Welcome back, dear readers, to another week of Pac-12 football.
I. HOME COOKIN’
I could start with the national scene, but in light of last week’s fantastic results, why should I?
Let’s begin with the UPSET OF THE WEEK, which has to be – wait a minute, which one should I choose? There were so many remarkable results! I like saving the best for last, so let’s get the icky vegetables out of the way first.
Colorado: lost at home — to Sacramento State. Yikes. To add insult to injury: last week, the Buffs lost to Colorado State – which lost to North Dakota State this week. Double yikes.
Utah: like I said last week, the win over Northern Colorado didn’t mean much; I needed to see how Utah would do against a better quality opponent. I got my answer: not too great. Admittedly, Utah State was a bowl team last year, and has been a pest for the last two seasons to any BCS school they faced. Still, that was a game Utah needed to win. They did not. Join Colorado at the bottom of the South.
From the veggies to the starch (i.e. the more ho-hum results from the conference):
Washington: yes, the Huskies lost 41-3, but it was at LSU. What are you going to do? The Tigers have now won 39 consecutive games against nonconference opponents during the regular season, which ties an FBS record. I’m still withholding judgment on UW.
Stupid Washington State: the school nearly lived down to its name, getting shut out at home in the second half and just hanging on for a 24-20 victory over Eastern Washington. Hello, Cougars? You’re in the Pac-12 now! Wake up!
Dumb Cal: Hosting Southern Utah, Cal was up just 20-17 after three quarters. You think some people in Berkeley weren’t shaking in their boots at the possibility of an 0-2 start? The 50-31 final score does nothing to reverse my opinion that the Bears just ain’t that good.
Oregon: not much to say…the Ducks cruised to a 35-6 halftime lead, then allowed Fresno State to kind of get back in the game. It was 35-19 in the 4th quarter – that’s just two scores folks – before Oregon closed things out with a 42-25 win. Still, that’s not as comfortable as you would like at home.
Stanford: the Card was outgained once again, this time against mighty Duke, but the defense and special teams came through in a big way to post a comfortable 50-13 win over the Blue Devils. Having said that, if Stanford does not up its game significantly during this week of practice, they won’t have a shot against…
USC: half empty, or half full? According to the LA Times, SC’s performance at Syracuse (technically at a neutral site – New Jersey) was uninspiring and not “flashy.” Bill Plaschke’s take: “stumbles, penalties, lethargy.” The scoreboard’s take: the Orange were within 21-16 entering the 4th quarter. My take: USC traveled across the country to play against a team that had scored 41 points the previous week. The weather was awful – the game was delayed for an hour during halftime due to lightning – yet Barkley still connected with Woods, Lee, and company for six (that’s SIX) touchdowns. Final score: Trojans 42, Syracuse 29. I don’t view this as “closer than expected.” I see this as “get the heck out of there and take your win.” I predict we’ll see the real USC in Palo Alto on Saturday. I would be shocked if USC allowed the Cardinal to win for the 5th time in 6 years. No way, no how. Not this time.
Turning now to the main course:
Arizona State: beating Northern Arizona is one thing, but beating Illinois is another. I wasn’t surprised that the Sun Devils took care of the Illini at home, but 45-14? That’s an eye-opener. Can ASU continue these dominating performances? We’ll find out more when they travel to Missouri this weekend.
And now for the most delicious part of the meal.
Dessert #1: Cactus Cooler
Arizona 59, Oklahoma State 38: WHAT a victory for the Wildcats! After being so poor last season, who could have envisioned this result? Certainly not I. RichRod is much further along in his reclamation project than I realized. Not sure what happened to OSU’s defense (perhaps it never existed?), but my oh my, to defeat a Top 20 team this quickly lends much credence to U of A’s claims of being relevant again. If you want to nitpick, you could point out that the ‘Cats allowed 636 yards of total offense, and that OSU had four turnovers and an amazing 167 yards in penalties. But it isn’t Arizona’s fault if the Cowboys choose to self-destruct. This is a statement win for Arizona.
Dessert #2: Badger Stew
Oregon State 10, Wisconsin 7: if you had told me before Saturday that Oregon State would hold Montee Ball to 61 yards rushing and Wisconsin to barely 200 total yards, I would have seriously considered running around the streets of Sunnyvale with no clothes on. Thankfully for the locals, none of you told me this, so I was spared arrest for indecent exposure. Wisconsin, however, was spared nothing – or rather given nothing – by a suddenly stout Beaver defense that put the game on its shoulders and didn’t let up for 60 minutes. Wisconsin? 7 points? This is the same team that had won 33 straight nonconference regular season games! Well, no more. A monumental victory for Oregon State!
Dessert # 3: Creamed Corn
UCLA 36, Nebraska 30: this game was so delicious, so invigoratingly sublime, that I hardly know what to do with myself. Uncle Roger and I sweated through 90+ degree temperatures near field level at the Rose Bowl (thanks Noah for the tickets!), but was it ever worth it.
