Last week I took a decent chunk of space to ask if David Shaw had the ability to change things up on offense. The question now is if he switched things up against Arizona, or if Arizona's defense is bad enough that Stanford's usual mix of power run and high percentage passes was enough without new wrinkles. Statistically speaking, the Wildcats have the 11th ranked defense in the conference, and it showed on Saturday. His stock went up, but we still don't have a final verdict on how far Josh Nunes can lead Stanford.
To state things simply: if you can slow down Stepfan Taylor, Stanford is going to struggle. But against RichRod's iffy defense, Taylor carried the ball 31 times for 142 yards, part of a 250 yard rushing day for the Stanford offense. And it was all necessary because awful defenses aside, RichRod sure can build an offense. In three years Arizona and Washington State will have the most wildly entertaining games you could ever want to see, assuming you have no interest in basic things like tackling, pursuit angles or basic coverage.
Seriously though, Stanford went from 235 total yards to 617. Get a defense, Arizona.
Nunes looked like he had switched bodies with someone since the Washington game. Sure, there were a few missed throws early, but for much of today's game, Nunes was a pinpoint passer. Last week, Nunes threw for just 170 yards with an interception. Today, he torched Arizona for 360 yards and two touchdowns, all on three fewer pass attempts than he had last week.
Matt Scott completed a program-record 45 passes on 69 attempts, throwing for 491 yards and three touchdowns. It was again two of his biggest passes, however, that made that irrelevant. A missed throw on a late fourth-quarter three-and-out and a tipped ball that led to an overtime interception were part of what did Arizona in.
One week, Stanford loses a defensive slog. The next week, Stanford wins an insane shootout. Which team is the real Stanford, and how do these wildly divergent performances make you feel about Cal's chances in the Big Game?
Arizona is 0-3 in the conference, but took OSU and Stanford to the wire. As a Cal fan, are you relieved or disappointed that Arizona isn't on the schedule this year?
Oregon 52, Washington 21
This game went about like everybody expected, right? Maybe a little bit more offense than you might expect from UW, and maybe a few more forced turnover by Oregon than usual. But the scoreline is right in line with what you'd expect from this 'not-really-a-rivalry-but-still-a-rivalry' game.
There were small mistakes. A couple of funky snaps. Rob Beard missed a fairly routine field goal. But I'm not sure that Oregon is going to face many teams capable of making those small mistakes any kind of a major problem.
This was a bad result, make no mistake, but in looking at the season as a whole, the Huskies are pretty much right where we had expected, even hoped, they'd be. Most thought that winning three of the first six this season (setting aside final scores) would mean the Huskies were doing pretty good. Be frustrated with this game, yes, but remember that this team, record-wise, is doing well, and may even be ahead of where we had hoped they'd be.
Oregon: BCS title bound?
Oregon State 19, Washington State 6
An unusual game that probably wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Cougars were mostly unable to move the ball, and on the rare occasions when they did they turned the ball over anyway. The Beavers were generally unwilling to fully take advantage of Wazzu's generosity, but 19 points was still plenty good enough to beat the struggling Cougars.
So, Washington State's defense is objectively better than their offense by every measure. How shocked are you?
USC 38, Utah 28
True, it was amusing to watch USC essentially hand Utah 14 free points, as if they were just toying with the Utes to make it a contest. It didn't really make the inevitable 38-14 run the rest of the way any more entertaining. Marquise Lee had his way with the Utah defense, Star Lotuleilei was effectively invisible after the 1st quarter, and Jon Hays wasn't going to be able to make it a shoot out.
This was more like a tale of the first three minutes and the rest of the game. Now that is not to say that USC steamrolled Utah. There were some frustrating moments in the first half. I am not sure who possessed Khaled Holmes in those first two series, but that demon was exorcised and Holmes had a great game.
USC or Arizona State: Which team do you favor for the South title?
Arizona State at Colorado, 6:00 pm, ESPN
Utah at UCLA, 12:00 pm, Fox
Oregon State at BYU, 12:30 pm, ABC
Stanford at Notre Dame, 12:30 pm, NBC
USC at Washington, 3:00, Fox
California at Washington State, 7:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Once you get past a Thursday night clunker, this could be an exciting week. Utah and UCLA will both look to bounce back from painful defeats. Oregon St. and Stanford both face tough non-conference tests, and then USC and Cal will both try to avoid the road upset. Here are your questions:
Who needs the win more: Utah or UCLA?
Who will reach 10 points first, thus assuring victory: OSU or BYU?
Which fan base will be more insufferable after a win: Stanford or Notre Dame?
Do you give UW a shot at the upset against USC?