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Pac-12 Recap Week 4: Stanford and Washington escape to setup top-10 showdown

The Pac-12 conference’s best chance at making the playoff could be determined Friday night when the Cardinal take on the Huskies, but both teams were extremely close to losing in week four.

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State (38) at Oregon State (24)

The Beavers could not prevent the dam from breaking early on in this matchup with the Broncos as they found themselves down 31-7 at halftime. Boise State outgained the Beavers 512 to 287 and, if not for special teams, the Beavers would not have generated much of anything offensively. One Oregon State touchdown was a 99-yard kick return and another was setup by a long return. Oregon State has a lot of work to do if they want to contend in the north division in the near future.

Colorado (41) at Oregon (38)

Both teams were down a star offensive player as the Buffs lost quarterback Sefo Liufau during their game against Michigan, and the Ducks lost Royce Freeman against Nebraska. The star of the show was Liufau’s replacement, Steven Montez, as he completed 23 of 32 passes for three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 21 times for 135 yards and another touchdown. A rough third quarter melted away Colorado’s halftime lead, but their defense stepped up in the fourth quarter by pitching a shutout. The winning touchdown was a 31-yard pass to Bryce Bobo. The Buffs converted a two-point try to take a field goal lead before sealing the game with a late interception in the endzone to grab Mike MacIntyre’s signature victory as Colorado head coach.

Stanford (22) at UCLA (13)

The Bruins just cannot find a way to win big games under Jim Mora. They can beat USC from time to time, but the Trojans have fallen off severely from where they used to be under Pete Carroll. It looked like UCLA would finally snap its streak of eight consecutive losses to Stanford as they kept the Cardinal offense — also known as Christian McCaffrey -- under wraps for the most part. McCaffrey rushed for 138 yards and did not score a touchdown, but it still was not enough to keep UCLA from blowing it in the end. Cardinal quarterback Ryan Burns — who had not really done much of anything for most of the game — was able to orchestrate a 70-yard drive with just 2:05 left on the clock when the drive began. UCLA was not done UCLA-ing it up, though, as they managed to get down the field a bit before a Josh Rosen fumble was scooped up for a touchdown to make this one look better than it was for Stanford. Not the most impressive performance from a supposed top-10 team in the nation — a distinction not just reserved for the Cardinal ...

Washington (35) at Arizona (28)

I really don’t know what Washington did to earn such a high ranking to start the season and after four games the answer to that question has gotten no clearer. The Huskies played no one in their non-conference schedule and predictably steam-rolled through the “competition.” This game was billed as their first true test, but how much of a test are the Wildcats? Sure, they’ve been able to upset some top teams since Rich Rodriguez showed up, but they were also getting smoked at home by Grambling and were only able to comeback once the Tigers’ starting QB went down. You never want to get too harsh about a road win in the Pac-12, but Washington should do better than needing overtime to beat Arizona if they truly are contenders to win the conference and potentially qualify for the College Football Playoff. A positive note for the Huskies is that they averaged 6.9 yards per carry en-route to piling up 352 yards rushing. The flip-side to that coin is they allowed 7.1 yards per carry as the Wildcats racked up 308 rushing yards despite being forced into using their fourth string running back due to injury.

California (41) at Arizona State (51)

A tale of two halves in this one. The Cal defense played a tremendous game in the first half against the Sun Devils, but could not replicate their performance in the second half. Of course, the defense wasn’t the only reason the Bears coughed up a 14-point halftime lead, as the offense went dormant in the third quarter for a second consecutive game and were not able to find a rhythm in the fourth quarter this time. Just like the San Diego State loss, Davis Webb threw a back-breaking pick-six which pretty much sealed the comeback win for Arizona State. There are a lot of concerning aspects to consider from this loss, but I’ll keep the article rolling by just touching on one. What is going on at halftime of Cal games? The offensive coaching staff has now failed to make the appropriate adjustments at halftime in two consecutive games and a poor third quarter came back to bite the team this time. The first half featured varied play calling that kept the Sun Devils on their heels. Cal threw the ball to all depths of the field and gashed the Sun Devils defense with the inside running game. Chad Hansen dominated the first half but did not catch a pass in the second half as the ASU defense made some adjustments. The Cal offense became overly reliant on short passing and shotgun draws which allowed ASU to play downhill the entire second half. Cal didn’t take many shots down the field to try and back them off and it resulted in a horrible fourth quarter and another road loss that so easily could have been a win. Turnovers have cost Cal a chance at 4-0 this season ... not exactly a good thing when your next opponent is Utah.

USC (27) at Utah (31)

Now that Les Miles has been fired as head coach of LSU, is it safe to say Clay Helton is on the hottest seat in the power five? USC blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to fall to 1-3 for the first time since 2001. Meanwhile, Utah QB Troy Williams stuck it to his boyhood team to the tune of 270 yards and two touchdowns. What the Trojans do from here on out will say a lot about the makeup of that team. Will they continue to fight and play hard for their coaching staff despite the rough start to the season? Or will they quit if the going gets tough in their next game? The answer to that question might be the biggest factor in determining how much longer Helton stays in charge out in Los Angeles. On the flip-side, the Utes keep on finding ways to win. The way they do it isn’t always impressive, but what matters at the end of the day is adding another digit to the win column.

UP NEXT (all times Pacific)

Stanford (3-0) at Washington (4-0), Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN

Oregon State (1-2) at Colorado (3-1), Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Network

Utah (4-0) at California (2-2), Saturday at 3 p.m. on Pac-12 Network

Arizona State (4-0) at USC (1-3), Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on FOX

Oregon (2-2) at Washington State (1-2), Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Network

Arizona (2-2) at UCLA (2-2), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN