against the Orioles, not getting out of the sixth inning. The Royals shoved left-hander Danny Duffy, perhaps their best starter in the regular season, to the bullpen after he suffered a late-season shoulder injury. He is fine now, but the Royals feel more secure with veterans Jeremy Guthrie (1.80 ERA) and Jason Vargas (2.38 ERA) after Games 1 and 2.

EDGE: Giants

BULLPEN

The back end of the Royals’ bullpen — the three-headed monster of Kelvin Herrera (1.08 ERA in the playoffs), Wade Davis (0.96 ERA) and Greg Holland (1.13 ERA, six saves) — has been the talk of baseball, both during the regular season and now in the playoffs. Royals games typically are decided after six innings if they have the lead with Herrera owning the seventh, Davis the eighth and Holland the ninth. Rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan has been effective in a variety of roles.

The Giants’ back end of the bullpen obviously has been no slouch, either. San Francisco has more versatility than the Royals with left-handers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt. And the Giants’ quartet of Affeldt, Lopez, Sergio Romo and closer Santiago Casilla has experience — the foursome has been together since 2010. Long man/short man Yusmeiro Petit gives the Giants even more versatility. Among those five relievers, only one (Romo) has given up a run in the playoffs — and he allowed just one. Casilla has four saves and has been tagged for only two postseason hits.

EDGE: Even

BENCH

Giants manager Bruce Bochy hasn’t had to go to his bench much in the postseason, other than with Michael Morse (2 for 4, one homer), and Bochy will use Morse in Kansas City as the designated hitter. Juan Perez (.154 average) is the fourth outfielder.

The Royals rarely pinch hit, though they likely will have veteran Josh Willingham if needed. But what manager Ned Yost will use is his speed and defense off the bench. Dyson usually enters the game in the seventh inning to replace Aoki, taking over center field while Cain moves to right. And speedster Terrance Gore (three steals) is a fabulous weapon late in games when the Royals are trying to manufacture a run.

EDGE: Royals

INTANGIBLES

The big question is how much San Francisco’s October experience will play into the Series. The Giants obviously know what this stage is like, having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. There is something to be said about simply knowing how to win, and the Giants always seem to find a way. Throw in the fact that national observers consider this a managerial mismatch — Bochy over Yost — and the edge would seem to go to the Giants.

But not so fast. This Royals team has been feeling a bit invincible ever since their improbable comeback in a wacky 9-8 Wild Card Game win over Oakland. The Royals are an unprecedented 8-0 in the postseason and may simply be the charmed team right now. On top of that, they are built for the postseason with their elite defense, speed and bullpen — all crucial elements when trying to win close games.   

Indeed, it’s time to party like it’s 1985.

EDGE: Royals

PREDICTION: ROYALS IN SIX

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Seahawks Get Faked Out in 28-26 Loss

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 Walking off the field, his back to the huddle, Austin Davis had no idea the St. Louis Rams would gamble in this spot. Not backed up at their 18.

The quarterback glanced back in surprise to see Johnny Hekker, arm cocked, about to let one go.

It certainly surprised the Seattle Seahawks, even though they’ve seen it before.

”That’s pretty sweet,” Hekker said of the pass to a wide-open Benny Cunningham that helped the Rams run out the clock and beat the defending Super Bowl champions 28-26 on Sunday. ”We’ve been practicing that play for a long time.”

Hekker is a former high school quarterback and is the holder on place kicks. His TD pass on a fake field goal to Danny Amendola, who’d pretended to jog off the field, was the go-ahead score and the lone touchdown for the Rams in a 19-13 win over Seattle in September 2012.

The Seahawks were familiar with the fake punt/pass but didn’t expect trickery in that situation. They got fooled more than once.

Stedman Bailey had a 90-yard touchdown on a trick return that had the Seahawks thinking another player was going to field the punt. Cunningham had a 75-yard kickoff return on a squibbed kick that had rolled into the end zone and perhaps put the Seahawks on their heels. It set up an early touchdown for the Rams (2-4).

The Rams won for just the third time in 19 games against Seattle. They scored more than 20 points against Seattle for the first time in 15 meetings since 2006.

”It was great execution by them on a couple different scenarios,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. ”It made a huge difference in this game.

”If they don’t catch that ball, it’s ours and we kick the field goal and it’s over. A very gutsy play.”

