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Pac-12 Review: Everybody is subject to Chaos

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With perhaps one mild exception, the favorites took every single game this week. But that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining, or that we didn't learn anything

Game of inches cliche goes here
Game of inches cliche goes here
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah 24, USC 21

In a different universe, Pac-12 defenses know how to knock down hail marys, Nelson Agholor doesn't step out of bounds on 4th down, and USC sits with a virtually insurmountable two game lead over every single other team in the south.

Thankfully that is not our universe, and instead Utah and Arizona State will improbably be battling for 1st place in the south in Tempe next week. Mostly this illustrates how razor thin the margins are, this year more than most. Lest we forget, USC has barely managed to escape Stanford and Arizona by a combined 5 points. The only way to be immune from Pac-12-after-dark-weirdness is to be so good that you can actually consistently build double digit leads on everybody. That ability exists solely in Eugene, and only when they have a healthy offensive line.

USC is probably the 2nd or 3rd most talented team in the conference, but the difference between that and, say, the 9th most talented team is much smaller than it used to be. That makes the Trojans very much subject to chaos, which incubates quite nicely in Salt Lake City.

Arizona State 24, Washington 10

Washington games (against everybody but Oregon) are basically all the same: Can Washington's defense make enough positive plays to make up for however many negative plays the Washington offense and special teams will make?

Against Arizona State, the answer was no. Washington's defense did manage a pick 6 and three 4th down stops of the Sun Devils, including two in goal-to-go situations. But that didn't make up for everything else. Washington's offense had a pick 6 of their own to go along with 2 other turnovers and a ghastly 2-14 on 3rd downs. Meanwhile, Washington's punting unit averaged 30 yards a punt, gifting ASU great field position all game long.

I fervently hope that Washington's offense stays just as bad next year, when Danny SheltonHau'oli Kikaha, Shaq Thompson and Marcus Peters all (hopefully) leave for the NFL.

Also, look out: Arizona State might be your favorite in the South despite losing something like 75% of last year's defense and working through a starting quarterback injury. Remember when just about every school in the conference hired a new coach over a two year period, and every coaching hire was praised except for Todd Graham? Man, we're all so dumb.

UCLA 40, Colorado 37, 2OT

UCLA has played 6 games decided by a possession, and won five of those games. They are the luckiest team in college football, and could easily be on a 4 game losing streak right now rather than a 2 game win streak. That they still have a chance to compete for the Pac-12 South championship is annoying. They won this game because they still have one go-to play: Brett Hundley running around like a madman while everything else breaks down around him. That play averages like 19 yards/attempt.

Colorado, meanwhile, is a bad team. You already knew this. Still, send a kind thought to the Buffs and their fans, who are 0-3 in one possession games, with two gut-punch losses in overtime. The capricious Gods of college football have been kicking Colorado while they lie prone on the ground - and they have been on the ground for eight years*. Do you remember Cal football in the 80s? Colorado lately has been like Cal football in the 80s, but without the season-redeeming rivalry wins.

Stanford 38, Oregon State 14

Stanford points/game vs. USC, Washington, Notre Dame and Arizona State: 13.5

Stanford points/game vs. UC Davis, Army, Washington St. and Oregon St.: 38

Basically, teams with functional defenses can pretty easily stonewall Stanford's offense, but the Cardinal can score plenty enough to win on teams that don't. I'll leave it up to you to decide which category Cal falls into.

I do have more confidence that Cal's offense would do much better than what Oregon's St.'s offense did, which was score one touchdown on a 5 yard drive off a turnover and score another touchdown on Stanford's back-ups at the end of the 4th quarter.

Arizona 59, Washington State 37

I'm trying to decide if this game is evidence that Arizona is improving as the season goes on, or evidence that Washington State has given up on their own season. Don't let the score fool you - Arizona led 31-0 and 52-16 before extended garbage time.

I haven't seen much questioning of Mike Leach from Cougar fans yet, but with this season appearing to be a step back I wonder if grumbling will start soon. Leach is 6-17 against Pac-12 teams and will have to win out to make a bowl game. On the one hand, we are talking about Washington State. On the other hand, we're also talking about a program that went to the Rose Bowl a little more than a decade ago, and Leach managed to win eight games in year three at Texas Tech.

Next Week

Saturday

Washington at Colorado, 10:00 a.m., Pac-12 Network
USC at Washington St., 1:30, Pac-12 Network
Stanford at Oregon, 4:30, FOX
Cal at Oregon State, 7:30, Pac-12 Network
Arizona at UCLA, 7:30, ESPN
Utah at Arizona State, 8:00, Fox Sports 1

This will be the best Pac-12 weekend of the season so far, and maybe the best of the entire year. Why? Well, this is the first week of the year in which all 12 teams are playing on the same day. In this case, all 12 teams will be playing each other in conference games.

But look at the matchups. Oregon/Stanford, even with this diminished version of the Cardinal, is still the biggest game in the North this year. Utah/Arizona State and Arizona/UCLA are hugely important games that will go a long way towards deciding the South champ. Even weaker matchups have something intriguing about them. Remember what happened the last time USC played Washington State? And doesn't it seem like time for Colorado to finally get in the win column, at home a mile high, against a broken Washington offense facing a bizarre early start time?

Best of all: Three games kicking off at 7:30 or later, which means that at 2:00 a.m. eastern time there will be six teams engaged in mind-bending Pac-12 chaos. I almost wish the Bears weren't involved so that I could wear out the remote switching back in between them.