Before we get into our usual breakdown of Pac-12 action, allow me a quick tangent on our Bears. If you asked the average Pac-12 fan to list the six best teams in the conference, the would probably list the following teams in approximately the following order: Oregon, Stanford, Arizona St., USC, Utah, Washington. Cal has the misfortune of playing every single one of those teams, with four of the six games on the road. It's probably not the toughest conference schedule - USC, for example, doesn't get to play Oregon St. or Washington St. - but it is a brutal schedule for a team clearly in a transitional year.
It's that schedule that makes Cal's loss to Washington particularly painful. Cal needs to win their toss-up games more often than not precisely because the schedule doesn't give them many favors. A win over Washington puts Cal in the drivers seat for 3rd place in the Pac-12 North, and makes them the team best poised to mess with the hopes and dreams of Stanford and Oregon.
But Cal @ Washington wasn't the only game that established the pecking order. Arizona St.'s win over USC puts the Sun Devils in the poll position down south, and UCLA's win over Oregon St. firmly plants the Beavers at the bottom of the conference and facing a truly sobering season. Hit the jump for all that, plus: Colorado's road nightmare continues and everybody on the Arizona roster still hates Nick Foles!
Arizona St. 43, USC 22
In many ways this game was exactly what it was always going to be: Vontaze Burfict runs offside, giving USC another chance at a field goal and thus 3 free points. USC contracting fumbleitis. Robert Woods catching 8 passes and USC comes back for their 12th straight win over . . . wait, Arizona St. regained momentum and won by three touchdowns?
So maybe things weren't quite as normal as it seemed. For one thing, it's still jarring seeing USC's defensive line getting pushed around on occasion, allowing Cameron Marshall to run for 141 yards and three touchdowns. And Matt Barkley looked good when he had time, but he frequently didn't and the result was a few bad interceptions. It's been the case for a couple years now, but it's still weird seeing the evidence: USC isn't "USC" anymore. The current group are plenty good enough to compete and beat most teams, and if they didn't turn the ball over four times they might have had a chance on the road on Saturday. But this isn't a team that can get away with costly mistakes any more.
House of Sparky exults in the end of a painful streak:
It had been 11 years. We had seen it before too many times. ASU with a big lead over USC going into the 2nd half. USC comes out on fire making it look easy and taking the lead. 2005? ASU was up 21-3. Then Bush, Leinart, and Lendale White came back to put up 35 2nd half points aided by 5 interceptions and won 38-28. 2010? A game where ASU had an XP blocked and returned for 2 points leading to a 34-33 final score.
Would it really happen again? How would the Devils lose this one? They wouldn't.
Conquest Chronicles offers their appreciation to NCAA compliance:
Thank god we aren't eligible for anything because we don't deserve it right now.
Which game scares you more: Cal vs. USC at AT&T park, or Cal at Arizona St. in the desert?
UCLA 27, Oregon St. 19
The Beavers arguably should have won this game, but four drives that got past the UCLA 35 yard line only resulted in 6 total points, and they handed UCLA a touchdown when Sean Mannion randomly lost the football a la Zach Maynard's play against Washington. But UCLA isn't in a position to refuse gifts, and they took advantage to notch a desperately needed win.
Bruins Nation is happy with the win but wants to see more from their team:
I think the performance yesterday left an awful lot to be desired. I think our team can be so much better than what we are. I think our team can play with Stanford. I think our team can do great things.
You see, in truth, the labels are backward. I am not the pessimist. I am the optimist. I am not just complaining. I am looking for something more than second best or just good enough. I am not ungrateful. I am striving for Coach's definition of success.
So I'll pat our guys on the head for the good things they did yesterday, and then I'll look at all the areas where we fell short, and there a lot of them, and identify our failings and get to work on fixing them. Because I am an optimist. And I know that this team can do better.
Building the Dam commenters are having an interesting dialogue about the direction of their program:
Someone needs to go
I don’t care if it’s Banker, Langsdorf, or Riley, but something has got to change. Beaver fans deserve more than this. There is no reason that we should be 0-3 when we have played Sacramento State and UCLA. I’m sick of all the "We played well" and "Ah, shucks" quotes after the game.
