Five need-to-knows for Week Four …
1) For fans frustrated by the glut of games on the Pac-12 Networks last week — seven! — the broadcast lineup Saturday brings little relief: Three of the six matchups, including all the afternoon kickoffs, are on the Pac-12 Networks.
Next week isn’t much different: Three of the five games are on the networks.
If you’re scoring at home — and admittedly, the Hotline is probably alone in this regard — the season-to-date totals work out like this, per our research:
— 36 games owned by the Pac-12
— 22 games on the Pac-12 Networks
— 14 games on ESPN or Fox networks
That’s not exactly an optimum breakdown for media exposure, but the math is more favorable than it appears.
Fox and ESPN are scheduled to air 44 regular-season games. The fewer they show in September, the more they must broadcast in October and November.
Through Week Five (Oct. 2), those networks will have shown 14 Pac-12 home games, leaving them with 30 to broadcast over the final eight weeks. Six of those are Friday games, which leaves 24 Saturday windows on Fox or ESPN.
That’s three per Saturday during the stretch of season when there are typically just four or five games scheduled weekly (because of byes or Friday kickoffs).
Many of those 24 will carry consequences for the division races and perhaps the College Football Playoff.
So the percentage of games on the major networks, while low early in the season, tips heavily in the Pac-12’s favor over the final two months.
2) As many as three teams could have new starting quarterbacks Saturday:
— Utah is a lock for a change after Cam Rising was elevated and Charlie Brewer left the program.
— Arizona has already started two quarterbacks (Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer) and could try a third, Jordan McCloud, the transfer from USF.
— Washington State’s situation is messy, with Jayden de Laura injured and Jarrett Guarantano returning from injury. Cammon Cooper is also an option this weekend at Utah.
It appears Colorado will plow forward with freshman Brendon Lewis, but look for rookie Drew Carter early in the game if Lewis continues to struggle.
As for the other seven teams, Washington (Dylan Morris), Oregon State (Chance Nolan), USC (Kedon Slovis), Stanford (Tanner McKee), Cal (Chase Garbers), Oregon (Anthony Brown), UCLA (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) and ASU (Jayden Daniels) are all expected to stick with their Week Three starters.
(USC freshman Jaxson Dart might have started if healthy but had knee surgery and is unavailable.)
3) Stanford coach David Shaw needs one victory to move into a tie for sixth place on the Pac-12’s career victory list (for conference games only).
Shaw has 63 league wins and is currently deadlocked with Larry Smith (Arizona and USC) and John Robinson (USC).
When his 64th arrives, Shaw will tie O.E. Hollingbery, who coached Washington State from 1926-42.
Once Shaw passes Hollingbery, the air turns rarified:
The five winningest coaches in conference history are (in order) Terry Donahue, Don James, Mike Bellotti, John McKay and Howard Jones.
4) Oregon is No. 3 this week in the AP poll, its highest ranking since the end of the 2014 season. That year, the Ducks reached the national championship game and finished No. 2 behind Ohio State.
Fittingly, they face Arizona this weekend. The Wildcats have won three head-to-head duels in the past 14 years when the Ducks were ranked in the top five — including a 2014 upset that was Oregon’s only loss of the regular season.
If the Wildcats do it again, we might start to question the laws of physics — and physicality.
5) Finally, our stat of the week …
Number of teams ranked in the top 50 nationally in passing efficiency, by conference:
Big Ten: Seven
Big 12: Five
Pac-12: Three (No. 8 UCLA, No. 41 Stanford and No. 49 Oregon State)
*An earlier version of this story said Fox and ESPN had broadcast 13 Pac-12 games so far. The conference office noted Thursday afternoon that the networks have instead broadcast 14. The Arizona-BYU game counted against the total even though it was played at a neutral site (Las Vegas).*
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