After finishing what is likely the toughest road trip in the country, UCLA fans are left with more questions than anything else. One thing that was clear: UCLA is not part of the Pac-12 elite just yet. Close does not count, and a good half of a game does not count either. I think we are at the point where we can stop comparing this team to the Dorrell/Neuheisel years because by UCLA standards those were the aberration. The standard for this team has been raised and it is time for them to make the next move. The goal is clear for this season, and well within reach.
Player of the Week: Tyler Gaffney, Stanford - senior Tyler Gaffney ran for 145 yards and 3 TDs against Oregon State, lifting his team to a victory. He was badly needed in this game, with Kevin Hogan having a very quiet day in the air.
Stat of the Week: 49-10 - UCLA has been outscored 49 to 10 in the second half of the games against Stanford and Oregon.
Game of the Week: Southern Cal @ Oregon State, 9:00pm PST, ESPN2 (Friday November 1) - it was slim pickings this week, with the other contender being ASU at Wazzu tonight on ESPN. Both games matter as those two teams will contend for the South. But the game in Corvallis will show if the Trogans have really turned things around.
1. Oregon (8-0, 5-0): They are who we thought they were. And we let them off the hook. Oregon showed in this game against UCLA that it is in fact quite beatable. It is not a juggernaut but an opportunist, which is still great. It is a good team but is very much like a lot of Nike shoes: they look nice on the outside but aren't always the most comfortable inside. The Ducks have a great team, undoubtedly, but are not as infallible as many think, IMO. I know wambulance rider Nick Alotti would like a shout out for his defense, but given the impotence of our offense I will pass on that. Oregon has a bye this week, then plays Stanford on Thursday night, likely for the North.
2. Stanford (7-1, 5-1): the Cardinal never trailed in this game against Oregon State, but it was certainly close. What was interesting was the nearly identical game plan to the one UCLA used against the other Oregon team. Of course, Stanford has always relied on its running game. But to have Kevin Hogan only throw 18 times for a total of 88 yards is somewhat surprising. Then again, that is how you keep the ball away from a powerful offense (Beavers are 1st in passing yards). Eventually, Shaw's conservatism could cost him. But he has the luxury of relying on execution rather than schemes given his personnel. Will they use the same game plan against Oregon or will Shaw use the bye week to come up with something new?
3. UCLA (5-2, 2-2): "Best of the rest" is really how this spot should be described, as UCLA showed that it is not quite on par with Stanford and Oregon. Then again even that is debatable given how they played on Saturday. The defense played amazingly well and literally left it all out there on the field, they played harder than any defense I have seen since 13-9. That's not saying much, but they were quite good and gave UCLA a very good chance of winning. The offensive line played really well too, even with 3 true freshmen. But it seems neither the OC nor our QB trusted them as much as they should have and the offense was hamstrung by poor playcalling. Brett Hundley has had his two worst weeks of his UCLA career, granted it was against two very good teams. But that is where he needs to shine, with the help of his coaches. UCLA still controls its own destiny and must win out to get back to the championship game, starting with Colorado this week.
4. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1): the Sun Devils had a bye and are playing Washington State tonight. They haven't always fared well on the road but have a chance to stay in command of the South.
5. Washington (5-3, 2-3): the Huskies got the cure for their Stanford-Oregon gauntlet a week late, as they pounded on Cal to get back on track. Price and Sankey put up big numbers against the Bears' pathetic defense, as has just about everyone in the conference. While the Husky defense allowed 17 points, 10 of those were in the 4th quarter when the game was already decided. They did still allow over 350 yards in passing but who cares if that doesn't result in points. Now they have a bye week before playing Colorado, then UCLA. So essentially, Washington will have had 3 byes before facing UCLA. Will they be fresh or rusty?...
6. Oregon State (6-2, 4-1): As I had said before, it will be hard for the Beavers to win big games without a semblance of a running game, no matter how good Sean Mannion is. With only 78 yards rushing against Stanford, it was too much to ask of him. He was 41/57 for 271 yards and 1 TD, which is still very good, but without the support of a good running game he was sacked 3 times and couldn't find the promised land just one more time. The Beaver defense seemingly did a good job on Kevin Hogan, but I doubt the game plan called for him being an active passer in this game. It was a well fought battle and a clean game in which Stanford simply imposed its will. Next up for the Beavers is Southern Cal and their tough defense visiting Corvallis.
7. Southern Cal (5-3, 2-2): the Trogans continue their climb atop this poll and have moved from 10th to 7th since the visor was fired. They relied once again on their stout defense to completely shut down Utah at home. Their offense continues to improve as well, although the Utes did a very good job of shutting down the running game. Kicker Andre Heidari did nearly all of the damage in this game with 4 field goals, easily outscoring the rest of the Southern Cal offense which only had one TD. It seems at least that the Ogre has them playing within themselves. They have a tough road trip against Oregon State coming up tomorrow night and will look to make a statement and get back in the conversation for the South title.
8. Arizona (5-2, 2-2): Arizona had its way against the Colorado defense, putting up a ridiculous total of 405 yards...rushing! Even crazier, BJ Denker led the team with 192 yards, while also throwing for 265. Kadeem Carey did the scoring damage with 4 TDs. The Arizona defense was not as productive, and the score was actually 27-20 halfway through the third quarter before they tightened up. Still, if quarterback Denker can be productive, Carey will become more dangerous. Hard to take anything out of a win against Colorado, but Arizona should not be overlooked, especially when UCLA plays them in Tucson. Next week, the Wildcats travel to take on Cal. Safe to say, the Colorado-Cal combo is pretty much the opposite of the Stanford-Oregon combo of games...
9. Utah (4-4, 1-4): I am not sure what has happened to the Utah offense since their win against Stanford, though QB Wilson is seemingly hurt. It's a shame because their defense is playing well enough to allow them to win (sound familiar?). The Utes could not get anything going against Southern Cal in the Crapiseum. After looking like they had finally found their next level, Utah has regressed significantly. Luckily, they get a bye this week which hopefully will give them time to heal and regroup before Arizona State comes to town. Playing at home should help them too, a bowl game is well within reach.
10. Washington State (4-4, 2-3): Wazzu was off on Saturday in preparation for tonight's game against ASU (7:30pm PST on ESPN). My son will have a pirate costume on today. Just sayin'.
11. Colorado (3-4, 0-4): don't look now, but this is not last year's Colorado team. Yes, they lost handily to Arizona, but hung in there until the middle of the third quarter. While we do not condone moral victories here on BN, I think this program has improved significantly. And they have a true superstar in Paul Richardson who is IMO the best receiver in the conference, right up there with Brandin Cooks from Oregon State. Imagine if he hadn't stolen a backpack and was in Westwood catching passes from Brett Hundley. He is exactly the kind of playmaker we need, ridiculously fast. He will likely be very motivated when he comes to the Rose Bowl on Saturday. I think they will play UCLA a lot closer than we would like.
12. Cal (1-7, 0-5): Jared Goff threw for 336 yards. That's about the only good thing I can say for Cal about their game against Washington. The Bears cannot stop anyone, are 110th in the country in rushing offense and 123rd in points against (I think that's dead last, I don't know how many FBS schools there are anymore). But hey, they're 8th in passing yards! I think many are still trying to figure out why Tedford was fired, especially given what it cost to fire him...
That's it folks. The South is getting very competitive but is UCLA's for the taking if they play to their ability.