What a weekend for UCLA Football. The Bruins utterly destroyed the Mildcats in the best game that I have seen from this team in over a decade, while Southern Cal fell to Oregon (and behind us in the national rankings). There might even be some recruiting benefit accruing in the near future. Tasser is taking a few days off from the blog - damn real world getting in the way... - so I am subbing in this week to bring you the Bruins Nation Power Poll.
Player of the Week: Kenjon Barner, Oregon. I would have loved to place Johnathan Franklin in this spot. In most weeks, running for 162 yards and a pair of scores while setting a new career yardage record would do it. But Kenjon simply tore apart the Southern Cal defense on Saturday night. 321 Yards rushing and 5 touchdowns - single game records for an Oregon running back and a Southern Cal opponent. Wow.
Stat of the Week: 3,873 – Career rushing yards for UCLA's new all-time rushing leader, Johnathan Franklin.
Game of the Week: Oregon State at Stanford, 12pm Pacific, FOX – The BN frontpagers had a hard time choosing which of these two teams are better, with just one vote separating them. Displaying perfect foresight, the Pac-12 knew that we would be facing this problem and helpfully scheduled this annual matchup for this weekend. But seriously, this should be a good one. Both teams control their own destiny in the conference race - but with games against Oregon looming, this is realistically a battle for 2nd place in the Pac-12 North. Judging by all of the Oregon State to the Rose Bowl projections by the media, I presume that the Beavers are considered favorites in this one, but don't sell Stanford at home on Senior Day short. Not like the folks selling tickets for this game for as little as $4/each on Stubhub.
1. Oregon (9-0, 6-0): Over the first 8 games of the 2012 season, the Ducks had done everything asked of them by their schedule and expectations for the season. Problem was that their schedule really had not asked much of them, and the team's national reputation suffered for it, sitting behind both Kansas State and a lucky Notre Dame squad in the BCS rankings. A beating of Southern Cal was just what was needed to get Oregon restored into the first among equals (non-Alabama division) spot in the National Championship picture. Beating might be a strong word to describe that game - helped by a couple of key injuries to the Oregon defense during the game, Southern Cal scored 51 points - but on a day where the 2012 Ducks became the most prolific single-game opponent in the 125-year history of Southern Cal footfall... yeah, that is a beating. A great all-around game by the Duck offense. While Marcus Mariota did a wonderful job of walking into the Coliseum as a freshman and stomping on some trogan throats, Saturday was all about Kenjon Barner. 317 yards and 5 TD's. What else can I say?
2. Oregon State (7-1, 5-1): After rushing Sean Mannion back from injury last week in the Beavers' loss to Washington, Mike Riley reinstalled Cody Vas under center against ASU. It was not the cleanest game that Cody could have hoped for (14-33, but also 267 yards and 3 TD's), but Oregon State was able to bounce back from last week's fall in Seattle with a 10-point win over the Sun Devils. Terron Ward continued the theme of reserve production for Riley's squad, running for 146 yards as Storm Woods sat out with a knee injury. This week, the Beavers travel to The Farm in hopes of keeping their shot at the Rose Bowl alive.
3. Stanford (7-2, 5-1): On Saturday afternoon in Boulder, the brief Josh Nunes era at Stanford ended. Josh had been good enough to lead the Cardinal to 6 wins, spoiled by just a pair of narrow road losses to UW and Notre Dame. Hidden within that stretch was that Nunes had struggled quite badly in October - a strong performance against Arizona being the exception. After a disappointing couple of possessions against the Colorado defense, David Shaw made a change. Not to Brett Nottingham, who Nunes had beaten out over the summer, but to freshman Kevin Hogan. Kevin played the 2nd and 3rd quarters, leading Stanford to 38 points on 18-23 passing and 2 touchdowns. Stephan Taylor ran for another 2 touchdowns in the 48-0 shutout of the Buffs. Coach Shaw has named Hogan his new starting quarterback, throwing him into the fire of the toughest remaining schedule of any Pac-12 team: home against Oregon State, then traveling to Oregon and UCLA to finish the regular season.
4. Washington (5-4, 3-3): Washington became the latest team to take advantage of Jeff Tedford's swan song in Berkeley, taking the opportunity to play one of the sloppier games of the year (4 turnovers, 12 penalties) but still pull out a 21-13 victory. In a road game against most other teams, those numbers would add up to a loss. But at Cal... (again, how did we get blown out by those guys??). Bishop Sankey ran for 189 yards and 2 scores, Austin Seferian-Jackson caught 8 passes for 152 and another score, Keith Price had a decent game and that was enough to seal the win. With Utah, Colorado and Washington State on the schedule to finish the season, the Huskies can enter bowl selection season with a pretty nice record and resume.
5. Cal (3-7, 2-5): As much as I would like to continue carrying the flag for Jeff Tedford, the gig is pretty much up. While he cannot have simply forgotten how to coach, the results that he has produced this fall fall below even the lowest standards that Cal football can hold. This might have been more of an unlucky loss on Friday night for the Bears - they outgained Washington, ran more plays, gained more first downs, accrued fewer penalties while holding the turnover margin even. But, given that Zach Maynard left the game late with what may be a season-ending injury, maybe it was a lucky game for Cal, if only a few weeks too late. Cal gets to end the season a week earlier than the rest of the conference. But with games against Oregon and Oregon State, it can't be soon enough for the old blues of the East Bay.
