It was a banner week for exciting football. Four games this week finished with a final margin of 4 points or less. One went to overtime, and another one was a missed field goal away from extra sessions. Me? I saw none of it beyond the Big Game. Will that stop me from offering my own opinion as if it's incontrovertible fact? OF COURSE NOT.
Pac-12 fans, enjoy football season while you can. While Cal, Stanford, Oregon and USC were all engaging in exciting, well-played games the state of men's basketball continued to decline both on and off the court. But we'll get to that later in the column. For now, let's start by trying to settle through the Pac-12's bowl situation:
|Bowl Game||Rose||BCS at large||LOL U MAD?||You can't pay me enough to figure it out|
Understood? Good. I don't understand what's so hard about differentiating between five teams with records between 7-4 and 6-5. It's a real shame that Washington State didn't pull it out in overtime - if the Cougars had won the Pac-12 might have finished with six teams at 6-6. Fear our mediocrity, rest of the nation! Also, as you ponder bowl possibilities, keep in mind that one of three Pac-12 South teams will somehow win the division and travel to Eugene to be sacrificed to the Gods of TV Rights Deals. Speculate accordingly. Your usual weekly recaps after the jump.
USC 38, Oregon 35
Imagine what Andrew Luck would do if he had Robert Woods and Marquise Lee to throw to. After Barkley does pro USC's new quarterback needs to be awful, because he'll be throwing to the best WR tandem in the nation.
It's pretty amazing that Oregon even had a chance to tie this game considering what USC's defense did to the Oregon offense for three quarters. Yet due to odd circumstances, this game feels nearly irrelevant. Before kickoff Oregon was likely headed for the Rose Bowl and USC's season would end after playing UCLA. After the game? Nothing changed. Two ranked teams played a thrilling game that game down to the last play and it had no discernible impact on either team's post-season (Slim Oregon/LSU rematch hopes aside). College football is weird.
Was it a kick Maldonado should have made? Maybe. But it shouldn't have come down to that kick.
There were multiple drive killing drops. There was some terrible offensive line play. There was USC gaining seven yards on the ground on virtually every first down. There was Marqise Lee, who put up an absolutely outstanding performance for a freshman. There was Matt Barkley, who played up to his talent and gave fuel to the people who think he is deserving of a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft.
The mantra today has pretty much been the same where ever you read...
USC IS BACK
Maybe, but I am not there yet.
We need a big win next Saturday against UCLA and then get ready for next year when the teeth of the sanctions kick in. If this staff hasn't earned their money yet they are about to.
Is USC back? Did they ever go anywhere? Will they still be 'back' next year?
Utah 30, Washington State 27
Since losing to Cal Utah has won four straight games despite running an offense with essentially no functional passing threat. Their running back has averaged 34 carries/game over that stretch. Utah is the Denver Broncos of the Pac-12, except their quarterback isn't a threat to run the ball. I have no explanation for how they have done it, but they're probably going to win 8 games and the Pac-12 South. College football.
The 4th win wasn't easy. Connor Halliday had a much tougher time against Utah's defense, but I'm going to excuse his four interceptions because he finished the entire game after getting his liver lacerated in the 2nd quarter. I'm beginning to think we need to transfer the title of 'School with most cursed QBs' from UCLA to Wazzu.
Regardless, I guess we're supposed to hate the Buffaloes now. I guess I can do that. Like our past rival, their mascot is an animal. Like our past rival, they have a pretty good football history, but nothing of real merit today. Finally, like our last rival, they have a disputed national championship.
The incredible comeback win that almost was. After a huge catch from Jared Karstetter got the Cougs down inside the ten with 23 seconds left, Connor Halliday found Marquess Wilson at the goal line. Wilson was literally an inch away from punching it in for the winning TD.
Instead, WSU was left to scramble and spike the ball with three seconds left. Paul Wulff was left with a decision to kick the ball or go for the winning score with the final play. He opted for the former and the game was sent into overtime.
Was Wulff right to kick the tying field goal, or should the Cougs have gone for the win?
Arizona 31, Arizona St. 27
Arizona St. racked up 548 yards, but 3 turnovers and 92 penalty yards cost them the victory. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dennis Erickson era! They also mixed in some truly poor pursuit and tackling, and Keola Antolin and Juron Criner took advantage. Now rumors are already swirling about Erickson's status. Will he be the 2nd coaching casualty of the season?
Brock Osweiler needs to be more careful.
