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This Week In The Pac-12: Requiem For A Kiffin

Lamenting the departure of the most curious coaching hire since Kevin O'Neill.

The sad part is that Cal never actually beat him.
The sad part is that Cal never actually beat him.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When Lane Kiffin was hired to replace Pete Carroll at USC, I remember thinking that it seemed kind of like an interim hire. Surely USC, a school with endless resources and sky high expectations, could find somebody better than the schmuck with a combined head coaching record of 12-21. It seemed like a deliberately short term hire, a choice to get USC through a few years of NCAA sanctions before hiring a real head coach once scholarship reductions were close to being over.

I doubt that's what Mike Garrett was thinking (does what happens in Mike Garrett's head count as 'thinking?'), but it seems to be the end result. USC will no longer have scholarship reductions only has one more year of scholarship reductions, and although it will take a few more years to recover, the next head coach will be able to start with a clean slate. Let's just hope the next guy has more Hackett or Kiffin in him.

Arizona State 62, USC 41

USC losing isn't a shock. Lane Kiffin getting the boot isn't really either, even if it happened a bit sooner than anticipated. But it's pretty shocking that USC's offense put up 41 points and yet the Trojans still lost by three touchdowns. That's downright bizarre. I get that ASU has the best offense USC has faced, but is it really that much better than Washington State's offense? I guess so.

Meanwhile, will USC again put together an offensive showing like this under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, without Marqise Lee? And is there anybody who can stop the winner of the ASU/UCLA game from taking the South title? I'm leaning towards no on both questions.

House of Sparky explains how weird this result is in one simple stat:

Entering this contest, the Trojans had only allowed a combined 44 points to their first four opponents. The Sun Devils scored 42 points in the second half alone.

Meanwhile, Conquest Chronicles looks at the sudden decision to cut Lane loose:

USC lost something special last night, and it wasn’t a game. The Trojans have more national titles than the rest of the Pac-12 combined. That usually leads to people watching a 62-41 loss in Tempe and saying things like "we’re USC, this doesn’t happen to us." And that’s true to an extent (although Oregon disagrees). But saying "this doesn’t happen to us" translates quickly to "we don’t do that." USC doesn’t lose to Arizona State, a team they’d beaten 12 of their previous 13 contests, while giving up 62 points. Except, they do. USC doesn’t start a season ranked number one and then fail to win a bowl game. Except, they do. USC doesn’t make reactionary decision mid-season like UCLA. Except, they do.

Firing Kiffin now: Good move, bad move, or move that would have happened anyway, and timing isn't really relevant?

Washington 31, Arizona 13

The line between the 'haves' in the Pac-12 (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Arizona State) and the 'have nots' (everybody else) was made stark in this game. Washington's offense wasn't exactly dominant, but Arizona's absolute futility in the passing game killed a potentially interesting game. Does RichRod have an alternate to B.J. Denker? Maybe I'm overreacting to a game played in conditions not entirely dissimilar to Cal/Oregon . . . but 3.4 yards/attempt and two picks? Yikes. I watched a bit, and it never really felt like Arizona would ever make the game competitive.

UWDawgPound likes what they see with Justin Wilcox's defense:

Justin Wilcox used what is called a "psycho" defensive front. One down lineman with five linebackers all moving around before the snap in an effort to confuse the linemen into making incorrect line calls. It is something to monitor going forward, as it can be a very effective tool at creating pressure on the quarterback - it is susceptible to the run however. He also almost exclusively used four man fronts against passing situations.

AZ Desert Swarm laments a roster lacking in quarterback depth:

Denker went 14-for-35 for 119 yards and two interceptions on a rainy Saturday at Husky Stadium. He looked flustered from the onset of seeing real Pac-12 pressure for the first time in his career. But be mad at Rich Rodriguez for not giving backup Javelle Allen a bigger shot. Blame Allen and Nick Isham for failing to take Denker's job in practice.

Arizona was left with recruiting issues, and that was the biggest reason for the result Saturday in Seattle. Blame Mike Stoops.