6. Washington State (2-7, 0-6): An ugly Saturday all around for the Cougars. WSU has undoubtedly been one of the Pac-12's bottom two teams this season, but after coming within a couple of plays of taking Stanford to overtime on the Farm, I thought them capable of a solid effort in Salt Lake City. That message didn't quite get through to the SLC in time, as the Cougars were blown off the slopes by the Utes, 49-6. It was a complete beating by Utah, though some of the weaknesses that WSU displayed against Stanford showed up against the Utes - after allowing 10 sacks in Palo Alto, Tuel absorbed 6 more on Saturday. As part of his post-game availability, Coach Leach unusually brought that O-Line (along with the defensive line) out to face the media. The Bruins will be making the trip up to Pullman this weekend to face either a Cougars squad out for blood in the wake of embarrassment, or a team broken by failure and their coach's lack of trust. Whichever team it is, they will be without leading receiver Marquess Wilson, who was suspended from the team this morning.
1. UCLA (7-2, 4-2): During last week's buildup to Arizona's trip to the Rose Bowl, we were concerned that the team would fall into the old habit of following up a key win by falling flat on the turf... Yeah, not so much. With all that my fellow front pagers (and other members of the community) have written in the last three days, there is not much left for me to say here. As tasser noted last week, we shouldn’t - and can't - just forget the mistakes of our season. As great as our team played against Arizona, they need to come out with that level of focus and effort the rest of the way.
2. Southern Cal (6-3, 4-3): So much unfinished business for Matt Barkley, but last Saturday did not help him finish any of it. The trogans lost at home to Oregon, but they did that 2 years ago. To be fair, Southern Cal gave a good effort against the second-best team in the country, and they might have found a third impact receiver in Nelson Agholor (6 catches, 162 yards and a TD). But when the defense walks back through the tunnel after 60 minutes with the worst single-game result in the 125-year history of their program, there is a problem. The loss all but ensures that the rivalry game will decide the Pac-12 South championship, but the trogans need to take care of business against the Will Sutton and the Sun Devils first. With the Bruins and Notre Dame to finish the season, Southern Cal could end up with an entirely mediocre record, while trogan partisans try to keep their feverish BCS dreams alive for another week or two.
3. Arizona State (5-4, 3-3): ASU has had a rough couple of weeks. Losing to the Bruins at home on a last second field goal must have hurt, particularly with a tough road trip to Corvallis next on the schedule. Things were looking up early for the Sun Devils, with the return of Will Sutton to the lineup, and an opening-drive fumble by OSU's Cody Vas turning into a quick touchdown. The Sun Devils scored on their next possession to open up a 14-3 lead, but could not hold on. Their lead evaporated into a 19-all halftime score, after which the ASU offense failed to score until the final minute of their 36-26 loss. ASU's remaining schedule looks pretty rough; road games at Southern Cal and Arizona, with their home finale against Washington State sandwiched in between. The Sun Devils should reach bowl eligibility in Todd Graham's debut in the desert, but just.
4. Arizona (5-4, 2-4): Karma caught up to Rich Rod, big time, after sacrificing Matt Scott's safety to complete last weekend's win over Southern Cal. The Wildcats entered the Rose Bowl controlling their own destiny in the Pac-12 South race, and left with a 66-10 defeat that ranks as one of the worst of their 35+ years in the Pac-10/12 conference. Good news for Arizona: they get Colorado at home this Saturday, before traveling to Utah and hosting ASU in their rivalry game to end the season. No word on Matt Scott's status, but he should not be needed for the 'Cats to gain bowl eligibility.
5. Utah (4-5, 2-4): The Utes got their shot at the only remaining winless team in conference play on Saturday, and took full advantage by blowing out Washington State. Reggie Dunn had yet another 100-yard kickoff return, John White had another 100-yard rushing day, and Travis Wilson had an efficient afternoon under center. The result: a 49-6 beating of the Cougars. The Utes face a tough roadtrip to Seattle this week, but return to face an Arizona team that has lost all 3 of its road games on the season (including a combined 115-10 losing margin against Oregon and UCLA) and finish up with a game in Boulder. The conference has not been too welcoming in Utah's second season in the Pac-12, but with a reasonable closing schedule, they have a fair shot of winning 2 of their last 3 games and gaining bowl eligibility.
6. Colorado (1-8, 1-5): Another week, another shutout loss to a ranked opponent. Honestly I don't see much to write about this week for the Buffs, and that is likely for the best. If Colorado is looking for some silver lining, they actually did collect a scalp while falling to Stanford - Josh Nunes' starting spot under center. Their season finishes up with a home game against an angry Arizona team on Saturday, and trips to Washington and Utah.
That’s it. The Bruins travel to Pullman this weekend, where the weather will be nothing like last weekend in LA, but hopefully the result will look similar. Regardless of how great that win over Arizona was, Saturday will be a tough victory to pull out, let’s hope our boys are ready!