Quite an interesting week in the Pac-12. While several teams had byes this week, others had key games against closely-matched opponents in games that would help establish the identity of the teams and possibly build momentum for the season. While Washington continues to take every game to the wire, Oregon State is looking like they may not win a game this year. But, the key games of the week were the two match-ups in the desert, where Arizona and Arizona State had a chance to either establish themselves as title contenders or pretenders. Pretender #1: Arizona has now lost 8 straight games against FBS opponents.
1.#5 Stanford- Bye (3-0 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12)- How nice it is to have a bye when you are already on top. Andrew Luck can rest up knowing he has lowly UCLA coming into Palo Alto this week. I doubt I’ll be moving them from this spot for a while.
2. #10 Oregon- Won 56-31 at Arizona (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12) I will be the first to admit that I greatly underestimated Oregon this year. After all the criminal investigations, recruiting scandals, and their lackluster performance in Dallas against LSU, I just didn’t think this Duck team would have the same magic as they did last year. But, given a chance to make a statement on the road, in the heat of the desert, they put an absolute smackdown on Arizona. They came out a bit flat in the 2nd half up 35-3 to let Arizona think they had a chance to come back into it, but then shut the door in the 4th quarter. Now they will get a chance to push aside one of their Pac-12 North bretheren when they host California in Eugene in a week-and-a-half.
3. Arizona State- 43-22 win over USC (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12)- Arizona State can lay claim to being the first Pac-12 team to have two wins over ranked opponents this year with their victory over #23 USC. While Arizona State has looked good in all but the Illinois game, you have to admit that there is a distinct advantage of playing so many games at home in Tempe in September. With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees at game time, it seems a bit unfair doesn’t it? Having dust storms roll through during the game can’t hurt either. It seems like the Pac-12 should backload the home schedule more. But, a win is a win, and they did it in fine style, forcing three USC turnovers within their red zone and having a Pick-6 on Matt Barkley during a late game comeback attempt. ASU will get a chance to rack up another home win when they host the reeling Oregon State Beavers next week.
4. Utah- Bye (2-1 overall, 0-1 Pac-12)- After their 54-10 shellacking of BYU in Provo last week, the Utah Utes had the week off to rest and prepare for the Washington Huskies to come to town next week. The only reason they dropped a spot was because Arizona State reestablished themselves as the top team in the Pac-12 South with another win over a ranked opponent, albeit, once again in the desert heat.
5. #23 USC- 43-22 loss at Arizona State (3-1 overall, 1-1 in Pac-12)- Talk about schizophrenic…USC went down to Tempe with a chance to really establish themselves as the dominant team in the Pac-12 South (even if they can’t play in the championship game) and despite ample scoring opportunities, they squandered their chances with turnovers. USC had three turnovers inside the ASU 25-yard line and the Matt Barkley threw a Pick-6 in the 4th quarter during their comeback attempt. The look on Lane Kiffin’s face was priceless! USC will have a chance to redeem themselves at home when the reeling Arizona Wildcats comes to town.
6. Washington- 31-23 win over California (3-1 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12)- With yet another final second victory by the Huskies, Steve Sarkisian is starting to establish himself as the “heart attack coach”. I know my fingernails are bitten back so far that they almost want to bleed. At the beginning of the season, I prediected that UW would start out 3-1 and predicted it would be in these exact games. But, after making the EWU game closer than expected, they have played better than I was expecting at this point. So, this team may end up with more wins than the 7-5 I predicted before the season. But, it will all depend on how well the defense comes together. The real test of how good this team is will be going onto the road to play a good Utah team who has had the luxury of resting this week during the bye. If UW can beat Utah, then we’ll know they are finally back…
7. California- 31-23 loss at Washington (3-1 overall, 0-1 in Pac-12)- California is better than I expected them to be this year. Primarily it is because Zach Maynard has established himself as a Pac-12 quality QB. But, despite the valiant effort at Husky Stadium, the Golden Bears came up 2-yards short of a potential game-tying touchdown. Now California faces the daunting task of playing their next game on the road at Autzen Stadium against Oregon. The good news is that they get a bye to rest up, watch tape, and prepare for the Ducks. We’ll see if they can pull off the upset…But, I am not optimistic of that.
8. Arizona- 56-31 loss to Oregon (1-3 overall, 0-2 in Pac-12)- I feel kind of bad for Arizona. They have had to play three consecutive games against Top 10 opponents in three weeks. Who else in the country can say that? But, the last two of those games were at home in Tucson with the temperatures hovering near 100 degrees at game time. If you are going to play those teams, you need to take advantage of any opportunities you can get. Simply put, Arizona has been wallopped (is that a word?) and don’t you have to wonder if that plays a psychological role on the players from this point forward? They made a valiant effort to come back in the game when they were down 35-3 at half to make it 35-24. But, Oregon was just too much to stop in the 4th quarter. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier next week when they have to hit the road to play USC in Los Angeles. Had USC not lost to Arizona State this week, that would have been the 4th consecutive game against a ranked opponent. On a side note, Arizona has lost 8 consecutive games against FBS opponents!
9. Washington State- Bye (2-1 overall, 0-0 in Pac-12)- The Cougs had the change to sit back and watch this week’s action on TV due to their bye. Now they get a chance to prove how improved they really are by heading down to Boulder to take on Colorado. It may seem a little unfair to keep Wazzu in the 9-hole after Arizona just lost its 3rd game in a row. But, in UofA’s defense, they were all against Top 10 teams. If the Cougs can beat the Buffaloes, they will start out undefeated in the Pac-12 and be halfway to a bowl game! This may be the most important game of the year for Wazzu outside of the Apple Cup.
10. UCLA- 27-19 win at Oregon State (2-2 overall, 1-0 in Pac-12)- Under immense pressure, Rick Neuheisel made the change at quarterback from Kevin Prince to Richard Brehaut. The plan worked, as UCLA went on the road and was able to beat the Oregon State Beavers. It wasn’t pretty, but amazingly UCLA is a .500 football team and is in 1st place in the Pac-12 South. It’ll be pretty short-lived as they head to Stanford Stadium next week for the right to get spanked by the Cardinal.
11. Colorado- Lost 37-17 at Ohio State (1-3 overall, 0-0 in Pac-12)- The long non-conference season has finally ended for the Buffaloes. As predicted, they were pretty much dominated by the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe, despite a pretty good day for Tyler Hansen (238 yards passing and no INTs). Now Colorado has a great chance to get their official Pac-12 opening off on the right foot when they host Washington State in Boulder next week. A win over the Cougs would be huge for this program as they try to rebuild under Jon Embree.
12. Oregon State- 27-19 loss to UCLA (0-3 overall, 0-1 in Pac-12)- The poor Beavers. Will they win a game this year? They had a week off to rest and prepare for what is probably the 2nd worst team in the Pac-12 to come into their stadium. OSU saw the return of James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni, as well as, the first career start for QB Sean Mannion. What happens? Despite throwing for 287 yards, Mannion threw an interception and had a costly fumble at the Beaver 4-yard line that lead to a UCLA touchdown. Getting beat at home by UCLA puts you not only in 12th place, but way down into a hole I doubt they will emerge from this season. Next week they get the priveledge of being destroyed by the Arizona State Sun Devils down in Tempe. Hope they enjoy the heat!
Topics: Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, California Golden Bears, Chris Polk, Colorado Buffaloes, Keith Price, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Pac-12, Stanford Cardinal, Steve Sarkisian, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Utah Utes, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars