On the one hand, it's kinda cool that Arizona State is surging towards the end of the season, because it means that something really weird would have to happen to keep a Pac-12 team out of the college football playoffs.
On the other hand, why should I care one bit about another Pac-12 fan base getting to enjoy a potential playoff run? What good does it do me? I would have been much more entertained if ASU stumbled a few times and we had a gigantic five way tie in the South at 6-3.
Alas, that scenario would have to include an ASU loss to either Washington St. or Oregon St. But I guess we can still root for a confusing, 3 way tie between Arizona, ASU and USC or UCLA at 7-2. That'd be fun, right?
Oregon 51, Utah 27
This will be a What If game for Utah fans for the rest of their lives. What would have happened if Kaelin Clay had held onto the football for another second? Remember, Utah at one point trailed by just 3 points in the 4th quarter. Tack on an extra touchdown, and potentially take one away from Oregon, and it's a very different game. Hypothetically.
Believe it or not, but this was actually a very competitive game. Or, at least, it could have been a very competitive game. Utah actually gained ever so slightly more yards/play than Oregon, something that happens maybe once a year or so. But you can't beat Oregon if you lose the turnover battle and make bad special teams mistakes. Utah did both, and that allowed Oregon to turn what should have been a close game into just another blowout.
My question for you, dear reader: If Clay doesn't pull a Long Beach Poly Special, how much about this game changes?
Meanwhile, multiple Oregon players had to be carted off during the game, and it looks likely that the Ducks will be without their starting center and tight end, perhaps for the season. Do the Ducks have the depth to manage so many key injuries?
Arizona State 55, Notre Dame 31
Another game that was close until it wasn't. ASU started with a 34-3 run, the allowed ND to score four unanswered touchdowns, before deciding to start trying again in time to respond with 21 unanswered points to end the game.
Pretty much everybody expected ASU to struggle this year because they were replacing a huge amount of defensive talent from last year. There are only 2 seniors on the entire defensive depth chart, and only a couple returning starters. And yet the coaching staff has figured out how to game plan to the strengths of their personnel and the weaknesses of their opponents. Everett Golson never stood a chance.
The question of the moment is if this team is good enough to escape the regular season unscathed. If UCLA could drop another game and eliminate their only tie-breaker threat the Devils would be very appreciative.
UCLA 44, Washington 30
Washington fans must be furious that Steve Sarkisian recruited so poorly at running back that they have to turn to a 3rd year safety to make their offense functional. 23 points from the offense isn't awful considering the level of production we have seen in earlier games, but UCLA's offense took full advantage of a defense mostly missing Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha, and entirely missing Marcus Peters.
And if you're a UW fan wondering what life will look like if all of UW's defensive stars head to the draft . . . well, it's time to start recruiting Shaq a second time, because this team needs him badly next year.
Meanwhile, UCLA sports respectable losses to Utah and Oregon, they are the only team to beat ASU . . . I don't think the Bruins are 100% eliminated from the playoff race. If UCLA won 3 straight against Stanford, USC and Oregon to claim the Pac-12 title at 11-2, I think they would have a case. The offensive line and defense may have rounded into form just in time to make it happen . . . if ASU blows it and UCLA gets the right tie-breaker combination, that is.
Arizona 38, Colorado 20
Colorado's average margin of defeat in their seven Pac-12 games has been 12 points. If you take out a 28 point beating from USC, the margin goes down into the single digits. What can you say about a team that cannot win a game but pretty much never puts in a truly embarrassing performance? How do you go about evaluating that type of coaching performance?
The fact that this game was even in doubt in the 4th quarter despite a 4-0 turnover advantage and a near 150 total yardage advantage for the Wildcats should perhaps set off alarm bells for Arizona fans. After looking so solid in the middle of the season, Anu Solomon had his 2nd straight uneven performance. With three tough games coming up, he'll have to recover quickly or Arizona might fade quickly from national relevance.
Washington State 39, Oregon State 32
We established last week that Oregon State has a pretty decent pass defense. So I'm impressed that new WSU starter Luke Falk managed 471 yards at more than 7 yards/attempt to go along with 5 TDs and no interceptions. That said, has there ever been a bad Mike Leach quarterback? Honestly? I'm too lazy to churn through the Texas Tech history books, but until a Mike Leach quarterback sucks I'm not going to be surprised by stuff like this happening any more.
Falk is a redshirt freshman, which means that he will break every single Sean-Mannion-Pac-12-memorial-longevity-passing-record if he stays healthy.
California at USC, 6:00, ESPN
Washington at Arizona, 12:30, Fox
Utah at Stanford, 3:00, Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at Oregon State, 7:45, ESPN
Not one single match-up between two of the five teams with a meaningful chance to make the Pac-12 title game, which is a shame. Seems like an odd choice for the Pac-12 to put a game on Thursday night the same week that 33% of the conference has a bye week. Frankly, it seems odd for the Pac-12 to have 4 teams on a bye so late in the season, period. It makes for one of the lightest Saturdays since the conference expanded to 12 teams.
The best game from an entertainment standpoint? Hell, probably Cal vs. USC, with the Bear Raid on one side and all-everything talent on the other side. Utah and Stanford should be 'fun' if you are interested in a very specific type of football, and not fun if you like points.
Oregon State has looked really bad for the last few weeks . . . but a 7:45 start in Corvallis, with a chance to throw the entire Pac-12 South into disarray and confusion . . . is there any way that #pac12afterdark could work some more magic?