Russell Wilson rushed for 106 yards on seven carries and also passed for two touchdowns while going 23 for 36 for 313 yards, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing.

But the struggling Seahawks fell to 3-3 with a second straight loss.

The Seahawks dominated statistically, outgaining the Rams 463 yards to 272. Doug Baldwin’s’ 9-yard reception cut the deficit to two with 3:18 to go, but the Rams were able to run out the clock after Hekker’s completion to Cunningham on fourth-and-3, and somehow recovered a fumble by Tre Mason in the final minute.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the play was reviewed by the league and that there was ”no evidence of a clear recovery by either St. Louis or Seattle.”

Cory Harkey was credited with a fumble recovery, and the Rams finished it with a kneel-down. The Seahawks’ Richard Sherman had the ball after it popped out of Harkey’s grasp, but Harkey apparently grabbed it back in the scrum.

”I stripped the ball and it was a big scuffle and I was just trying to help Sherm get the ball,” safety Earl Thomas said. ”He had it but somehow … I don’t know.”

11 Years in a Row..Oregon Dominates

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While Oregon’s coaches believe something has clicked for Royce Freeman in the past two games, the Ducks’ true freshman running back considers his recent success more a natural progression.

Freeman ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday night as No. 9 Oregon extended its winning streak over Washington to 11 games with a 45-20 victory.

”A turning point?” Freeman asked. ”I’m just trying to go every each and every week and improve and get a breakthrough. I’m just trying as hard as I can.”

Marcus Mariota threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns for the Ducks (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), who won their second straight game as they distance themselves from a loss at home to Arizona on Oct. 2.

Freeman’s four TDs were the most rushing touchdowns in a single game for a Duck since Kenjon Barner had five against USC in 2012.

”You saw some of his elusiveness that was legendary in fall camp,” said coach Mark Helfrich, who said Freeman is playing freer.

Offensive coordinator Scott Frost said Freeman has turned a corner after becoming the team’s first 100-yard rusher with 121 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon’s victory last weekend against UCLA.

”If he just runs downhill – as big and as strong as his is – he’s a force,” Frost said.

Cameron Van Winkle hit a pair of field goals for Washington (5-2, 1-2), which hasn’t defeated Oregon since the 2003 season. Sophomore Cyler Miles struggled to find a rhythm, throwing for 147 yards and a touchdown with an interception and a fumble.

”That’s very tough. It’s a rivalry. Some people don’t think its rivalry, but it is a rivalry and it means a lot. It means a lot to us and we really wanted this game but unfortunately, the Ducks prospered today,” Huskies receiver Jaydon Mickens said. ”They were the better team today so hats off to them.”

Oregon celebrated the 20th anniversary of ”The Pick,” Kenny Wheaton’s 97-yard interception return for a game-saving touchdown over the Huskies in 1994 that helped send the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl in 37 years.

Many Oregon fans believe that play was the spark for the Ducks’ rise to national prominence.

Bowl Projections

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Dec. 20: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. San Jose State

Dec. 20: Gildan New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State vs. Louisiana Tech

Dec. 20: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. UCLA

Dec. 20: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Utah State vs. Northern Illinois

Dec. 20: Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

Dec. 22: Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. East Carolina

Dec. 23: Boca Raton Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Rice

Dec. 23: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado State vs. Navy

Dec. 24: Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Western Michigan

Dec. 24: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs. Nevada

Dec. 26: Heart of Dallas Bowl: Northwestern vs. California

Dec. 26: Quick Lane Bowl: Penn State vs. Pittsburgh

Dec. 26: BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: UCF vs. UTEP

Dec. 27: Military Bowl: Temple vs. N.C. State

Dec. 27: Hyundai Sun Bowl: Utah vs. Boston College

Dec. 27: Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami vs. Memphis

Dec. 27: New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Virginia

Dec. 27: National University Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Arizona

Dec. 29: AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Kentucky vs. West Virginia

Dec. 29: Russell Athletic Bowl: Duke vs. TCU

Dec. 29: AdvoCare Texas Bowl: South Carolina vs. Oklahoma

Dec. 30: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Missouri vs. Louisville

