I could have done without week 7. No, that's not true. Week 7 was very telling. We found out that there just may be a changing of the guard in the SEC, with long-time mediocre teams Mississippi State and Ole Miss ready to take that next step, you know, that step that has eluded UCLA for 16 years. It was perhaps the inflexion point, midway through the season. Some teams are left battered and others are fighting with a chance for the playoffs, still. We will see who can still take the pressure. But the Pac-12 continues to be a total mystery, especially in the South division, and there are no teams left undefeated.
Player of the Week: Washington Defense - the Huskies held the Bear Raid to only 7 points and cause 3 fumbles.
Stat of the Week: 28.5 - average number of points given up by UCLA defense, is the second highest in 10 years (with Chuck Bullough's 2011 clown show 31.4 taking the cake).
Game of the Week: Washington at Oregon, 8:00pm, FOX Sports 1 - I don't know why this game doesn't get more hype. Petersen vs. the Ducks, plus it's a big rivalry. If the Huskies pull this out, it will be a major shakeup in the relatively stable North division.
1. Oregon (5-1, 2-1): this is how you rebound from a stinging loss, and this is how you prepare your team for a game. The Oregon coaches came in with one simple game plan, with many other wrinkles that they could use if needed. Well they didn't need them, but they were prepared to adjust. You hear that UCLA coaches? An adaptable game plan. Who woulda thunk it. Mariota was his efficient self, and the defense held the hapless Bruins to 10 points until it didn't matter. With injured players coming back, the Oregon train could get rolling again. A big matchup awaits at Autzen this weekend, with Washington coming to town riding high.
2. Stanford (4-2, 2-1): the Cardinal took care of business at home, answering every comeback attempt by the Wazzu offense. Not surprisingly, Kevin Hogan had one of his best games of the year against the bad Cougar defense, helped by some efficient rushing. It was a penalty-ridden game, which really starts making you wonder if this isn't just a Pac-12 officiating problem (that's a rhetorical question). The Stanford defense was its usual stiff self, causing -26 rushing yards (really caused by the sacks on Halliday...but Wazzu only tried to rush 7 times LOL). A rematch of the Pac-12 championship awaits Stanford as they travel to the desert to take on ASU.
3. Washington (5-1, 1-1): it doesn't look like Coach Petersen is cut from the same mold as the previous Boise State coaches who moved to a power conference. Yes, it's still early, but the Huskies' beatdown of the Bears was somewhat of an eye opener. The defense in particular was a surprise, allowing only 7 points and causing 3 fumbles, one of which set the tone early in the game with Shaq Thompson (aka recruiting whiff by UCLA) taking it back 100 yards for a TD. Now the Huskies get their biggest test of the season, traveling to Autzen to take on a revived Oregon team. Can their defense step up again?
4. Oregon State (4-1, 1-1): the Beavers were off this week in anticipation of tonight's matchup against Utah. They moved up after UC Berkeley's beatdown at the hands of Washington. We will see how well prepared Mike Riley has his team after a somewhat shaky start to the season.
5. UC Berkeley (4-2, 2-2): the Bears weren't so golden at home, making a lot of mistakes and losing three fumbles on offense. And when the offense isn't working, this Cal team doesn't really have anywhere to go as it can't rely on its defense to win games. But Jared Goff is still quite good and he has the help of a ton of good receivers (10 of them caught a pass in this game). The Bears seemingly need to work on holding on to the ball, but they get to host UCLA at home this week so they have nothing to worry about. Whatever they put in the air, or the water, or the food up there, doesn't seem to be so good for the Bruins.
6. Washington State (2-5, 1-3): the season is slowly slipping away for Mike Leach's crew, and even a bowl game is far from a certainty. The Cougars are clearly not ready to take on the elite teams in their division, as they were handled by Stanford. The problem is not the offense, but a defense that just isn't quite up to snuff (we Bruins know a little something about that). With 5 games left in a rather tough schedule, it seems Wazzu will likely have regressed from last year's results. An overdue bye week is finally here for the Cougars.
1. Southern Cal (4-2, 3-1): the inconsistent Trogans took advantage of a sleepy and field-goal happy Arizona team to reassert themselves in the South division. Behind a solid outing by Javorius Allen, who ran for 205 yards (averaging 7.9), the Trogans ran away from Arizona and didn't let them come back. Now they are starting to distance themselves from the rest of the division, with most likely the easiest remaining conference schedule left. But this Trogan team is also a mystery, one that can beat two top 10 teams but also lose to the likes of Boston College, so nothing should be taken for granted when the hard-working Buffaloes come to the Crapiseum this week.
2. Arizona (5-1, 2-1): You wouldn't have thought of Rich Rodriguez as a conservative guy, but perhaps success made him tentative. The Wildcats opted for 3 field goals in the first quarter, including one on 4th and goal. They only made two, and lost by 2 points, and sullied a good comeback in the fourth quarter. Being behind also meant that Any Solomon had to throw the ball 72 times (the Pac-12 will likely have a record for pass attempts this year). All this shouldn't take away from the fact that the Arizona defense could not stop the run, so instead of having a comfortable division lead, Arizona is back in the pack. They will have a bye this week to ruminate over that.
3. Arizona State (4-1, 2-1): the Sun Devils had a bye last week, which can only be good for their backup QB as he can get more reps to prepare against Stanford. Will the Sun Devils be able to avenge their loss in the Pac-12 Championship last year?
4. UCLA (4-2, 1-2): the Bruins are 1-2 at the Rose Bowl this year. Way to reward the season ticket holders, who ponied up the most they ever have. Oh and looky here, UCLA is the only team other than Colorado with a losing record in the conference. It's a special year all right! After flopping against Utah, the Bruins fell apart against Oregon, in every aspect of the game, on the sidelines, and I bet even the water boy probably had piss in the coolers. Our Bruins work hard, but unfortunately they don't work smart because their coaches have just been failing them this year. Oh sure, there's still a chance to win the division. Oh sure, now the "pressure is off" and they can just relax. Oh sure, they play better as underdogs. I'll believe it when I see it, and I doubt I'll see it in the Bruin house of horrors in Strawberry Canyon.
5. Utah (4-1, 1-1): the Utes had the week off after beating UCLA, and now they have to travel to Corvalis to keep their momentum and keep pace in the division. The game is on tonight at 7pm on the Pac-12 network, so 26 people will probably get to watch it.
6. Colorado (2-4, 0-3): the Buffaloes had the week off. If you have watched this team play a little bit, you really get the sense that they are hard-working kids who keep coming very close to victories, but just haven't quite been able to get there. The talent is improving though and soon enough the results will come. How about this week against Southern Cal? That would do a nice favor to the rest of the division.
Hey Coach Mora, remember two years ago against Cal? Remember that you said you wouldn't forget next time? Yeah next time is Saturday. Just remember: you're allowed to make adjustments! You're allowed to stop using plays that don't work! You're allowed to use a formation other than the nickel! Please, no more beard-stroking and more ass-kicking. Thank you.