Week 8 in the Pac-12 gave us three unexpected outcomes: Cal got pounded by UCLA, Wazzu somehow beat UofA, and the Utes were exposed all night long by USC's superior athletes and gameplan. Talk about conference parity!
In this Week 8 edition of Pac-12 game reviews, let's take a look at the conference games and see what deserved a thumbs up or thumbs down from each matchup.
UCLA 40, California 24
Cal rolled into the Rose Bowl feeling pretty good about themselves - despite dropping a close one (moral victory?) to Utah a few weeks prior, Cal's national ranking still went up to #20 over its Week 7 bye week. The Bruins had just gotten whacked down by ASU and Furd. All things were pointing in opposite directions for both teams. Then, the smackdown by Cal's baby brothers ensued... and it just didn't stop.
Freshman QB Josh Rosen came back to form against the Bears, completing 34 of 47 passes and throwing for 399 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs - on his way to a pretty good 86.1 QBR. On the ground, fellow freshman RB Soso Jamabo was the star this game with his 18 carries for 79 yards and 1 TD. Through the air, WR Thomas Duarte was a stud with 10 receptions for 141 yards and 1 TD, followed by WR Devin Fuller with 7 catches for 100 yards and 2 TDs. UCLA's defense was stout the entire game, holding Cal to just 131 yards rushing and 295 yards passing, and causing 1 Cal fumble.
Cal QB Jared Goff had another pretty miserable game. He completed 32 of 53 passes, throwing for 295 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs. On the ground, RB Daniel Lasco continues to be ineffective (3 rushes for only 9 yards), leaving Khalfani Muhammad (8 carries, 55 yards), Jeffrey Coprich (4 carries, 26 yards), and Vic Enwere (5 carries, 20 yards) to pick-up the slack. The issue with Cal's offense is that its offensive line is essentially MIA against superior competition (which is what Cal came-up against in the Utes and Bruins). Opposing defenses do not respect Cal's rush and have their ears pinned back to knock Goff down every play. Goff's window of time from snap to pass is slowly diminishing with each game that Cal's O-line can't figure it out.
Thumbs Up: QB Josh Rosen coming back to form is a good sign for the Bruins and the conference. With Goff and Utah's Travis Wilson on the decline as of late, the Conference of Quarterbacks needs some other guys to step up.
Thumbs Down: Cal's Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin need to use all their offensive magic to figure-out ways to mask the Bears' O-line deficiencies. Until that happens, other teams now have the blueprint for how to continually disrupt Goff & Co.
Washington State 45, Arizona 42
The Cougars showed-up in Tucson ready to play! Wow, all of a sudden, the Cougars are 5-2 and making their losses to Portland State and Cal look like distant memories. For another week, QB Luke Falk executed the Air Raid to perfection - completing 47 of 62 passes, and throwing for 514 yards, 5 TDs, and 0 INTs. On the ground, the Cougs didn't do much (31 carries for 117 yard & 1 TD), but that doesn't matter when their air attack is so superb. WR River Cracraft led all Wazzu receivers in yardage with 8 catches for 102 yards, while fellow WR Gabe Marks hauled in 8 receptions for 97 yards and 4 TDs.
Arizona's RichRod has got to be worried about his team now. After getting throttled by superior competition (vs. UCLA & Furd), UofA had much weaker competition against OSU and Colorado (which they barely survived). While WSU should have been a walk in the park for the Wildcats, this downward-trending team finally got caught for its many defensive deficiencies this week. QBs Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall split time this game, combining for 33 completions on 36 passes, and throwing for 282 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. On the ground, Randall was very effective, amassing 10 carries for 105 yards. In the air, WR Cayleb Jones hauled in 8 catches for 131 yards and 1 TD.
Thumbs Up: Hats off to the Cougars for rising above the Pac-12 cellar. HC Mike Leach is officially off the hot seat now, which is good for him and his team. QB Luke Falk looks to be the real deal. If Wazzu's defense can continue to improve, the rest of the Pac-12 should be on notice the remainder of this season.
Thumbs Down: Major thumbs down to the Wildcats. What is going on here?! A once promising team is surely making its fanbase yearn for basketball season to start... like ASAP. UofA travels to U-Dub next Saturday evening, then faces the daunting line-up of USC, Utah, then ASU. Where are the Wildcats going to get a win in here?
USC 42, Utah 24
There goes our Pac-12 standard bearer. Way, way gone. Utah had real close wins against Cal and ASU the last two weeks - heading down to Los Angeles this past weekend definitely put an end to whatever luck they had going for them. USC laid the smackdown on the Utes in such a convincing fashion that any casual fan would easily forget about the Trojans' troubles during the first half of this season.
QB Cody Kessler completed 21 of 28 passes, throwing for 264 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs. Their ground game wasn't dominant, but it was effective - RB Ronald Jones had 15 carries for 73 yards & 1 TD, and RB Justin Davis had 19 rushes for 66 yards & 1 TD. Through the air, star WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had 8 receptions for 143 yards & 1 TD. But, the most impressive unit for the Trojans was their defense, which put tons of pressure on Utah's QB Travis Wilson all night long. The game ball has to go to freshman LB Cameron Smith who had 3 interceptions and returned those INTs for a combined 122 yards & 1 TD.