Dec. 30: Belk Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Virginia Tech

Dec. 30: San Francisco Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford

Jan. 1: Outback Bowl: Minnesota vs. Georgia

Jan. 1: Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Nebraska vs. Auburn

Jan. 2: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force

Jan. 2: TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU vs. Maryland

Jan. 2: Valero Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs. Arizona State

Jan. 2: Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Washington

Jan. 3: Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee vs. Cincinnati

Jan. 4: GoDaddy Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Toledo

MORE:  Week 8 photos  |  Biggest upsets of 2014

Playoff Bowl Projections

Dec. 31: Fiesta Bowl: USC vs. Alabama

Dec. 31: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Marshall vs. Ole Miss

Dec. 31: Capital One Orange Bowl: Michigan State vs. Clemson

Jan. 1: AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic: Ohio State vs. Kansas State

Jan. 1: Rose Bowl Game (Playoff Semifinal): Oregon  vs. Florida State

Jan. 1: Allstate Sugar Bowl (Playoff Semifinal): Notre Dame vs. Mississippi State

Jan. 12: College Football Championship Game: Florida State vs. Mississippi State

Seahawks Look to Feed the Beast!!!

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Though the Seattle Seahawks are battered physically and bruised mentally, they still appear to be in much better shape than the St. Louis Rams.

Left agitated from their latest defeat, the Seahawks look to bounce back by sending the Rams to an 0-4 home start Sunday.

Seattle (3-2) never expected things to go as smoothly as they might have appeared during their 2013 Super Bowl-winning season, and Sunday’s 30-23 home loss to surging Dallas proved that.

Averaging an NFL-leading 167.3 rushing yards entering the contest, the Seahawks were held to 80 with Marshawn Lynch gaining 61 on only 10 carries.

Russell Wilson was 14 of 28 for a season-low 126 yards with an interception, and led a Seattle offense that went 5 of 13 on third down.

A Seahawks defense that yielded 249 rushing yards in the first four games gave up 162 to a Cowboys team that went 10 for 17 on third down. Dallas joined San Diego in reaching the 30-point mark against Seattle this season.

The Seahawks, who allowed an opponent to hit that mark once last year, hasn’t lost back-to-back games since October 2012.

“I think everybody was a little frustrated,” Wilson said. “We’re so competitive, and we all want to win. “When things aren’t going the way that you practice them all the time, or the way that you’re used to, or the way that you expect, sometimes you get a little frustrated.”

While coach Pete Carroll took responsibility for the performance, he’s pleased with his team’s understanding of the situation.

“We just have to get better,” Carroll told the Seahawks’ official website. “Players seem to be willing to accept they have to get better, too. So we’re working on that, and point the finger at me first.

“I think we’re still working at it. Sometimes it takes quite a while before you find it and we’re not quite there yet because we haven’t found the consistency.”

Carroll and the Seahawks might need to move on without more key performers.

The statuses of cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe) are uncertain. Offensive tackle Russell Okung continues to play through a shoulder injury and tight end Zach Miller (ankle) is expected to miss a third straight game. Center Max Unger (foot) also could sit out a second consecutive contest.

Carroll knows Lynch will be on the field and needs to get the ball in his hands more.

In Seattle’s three victories, Lynch has 63 attempts for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He’s carried 16 times for 97 and no rushing scores in the defeats.

“We don’t ever want to play a game when Marshawn carries the ball 10 times,” Carroll said. “That’s not enough. That’s not our format that we’re trying to build from.”

Lynch has rushed for at least 97 yards in four of his last five games against the Rams (1-4), but was held to a season-low 23 on eight carries in a 14-9 win at St. Louis on Oct. 28.

Carroll, however, seems likely to feed “The Beast” often against a St. Louis defense that ranks 26th against the run with 139.8 yards allowed per game.

Losers of three straight and 16 of 18 to Seattle, the Rams allowed 89 rushing yards to San Francisco on Monday, but a season-high 343 through the air in dropping their third in a row, 31-17.