Oregon State 44, Colorado 17

JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT WE WERE OUT, RILEY PULLS US BACK IN! OK, not really. Colorado is still a bad football team, and barely holding off Colorado State and Central Arkansas doesn't change that. Still, I don't think most expected a much maligned Beaver defense to shut down Connor Wood and a Buff offense that had looked feisty to start the season.

I joked last week that this game might match up the two worst teams in the conference, but it's clear that Cal and USC at least will have a say. Just like everybody expected back in 2006: Cal, USC and Colorado hoping to avoid the crown of worst team in the Pac-whatever.

Building The Dam notes that with four conference games played in the rainy Northwest, this might be a bad week to grade quarterback play:

Yesterday was no ordinary day, and Oregon St.'s Sean Mannion, who over the first 4 games of the season, was at or near the top of nearly every passing statistic in FBS football, completed only 25 of 52 passes, just 52%. It dropped Mannion's season completion percentage to 67%, and 25th in the country.

It also prompted Oregon St. radio play-by-play voice Mike Parker to repeatedly comment that Mannion was "off", and just not having a very good day.

Analyst Jim Wilson finally pointed out that the conditions just might have something to do with it, noting that Colorado's Connor Wood, who entered the game as one of the country's statistical top rated quarterbacks as well, was having trouble as well. Wood would complete only 14 of 34 passes, 41%.

Ralphie Report rues losing to a seemingly vulnerable opponent before the schedule gets brutal:

The honeymoon is over for Coach MacIntyre. Oregon comes into Boulder next week followed by road dates at Arizona State, UCLA and Washington with a home game against Arizona squeezed in the middle. That's a scary, scary schedule that should strike fear into the hearts of Buffs fans who started to enjoy the feeling of being undefeated for 34 days. Let's hope that today was a bit of an aberration and not something that we should expect to see for the rest of the season.

Does this game say more about OSU's improvements or more about how far away Colorado is from being competitive in the Pac-12?

Stanford 55, Washington State 17

Well, that went about as well as I would have anticipated. Wazzu actually kept up with Stanford in the first half before getting steamrolled in the 2nd half. Connor Halliday threw two pick-sixes, and got injured on the 2nd in a nightmare game for the Cougs.

Rule of Tree is pleased to see Stanford opening up their offense a bit:

The running game was fine, if not as dominant as in previous weeks, but the bigger story was Stanford's passing attack. The Cardinal threw deep on two of its first three plays, and after running the ball on 23 of its 28 first down plays against Arizona State last week, Stanford threw the ball on 12 of 28 first down plays against Washington State. "If teams are going to drop safeties down, we're going to throw over the top," David Shaw told reporters after the game. "We have to show people that we'll go downtown if they leave receivers one-on-one."

Meanwhile, CougCenter analyzes a painful defensive performance:

Washington State's defense was the story coming in, but the secondary was exposed while facing a competent quarterback for the first time all season. The Cardinal burned WSU multiple times on long passes, including two touchdowns to tight end Devon Cajuste. Safety Taylor Taliulu and cornerback Nolan Washington had especially tough nights. Washington was pulled in favor of freshman Daquawn Brown in the first half.

Next Week


UCLA at Utah. 7:00 pm, Fox Sports 1


Washington State at California, 1:00 pm, Fox Sports 1
Oregon at Colorado, 3:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at Notre Dame, 4:30 pm, NBC
Washington at Stanford, 7:30 pm, ESPN

USC, Oregon State and Arizona are all off this week, so it's a limited schedule. Still, there are at least three intriguing games. Four if you think Utah has the horses to give UCLA a game. A prime time slot on Thursday night should make for a loud atmosphere in SLC, so who knows?

Cal and Wazzu should be a close game between two iffy teams in bad need of a bounce back win. ASU allowed a Cody Kessler/Lane Kiffin led team to score 41 points but are still probably better than a flawed Notre Dame. But the biggest game of the week is Washington at Stanford, in which we find out if the Huskies are truly contenders in the North, or merely the best of the rest after the Pac-12's twin juggernauts.