It must be a symptom of the sports-abused fan, to constantly look for the bad in the good, to view any imperfection in your team as a bad sign. For some, there is definitely a thrill, enjoying early success as UCLA had in September. For others, it is more dread, expecting eventual disappointment because they just can't get over those imperfections. Does a prolonged period of underachievement make fans overly demanding? We have discussed our team's weaknesses and they have reared their heads at times. But there have also been some pleasant surprises and we should not lose sight of those. We have a long way to go, but hopefully we have already seen the worst of our team, and not yet the best.
Player of the Week: Sean Mannion, Oregon State - making his case for best QB in the conference (he has my vote), Mannion was 29-45 for 433 yards and 3 TDs in the Beavers' road victory over Arizona. It was a masterful performance by the redshirt sophomore QB (yeah, he has at least a whole other year to terrorize the conference), who took his team on a game winning drive in the waning minutes.
Stat of the Week: 0 - in its loss to Washington, Stanford was held without an offensive touchdown for the first time since Oct. 27, 2007, a loss at Oregon State.
Game of the Week: Washington at Oregon, 7:30 pm PT, ESPN - a heated rivalry and what could be an entertaining game...but really, ESPN? A matchup of two ranked teams at 10:30pm eastern time? Not that I want either of those teams to get any extra exposure, but a little respect would be nice.
1. Oregon (5-0, 2-0): another typical game for the Ducks, where they let the opposition hang around before demolishing them. Oregon's lead over Wazzu was just 23-19 at halftime. Then they scored 3 straight TDs in the 3rdquarter. Chip Kelly either exploded in the locker room, or was quiet the whole time until the very end, where he "gently" reminded his players who their opponent was. Chip got this one, but I have a feeling this game is going to be a lot of fun in the years to come. The Ducks host UW this week
2. Oregon State (3-0, 2-0): these Beavers aren't just for real, they're contenders. Continuing one of the most impressive turnarounds of any team in college football this year, Oregon State notched another huge road victory over a ranked team by defeating Arizona in the desert. The Beavers were up by 17 points before the Wildcats rallied. In a highly entertaining game, the lead changed 6 times in the second half until Sean Mannion drove his team to victory. They go back home and better stay focused to take on Washington State.
3. Washington (3-1, 1-0): a big victory for the Huskies, who surprisingly relied on a strong defensive performance to beat top-10 Stanford on Thursday night. Washington hung around, trailing the whole game until its go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter. The usually overpowering Stanford ground attack was stopped by a great scheme (which might provide clues for the rest of the conference) and without an elite QB like Luck, the Cardinal became vulnerable. UW gets the opposite end of the spectrum when it travels to face Oregon and its speedy playmakers.
4. Stanford (3-1, 1-1): mustering only 65 yards on the ground is not the Cardinal way. Stanford was stymied by the suddenly stout Washington defense and could not rely on Josh Nunes to bail them out. Despite a defensive effort that should have been good enough for a win, the Cardinal could not survive without its bread and butter power running game. Jim Harbaugh was so pissed at David Shaw that he didn't let the Jets score a single point on Sunday. Stanford faces Arizona's dangerous offense at home this week and could fall to its worst conference record in a long, long time if it doesn't rebound.
5. Cal (1-4, 0-2): Five games into the season and we still don't know what kind of team Cal is. Why? Because its opponents are a combined 16-3. Is Cal the best 1-4 team in the country, or are they just not good? I think it's the former, despite being just 1-2 at home in their newly renovated stadium. The weakest link on this Bear team seems to be their QB, which is usually a kiss of death. Then again, they also had 119 yards in penalties. It is unclear why Zach Maynard remains the starter at Cal, but it may be another case of a good practice player not getting it done on the field. Tedford seems enamored of Maynard's supposed mobility, but the Cal QB was sacked 6 times and was only 9 of 28 for 126 yards in their loss to Arizona State. They seem to have all the other pieces to be a good team. Sure, we hope for a repeat performance when UCLA visits next week, but Cal always seems to get up for that game.
6. Washington State (2-3, 0-2): the pirate taunted the visor-wearing biker, swinging his sword in his face a few times in the first half. Wazzu kept things very interesting in the first half at Oregon, down only 23-19 at halftime, before the Ducks had their salve of TDs in the 3rd quarter. As with past Leach-coached teams, the ball was flung around generously...but the Cougars had -8 yards rushing for the game. Yes, that's a minus sign, even if it's caused by 7 sacks. Lots of work left to do in Pullman. Meanwhile, a road trip to Oregon State will likely not do wonders for the Cougars' psyche.
1. Southern Cal (3-1, 1-1): the Trogans were off in preparation for their Thursday night game at Utah. They probably like Utah, because any time you say "Mormon" they probably hear "more money". As a side note, they have lost to the only ranked team they have faced this year. And Lame Kitten is still a gigantic jerk.
2. Arizona State (4-1, 2-0): another impressive, complete win for Todd Graham's new team, on the road. After the Sun Devils beat Utah in every aspect of the game, they traveled to Cal and had a sack fest. But they also have a seriously good QB in Taylor Kelly, who continues his steady excellent play to the tune of 292 yards and 3 TDs. The game wasn't even that close as ASU missed 3 field goals. The Sun Devils have clearly put themselves in the thick of the divisional race, but they are still a bit of an unknown. Their 4 wins are over a FCS team and the other 3 opponents are a combined 6-9, which is probably why they aren't in the top 25 yet. The second half of their schedule is far more brutal. They'll likely add to their win total when they travel to Colorado for a Thursday night game, but in the meantime they have the week off.
3. UCLA (4-1, 1-1): conference road victories have been a rarity for UCLA in the last few years. True, Colorado is not an imposing opponent, but any victory on the road is welcome. The Bruins played well, and Brett Hundley continued his steady and good play at QB. It should make everyone smile and feel really good about our prospects that it is only his first year of actually playing college football. As Coach Mora put it, he is "unflappable". The defense was very good, allowing only one meaningful drive for a TD. There are concerns about the holes that opponents keep finding in our secondary, however. Aside from the tough news about Devin Lucien's broken clavicle (earning his initials the wrong way this season), UCLA should feel good about its position but must be extremely focused this week. The Bruins have a history of losing to bad Cal teams (though not sure if they are actually bad this year). The Bears are still dangerous and will be looking to maintain their pride at home next week.
4. Arizona (3-2, 0-2): Rich Rodriguez will probably hate the state of Oregon for a while. The Wildcats probably feel like they let one slip away, losing late in the 4th quarter at home against Oregon State after a great comeback. It never feels good to lose a game, but Arizona played extremely well. They just ran into an opponent who has been firing on all cylinders. This was the second of what is likely going to be five straight games against ranked opponents for Arizona, so they'd better "bear down". We will see how they rebound when they travel to Stanford this week.
5. Utah (2-2, 0-1): the Utes were off this week as they prepare for the Thursday night matchup at home against Southern Cal.
6. Colorado (1-4, 1-1): the young Buffs play with heart and they play hard. They are just overmatched for the most part after years of terrible recruiting. Their QB, hero of last week's victory over Wazzu, is a good player who will help them improve, but he is only around for one more year. But I liked what I saw from their running backs Jones and Powell, as well as receiver McCulloch. Even the defense played inspired in the first half. Clearly these guys have not given up on Coach Embree and that is great to see. That doesn't mean that it won't be a tough season. Hopefully they can take the week off for the young'uns to improve and surprise Arizona State at home on a Thursday night.
There you have it folks. It is shaping up to be a very dynamic competition in the conference in both divisions.