With another week gone by, the pretenders are beginning to fall away. It was an eventful week but clearly a gap is beginning to emerge. We are now at the halfway point of the season. The new kids on the block are having a tough time of it and there are teams like UCLA just trying to find their footing and figure out what they really are.
Player of the Week: Brock Osweiler, ASU - the tall dude had himself a nice day, going 25-41 for 325 yards and 3 TDs in a road game at Utah. It didn't hurt that the ASU defense got him 5 turnovers. Sure, I could have gone withAndrew Luck again (26-33, 370 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT), but you know, yawn, let's spread the love a little bit!
Stat of the Week: 10 - number of consecutive losses by Arizona to FBS teams, which got Mike Stoops canned. Their last victory was against UCLA at the Rose Bowl...hopefully it won't be another victory against UCLA bookending that streak...
Game of the Week: 18 ASU at 9 Oregon, Saturday October 15, 7:15PM PDT - last year, playing at home, ASU had the Ducks by the throat and instead kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. Now they travel to Autzen Stadium, for a loud, very loud game which may be a preview of the first Pac-12 championship. Worth staying up for on the East Coast! Even if it is on ESPN...
With that, here is this week's Pac-12 Power Poll, after the jump:
1. Stanford (8): Business as usual, as Stanford demolished Colorado at home. Only 50,000 showed up for the game though. Kind of sad, even if their stadium is small. Oh well, on to Pullman to take on Wazzu.
2. Oregon (4): they toyed with the Bears again, only to pummel them in the end. Cal actually had a lead going into the second half, after the Ducks came out flat to start the game. Then, before you could blink, they scored 22 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter. Adjustments, or the Bears defense being tired, whatever it was, it worked. Sadly, LaMichael James dislocated his elbow in this game. We wish him an even quicker and fuller recovery than if we played Oregon this year.
3. Washington: the Huskies had a bye week and now get ready for the Neuheisel Bowl, taking on Colorado at home. A chance to start the season 5-1 after a pretty soft early schedule, but nothing like winning to build confidence.
4. Cal: the Bears got hammered but they hang on to their spot. They really played inspired defense in the first half, tackling forcefully and throwing Oregon off rhythm. But their young QB is still inaccurate and they couldn't convert enough 3rd downs. Still, WR Keenan Allen is developing into a beast. Cal gets its second Thursday night game in a row when they host the Trogans. Go Bears! (see Cal fans, we don't hate you!)
5. Washington State: you might think the Cougars are kicking themselves for not converting their trips in the red zone into TDs. You might then they're kicking themselves for letting Rosario Nelson run loose, or for the final interception that sealed their fate. Nope. This is what's burning the Cougs right now. Aww...hurts, don't it? Oh well, you can still shock the world when Stanford comes to town this week! You just go ahead and try to play dirty with them, see how it works for you.
6. Oregon State: the Beavers have not given up on Mike Riley. They were helped by Arizona's turnovers, but they also played with balls, following their coach's lead. With only a narrow 30-27 lead and 5:22 left, Oregon State went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Arizona 2-yard line, and was rewarded with a touchdown. Inspired, their defense turned around and stopped Arizona on 4th and 7 in the next possession. Good for you Beavers. Glad we played you early. Now BYU comes to Corvallis and you have a great chance to beat them.
1. Arizona State (11): A solid performance by the Sun Devils, dismantling Utah in a road game. They clearly seem to be top of the class...well, in this division. A big test this week, playing in probably the toughest stadium in the Pac-12 as they travel to battle Oregon.
2. U$C: the Trogans were off this week so mercifully I don't have to read their box scores and such. I hope they lose at Cal and that Matt Barkley has 16 interceptions and -42 yards rushing. And that the camera catches Lane getting his binky from his dad.
3. UCLA: yessiree bob, the Bruins are now third in our poll. Because the rest of the teams suck. But let's give some credit to our boys. Kevin Prince stepped up big time. Rosario Nelson was money. Josh Smith and Shaq Evans came to play. Andrew Abbott is an inspiration. Eric Kendricks is a beast in the making. Thunder and Lighting were in the house. And yes, the defense made us pull our hair out, but they also played well...in the red zone. I finally got to watch the second half, and the one positive that I saw was that none of the players were moping. They didn't give up and pulled out a win to get to 2-1 in the conference. Can they finish? Can they get the coffee? They get the week off to think about it, heal, and take on what will likely be an inspired Arizona team next Thursday. It is shaping up as yet another must-win game for this program. I expect to win, I expect them to beat a reeling team with no defense that just lost its head coach. The odds are against us, from our Thursday night record, to our Pac-12 road record, to Neuheisel's record against Arizona. But this will be the time to make a statement.
4. Utah: turnovers undid the Utes against Washington in their previous game, and they did them in once more against ASU. The Utes actually had a 14-10 lead in the 3rd quarter before the wheels came off. To make things worse, the Utes have lost their starting quarterback for the season. Winless in the Pac-12...so maybe they'll have a better shot when they travel to play Pittsburgh.
5. Arizona: In a game that was supposed to turn their season around, Arizona came out unfocused and imploded against Oregon State, costing their coach his job in the middle of the season. To be honest, I wish it had happened after we played them. Now we have to deal with the emotional boost they'll get, playing at home on a Thursday night after their coach is fired. No excuses, we should beat this team. We might have last year if Foles was the QB instead of the elusive and suddenly accurate pipsqueak who replaced him. But still, this team scares me. Their offense is still potent, even if they don't rush the ball...but rushing isn't really part of their offense. Their defense is a sieve, and that was supposed to be Stoops's strong point. The DC is now the interim coach, so they may get a boost from that. Like UCLA, Arizona has the weekend off. I can see them coming out on fire and UCLA falling behind early. The 8-yard cushions will kill us against this team. But if we withstand that early emotional onslaught and don't make mistakes, Arizona will eventually come back down. There is no reason to lose to this team.
6. Colorado: the Buffaloes were next on Andrew Luck's training regimen. The Stanford QB took the opportunity to call his own plays, and didn't even play the last 10 minutes. Not much to be positive about for Colorado...they didn't fumble? The Neuheisel Bowl is next...and the Pac-12 keeps beating up the newcomers.
So there you have it folks. Halfway through and some big games remaining. And UCLA still has a shot at the championship. We are in this. It hasn't been pretty but our boys have a shot to at least win the division. It's not unimaginable and it's not unreasonable to expect it given how bad the South is. For now, take a break and enjoy this weekend's games without worrying about the UCLA game!