NFL Week 7

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Sunday, Oct. 19
Game Time/Score TV Location/Tickets
Miami at Chicago 1:00 pm CBS Soldier Field -
New Orleans at Detroit 10:00 am FOX Ford Field -
Carolina at Green Bay 10:00 am FOX Lambeau Field -
Cleveland at Jacksonville 10:00 am CBS EverBank Field -
Atlanta at Baltimore 10:00am FOX M&T Bank Stadium -
Minnesota at Buffalo 10:00 am FOX Ralph Wilson Stadium -
Cincinnati at Indianapolis 10:00 am CBS Lucas Oil Stadium -
Tennessee at Washington 10:00am CBS FedEx Field -
Seattle at St. Louis 10:00 am FOX Edward Jones Dome -
Kansas City at San Diego 1:05 pm CBS Qualcomm Stadium -
Arizona at Oakland 1:25 pm FOX O.co Coliseum -
N.Y. Giants at Dallas 1:25 pm FOX AT&T Stadium -
San Francisco at Denver 5 30 pm NBC Sports Authority Field -
Monday, Oct. 20
Game Time/Score TV Location/Tickets
Houston at Pittsburgh 5:30 pm ESPN Heinz Field

Theyr’e Back!!

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Hunter Pence barely could believe what had happened. He was sure he’d blacked out, but here he was, standing on the AT&T Park infield as a mammoth stage was being assembled in right-center field. Travis Ishikawa’s three-run blast just minutes earlier secured yet another World Series trip for the Giants, and he could not remember it happening.

“Chaos. Anarchy. Loss of mind. That’s what it was like,” Pence said after Thursday’s series-clinching 6-3 win, the right fielder’s normally googly eyes a tad wider and happier than usual.

These San Francisco Giants have thrived on turning around people’s expectations of what is possible. They weren’t supposed to beat the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, and they weren’t supposed to topple the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Their pitching staff, outside of NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner, was supposed to be too old. They don’t have a dominant closer, and they don’t hit a lot of home runs.

None of this mattered to manager Bruce Bochy’s team. Now, the Giants stand four wins from their third World Series title in five years and a legitimate claim as Major League Baseball’s reigning dynasty.

“Just keep playing,” Pence said, his teammates gathering around for the trophy presentation. “It’s baseball. Look at everyone’s picks. Can you call baseball? You got to go play the games.”

Pitcher Jake Peavy, acquired in a July trade with Boston, was six outs away from a pressurized Game 6 on Saturday night start in St. Louis. Now, he gets a chance at his second World Series title in as many seasons.

“We’ve got a never-say-die attitude,” Peavy said, standing a few feet from his home pitching mound. “I think it speaks to the guys we have and to our coaching staff and our manager. Finding matchups that’ll give guys the best chance they can to succeed. It’s not by happenstance that Bochy has done this with other teams and players, the Cody Rosses, the Pat Burrells, Aubrey Huff. He’s such a great leader, he finds ways to put us in a position we believe we could succeed in.

“When you have that at the top, it’s going to trickle down.”

Kansas City Going for “Royal Flush” (8-0)

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James Shields led thousands of fans in a celebratory chant. Lorenzo Cain pranced along the warning track, cradling his newborn son. Ned Yost finally allowed himself to smile.

After nearly three decades spent as one of the game’s biggest laughingstocks, the Kansas City Royals are once again baseball royalty. They are headed to their first World Series since 1985, finishing a four-game sweep in the AL Championship Series with a 2-1 victory Wednesday over the Baltimore Orioles.

In a perfect postseason, the Royals are intent to relish every moment.

”It’s hard to explain,” said Cain, whose clutch hits and dramatic catches earned him the series MVP award. ”We’re clicking at the right moment right now.”

There’s no doubt about that.

Now, the Royals will carry an 11-game playoff win streak into the World Series, one shy of the major league record. That includes their first eight this season, something that had never been done in postseason history. Kansas City beat Oakland in a 12-inning wild-card thriller to start things off, then swept the Los Angeles Angels in the Divisional Series.

Kansas City will open its first World Series since 1985 on Tuesday against the winner of the NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals. San Francisco leads that series 2-1.

Coincidentally, it was the Cardinals who the Royals beat for their only World Series title.

”It’s been an amazing run,” Royals outfielder Alex Gordon said. ”It’s nothing better than when you win. Today, same old story: good pitching, good defense and scratch out a win.”

Same old story for the Orioles, too: Solid pitching, good defense – and just not enough offense. They managed seven hits over the last two games against Kansas City, resulting in the first sweep for the franchise in 21 postseason series.

”You saw how close the games were,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ”It’s more a testament to what they did. They were playing great defensively.”

