It's friggin' freezing here, Mr. Bigglesworth! I could see my own breath just watching that game. Fortunately, the team got me all anxious, the refs got me all pissed off and Wazzu got me very nervous, which made me forget the cold...from the comfort of my own home. Even weirder since I just had come back from Australia and it is almost summer there. It was still a valuable win that, in fact, was a big step in making all things right in the world: a beatdown of Southern Cal leading to a division title. This game hasn't been this big in a long time. So I'll be there.
Player of the Week: Marcus Mariota, Oregon - in the Ducks' weekly blowout, this time against Cal, Mariota was 27-34 for 377 yards and 6 TDs. And that's after almost breaking his hand. He's barely had to play in most of Oregon's games...imagine if he had played a full game each time...
Stat of the Week: 21 penalties for 229 yards - oh, the pageantry! That's the total from the UCLA-WSU game. Thanks, SPTRs!
Game of the Week: Southern Cal at UCLA, 12:05pm, FOX - the biggest game of Coach Mora's rookie year, for the South Division title. Simultaneously, Oregon is playing Stanford. If Oregon wins, they win the North Division. Rematch, please.
1. Oregon (10-0, 7-0): the Ducks toyed around with Cal for a while and had a bit of a scare when QB Marcus Mariota seemed to have injured his hand badly, while stud RB Kenjon Barner was also briefly injured, as well as their entire defensive line...and they still blew out Cal 59-17. In a flash. Their reward is to top the BCS rankings after Alabama's fall. And, as in the past couple of years, they will play Stanford for the division title.
2. Stanford (8-2, 6-1): a tightly contested matchup against Oregon State had Stanford trailing into the 4th quarter. But freshman QB Kevin Hogan showed that he is the man for the job after leading the Cardinal to a TD late in the game and letting his defense do the rest, after the offense committed 4 turnovers. Now Hogan gets to face the green Duck machine in Autzen. Stanford has been in a shootout before, against Arizona, but this will be a whole other game. The Cardinal needs to win its next two games against Oregon and UCLA to claim the North Division.
3. Oregon State (7-2, 5-2): the Beavers have lost a bit of their mojo after QB Sean Mannion went down with a knee injury, but Cody Vaz filled in valiantly and kept them on target. He was good again in this game, but the Beavers could not get their running game going (much like other Stanford opponents) and could not take advantage of all Cardinal turnovers. Although a division title is now a remote possibility, the great Beaver season continues (likely unimpeded) next week as Cal visits Corvallis before the Civil War against Oregon. Oregon State will also have its makeup game against Nicholls on December 1st.
4. Washington (6-4, 4-3): the Huskies' offense finally showed signs of life against Utah, with good games from Keith Price and Bishop Sankey, facing a decent Utah defense. It was only the second time they had scored more than 21 points this season. Despite a very tough early schedule, Washington is now bowl eligible for the third straight season. Unlike basketball, it doesn't really pay to be "battle-tested" in college football. The Huskies could still end up with 8 wins, though the next 2 games are road trips, to Colorado, then to Pullman for the Apple Cup...unless Wazzu has turned it around after their 2nd half against UCLA.
5. Cal (3-8, 2-6): it's not a surprise for most teams to get steamrolled by Oregon. But Cal's season has been surprisingly bad...except of course for their ridiculous outing against UCLA. This was not how the inaugural season was supposed to go in the renovated Memorial Stadium (2-5 at home), but it seems the off-season turmoil was too much to handle. It didn't help that Cal didn't have a bye week this season, which, mercifully for Bears fans, ends next week in Corvallis as Cal travels to take on Oregon State. With a lot of college football left after their last game, this season will be a tough pill to swallow for the players.
6. Washington State (2-8, 0-7): Mike Leach's strategy this year, considering that he just didn't have his kind of guys, seems to be to weed out all those who can't hack it. It may take a lot to hack it in Leach's system, certainly according to those who left the program (18 of them, if I'm not mistaken). But if you have a culture in mind, it may be what it takes. The Cougars came out on fire against UCLA at home, in the freezing weather (thanks for nothing, Pac-12...7:30pm game in November in Pullman? With the worst referee crew in the conference?). Unfortunately, they made too many mistakes and allowed the Bruins to build up a big lead before mounting a furious comeback with backup QB Connor Halliday who threw 5 TDs after Tuel was knocked out (which was likely fortunate for UCLA). Maybe Leach has gotten through to his players. As for me, I don't really like the way he's approached his "culture change", but most of all, I don't like how dirty his team has been playing, from what I saw with my own eyes. And apparently, it's not a new thing, as I'm finding out his Texas Tech teams were also known for dirty tricks, but that's just hearsay. Anyway, the Cougars travel to take on Arizona State and we'll see if their second half was a turnaround or yet another "magical moment" against UCLA.
1. UCLA (8-2, 5-2): first came the bad, then the good, then the bad again. Jekyll and Hyde was apparently written in Westwood. There are many excuses and theories as to how UCLA allowed Washington State to come to within one TD of tying this game after being up 44-14. You can try the cold weather, a hyped up opponent with nothing to lose, the hilariously incompetent referees, the injuries, or the latest rage which posits that the coaches were "saving things" for next week's matchup against Southern Cal. I don't buy it. The offense was impotent and really didn't get much going all game, and the defense was left out in the cold (literally) for far too long, allowing Wazzu to get in rhythm. So the Bruins had better warm up, mend their booboos and get a steely eyed focus to finally take down Tosh 3.0's merry band of Trogan cheaters. We want a rematch against Oregon.
2. Southern Cal (7-3, 5-3): playing without Silas Redd, and with Marqise Lee having a bad allergic reaction right before the game (likely to homework), the Trogans found themselves locked even at halftime against Arizona State, and down 17-14 early in the second half. But behind Curtis McNeal the Trogans romped the rest of the way while keeping ASU scoreless and limiting their penalties to win 38-17. Now, we can mock their "unfinished business" all we want, and we want it a lot, and it's fair game. But the Trogans' struggles won't mean anything unless UCLA adds to the Southern Cal misery this Saturday. It will be a tall task, and that sword better not end up on our logo...but the thought of a potential 7-5 season for Kiffykins is just too much motivation.
3. Arizona (6-4, 3-4): the Wildcats came back from their beatdown at the hands of UCLA to an easier task by dismantling Colorado, behind a record-setting day by Ka'Deem Carey who ran for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and scored five touchdowns. Matt Scott's backup B.J. Denker was also efficient, as Arizona became bowl eligible. Despite holding the ball less than half as long as Colorado, Arizona won 56-31. Must be something about the Buffalo defense. Next up is a trip to Utah.
4. Arizona State (5-5, 3-4): the perennial late season slide for the Sun Devils continued as they fell to Southern Cal and are now 0-4 in their last 4 games. Granted, it was quite a tough stretch for ASU, but the early season slate was just not very challenging. After playing well for one half, the Sun Devils could not stop the Trogan rushing game and their offense could not score. Coach Graham has some good pieces in QB Taylor Kelly and has two more games to get his team bowl eligible, with Wazzu visiting next before the rivalry game against Arizona.
5. Utah (4-6, 2-5): it has been a disappointing season for the Utes, who were supposed to contend for the division, and now bowl eligibility is slowly drifting away. Utah could not get things going against Washington and its usually good defense allowed the Huskies a breakout game. The offense is a work in progress, led by a true freshman, and will likely be much improved next year. Utah still has hopes for a bowl game but must first defeat Arizona and its potent offense at home. Then again, even though its last game is against Colorado, Utah did lose to them last year.
6. Colorado (1-9, 1-6): another good effort undone by a massive gap in talent and experience. The Buffaloes showed they could hold the ball and score points (albeit against a rather bad Arizona defense), but they can't keep anyone from scoring. Freshman RB Christian Powell is going to be good, a bruiser with some moves, while QB Nick Hirschman got his first start of the season. They are likely the future of the team, but this turnaround is certainly a big endeavor for Coach Embree. The season is not yet over and experience is the most valuable commodity for this team right now. They will test their mettle against Washington at home before concluding against Utah.
That's it folks. It is going to be a long, harrowing, nerve-wracking week that will hopefully culminate in Bruin joy. I dare say this program deserves it, we need the cosmic order to favor us once again. It certainly should do something against a team that pays its players, deflates balls, uses deceptive jersey numbers and is awful at sportsmanship. Our time has come.