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Pac-12 Recap Week 8: What’s wrong with Stanford?

Everyone in the conference can score ... except for Stanford. What has gone wrong for David Shaw’s squad?

NCAA Football: Colorado at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado (10) at Stanford (5)

Colorado keeps finding ways to win games, meanwhile the Cardinal can’t do anything offensively and are in danger of seeing their season go completely off of the rails. Not even the return of Christian McCaffrey could kick-start Stanford’s sputtering offense. The early-season Heisman candidate had 21 carries for 92 yards rushing and two catches for 26 yards. The Cardinal rushed 33 times for just 93 yards as a team. Colorado’s passing offense was about as anemic as Stanford’s ground game. Sefo Liufau completed 12 of 25 pass attempts for 135 yards. He did manage to throw a touchdown pass to Shay Fields, but he was sacked six times. Stanford was always bad at playing form behind (unless they’re playing against UCLA), so you had to figure that once they stopped getting out in front of their opponents that they would struggle without a star quarterback. The five Stanford fans in attendance at the game booed the team when Shaw predictably ran the ball on a 2nd down with 26 yards to go. Though, you can hardly blame him when his option at QB is Ryan Burns. Burns completed 16 of 29 passes for 170 yards and three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter. The trees take on Arizona next, and if they can’t score on them then they are in serious trouble the rest of the way. Colorado has maintained a tie for first place in the south division, but they need to clean up their game if they want to win the south. The Buffs missed three field goals i this contest, which could come back to hunt them if they do it against better teams in the future.

Utah (52) at UCLA (45)

If UCLA is ranked to start next season then pre-season top 25’s should be abolished for good. They should be gotten rid of anyways, but I digress. Year after year UCLA continues to underachieve as a team. Their bowl-game hopes are hanging by a thread after they suffered their fifth loss of the season in a game that broke several records. Utah’s recently un-retired running back, Joe Williams, rushed for a Pac-12 record 332 yards on 29 carries. He also contributed four rushing touchdowns. Bruins QB Mike Fafaul broke UCLA records for completions and attempts in a single game as he completed 40 of 70 passes for 464 yards. He also threw five touchdowns and four interceptions. It was too much to place on the shoulders of a former walk-on with very little experience. Fafaul performed admirably as he almost led the team in rushing yards as well, which says everything about UCLA’s atrocious run game. As a team they ran for just 46 yards on 16 attempts. Utah QB Troy Williams wasn’t great, to say the least, as he completed just 50 percent of his passes for 179 yards and one interception. Last week I called the Utes the least impressive 6-1 team I’ve ever seen. The impressive bit about Utah is that they continue to find ways to win when particular aspects of their team falter. The passing game took a step backwards, but the rushing game steps up and dominates when their typically strong defense fails to show up. They never seem to put together a complete performance as a team, but it hasn’t mattered so far as they find themselves tied with Colorado for first place in the south division.

Oregon State (17) at Washington (41)

The Huskies keep doing what they’re supposed to do, and, now that Ohio State lost, find themselves in position to make the College Football Playoff if they keep winning. Washington jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead behind Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin on offense, and — as usual — a stout defensive effort. Browning completed 14 of 28 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He added five rushes for 21 yards and a touchdown as well. Gaskin ran the ball 17 times for 127 yards and one touchdown. Washington receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis provided several big plays as the two of them caught just four passes each, but for 115 and 112 yards respectively. Two of Pettis’ four catches went for touchdowns. The Huskies will face a tough test in Salt Lake City against Utah this weekend, but I would expect them to pick up the victory.

Washington State (37) at Arizona State (32)

The other team in Washington, the Cougars, kept pace with their in-state rivals once again by knocking off Arizona State on the road. It didn’t look promising to start, though, as the Sun Devils jumped out to a 14-3 lead. The Cougars got the response they needed when, following a Kalen Ballage 52-yard touchdown run, they returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to trim the lead to 14-10. It was the first of four consecutive touchdowns scored by the Cougars to take control of the game. The Cougars gave up some scores late, but it was never truly in doubt once Washington State took a commanding 31-14 lead. Injuries continue to bite Arizona State as QB Manny Wilkins went down early once again. He attempted just six passes before exiting the game. While they maintained a perfect conference record with their fifth consecutive victory, the Cougars should definitely be concerned that they managed minus-52 yards rushing on 19 rushes. I don’t even know how that’s possible and it cannot happen again if they want to keep pace with Washington until their Apple Cup showdown later on this season.

Oregon (49) at California (52) in double overtime

This game was crazy. It looked like Cal was going to blow out the Ducks and deliver a thoroughly satisfying beating to get a bit of revenge for the several we have received in recent years, but bizarre decision-making in the third quarter allowed the Ducks to get back into the game. A win is a win, though, so I’m not going to complain. As nice as it was to get a win, and despite all of the points scored, this wasn’t a clean game at all as it was plagued by a myriad of penalties and injuries that slowed the pace of the game significantly. The two quarterbacks in this contest — Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Cal’s Davis Webb — combined for 11 touchdowns and just one interception. The interception was the standout play, though, as it ended the game in the second overtime. Herbert attempted to look off the defense to his left and throw it to his right, but Cal linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk made a tremendous play to tip the ball with one hand and corral it for the interception to seal the victory. The Cal offense stepped up without Chad Hansen and Vic Enwere to the tune of 311 rushing yards and 640 yards of total offense. Khalfani Muhammad and Tre Watson rushed for 148 and 154 yards respectively. Webb did a good job of spreading the ball around as he completed a pass to 10 different receivers en-route to 325 yards passing and five touchdowns to zero interceptions. Oh, and the next time we’re up by three touchdowns and in complete control of the game, please just send Dylan Klumph out there. No more pooch punts from our own half of the field.


California (4-3, 2-2) at USC (4-3, 3-2), Thursday at 7:30 on ESPN

Washington (7-0, 4-0) at Utah (7-1, 4-1), Saturday at 12:30 on Fox Sports 1

Arizona State (5-3, 2-3) at Oregon (2-5, 0-4), Saturday at 2:00 on Pac-12 Network

Washington State (5-2, 4-0) at Oregon State (2-5, 1-3), Saturday at 7:45 on ESPN2

Stanford (4-3, 2-3) at Arizona (2-5, 0-4), Saturday at 8:00 on Fox Sports 1