Welcome back everyone. This is the last of the catch-up blogs; after this I can finally watch these games live again.
I. Eugene and Corvallis Take Center Stage
The Pac-12 balance of power rests squarely in the state of Oregon this season. The Ducks and Beavers are the only remaining unbeaten teams in the conference, and they could be headed to a winner-take-all Civil War in November. Let’s take a look at how these two teams fared last week.
Oregon 43, Arizona State 21: relatively close, right? Wrong. Oregon was ahead of ASU by a score of 43-7 after less than twenty minutes. Had the Ducks continued at this pace (i.e. allowing their starters to play the entire game), the final score would have been 129-21. Don’t laugh. Oregon’s offense could do whatever it wanted right now — and they did, on the road, against what had been the conference’s leading defense. Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes.
Oregon State 21, Utah 7: this one was all about defense. Although the Beavers were held to 226 total yards, the offense did the smart thing: they did not give the ball away. Utah did, four times, and that was enough to propel Oregon State to its first 6-0 start since 1907, when the school was known as Oregon Agricultural College. You’ve come a long way, Beaver.
II. Rest of the Pac
UCLA and WSU had byes.
USC 50, Colorado 6: Colorado had more first downs and won the time of possession battle. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they lost every other statistical category, including a disastrous six turnovers. USC was so efficient in this game that they scored 50 points on just 48 plays! Barkley went 19-of-20 (the lone incompletion a drop by McNeal) to cruise to a 33-6 halftime lead. So is the Trojan offense back on track? Not yet. After all, this was Colorado.
Stanford 21, Cal 3: oh, how I wish this Cal team had showed up against UCLA. The Bears were held to a pathetic 3 net yards rushing — for the entire game — and managed nothing more than a field goal in losing the 115th Big Game. Stanford keeps the Axe for a third straight season. Jeff Tedford will not likely keep his job at the end of this season.
Arizona 52, Washington 17: well well well, what have we here? The Wildcats, who have played a difficult schedule this season, came off a bye week well rested and ready to go. The Huskies, who have played an even more difficult schedule, were just plain battered. The result? A runaway victory by Arizona, which is much better than its 4-3 record would indicate. Although the ‘Cats are just 1-3 in conference, two of those losses were to Stanford (overtime) and Oregon State (final minute). I would not want to play this team right now.
III. Pac Power Rankings + Commentary
1. USC. Despite the offensive inconsistency, the Trojans are still the team to beat in the South.
2. ASU. You couldn’t keep up with Oregon? Neither can anyone else.
3. Arizona. The ‘Cats get the nod for the #3 spot over UCLA because they are two plays away from being 6-1.
4. UCLA. As stated in last week’s blog, the Bruins are the wild card team in the conference.
5. Utah. The defense remains strong, but the offense just can’t get it together.
6. Colorado. 1-11 anyone?
1. Oregon. Not only are they the best team in the conference, they are arguably the best team in the nation. I have the Ducks on a par with Alabama and Kansas State at the moment.
2. Oregon State. Why is this team ranked below Notre Dame? The Beavers have been far more impressive (compare their 42-24 win at BYU with a second string QB vs. the Irish’s 17-14 home win over the Cougars this week) and deserve to be at least #5 in the nation. I’m OK with Florida in the #4 spot, but Oregon State should be #5, with the Irish at #6. Everyone else with one loss needs to wait in line.
3. Stanford. The defense has come to play the past two weeks, proving that the effort against Arizona was an aberration. The Cardinal therefore take over the #3 spot in the North.
4. Washington. The Huskies take a big fall to a weak #4 position. Their win over Stanford looks more and more like a fluke. Sarkisian has been given time, but he needs to show some results. UW not looking good right now.
5. Cal. I don’t know if the Bears can get to .500 this season. Even if they do, can Tedford survive?
6. Washington State. Perhaps the biggest disappointment this year. I understand that transitioning to a new offensive system will take time, but no one expected the Cougars to be THIS bad on offense.
IV. On Deck
FINALLY! A complete docket of conference games this weekend — and all of them on Saturday, with no byes, and none of this ridiculous Thursday night garbage.
Colorado at Oregon: the best hosts the worst. Oregon wins by as many points as they wish.
WSU at Stanford: if WSU avoids turnovers, it is not entirely out of the question they could stay relatively close in this game. Stanford’s offense hasn’t been impressive. Their defense, however, has been, and I expect the Cardinal to win another ho-hum, “boring” game that’s over by the half — just the way David Shaw likes it.