Wilson had a disastrous showing for the Utes, completing 24 of 36 passes and throwing for 254 yards, 2 TDs, and 4 INTs. On the ground, star RB Devontae Booker was shut down, limited to only 14 carries for 62 yards & 0 TDs. Through the air, only WR Britain Covey had significant numbers with 7 catches for 129 yards & 2 TDs. What happened to this once-dominant Utah team? Are they going to get exposed now? Unfortunately for the Pac-12 (and Cal fans), we may only be left with Furd having any real CFB Playoff hopes left.
Thumbs Up: USC deserves all sorts of credit for staying focused after losing HC Steve Sarkisian and then barely losing to Notre Dame last week. This was a fantastic all-around performance for the Trojans. HC Clay Helton has found something and can hopefully keep it up for his squad.
Thumbs Down: Utah losing is not good for the Pac-12. The once 3rd-ranked team in the land is now ranked #13, which leaves Furd as the highest-ranked Pac-12 team (#8 in the AP & Coaches polls), which is surely on the outside looking into the CFP Playoffs.
Colorado 17, Oregon State 13
In the least exciting game of the Pac-12 schedule this season and the loser fighting for the title of the "Worst 2015 Pac-12 Team," Colorado managed to pull-out their first conference win and the Beavers just kept losing with no end in sight now. Heading into the 4th quarter, this game was tied 10-10, so it came down to the end for the Buffs to pull it out.
QB Sefo Liufau completed 16 of 23 passes, throwing for 140 yards, 1 TD & 0 INTs. Even though the Buffs won, they only amassed 188 yards rushing (on 45 carries) and 140 yards passing (on 16 catches). It was truly another uninspired performance by the Buffs who can breathe easy now that they won't go undefeated in Pac-12 play this season (with their first Pac-12 win since 2013).
OSU shared their quarterback play between QBs Seth Collins and Nick Mitchell. They both combined to complete 13 of 31 passes, throwing for 199 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT. The only shining spot for the Beavs was RB Ryan Nall getting 20 carries for 122 yards & 1 TD. OSU is an abysmal team that is about to get walloped by an angry Utah team next week. Looking down their remaining schedule, there is most definitely not a win in sight for the Beavers.
Thumbs Up: Much congrats to the Buffs for getting their first (and probably only) Pac-12 win. This is not a bad team - they are never short on effort. They deserve at least one conference win this year.
Thumbs Down: Can I just paste a thumbs-down symbol on top of the Beavers logo this season? This is a disaster of a team. HC Gary Andersen is counting the days until the offseason, that's for sure.
Stanfurd 31, Washington 14
Furd put on a clinic against the quickly falling Huskies. In the Saturday nightcap game, there really wasn't much to write home about given each time performed as expected. Furd is chugging along and picking good win after good win. QB Kevin Hogan completed 17 of 24 passes, throwing for 290 yards, 2 TDs & 1 INT. On the ground, RB Christian McCaffrey had 23 carries for 109 yards & 1 TD. Through the air, McCaffrey shown bright again with 5 receptions for 112 yards & 1 TD. It's amazing McCaffrey isn't getting more national hype after consistently dominating in every game he's played in this year.
The Huskies were without their first-string QB Jake Browning. Backup K.J. Carta-Samuels underwhelmed, completing only 9 of 21 passes and throwing for 118 yards and no TDs or INTs. RB Myles Gaskin was the one bright spot for U-Dub, rushing 18 times for 108 yards and 1 TD. The Huskies are in trouble of falling fast after two straight losses now and without Browning taking snaps.
Thumbs Up: For the sake of the Pac-12 in the national stage, we all need Furd to keep winning. Otherwise, this 2015 season has been all sorts of disappointments for our conference. So, despite Cal fans wincing at this comment - Go Furd!
Thumbs Down: The Huskies are in trouble without Browning. When they had to put a true freshman in as their starting QB, that was a true sign they had no QB depth whatsoever. HC Chris Petersen needs to bring back some of that Boise State magic to salvage this season for Washington.
Key Week 9 Matchups
Oregon @ ASU: While both of these teams are out of any national contender conversations, they have both come back from the dead after starting off conference play horribly. So, there's still hope in Eugene and Tempe that their respective teams can make some noise in the Pac-12 race. [Thursday 10/29, 7:30pm PST, ESPN]
USC @ California: These two teams are certainly trending in opposite directions right now. If Cal is going to gain back any national respect, they will have to beat the suddenly surging Trojans on Halloween at home. USC seems to always have Cal's number. If Dykes & Franklin can shore-up Cal's recently disastrous O-line, then Goff will have time to work his magic from the pocket. [Saturday 10/31, 12:00pm PST, FOX]
Stanfurd @ WSU: These two teams are really hot right now. Furd is on their way to CFB Playoffs possibilities. Wazzu's Air Raid is in full force. This will be a real fun gun-slinging game. Expect Luke Falk and Christian McCaffrey to pick-up all sorts of points for their teams. This may be a closer game than some will expect. [Saturday 10/31, 7:30pm PST, ESPN]
How are you feeling about our Pac-12 teams as we head deep into the second half of the season? Will one or two of our teams make some real national noise? Or, is it just a fight for the Rose Bowl right now?