I hope you all got to enjoy some stress-free college football this weekend. I wasn't as lucky since my parents were visiting, so I had to catch up by watching highlights on ESPN. What can you do. My takeaway from the weekend was that Bill Snyder is a damn good coach. I don't know what his formula is, but his teams play mistake-free football, they execute and they don't screw around. It's incredible to see how quickly he has Kansas State back in the national championship hunt. Their record has improved every year since he came back in 2009. In our own conference, I think Mike Riley is running away so far with the Coach of the Year award, but let's see how the Beavers finish.
Player of the Week: Kenjon Barner, Oregon - in a big matchup in Tempe, Barner should have opened a lot more eyes than he has so far. I don't know why he is not mentioned in Heisman talks. Barner torched a previously solid ASU defense with 16 rushes for 143 yards and 3 TDs. He has 12 TDs on the year and 870 yards. In the same game, his QB Mariota had a rushing TD, a receiving TD and a pass TD. And yet all you heard this weekend was whiner extraordinaire Matt Barkley's record day. Sorry Matty boy, you don't get any credit when you have two Heisman quality wide receivers and you're playing Colorado.
Stat of the Week: 406 - Oregon had 406 yards rushing against Arizona State...and only 48 passing yards.
Game of the Week: UCLA at Arizona State, 12:00 pm PST, FX - No bigger game this week. UCLA is looking tobreak some very bad habits while ASU will try to recover from the Duck migration. The winner can lay its claim as a contender for the division.
1. Oregon (7-0, 4-0): tootooroo, move along, nothing to see here, just another Duck blowout. The Ducks had to prove that they could win against a tougher opponent on the road. Well they did that. And they also showed that they don't need to pass the ball to win. 406 rushing yards, 48 total passing yards, 43-21 victory. Don't be fooled, it was 43-7 at halftime and Chip Kelly pulled some of his starters (my guess is, so as to not embarrass the home team). Sadly, they lost a spot in the BCS rankings for their effort, but it may not matter for long. They get another Thursday night game when Colorado comes to visit. Chip Kelly may not even play his starters.
2. Oregon State (6-0, 4-0): Off to their best start in 105 years, the Beavers are already bowl-eligible after a disastrous 2011 season. With an offense that was struggling against a Utah defense playing up to its reputation, the Beaver defense stepped up big with turnovers that set up some easy scores. Good thing too, because the offense only generated 227 yards and did not look that great except for one good drive in the 4th quarter. It'd better improve next week when Mike Riley's bunch visits Washington.
3. Stanford (5-2, 3-1): an illogical date for the Big Game did not deter the Cardinal who took care of business in Cal's renovated Memorial Stadium. David Shaw may be conservative but at least he understands that you take advantage of an opponent's weakness. So he made Stepfan Taylor rush 28 times and was rewarded with 189 yards and a TD. Then he went to his tight end Zach Ertz and got 134 yards and a TD. Game over. It's not that complicated when you play Cal, no need to get cute...right Mazzone? Sure, it helps when your defense only allows 18 yards rushing (3 net). But sometimes, going vanilla pays off. Maybe Wazzu will give them a tougher challenge when they visit this week.
4. Washington (3-4, 1-3): by all accounts, the Huskies had a brutal schedule this year, on top of not playing in their home stadium. But it has not been a pretty sight either. Washington got demolished in Tucson by Arizona, 52-17, and was handed its 3rd straight loss. The record is not unexpected given the teams they played, but the offense's performance has been atrocious. Sark was supposedly an offensive genius and QB guru, but that has not played out this season. Washington is 95th in passing yards, 93rd in rushing yards and 105th in scoring. Those numbers will very likely improve in the last 4 games...but probably not next week, when Oregon State's tough defense visits. I wish UCLA had them in the schedule instead of Oregon State!
