Looks like I was right to worry. In the end, I think I have figured out why exactly I worry. It has nothing to do with our players and everything to do with my expectations. You see, I’m not worried that we’ll lose. That happens. I’m worried that we are not reaching our potential. And the scariest thing of all is to think about all the reasons why that is not happening. We were all dying to have finally found the right staff and the right coaches. But as each week has gone by, it has become increasingly clear that something has been missing. It is correctable, but with every change comes risk. And I worry about risk, probably because that’s part of my real job (you know, the one that actually pays for the electricity so that I can use this computer to put up this post). So here we are, our own conference cannibalized by itself and UCLA not able to take advantage of its opportunities. Until next week.
Player of the Week:Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona – 48 carries, 206 yards, 4 TDs. The Ducks got plucked after Carey set school records for carries in a game, career TDs and career rushing yards.
Stat of the Week:2008 – That's the last time Oregon lost that big (44-10 loss to Southern Cal).
Game of the Week:UCLA @ Southern Cal, 5:00pm PST, ABC – Sigh…UCLA is 1-3 when I pick it as the game of the week. But the only other game that comes close is Notre Dame at Stanford, and who cares about that.
1. Stanford (9-2, 7-2): the Cardinal is back atop the poll after taking out all of its frustrations on a hapless Cal squad. Kevin Hogan threw for 5 TDs and the Stanford defense did its usual routine, stuffing the Bears and putting this game away quite early. Quite sad to see a great rivalry come to this, but all too familiar for Bruins fans. So Stanford now awaits the ASU vs. Arizona game to see whether they host the Pac-12 championship again (ASU losing) or travel to the desert (ASU winning). It will be an interesting rematch after Stanford humiliated the Sun Devils in the first half before sweating out the second half. In the meantime, they will host the Irish and their tomato-faced coach for their last regular season game.
2 (tie). ASU (9-2, 7-1): they came prepared, they came motivated, and they knew exactly how to take advantage of UCLA’s weaknesses and mistakes. The Sun Devils had a torrid first half, scoring a ridiculous 35 points, including a last minute TD on a completely worthless UCLA defense that had already gone to the locker room. Luckily for them, that one half was enough to beat UCLA and earn a trip to the Pac-12 championship game. Coming up for ASU is the rivalry game against Arizona, which they get to host (and after which they should send some champagne to the Pac-12 schedule makers). That game looks to be tight, after the performance the Wildcats put together against Oregon. But ASU will be playing for a chance to host the championship game, and to have the best conference record.
2 (tie). Oregon (9-2, 6-2): the Ducks aren’t flying anymore, and are grounded after a complete lackluster performance against Arizona where they were dominated in all facets of the game. Perhaps having lost their motivation, since they wanted Bama, Oregon played flat, soft, unfocused and without a care. Marcus Mariota threw interceptions left and right, a far cry from the Heisman candidate everyone saw when they were playing a soft schedule. How long will Phil Knight put up with not going to a BCS bowl game? Gotta sell those shoes. Now the Ducks will get to go to one of the lesser Pac-12 bowl games. If they couldn’t get pumped up for a Rose Bowl, how will they prepare for the Alamo Bowl? Sure, they still have an outside shot at a BCS bowl game but that’s very doubtful. For now they will host the pass-happy Beavers who just may take advantage of the slumping Ducks to win the rivalry game.
4. Southern Cal (9-3, 6-2): the Trogans have had an impressive turnaround since letting the visor go. After beating Colorado, they are 6-1 under Ogre, with the sole loss being an away game against Notre Dame. Now, it should be mentioned that their conference wins all came against the bottom half of the conference, though they did beat Stanford at home which was a good win. But there is no doubt that the players are playing hard for Coach 0 despite the scholarship limitations and injuries, and the coaches are putting them in a position to win games. Now comes the rivalry game, at home, and a victory against UCLA would make it hard for Ethical Pat not to hire Ogre, who has been endorsed by various Trogan big shots.
5. UCLA (8-3, 5-3): the Bruins played quite possibly the most pathetic, hapless, disheartening and disappointing half of football since 0-50. And of course they had to follow up with one of their best halves just to get back in the game against ASU, but still fell short. As has been the case all season, UCLA was not able to put together a complete game, coming in with a terrible game plan and a very bad decision (which is partly hindsight, partly WTF WERE YOU THINKING?!). Gone is the chance to play in the conference championship. At this point, UCLA needs to beat Southern Cal just to salvage this season, a fact that in and of itself makes this season somewhat of a failure (especially as a loss means a worse record than Southern Cal). A loss also sends the Bruins to some random Whocares Bowl. There are no excuses for this team if it were to lose to a scholarship-deprived, injured Trogan squad, no matter how much talent they have.