After that whole tattoo incident, he threw two poorly-timed interceptions in ASU's 31-27 loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, and UA cornberback Trevin Wade forced a fumble to take away three very viable scoring opportunities for the Sun Devils.
Since the Holiday Bowl game in 2007, the Sun Devils have been a constant disappointment. ASU showcases an undisciplined brand of football, committing stupid penalties and finding it seemingly impossible to learn from their mistakes.
At the root of all this is a simple fact: Dennis Erickson is no longer a viable coach in a BCS conference.
Firing Erickson now vs. firing Erickson later: will it impact Cal in any meaningful way?
Oregon State 38, Washington 21
Even without Keith Price out I didn't expect a Beaver win, let alone a blowout. Evidently Nick Montana isn't quite ready for prime time. But he's more ready for prime time than Washington's secondary, which got badly torched again, this time by Sean Mannion.
Probably the best moment of the day was James Rodgers becoming the all-time reception leader at OSU. He really earned the record and it was great to see him get there. There are plenty of other things to cover, but these things stood out the most in my mind.
Evidently Sarkisian was left with a choice between a QB who wasn't ready and a QB who wasn't healthy. Neither could move the ball and both threw a pick, but that's all academic when you give up 38 points and 484 yards, right? Wrong!
To me this is the type of game that helps coaches and athletic directors ( hearing me Scott Woodward?) lose their jobs. Tough to tell if it was Steve Sarkisian or Paul Wulff on the Washington sideline today. It was a completely inept job of preparation and play calling on both sides of the ball.
Sark didn't have a clue when it came to calling plays on offense. He took a small and terrible sample of Nick Montana and decided to put the game on his shoulders rather than hammering the ball continually with Chris Polk which would have won the game.
Steve Sarkisian: Does he have UW moving in the right direction?
UCLA 45, Colorado 6
There is nothing interesting to say about this game.
Last night's game against Colorado is the kind of game we should have played against San Jose State. It was the kind of game we should have played against Oregon State, or Washington State. It was the kind of game we should have played against Arizona.
I know we talk a lot about CU being bad on the road, but I think we're just bad. We occasionally play better at home, but the team shows it's true colors on the road. This senior class has worked it's butt off for the Buffs, but they need to be the guys out there that make the big plays and will the team to victory. They're just too used to losing. And most importantly, guys never developed. Tyler Hansen doesn't look any better than when he got here. Rodney Stewart is good, but not really any better than his freshman year.
Who would you most like to see against (presumably) Oregon in the Pac-12 title game?
This Week In Pac-12 Basketball
We'll start with the good news: Oregon St. beat a solid Texas team in what has to be the most impressive win of the season for any conference team.
The bad news? Where should we start? Washington got destroyed by an admittedly good St. Louis team (but it was 50-25 at halftime!), UCLA dropped another game to a mediocre mid-major, and Arizona, Colorado, Utah and USC have a combined 5-9 with multiple losses to some truly bad teams. Pepperdine? Motana St.? Cal Poly? USC only scored 36 points against Cal Poly?!? I don't want to get on Arizona for losing to a solid
St. John's Mississippi St. squad, but at a certain point somebody needs to beat someone! According to Kenpom the Pac-12 is closer in quality to the A-10, the Missouri Valley or the Mountain West than any of the other five BCS conferences.
To top it all off Jabari Brown pulled a franklin and announced that he's leaving the Ducks after just two games. And we wonder why this conference has stayed so bad over the last few years!
The 'good' news is that it doesn't look like there are many obstacles between Cal and a conference title. The bad news is that a Pac-12 title isn't going to be worth much more than a 5 seed this year.
It's rivalry week! Except for us, because Stanford has some strange desire to help Notre Dame pretend that they're still relevant nationally! Thanks Stanford!
Colorado at Utah, 12:30
Cal at Arizona St., 7:15, ESPN
Oregon St. at Oregon, 12:30, ABC
Louisiana Lafayette at Arizona, 1:00
Washington St. at Washington, 4:30, Versus
Notre Dame at Stanford, 5:00, NBC
UCLA at USC, 7:00, FSN
Burning questions: Which of the four rivalry games are you most excited about? (Apple Cup for me, but I'm weird). How much would you laugh if Stanford or USC lost? Should a 6-2 Sunbelt team be favored over Arizona? Can Colorado end their road losing streak? Will somebody actually win the Pac-12 South, or will the right to play Oregon get revoked in frustration by Larry Scott?