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Around the Pac-12: Week 5

Pac-12 After Dark in Full Effect.

NCAA Football: Oregon at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 season is in full swing. Let’s get right to it!

Notre Dame 38, Stanford 17

Let’s talk a bit about the Stanford running game. As many of you might be aware, Bryce Love is averaging a downright pedestrian 4.3 yards/carry and talking heads around the country are wondering what happened to the Heisman hopeful.

The answer is that Stanford’s running game secretly hasn’t been very good for more than a year, and it just took a really long time for everybody to realize it.

Bryce Love is a brilliant running back, one of the most dangerous open field runners in the game. If you can get him to the 2nd level, he will turn a 12 yard run into a 50 yard run better than just about anybody. But he’s not a great between-the-tackles runner. He’s not the guy to turn a 3 yard run into a 6 yard run by pushing through contact.

Last year’s Stanford running game was buoyed by an absurd number of Love home runs, and it was a rate that was never going to be sustainable (particularly if Love continues to nurse a series of minor leg injuries that might be sapping some of his explosiveness). Meanwhile, Stanford’s offensive line continues to be pretty, pretty bad at run blocking. The Cardinal are currently 126th in the nation in opportunity rate and 127th in stuff rate, which basically means that Stanford’s line can’t run block at all.

This is a stunning development for a team that built its entire identity on the power run game, and honestly it’s to Stanford’s credit that they have been able to win so many games this year and last year with their run game so broken. But it will probably cost them more games later this year.

Washington State 28, Utah 24

Over the course of 50 minutes of football, Utah had defended 55 pass attempts pretty well. True, Wazzu had managed one long completion for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter, but Utah had held the air raid to just 6.4 yards/attempt.

But part of the air raid concept is that if you keep passing over and over and over and over, eventually somebody in the secondary will fall asleep, or miss a tackle, or one of your skill position guys will make a great play, and a short pass will turn into a big play. And sure enough Easop Winston managed to break a few tackles and go 89 yards for a touchdown on an otherwise routine looking play. And all of Utah’s hard 2nd half work was erased.

Of course, this was all possible in part because Utah’s own offense was pretty ineffective and had also nearly been shut out in the 2nd half. When nearly half of your offensive plan is to run Zack Moss into the line over and over and over for short gains, maybe you have only yourself to blame.

Washington 35, BYU 7

This is kind of a deceptive score - Washington and BYU are both very slow paced teams, and they combined for not very many possessions, and also Washington blew a few scoring chances because their kicker is unreliable, and that’s how a 28 point margin somehow doesn’t even reflect how dominant the Huskies were in this game.

The story again should probably be Washington’s excellent defense, which held BYU to less than 4 yards/play despite a pretty efficient passing performance from Tanner Mangum. Other than a road trip to Eugene to take on Justin Herbert it’s really hard to look at the schedule and find an offense that seems likely to give UW’s defense a legitimate test.

Colorado 38, UCLA 16

The Chip Kelly Inaugural Season in Westwood is becoming more and more of a disaster. Parents of players are now voicing their displeasure via social media and it looks like total disarray for the baby bears. Colorado on the other hand has goen undefeated led by their attack of Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault Jr. Shenault is the clear cut #1 offensive option on this team and could easily be the 1B to Arizona State’s N’keal Harry in the All Pac-12 1st team. Where does UCLA go from here? Is Colorado now the favorite in the south? Crazy, that the trajectory for the season of both programs changed this drastically.

Arizona State 52, Oregon State 24

Not much to say here. ASU was heavily favored. ASU scored at least a touchdown in every quarter. Manny Wilkins threw 3 TDs. N’Keal Harry caught one touchdown and ran for one touchdown. Eno Benjamin for ASU racked up 3 touchdowns on 30 carries. Oh? Did I mention he had 312 yards. Thats 10.4 per carry and only a long of 47 yards. This ASU team may have the best offense in the conference. Thanks to the football gods we wont be in a shootout with them, because the only thing we would shoot would be our own foot.

USC 24, Arizona 20

How is USC squeaking out these wins? Last week it was by 3 at home against Wazzu. This week its by 4 in Tucson. Again, the drama in the game came late. Arizona looked like they had all the momentum in the 4th quarter. 2 fumble recoveries and penalties to USC. That allowed Arizona to score at 9:34 in the fourth then again with 1:40 left to play. They missed the PAT. Opted for the onside, but could not recover it. Once again SC gave themselves just enough of a cushion to squeak out the win. The regression of Khalil Tate has been the biggest story so far. A dark horseman Heisman Candidate in the preseason, now has become an afterthought even in the conference. Kevin Sumlin has to figure out how to make his QB more consistent both in the air and on the ground if he wants to start stringing some wins together. Hopefully that happens after week 6.