Cal at Utah: the Desperation Bowl. Cal wants to remain in the hunt for a bowl game. Utah is looking for its first conference win this season. This could get ugly. I don’t know what the over-under is, but if you’re a betting person, take the under.
And now for the good games:
USC at Arizona. Arizona’s offense has explosive potential, but their defense has been weak. USC’s offense also has explosive potential, but their defense has been solid. Arizona’s only chance is to outscore the Trojans in the high 30’s or 40’s. USC need only hold Arizona to 28 points or fewer. Advantage: Trojans.
Oregon State at Washington: from 1975 to 2000, Oregon State lost 23 out of 24 times to UW. How things have changed! The Beavers have won 7 of the last 8 meetings and look to continue that trend in Seattle. But this game is going to be tough: Oregon State was not sharp on offense against Utah last week, and Washington will play as if (or perhaps because) their season depends on it. The Beavers are going to have to take care of the football and avoid mistakes if they are to move to 7-0. This could be the game of the week.
UCLA at Arizona State: the battle for the #2 spot in the South comes down to this game. Don’t pay any attention to ASU’s loss to Oregon last Thursday. That was Oregon; this is UCLA. The Bruins will have to play smart to have a chance. ASU will be out to prove that last week’s misadventure was a one-time freak show. I expect the Sun Devils to win this game at home, setting up a big game at the Coliseum vs. USC for the division lead. If the Bruins somehow pull it out, though, I will have to admit that the team is way ahead of schedule. Given the team’s youth and inconsistency, however, I don’t expect that to happen.
V. Finishing Up: Around the Nation
SMU defeats Houston 72-42. Enough with these basketball scores already….
Ohio State squeaks by Purdue, 29-22, in overtime. I can’t believe the Buckeyes are still undefeated. Please, PLEASE someone beat this team.
LSU holds on to win on the road, 24-19, over Texas A&M. Both teams are playing good football this season, particularly the Aggies, who are much improved over last year.
Vanderbilt defeats Auburn 17-13 to send the reeling Tigers to 1-6.
Florida upends South Carolina by the picturesque score of 44-11. The Gators are 7-0 and control their own destiny in the national title hunt. If they can defeat Georgia this weekend, they will likely be 11-0 entering their season finale against Florida State. Tantalizing….
Louisville moves to 7-0 by hanging on at home over South Florida, 27-25.
Michigan uses four field goals to win a defensive struggle over Michigan State, 12-10.
Texas Tech wins a triple overtime thriller on the road against TCU, 56-53, to set up a titanic showdown in Manhattan against Kansas State.
Notre Dame barely defeats BYU 17-14, but moves to 7-0 nevertheless. I expect the Irish to get pummeled at Oklahoma this weekend, though.
Duke becomes BOWL ELIGIBLE (?!!) by defeating North Carolina 36-33. This should make national news. Seriously, Duke?
Georgia has just enough to finish off Kentucky, 29-24, in Lexington. If they play like that against Florida this weekend, it could get ugly fast.
The Football Factory (aka Alabama) humbles Tennessee, 44-13, in Knoxville. No big whoop. Just another day at the office for Saban and Co. (Good luck stopping the Tide right now.)
The Glass Bowl claims another victim — this time, previously undefeated Cincinnati, who falls to Toledo, 29-23. I give myself full credit for this victory, since I made a point of pointing out the Glass Bowl in previous blog posts. So there.
Kansas State puts on perhaps the most impressive performance of the day, not only scoring 55 points in Morgantown, but more significantly, shutting down Geno Smith and the Mountaineer offense. West Virginia was held to one offensive touchdown (in the 4th quarter, well after the game was decided). With the 55-14 victory, Kansas State positions itself as a legitimate #1 team, and Collin Klein stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field — at present — for Heisman consideration.
Oklahoma spanks hapless Kansas, 52-7, in Norman. I don’t expect them to have as easy a time against Notre Dame this weekend, but the result should be the same: another Sooner victory.
Southern Miss loses to Marshall, 59-24, at home, to fall to 0-7. This is the same team that won the Conference USA championship last year, finished #19 in the country, and won 12 games. Isn’t it?
Florida State runs by Miami, 33-20, to hand the Hurricanes their fourth loss of the season. Let’s hope more are coming so that when the NCAA sanctions hit, Miami will be even worse off than they are now. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Penn State moves to 5-2 with a dominating 38-14 win over Iowa in Iowa City. Kirk Ferentz may be in really hot water. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have turned things around magnificently after an 0-2 start.
Texas 56, Baylor 50. Good grief. Is defense really optional in the Big 12? Neither of these teams belongs in the national discussion. Yo Longhorns: PLAY SOME D.