5. Cal (3-5, 2-3): Cal went back to being Cal, and Maynard went back to being Maynard. The Cal defense played relatively well in the Big Game, but not well enough. They would have had to pitch a shutout to win this game, as the offense only scored 3 points and got 3 net yards rushing. Cal has four games left to win 3 in order to make a bowl game...and it does not look good for Tedford's team, with games against the Oregon schools to close out the season. You never know, they could play at a Magical Level! But unfortunately they do not play UCLA anymore. Instead they travel to Utah in what will be a must win for both teams.
6. Washington State (2-5, 0-4): the Cougars had the week off and will take on Stanford this week. Their defense could make things interesting, as they did well against a similar Oregon State offense. Let's see what the pirate has in store!
1. Southern Cal (6-1, 4-1): as bullies do, the Trogans took out their frustration from a scoreless half last week on poor hapless Colorado. Lame Kitten was his usual arrogant self. Really, is there a more detestable coach in college football? Is there a single person outside Southern Cal and ESPN who likes this guy? The only thing of note here is that Matt Barkley broke Drew Olson's conference record for QB rating. But Drew did it without two elite Heisman-level receivers. And Drew never whined like Barkley. Anyway, I'm going to stop pointing out the obvious. Except to say that Southern Cal is done with the soft part of their schedule and has lost to the only ranked team it faced. The next 5 games are much tougher...beginning with a visit to the desert to take on Arizona. It will be a shootout. Ok, I admit it, I want Lame Kitten to cry.
2. Arizona (4-3, 1-3): Arizona finally got its first conference win, in style, by destroying Washington at home. RichRod's offense was humming, to the tune of 533 yards. This was the only game I got to watch on Saturday, and the Wildcats made it look easy. This team could easily be 6-1 and leading the conference, but they had to play the Oregon schools and Stanford, and barely lost two of those. If they can take care of the Trogans this week, I think they have a very good chance of running the table the rest of the way and winning the division.
3. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1): the Sun Devils had their second Thursday night game in a row and a return to reality as the Ducks flew in, laid waste and left in a blur. The game started well enough for the Sun Devils, who recovered a fumble and quickly scored a TD to go up 7-0. But in a sign of things to come, they lost their star defensive tackle Will Sutton to an injury on that fumble recovery and quickly fell behind after that score...by 36 points. I don't think Todd Graham or the rest of the team will even be worried about this game. They will instead turn their focus on a visiting UCLA team, although they probably don't know which UCLA team will show up. Neither do we.
4. UCLA (5-2, 2-2): the Bruins had a bye which they hopefully put to good use. Aside from players recovering from injuries, the coaches really need to figure out what kind of team they would like to have. And no, you cannot be "Young team that makes mistakes". The scrimmage might have lifted spirits, but more than anything, UCLA will need a good game plan and a focused effort to beat ASU on the road this week. Our program has a horrible history, not just with road games, but with games after bye weeks. Time for Mora to earn his paycheck.
5. Utah (2-5, 0-4): the Utes simply have not been able to recover from the loss of their starting QB. They played well against Oregon State, but it is a lot to ask a freshman QB to beat this Beaver team (though Travis Wilson will be a good one). I think Wittingham was very smart to play him and get him some experience, and perhaps he is taking a page out of Mike Riley's playbook and setting the team up for a big 2013 season. The Utes still have a chance to go bowling this season given their remaining schedule. They must first beat Cal at home this week, and it should be a tight contest as both teams have their back against the wall.
6. Colorado (1-6, 1-3): you know something? Colorado was actually in this game early on. Twice, they drove to the Southern Cal red zone, only to be undone by turnovers. They had 6 of them in the game, and of course that's just not going to cut it on the road. The newcomer blues continues. And for their troubles, the Buffs get to visit Autzen this week. If I were Embree, I would just blitz on every down and throw bombs. But I'm not, and he's still trying to coach and teach. Good luck to you, sir. I can confidently say that we're all pulling for you.
The games are getting bigger and bigger and more meaningful every Saturday. I love this time of year, and I'm sure I'd love it even more if our Bruins got rid of their decade-long bad habits. The rest of the conference schedule has some doozies. Fire away on your thoughts about the conference, contenders and pretenders!