Central Oregon DailyStrong final kick for Pac-12 as Oregon, UW meet for potential playoff...

Strong final kick for Pac-12 as Oregon, UW meet for potential playoff spot

Strong final kick for Pac-12 as Oregon, UW meet for potential playoff spot

Oregon Ducks Bo Nix

LAS VEGAS (AP) 鈥 For a conference just about on its last legs, the Pac-12 is having a heck of a final kick.

No. 3 Washington (12-0) and No. 5 Oregon (11-1), two of the four conference teams ranked in the聽AP Top 25, meet Friday for an almost certain spot in the College Football Playoff. The Pac-12 has not placed a team in the playoffs since the Huskies made it in the 2016 season.

That lack of success in the NCAA鈥檚 marquee sport is why every team 鈥 other than Oregon State and Washington State 鈥 is heading to other conferences next year. Washington and Oregon will be Big Ten Conference rivals, while their respective state rivals try to keep the Pac-12 going in some form with the help of an聽alliance with the Mountain West.

The irony is the conference is breaking apart while having its best season in many years.

鈥淚t鈥檚 been a great year of football in the Pac-12,鈥 Huskies second-year coach Kalen DeBoer said. 鈥淢ultiple people who have been in the conference a long time in roles that would definitely know have said that it has never been stronger.鈥

Heisman Pitch

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix is the leading candidate to claim the Heisman Trophy, according to聽FanDuel Sportsbook, and a strong performance in the conference championship could wrap it up. FanDuel lists LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels as a close second, but he won鈥檛 play again before the final voting takes place.

Nix has put up incredible numbers 鈥 78.6% completion rate for 3,906 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 37-2.

This is the second season at Oregon for Nix, a senior. He played his first three seasons at Auburn, but didn鈥檛 reach 3,000 yards until his first year with the Ducks.

鈥淚 think Bo鈥檚 always had that ability,鈥 Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. 鈥淗e鈥檚 playing at an extremely high level and everybody鈥檚 seen it right now. You talk about the caliber of player he is, he鈥檚 gotten better and better every single week of the season. 鈥 He鈥檚 playing as good as anybody in the nation right now.鈥

Nix put himself in contention for the Heisman with a strong final month. He averaged 392.3 yards passing over the last four games with 16 touchdowns and one interception.

鈥淚鈥檝e hit a real good rhythm at the right time,鈥 Nix said. 鈥淎ll year, we鈥檝e been putting together something. We鈥檝e been trying to be really accurate and really efficient with all of our throws. I feel like we鈥檝e done a really good job of that here lately.鈥

Catching On

Rome Odunze made enough big plays throughout the season to be a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the best wide receiver in the country.

It could be argued that a run play was his signature moment of the regular season.

Odunze鈥檚 23-yard reverse on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter last Saturday against Washington State will live on in the lore of the Apple Cup as it help set up the winning field goal to cap a 12-0 regular season.

But as a pass catcher, Odunze has not been stopped. He finished the regular season with 73 catches for 1,326 yards and 13 touchdowns and had at least 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns in each of the final three games.

And he was pretty good in the first meeting with Oregon with eight catches for 128 yards and two TDs.

鈥淢y main focus is the Pac-12 Championship, but if I do the right things, hopefully I鈥檒l be the one carrying that (award) after everything is done,鈥 Odunze said.

Close Encounters

Without question, Washington has been in more close games this season than the Ducks and found a way to win each time. Each of the Huskies鈥 final eight games were decided by 10 points or less, six by one score, including the final two weeks when聽Washington won 22-20 at Oregon State聽before聽beating Washington State 24-21聽in the Apple Cup.

On the other hand, Oregon鈥檚 mostly lived off blowouts. Since the loss to Washington, the Ducks have played just one game decided by 10 points or less with an average margin of victory in those six games being 26 points.

鈥淚 think something we鈥檝e learned about ourselves with these games is we鈥檙e just going to fight to the end,鈥 Washington edge rusher Bralen Trice said. 鈥淪implest terms, we鈥檙e not going to give up. Back against the wall, we鈥檒l show up and do whatever it takes.鈥

Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson said point differential is not a good barometer.

鈥淧eople say they鈥檝e only won by a couple of points, but it鈥檚 hard to win in this league,鈥 Powers-Johnson said. 鈥淭hey played some great teams. I think it鈥檚 going to be a great game.鈥

Big Crowd?

The game is all but sold out, with just a handful of tickets in Section 118 available Thursday morning on Ticketmaster that weren鈥檛 resales.

But that doesn鈥檛 mean Allegiant Stadium will necessarily be packed. Tickets were as low as $30 before fees on Vivid Seats, and prices have dropped throughout the week. That鈥檚 usually a sign there are more tickets available than buyers, so there could be empty seats even with a technical sellout.

The game is not a drive away for most of the fans for both teams, which wasn鈥檛 the case聽last year when USC played Utah聽before a announced crowd of 61,195. That was the largest neutral-site crowd in Pac-12 Championship history.

___

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