Why shouldn’t we expect more out of this team? Because we’re from Corvallis? Because we’re Oregon State, and not Oregon? Who cares! The point of football is to win games, not to try your best and lose week in and week out.
The only solution is to get rid of someone big and start from scratch. This season is already over and next year will be the exact same; More terrible defense, terrible play calls, and more awful losses.
Am I overreacting, yeah probably. But we deserve more than this.
If Oregon St. went 1-11 or worse this year, would you fire Mike Riley?
Oregon 56, Arizona 31
The most important storyline from this game was Arizona's utter inability to stop Oregon on the ground. Darron Thomas was mediocre by his own standards and Arizona didn't turn the ball over . . . and Oregon still scored 56 points. Averaging 8.8 yards/carry when you run the ball 47 times is an abomination. Having watched very little of the game, I can only assume that Mike Stoops decided to run the rarely seen 0-4-7 defense. The result was The Michael James setting Oregon's single game rushing record.
But the other storyline is Nick Foles' continued courage and poise under the adversity of trying to win games when every player on the field clearly hates him. His offensively line didn't protect him (5 sacks), his running game didn't support him (2.3 yards/carry) and his WRs dropped something like 5 balls that would have been 30+ yard gains. How a single man can toil alone and somehow run up 31 points by his lonesome is a marvel we may never see again on the football field.
Addicted to Quack would like to see better pass defense:
Unfortunately, the defense did not play like the offense. Nick Foles threw for 398 yards, and it would have been a lot more if his receivers had been able to catch during the first half. The Ducks did a decent job against Arizona's pathetic rushing attack, but Wildcat receivers were open again and again. The Ducks never got consistent pressure on Foles, and he picked apart the Duck secondary.
AZ Desert Swarm faces some depressing facts:
Arizona has lost eight of its last nine contests, with the only win during that stretch coming against NAU. The Wildcats' last FBS win was on Oct. 30, 2010, at UCLA. That is just a few short weeks from being a year ago.
Oregon's defense is iffy enough for Duck fans to worry about facing Andrew Luck. Is it iffy enough that Duck fans should worry about lesser QBs like Keith Price and Zach Maynard?
How bummed are you that Arizona is the only Pac-12 team Cal don't play this year?
Ohio St. 37, Colorado 17
I don't know what happened on special teams in this game, but it must have been crazy. This game can basically be explained in one stat:
Colorado average starting field position: Colorado 18
Ohio St. average starting field position: Colorado 47
That plus two turnovers killed whatever chance the Buffaloes had of being competitive. Ralphie Report talks about those errors:
Penalties, poor special teams play, and turnovers put the Buffs in a hole that they were unable to dig their way out of. After a strong four and out by the defense on the first drive of the game, the offense returned the favor with four quick incomplete passes before a twenty yard punt gave the Buckeyes the ball on the opposing 43 yard line. It was all down hill from there.
Here are the road games Colorado has left: Stanford, Washington, Arizona St., UCLA, Utah. Do you see a win in there?
Saturday, October 1st:
Arizona at USC, 12:30 pm, FSN
Washington St. at Colorado, 12:30 pm
Washington at Utah, 4:00 pm, FSN
Oregon St. at Arizona St., 7:30 pm
UCLA at Stanford, 7:30 pm, FSN
Cal and Oregon fans get to enjoy a bye week, but it isn't the most intriguing collection of games. OSU/ASU and UCLA/Stanford look like blowouts waiting to happen. The marquee matchup is clearly Washington at Utah. For my own sanity I'd like for Keith Price to throw for at least 300 yards while completing 75% of his passes. Please?
Burning questions: Is USC so diminished that Nick Foles can single-handedly pass his way to the upset win on the road? A loss means a season that might have flown off the tracks, so who needs a win more: Colorado or WSU? Do you see any reason to believe that OSU or UCLA can make their games competitive this week?