This Week In The Pac-12: Rock Bottom?

Stare into their helmets and forget all your troubles. - Ronald Martinez

There is no joy in Mudville.

At various times over the last few years, I've used this space to express my fan angst after another weekend with a dispiriting Cal loss and big Stanford win. Admittedly, fan angst occupies space between 'fashion angst' and 'celebrity angst' on the should-you-give-a-damn-o-meter. But that's what we're all here to talk about, so we talk about it.

And this week, we might have reached a nadir for Cal football fans. Cal lost badly to Washington State, plummeting to the bottom of the Pac-12 in the process. Cal hasn't been relevant in the conference since 2008. Stanford won a big game against Washington and again appears to be an all but certain BCS team. If this exact week isn't rock bottom, I'm pretty sure it will occur later this year.

This isn't especially fun. But it's worth remembering that things change, even if it takes a few years. When Cal crushed Stanford in 2004, would anybody have envisioned such a turnaround? Hell, when a similar blowout happened in 2008, did anybody see this coming?

At the end of this season, Stanford will lose at least seven starters and up to seven backups from the perhaps the greatest defense in program history along with four starting offensive linemen*. Cal will lose . . . 10 seniors on the entire team, many of whom aren't major contributors.

Am I saying that next year, Cal will be better than Stanford? No, that'd be insane. But it's very much within the realm of possibility that either next year or soon after Cal will be a better team. Mostly because almost anything is in the realm of possibility in college football. So buck up, see the year out, and root like hell for Oregon to win the Pac-12 North.

*Stanford's depth chart is weird about how they list a player's eligibility, and so in some cases a player may be listed as a senior even though he has a 5th year of eligibility left. I made my best estimate.

UCLA 34, Utah 27

The Bruins struggled more than I expected, and if every single tipped pass from Travis Wilson's hands hadn't fallen into the arms of a UCLA defender, we might have had our first major upset in the Pac-12 season. I think I need to start giving Utah credit for having one of the stronger home field advantages in the conference.

UCLA fans should perhaps be a bit concerned about how much they rely on Brett Hundley offensively. He managed 296 of UCLA's 404 total yards, and 57 of UCLA's 81 plays ended with him either throwing or running the ball. One suspects that the Bruins will really miss Jonathan Franklin against tougher opponents. Still, one win over ASU and UCLA can all but waltz to the Pac-12 South title.

Bruins Nation is happy that UCLA won a game many feared they might lose:

We wrote all week about how this would be a really tough game for our Bruins. We know how Thursday night games have been for us for several years. We know how the state of Utah has been for us for several years. We know how road games, and cold games, and character games with real consequences riding on them have been for us for several years. Bruin fans recognized this game would be a good test to see how far this team's developing toughness had come.

BlockU sees Utah's tough transition to the Pac-12 most starkly in home losses:

The ugly fact about all of this is that the Utes are 3-7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Pac-12 games. In 2011, their shot at the Pac-12 South division title was lost on the field of our own stadium. A year later, on that same field, Utah saw their bowl hopes die against Arizona. That pattern has kept the program in neutral at best and defined it since joining the conference.

Notre Dame 37, Arizona State 34

An even, back-and-forth game that ended up turning on two late Taylor Kelly interceptions that killed ASU's last two attempts to win the game. Still, it's harsh to blame Kelly since he was largely keeping the Sun Devils in the game with minimal help from his running game or defense, particularly in the 2nd half.

For a season that started with so much promise, it's tough to be particularly impressed with Arizona State. They very easily could have lost at home to Wisconsin, they got crushed by Stanford, and they lost to a Notre Dame team that was beaten soundly by the other two ranked teams on their schedule.

Man, The Drive is going to be a depressing watch this year.

House of Sparky has that same old sinking feeling:

They entered the game as six-point favorites fresh off of a 62-point outburst against USC, but on Saturday night in Dallas, the same old Sun Devils came to play.

Through the better part of the last 15 years, Arizona State fans have had their hearts broken amidst the hope of strong beginnings. Sun Devil fans have watched as their favorite team has risen in the polls only to lose a devastating road game at a critical juncture in the season.

But this year was supposed to be different.

Stanford 31, Washington 28

Sigh. Remind me never to watch games involving Stanford, UCLA or USC when I desperately want/need them to lose. It NEVER works out. If you want to feel better about it, you can watch ESPN's highlight package and see Sark and Tosh as the refs controversially overturn a late UW 4th down conversion play that might have set them up to tie or win the game. Or the irony of the guy who hired Lupoi complaining about Stanford potentially faking injuries. I presume that Sark will fire Tosh later this week to remain morally consistent.

A potential takeaway from this game might be that Stanford is overrated. They outgained UW by more than 200 yards. Except that three big special teams plays deprived the Stanford offense of chances to gain yardage, so I dunno. I'm pretty afraid that this game might say more about how much Washington has improved than it does anything bad about Stanford. Either way, I've thought more about this game than any Cal fan should.

Rule of Tree analyzes a mediocre game from Kevin Hogan:

Hogan's only touchdown pass, a strike to Montgomery at the end of the first half, was a thing of beauty, but Price's counterpart struggled for much of the game. Washington's pass defense was outstanding, and the Huskies managed to get some pressure on Hogan, but he also wasn't his normally accurate self. He finished 12-of-20 for 105 yards, the aforementioned TD and a pick.

UW Dawg Pound comes to praise Keith Price:

Every hater for Keith Price needs to disappear. He was UW's best offensive player tonight. He started 16-19 with two drops and a throwaway. Then when the pressure started to get to him, he used his mobility to extend plays (including his touchdown to Kevin Smith, where he evaded a sack to find Smith running a crossing route. Price showed toughness, leadership, grit, poise and, most importantly, skill in almost leading his team back from a ten point deficit in the last five minutes.

Oregon 57, Colorado 16

Yawn. I seriously think that even Oregon fans are bored with their perfect football team.

Addicted To Quack sounds kinda bored about the game:

There are really only two questions coming out of this game: will Thomas' ankle be healed sufficiently to play in the Washington game next weekend, and what are the newest circumstances with Colt Lyerla, who didn't make the trip with the team to Boulder.

He transferred, for what it's worth.

Ralphie Report is optimistic after the blowout, something that only seems to happen against Oregon.

Even with a lopsided score, it didn't feel like the normal Buffs blowout. It's hard to explain with a scoreboard that so desperately wants to call me a liar, but this was a Colorado team that was ready to compete and make plays. A team that wouldn't give up.

Next Week

I contemplate switching over to basketball coverage a tad earlier than usual. Wait, no, I mean:

Thursday

Arizona at USC, 7:30, Fox Sports 1

Saturday

Oregon at Washington, 1:00, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at Utah, 3:00, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Arizona State, 7:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
California at UCLA, 7:30 pm, ESPN2/ESPNU
Oregon State at Washington State, 7:30, ESPN2/ESPNU

Basically, the most common form of joy we'll get the rest of the way will be schadenfreude. So let's all gather together and see if USC's season will further descend into flames on Thursday night. Then, let's all get together at 1:00 on Saturday and watch Oregon tear Tosh Lupoi's line limb from limb. It'll be a fun bonding experience for us all in tough times.

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