I guess we should have known after last year. This 2013 season is eerily similar to last year, at least for Oregon, Stanford...and UCLA. We all thought Oregon was going to run through the conference. We all thought Stanford was not as good as last year. But we pretty much had a repeat. As for UCLA, a hot start followed by some stumbles with difficulties on offense, then going back to winning ways. In fact, at this point in the season, every team in the Pac-12 is having a similar or better season than last year. Well except for Berkeley.
Player of the Week: Myles Jack, UCLA - no contest! Our freshman wonder continues to blow us away with his athleticism and versatility.
Stat of the Week: 14-21 - That's 66.7%...and it's Stanford's 3rd down conversion percentage against Oregon. Absurd ball control. But hey, at least they did it all on the ground so Nick Allowalotti didn't have much to complain about.
Game of the Week: Stanford @ Southern Cal, 8:00pm PST, ABC - Lots of good games this week, but this will be the most interesting one. Can Stanford keep rolling, and how much has Southern Cal improved?
1. Stanford (8-1, 6-1): That was a ridiculous display of power football, ball control and stifling defense. It's like we were watching the Baltimore Ravens of the Dilfer era. I am pretty sure that most people thought that Oregon was better than last year, and Stanford was not as good. Instead, the Cardinal came out and completely dominated the Ducks at home, keeping them scoreless for 3 quarters and holding them to 64 total rushing yards (net of sacks). It's like groundhog day, with Stanford losing a game they shouldn't (Utah) and then rolling through the conference. They held off Oregon's rally to win a big one and take control of the North. Their work isn't done though, and they have to beat Southern Cal in the crapiseum to get back to the conference championship game. Yes I am assuming they will beat Cal.
2. Oregon (8-1, 5-1): they wanted Bama, they got nada. I mean, how arrogant can you get? Not surprising, given what we know of Oregon fans and their nouveau riche attitude. And it shouldn't go unnoticed that both of those are Nike schools. Well they pretty much got slapped in the face by the Cardinal bulldozer, going scoreless for three quarters and completely dominated on both sides of the ball. And if Stanford is any indication, it's a good bet that Bama would have been even more ruthless. Now Oregon has to fight for just a spot in a BCS bowl, and it shouldn't be too hard with the remaining schedule, but we will see if the motivation is still there. Utah is next in Eugene.
3. UCLA (7-2, 4-2): taking care of business while Jacking up the competition. While we irrational fans critique every play and decision made during the game, let's not lose sight of the fact that we witnessed an incredible performance by a unique athlete, a freshman nonetheless. While we are concerned that it took a doffense to win the game, let's not forget that we keep asking for creativity from our coaches. And while Arizona may not be a great team, let's remember that we won a conference game on the road. The name of the game for UCLA is Survive and Advance. Style points don't matter so much anymore. Unless you're talking about black uniforms, I guess. A Friday night date against Washington in the Rose Bowl. I think our boys will be on fire.
4. Arizona State (7-2, 5-1): ASU was the latest team to find out how tough it is to win in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Sun Devils played one of their worst games but a lot of it was due to Utah's defense which was playing lights out, flying all over the field. Trailing by 12 entering the 4th quarter, ASU found a way to score and pull out the win. They were helped tremendously by Utah's conservative playcalling in that last quarter, but their defense also stepped up. Will Sutton is scary. The Sun Devils are in control of the South at the moment, and look to keep their distance with Oregon State visiting on Saturday.
5. Southern Cal (7-3, 4-2): someone else said it in a comment. No matter how good they are, the Trogans still suck. Well we would all like them to suck at football too, but Ogre has done a very good job at turning around this team, and they keep climbing up the poll. It's incredible what a negative effect a bad coach can have. Sure, the opponent was Cal, but the Trogans are playing well and within themselves, to their ability. And we shouldn't forget that there is a lot of talent on that team. Now they have to show that their progress is real, when Stanford pays a visit.
6. Washington (6-3, 3-3): the hangover from the Oregon/Stanford gauntlet seems to have passed and the Huskies are back to pounding lesser opponents. This time it was Keith Price pacing his team to a beatdown of Colorado, while Bishop Sankey continues his routine as one of the top running backs in the country and Seferian-Jenkins continues to show his NFL skills. Up next is a Friday night visit to the Rose Bowl, a big game for both teams in what should be a very tight contest...with lots of penalties.
7. Arizona (6-3, 3-3): the Wildcats took advantage of a couple of UCLA coaching decisions to give themselves a chance to win an important game at home, but still came up short in the end. They could easily have been blown away in this game but kept grinding. BJ Denkins had probably his best game of the year, which bodes well for the rest of the season. However he is a senior, and there is no guarantee that stud junior running back Ka'Deem Carey will be back next year either, so things could get tough again for RichRod next year. As it is, they need to keep winning to improve their bowl appearance. The Cougars are due for a visit to help them out, or not.
8. Oregon State (6-3, 4-2): the Beavers had a bye and get a chance to regroup before heading out to Tempe to take on Arizona State. Sean Mannion will have to play lights out for the Beavers to have a chance.
9. Utah (4-5, 1-5): how this team is 1-5 in the conference is beyond me, and likely infuriating to their fans. The Utes were playing in the friendly confines of their own stadium, had ASU on the ropes...then went into a shell. But that's the tradeoff you get with Dennis Erickson, in a way. Yes, he has helped their offense a lot, but he also brings that conservatism that has cost him numerous games over his career. And going there in the 4th quarter had the same effect, not to take anything away from the Sun Devil defense. This was a huge opportunity for Utah to get close to bowl eligibility and it was squandered. They still have a couple of chances to get there, but likely not against Oregon this week.
10. Washington State (4-5, 2-4): the Cougars had a bye and have to recover from a 3-game losing streak before heading out to the desert to take on Arizona. All 3 of its remaining games (@ Arizona, Utah, @ UW) are winnable, and the Cougars still need to win 2 to get back to a bowl game.
11. Colorado (3-6, 0-6): the Buffs played Washington close in the first quarter, before wilting completely. Yes, Paul Richardson still managed to catch yet another long TD pass, but that was Colorado's only highlight of this game. They did not play nearly as well as they did against UCLA, and a lot of that likely had to do with the UW defense. I guess Sark was not worried about "showing too much". After taking its share of beatdowns, Colorado gets to host Cal at home and should be able to give its patient fans a bit of a reward if they can stop the Cal passing game.
12. Cal (1-9, 0-7): the Golden Bears special teams was jealous of all the attention the defense was getting and decided to get in on the act, allowing Southern Cal to score 21 points in the first half, with Nelson Agholor returning two punts for TDs and getting a punt blocked and returned for a TD. Without those, it's likely a closer game at halftime. It probably wouldn't have made a difference though. It's a near complete meltdown for Cal, with the offense still hanging by a thread. They have to travel to Boulder to try and win a game for pride against Colorado.
That's it folks. As of now there are 8 bowl eligible teams in the Pac-12. I think some of you are bummed that a Pac-12 team will likely not be in the national championship. I keep asking, why? Unless it's UCLA, I really don't want anyone else from our conference to play in that game, it would have nearly zero benefits for UCLA. For now, let's keep rooting for the Bruins' return to the Rose Bowl.