Let’s see…where to begin…how about a comparison to last year. The 2011 Bruins, particularly on offense, were dull, predictable, and slow. The 2012 Bruins are creative, have many weapons, and play up tempo. While you might expect TE Joe Fauria to call the game “exciting,” you would not expect the LA Times to get into the act and declare it a “thrilling” victory.
Now before you get ahead of yourself and think that I’m going to use this game to see into the future merely because I’m a long-suffering UCLA grad who wants to, think again. Last year, after a big win over Arizona State, what did I predict in the ensuing game against Utah? A loss. Again, after a 45-6 win over Colorado, who did I say would win in the Cross Town Rivalry? USC – and handily. I may be a Bruin fan, but I’m also a chess teacher. You can’t take the logic out of me, nor the objectivity.
So, then, what makes this different?
Answer: everything. Unlike last year’s win over Arizona State (which felt like an accident), this win felt EARNED. The Bruins came to play, and played better than Nebraska – yes, I will say that with confidence – from tackle to tackle, and in the skill positions. The Bruins were physical and disciplined – two things severely lacking from teams of recent years. The anticipation in the stadium was not from fear that the Bruins would collapse, but rather from the hope that their offseason workouts and conditioning would pay early dividends.
UCLA, by its performance in this game – win or lose – has proven that they are already way ahead of schedule. Do not compare this game to the win over Tennessee in 2008. That was a “smoke and mirrors” victory that saw UCLA overcome four interceptions to defeat a team that would finish 5-7. This victory was a total team effort:
- over 650 yards of total offense (sorry Black Shirts);
- better than 15 minute advantage in time of possession; and
- a defensive effort that held the Huskers to just two field goals in the second half.
Could UCLA have won a game like this last year? No. Absolutely not. The coaching was not good enough to be competitive in a game of this caliber. The Bruins have FIVE starters on offense who are freshmen; this means that the new coaching staff has figured out a way to get them up to speed quickly. Just as I place blame where it is required, I need to give credit where credit is due. Coach Mora and his staff have completely transformed this team in nine short months. My voice was hurting for four days after this game. Thrilling indeed!
The last word, however, has to go to Greta (who else?), who was the ONLY person in the family who had the courage to pick UCLA to win. Sylvie (an alum!) said 30-20 Nebraska; Roger, 27-17 Huskers; Gary, 31-21 Big Red; and Cindy – well, shall I just quote her directly? “Nebraska is going to kill UCLA.” Let’s hope she has the same instincts in December when she attempts to defend her bowl predictions title.
For the record, Greta the Magnificent said UCLA 31, Nebraska 21. That’s pretty darn close to 36-30. Since she is too kind to say it, I’ll say it for her: You people who went to Stanford, UCLA, and Woodbury? You don’t know nothin’.
II. Leaders of the Pac and GOW’s
My Current Power Ratings for the Divisions
UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State Oregon State
Games of the Week
#1: USC at Stanford.
#2: Arizona State at Missouri.
#3: Brigham Young at Utah.
#4: Colorado at Fresno State.
III. National Notes
Frankly, last weekend wasn’t all that great – other than in the Pac-12, that is. But there were a few games of note, at least from my perspective.
Kansas State: quadrupled Miami 52-13. Any time Miami loses is cause for celebration, but to lose by 39 points to Kansas State? I must be in heaven!
Louisiana Tech: defeated Houston 56-49. Why do I bring this up? Simple: UCLA is favored by 17 over Houston this Saturday, but the Bruins better be paying attention, because after last week’s miserable performance against Texas State, Houston got its act together on offense in a big way, recording an astounding 40 first downs and 693 total yards on 53-of-77 passing. I do think UCLA will win this game, but the defense better come to play like it did against Nebraska, because Houston can throw it.
Virginia: more misery for Penn State. They lose a heartbreaker, 17-16, because of four missed field goals AND a missed extra point. Can it get any worse in Happy Valley? I don’t think so. Navy, Temple, Illinois, and Northwestern are next. Three of those are at home. The Lions will find a win somewhere in that stretch.
Louisiana Monroe: how did this team defeat Arkansas? You got me. I suppose converting on 4th-and-10 with 55 seconds remaining to score the tying touchdown would do it – along with running for the game-winner on 4th-and-1. But if you really want to know, it has to be the first touchdown that ULM scored. How can anyone cover a receiver named Centarius Donald? He is capable of giving 100% all the time, simply by virtue of his name. Add to that the fact that a football field is 100 yards, and there is no stopping Centarius. In fact, I suggest that he take up both swimming and sprinting in the off season – at the 100 meter distances, of course. Look out, Michael Phelps; move over, Usain Bolt. My C-note’s on Centarius.
Satisfyingly yours (til next week anyway),