After holding the Orioles to three hits in Game 3, Jason Vargas and the Royals bullpen held them to four hits Wednesday night. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis got the game to Greg Holland, who matched Dennis Eckersley’s record with his fourth save of the best-of-seven series.

Holland got J.J. Hardy to ground out to third base for the final out, and the Royals spilled onto the infield in a wild celebration. Fireworks shot over the crown-shaped scoreboard in center field, and a blue-clad sellout crowd that included Royals greats George Brett and Brett Saberhagen let out a roar while cars on nearby Interstate 70 honked their horns.

”That’s what you dream of as a kid,” Holland said. ”Punch your ticket to the World Series, especially before your home crowd. These fans have been waiting a long time. They deserve it.”

The Orioles, meanwhile, will limp into the offseason after a 96-win season in which they overcame injuries and suspensions to several key players along the way.

”I think it’s not what we didn’t do. It’s more what they did,” said the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty, whose home run represented their lone run. ”We played good baseball.”

Pac-12 Madness

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The Pac-12 has no undefeated teams left after Southern California knocked off Arizona last weekend. The way things have gone in the wild conference out west, the champion could end up having two losses, maybe more.

It’s only halfway through the season, but the question is worth asking: Is the Pac-12’s parity hurting the conference’s College Football Playoff chances?

The conference’s coaches and commissioner, of course, don’t think so.

Whether the College Football Playoff committee agrees remains to be seen.

”I think our conference has this perception of parity equals mediocrity,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. ”There are a couple of conferences where parity equals strength. I think it’s the strongest it’s ever been top to bottom.”

The parity has been building in the Pac-12 over the past few years and may have hit a peak this season.

Just look at what’s happened so far, and we’re not even to Halloween yet:

-UCLA, ranked No. 7 in The Associated Press preseason poll, already has two losses, both in conference, and is now unranked.

-Oregon, the likely choice as the Pac-12’s best bet to get into the playoff, lost at home to Arizona and has been racked by injuries to its offensive line.

Arizona won one game on a Hail Mary and beat the No. 2 team in the country (Oregon), but lost at home to USC when its kicker missed a 36-yard field goal after the Wildcats recovered an onside kick.

-The Trojans lost a non-conference game at Boston College, beat Stanford to move into the Top 10 and lost to Arizona State on a Hail Mary before the win over Arizona.

-Arizona State pulled off its miracle win over USC a week after being blown out by UCLA

California, which won one game last season, was leading the Pac-12 North before losing to Washington at home last week.

-Only Colorado (0-3 Pac-12) and Washington State (1-3) appear to be out of the running for a division title.

”It’s a crazy year in the Pac-12,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. ”It’s just shaping up that way. It’s hard to explain it any other way. Every week is tough. Every game is hard. It’s tough to win on the road and then the road teams are winning in crazy fashion. Everything is up for grabs this year.”

The road wins may be the most bizarre part of the equation.

Typically, road wins are tough to come by, particularly in a power conference like the Pac-12 that’s filled with raucous home venues like Autzen Stadium in Oregon, Husky Stadium at Washington and Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium.

This season, the road seems to be where the conference’s teams feel most comfortable.

Through the first six weeks of the season, road teams are an is-that-right 14-4 in conference games.

”I’ve never seen anything like it,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said.

The parity has seemingly put the Pac-12 in a tough spot.

The conference has no undefeated teams and half the league has at least two losses, including two-time defending champion Stanford.

But it may not be as bad as it appears.

No. 9 Oregon is still in good shape at 5-1 and has a resume-building win over Michigan State. Win the Pac-12 championship game and finish the regular season with one loss, it might be hard to keep the Ducks out of the playoff.

If any of the other one-loss teams – Arizona, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State and Utah – stay that way and win the conference title game, they would figure to garner consideration for a playoff spot.

Now, if a two-loss – or more – team wins the Pac-12 championship, the conference will likely need help from teams in other conferences so it can lean on the look-at-who-we’re-playing argument.

”What I feel good about, if we’ve got teams in the mix with comparable records, it’ll be easy to look anyone in the eye and say, no conference champion has had a tougher road than the Pac-12,” said Commissioner Larry Scott.

The College Football Playoff committee’s first rankings come out on Oct. 28. The final rankings will be Dec. 7.

A lot can happen – and probably will in this conference – between now and then.