The midway point of the season is here. Let’s talk Pac-12
Oregon 30, Washington 27
This was not your traditional Oregon win.
The Ducks have been known for light speed offense and big plays, and that has generally been the case this season. But against Washington’s stingy defense Oregon figured out how to string together long, slow drives. Only 10 possessions in an overtime game for the Ducks! Oregon’s longest passing play? 23 yards. Oregon’s longest running play? 14 yards. That’s downright Cal-esque! The obvious difference is that Oregon’s excellent offensive line was able to create enough gaps against UW’s equally excellent defensive front for consistent 4-5 yard chunks on the ground.
Washington, for their part, weren’t all that explosive either, but they did have a slight yards/play advantage and easily could have/should have won the game. But when two teams are so evenly matched, the game easily swings on a few key plays. Oregon went 3-3 on 4th down conversions, and every single 4th and 1 conversion helped sustain vital touchdown drives. Washington blew a critical 4th and 1 when they were already kinda in field goal range, then missed the kick that would have won it anyway at the buzzer.
The Huskies are now just 5-2, with two close road losses to teams that they arguably outperformed on a per down basis. With only two road games left on the schedule (one against increasingly tractable Cal) it’s hard to see them finishing worse than 9-3. But for a team with Pac-12 title and playoff aspirations, losing the only games on the schedule that could have ended in losses is a bitter pill to swallow.
Oregon, meanwhile, have played just two teams likely to be bowling this year and split them. The Ducks nominally control their own destiny but face tough road trips to Utah . . . and Washington State next week with the Gameday crew in town. Might Oregon’s Pac-12 North dominance last just one week?
Utah 42, Arizona 10
Another week. Another Friday Night game. Was this one really a surprise? No. If put in relative terms to our Cal team? Yes, this game put a lot into perspective. Arizona could only muster 1 TD against Utah all the while Utah poured in 42 points on this defense running the same supposed system that OC Troy Taylor learned and took while being under then HC Beau Baldwin. A fun fact from this game? Arizona had 3 different people throw the ball: Rhett Rodriguez, Jamarye Joiner, Khalil Tate. You would think one of those would be a trick play and another skill player, but nope. All three are QBs on the roster. Utah’s QB Tyler Huntley on the other hand completed the TD cycle with a passing TD, rushing TD and receiving TD.
USC 31, Colorado 20
Well this one was surprising. Seemingly unbeatable Colorado falls after the USC defense bottled up Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault Jr. Shenault only had 9 catches for 72 yards while Michale Pittman Jr. had 6 receptions for 155 yards and 2 TDs for USC. USC’s defense came to life despite missing Cam Smith, and put the clamps on this Buffs team early. The Buffs also had no answer outside of forcing it to Shenault. No other receiver gained more than 36 yards. The Buffs run game was also halted with Travon McMillian only accruing 32 yards on 18 carries. He averaged 1.8 yards a carry! That was ultimately the downfall for this Buffs team.