6. Arizona (7-4, 4-4): After losing two games at home, including one to Washington State, the Wildcats record possibly the most surprising upset of the Pac-12 season. It wasn’t just the victory over Oregon, but the total dominance in all facets of the game that came as a shock. Riding the back of their stud RB Ka’Deem Carey, who ended up having a multi-faceted career night, Arizona ran away from the Ducks using a fast pace and an opportunistic defense. Whether they caught Oregon in an unmotivated moment, or had a magical day where everything was clicking, RichRod now has a signature win in his second year with the team. And this allows them to go into their rivalry game against ASU with some good momentum.
7. Washington (7-4, 4-4): continuing their bully ways, where they pound on lesser teams and underachieve against better ones, Washington completely dismantled the Beavers in Corvallis, going up 48-0 before Oregon State got on the board in the fourth quarter. Playing without starter Keith Price, the Huskies got a steady performance from their backup QB Cyler Miles but mostly relied on the legs of Bishop Sankey who had 3 TDs. It is probably too little too late for this season, but the Huskies need to at least avenge last year’s loss in the Apple Cup to bring a semblance of satisfaction to 2013. It could be that Sarkisian has reached his ceiling, but with Oregon and Stanford showing chinks in their armor, next season could be more successful. Unless Ethical Pat feels compelled to hire him.
8. Washington State (6-5, 4-4): Bowl eligible, with one game to go. I think we can safely say that this is solid proof of a turnaround for Mike Leach’s program, considering where Wazzu has been for the last few years. The Cougars took care of a scrappy Utah team at home, with QB Connor Halliday throwing for 488 yards and 4 TDs. Sure, they still barely rush the ball, but Leach is consistent with his system. With the junior slated to come back next year, watch out for the Cougars next year. And Washington better watch out as well, with the Cougs coming in with some confidence, and possibly having figured it out for the pirate.
9. Oregon State (6-5, 4-4): once flying high on the arm of Sean Mannion, the one-trick Beavers have become predictable and too easy to defend. They have lost 4 games in a row, and the opening loss against Eastern Washington looks like it was no fluke. Sean Mannion threw 3 INTs and a pick-6 and the Beavers could not do one thing right against Washington. Are Beaver fans questioning Mike Riley? It seems he completely abandoned the ineffective running game, except to keep defenses honest once in a while. Some would say, you call the plays that have the most chance at working, others say you need to have balance. It will be interesting to see what happens next season. However, the Beavers still have a chance to end on a good note, if they can catch Oregon sleeping. The trouble is, the Ducks do well against passing teams.
10. Utah (4-7, 1-7): with a chance at remaining bowl eligible, Utah had a must-win game against Wazzu. The trouble was, it was an away game, and they had lost their starting QB for the season. But the Utah coaches had the team prepared, and they hung in there for as long as they could, trailing only 36-30 in the third quarter. In the end, they could not get it done and are now assured of a losing season. The Utah defense seems tailor-made to stop running teams but seemingly cannot hang with pass-happy teams. Kyle Wittingham has not been very fortunate in his first few years in the conference and has to do yet another reset next year. By all accounts he is in fact a good coach but he seems to be either missing some elements or just have bad luck. Coincidentally, they now go up against the other new Pac-12 team that has an identical record.
11. Colorado (4-7, 1-7): the Buffs fought until the end, trying to use the cold weather to their advantage. They even outscored the Trogans 29-24 in the second half, getting as close as 29-40, though it was too little too late after not being able to score in the first half. Much as we all would have liked to see the Heritage Hall employees fall in Boulder, they still have much more talent than this Colorado team. But Coach MacIntyre has his team headed in the right direction, in my opinion, and I would be willing to bet on a bowl season next year. This week they play for pride against Utah, in the made-up rivalry of the newcomers. It will be a tough game for the Buffs in Rice-Eccles stadium.
12. Cal (1-11, 0-9): Mercy!!! What a disaster of a season. I don’t think that I foresaw a meltdown of this magnitude for the Bears…though I should go back to my predictions from the beginning of the season. I may not be far off. The Big Game turned quickly into the Big Laugh, though the beatdown was still not as bad as 0-50. It will likely take years to sort out this mess and it is unclear whether Sonny Dykes is the kind of coach who can make that kind of change in a program that is in this kind of shape. Well, every new season brings a clean slate…the question is, can he get the recruits?
That’s it folks. The going got tough and the UCLA coaches took a dump. Hopefully they got it out of their system, because losing to this Southern Cal team will be a huge black mark on Coach Mora’s UCLA resume, which so far has just met expecations or possibly underachieved.
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