It wasn't the most thrilling weekend in the Pac-12, with only one matchup involving two teams expected to finish in the top half of the standings. But there were still interesting games that helped bring some teams in the conference into a clearer focus. We'll start off with the biggest, and perhaps most surprising game of the week.
Washington 31, Utah 14
I don't think any Cal fans should be surprised that Washington won, but so easily, and in Salt Lake City? Utah certainly looked solid in a close loss to USC and a turnover fueled win over BYU, and they trailed by just 3 points at halftime despite two interceptions, one lost fumble (that handed UW 7 free points) and one turnover on downs. Then the second half started, and it was all Washington. The Huskies ran off 21 unanswered points with three drives of 50 yards or more.
Getting to four wins this early - by taking two of the "toss up" games on our schedule - bodes well for us not just in terms of getting bowl eligible but in positioning ourselves to get to that upper tier of eight maybe nine wins that most of us thought was the ceiling.
What chance do you give UW of knocking off Oregon and/or Stanford?
Utah might be a fine non-BCS program, but in the Pac-12, they're far closer to the bottom than they are the top and it's not really even up for debate. Turnovers and Jordan Wynn's injuries aside, the Utes got worked on their home field against a far superior team and coaching staff and it really proves how far the program is from ever contending for a Pac-12 title.
Do you agree that Utah is closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 than the top?
Washington St. 31, Colorado 27
The loser of this game was going to be the tough luck fan base of the week, but the fashion in which Colorado lost to the Cougars just adds to the cruelty. A 10 point lead with less than 3 minutes to go sounds safe, but Marshall Lobbestael led two touchdown drives before a Paul Richardson fumble ended the game.
The pants are off. I may put them on when I go to the bar later. Not sure.
I screamed like a little school girl when Marquess caught that touchdown. I screamed even louder when Paul Richardson fumbled the ball.
I've probably asked this before, but might there be just a hint of a QB controversy as Jeff Tuel gets closer to returning to action?
Bob is out tonight and I'm still too bummed to write a full recap, so consider this your late night venting thread. Stay tuned for more tomorrow. This one stings.
Last week I asked if there was a road win on Colorado's remaining schedule. Now I have to ask: Is there a win period on Colorado's remaining schedule?
Stanford 45, UCLA 19
This was a weird game. Stanford looked unstoppable on offense, then briefly stumbled and seemingly gave UCLA a chance (that the Bruins promptly refused), then reasserted their dominance in the 4th quarter. UCLA looked like they could generally move the ball, but had the functional equivalent of 4 turnovers. If this was indeed UCLA's best effort (and I think it might have been) then the Bruins are in exactly as much trouble as we all expected.
While Stanford's defense looked shaky at times (especially the secondary), Stanford managed to keep UCLA off the scoreboard for the first quarter while keeping the Bruins to only three touchdowns on the night. Although the D-line didn't have the same kind of success against UCLA as they did in its previous three games in the running department, Stanford still kept our friends from down south to their lowest yardage per carry this season and their lowest rushing total so far.
When it mattered Bruins didn't get it done. We either killed ourselves with stupid mistakes, turnovers, and as usual pathetic conservative "playing not to lose" Donahue/Dorrellian and now Neuheisilian mindset. From what I saw it looked like Neuheisel never believed Bruins any chances to win this game.
Did UCLA's occasional imitation of a functional offense against Stanford plant seeds of worry in your mind?
USC 48, Arizona 41
Another weird game. USC was in control throughout, and responded with a touchdown every time Arizona got within a single score. But Nick Foles just kept passing and the Trojans never put the game away despite multiple opportunities. Hell, Arizona even managed to get 129 yards on the ground, a good 50 more than their average on the season! Per the usual, nobody could stop Robert Woods and Arizona didn't have the pass rush necessary to bother Matt Barkley.
The simple fact is Monte Kiffin's defense is ineffective for the college game. It is easy to pile on here but the proof is in the film. Monte's Tampa 2 is effective when you have the likes of John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice etc...but when you have talent less than that, we are seeing the results.
I hate to say it, but it is only going to get worse.
Cal has not scored more than 17 points against USC since 2003. 2003!!! Will they break that lofty barrier this year?
Saturday's loss was the Wildcats' fourth straight in 2011, and ninth consecutive against the FBS dating back to last November. It's a storyline repeated ad nauseum, and will contine to be until the dubious streak is snapped. And this season's four losses have come to the same squads that ended UA's 2010 on a sour note, like rewinding and reliving the end of a depressing movie.
Arizona St. 31, Oregon St. 20
True, Oregon St. is likely Very Bad. Still, this game might be an important step for Arizona St., because the Sun Devils made the kind of mistakes that in the past would have resulted in a season-crushing loss. But this time they spotted OSU 20 points off of four turnovers and still won by a comfortable margin. Admittedly, it should be noted that the Beavers were even more generous, gifting ASU 5 turnovers of their own. So on second thought, maybe this win doesn't mean all that much. In any case, the more important test for Arizona St. is yet to come.
The ASU Sun Devils started Saturday's contest against the Oregon State Beavers by surrendering the game's first 13 points, leaving many Sun Devil fans somewhat dazed and confused. Thankfully, the team regrouped after the first quarter and proceeded to give up only seven points the rest of the way en route to a 35-20 victory.
USC is ineligible, Arizona has no defense, Utah's QB might be broken, and UCLA and Colorado are both sunk already. Should ASU book their Pac-12 championship tickets now?
Oregon St. has now lost 6 games in a row, 8 of their last 9, 9 of their last 11, and 13 of their last 18. It's the Beavers' first 0-4 start in 15 years, and their first 6 game losing streak since 1997. Oregon St. hasn't lost 8 of 9 since 1996, during the Jerry Pettibone debacle.
What would scare you more as an irrational, doom fearing Cal fan? If OSU came into the Cal game without a win, or with wins over Arizona and Washington State?
Cal at Oregon, 6:00 pm, ESPN
Arizona at Oregon St., 12:30 pm
Arizona St. at Utah, 12:30 pm
Colorado at Stanford, 4:30 pm, Versus
Washington St. at UCLA, 7:30 pm
Cal visits Autzen Stadium. Gee, I can't imagine how that could possibly turn out badly! Utah's implosion at home knocks some of the luster off of what is still probably the biggest game in the
Big 12 North Pac-12 South this year. Colorado gets to recover from a tough loss by visiting Andrew Luck and company. And four of the five worst teams in the conference are all playing each other.
Burning questions: Can Utah pull of the Lazarus act at home to bring some much needed intrigue back to the Pac-12 South? Will Washington State end the day with their 2nd road win in Pac-12 play? Will you want to watch any of it after whatever happens on Thursday night?