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Pac-12 Review: Favorites assert themselves

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Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington all started the season ranked, and all four bounced back from recent losses against upset-minded foes. Damn.

I always get the sense that USC's mascot thinks he's waaaaay badder than he actually is.
I always get the sense that USC's mascot thinks he's waaaaay badder than he actually is.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Was this the week the Pac-12 ceased to be wild and crazy? Four games occurred, with the opening line favorites (and pre-season favorites) winning every game. Only one of the games was particularly competitive, and that game still required an onside kick recovery (from, evidently, the greatest onside-kick specialist the Pac-12 has ever seen) just to set up the exciting finale.

Sadly, talent usually rises to the top, and that's something that Stanford, Oregon, USC (and to a lesser extent, UW) have. Six weeks wasn't enough for said talent to exert itself, but I have a sad feeling that week seven was when the favorites started their takeover. Let's hope I'm wrong and the conference returns to wackiness next week.

USC 28, Arizona 26

How do you lose a game when you outgain your opponent and win the turnover battle?

College kickers, man. Casey Skowron missed two field goals and had a third blocked. And while it's easy to blame the kicker, Arizona no doubt regrets settling for made field goals rather than touchdowns in the red zone early in the game.

Still, how about the USC defense? They faced 101 plays, but allowed a long run of 9 yards and only two passes 20+ yards or longer. That's impressive, impressive discipline and does not make me feel super confident about Cal's ability to put up yards and points when they play in L.A. later this year.

Oregon 42, UCLA 30

This game was 42-10 with 10:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter, so don't let the final score trick you into thinking this game was at all competitive. Oregon's marginally more healthy offensive line did enough to allow Mariota and Oregon's running backs to do their thing.

Meanwhile, Jim Mora has lost control of his program! Or, at least, of first year defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who appears to be leading a unit that has regressed at least slightly from last year. Still, of bigger concern is the UCLA offensive line, which allowed two more sacks and simply can't protect Hundley long enough for the Bruins to go downfield in the passing game. At least, against Utah and Oregon.

Stanford 34, Washington St. 17

There is nothing I would have loved more than seeing Stanford struggle against Washington State. Obviously it's fun to watch Stanford struggle against ANYBODY, but doing so against Wazzu at home would have made me feel much much better about Cal's chances come November. The Air Raid and Bear Raid are hardly identical, but they are similar enough that Wazzu's performance bodes poorly.

Washington State averaged 3.3 yards/play. Yegads. Again, the fact that this game was even kinda in doubt in the 4th quarter is an indictment of Stanford's offensive strategy and inability to protect the ball. Unfortunately, there are only a few teams left on Stanford's schedule that maybe can kinda sorta challenge Stanford's defense enough to steal a game. I never thought I'd say it, but thank goodness for USC and Notre Dame for tagging Stanford with 2 losses. That had better be enough to keep them out of the playoffs.

Next Week

Thursday

Utah at Oregon State, 7:00, Fox Sports 1

Saturday

UCLA at California, 12:30, ABC
Colorado at USC, 3:00, Pac-12 Network
Washington at Oregon, 5:00, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at Arizona State, 7:30, ESPN

TAYLOR KELLY SAVE US ALL! Meanwhile, this week is secondary rivalry week, which is usually fun. I'm curious to see if Oregon's offensive line has improved enough to deal with UW's dangerous pass rush, although it's really hard to see the Huskies scoring with Oregon, assuming the Ducks aren't as generous with the ball as Cal was.

The joy of Pac-12 parity is that pretty much all of these games are interesting. I'm glad Utah and Oregon State are playing on Thursday night, because I haven't really had the chance to watch either team play and both have had mostly soft early season schedules.

There's a universe where Colorado beats USC, right? I'm going to that universe.