Week 6 was an exciting week of college football, with upsets galore and a possible changing of the guard. Unfortunately UCLA did not escape unscathed and was one of those top teams that lost a winnable game at home. It would have been a very fun weekend otherwise. But as we surmised, this Pac-12 conference is simply brutal. There are no pushovers, no doormats, but also no dominant teams. The conference championship remains up for grabs, for nearly every team in the conference. Another big conference weekend is coming up and some teams, including UCLA, have to answer the call or start having to think about the now meaningless bowl games.
Player of the Week: Jaelen Strong, Arizona State - the wide receiver scored 3 TDs against Southern Cal, including the Trogan-slaying catch of a hail mary which puts him over some other amazing performances this past weekend.
Stat of the Week: 119 - Total number of points between Cal and Wazzu, in a game that featured 1261 yards of passing offense (!) and 140 yards of rushing offense (why even bother)...and amazingly, zero turnovers.
Game of the Week: Oregon at UCLA, 12:30pm, FOX - yet another game in which UCLA has to prove itself, but now facing a wounded but dangerous Oregon team that is trying to remain relevant.
1. Oregon (4-1, 1-1): the Ducks' depleted offensive line finally came back to bite them. Despite another strong performance from Mariota, Oregon could not solve Arizona's defense and fell at home. And this time, their defense could not bail them out with opportune and timely turnovers, which has been the hallmark of their previous defenses. Losing to Arizona two years in a row, while being a strong favorite, may bring some heat on head coach Helfrich. But for now, they still have arguably the conference's best QB and will look to get back on track against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
2. Stanford (3-2, 1-1): despite their record, the Cardinal maintain the second spot in the poll, mainly because the other teams haven't shown anything much better. Stanford lost a very close game in South Bend, allowing a late TD. While the defense continues to play very well, the offense is sputtering and not able to gather momentum, with a QB who has essentially stagnated (and whose best game was probably the conference championship against UCLA in 2012...sigh). The other teams in the division are likely seeing Cardinal blood in the water. We will see if they can get things going despite Kevin Hogan's minor injury. If the defense can't slow down the visiting Washington State air attack, it is doubtful that Stanford will be able to keep up in a shootout, though obviously the Cougars defense may be just what the doctor ordered for the Stanford offense.
3. Cal (4-1, 2-1): I believe this is Cal's highest poll ranking in three years, and this team seems to be a far cry from the last couple of years. After losing on a hail mary to Arizona, the Bears squeaked by Wazzu in one of the most ridiculous shootouts in a conference known for shootouts. Cal prevailed 60-59, in Pullman, behind an amazing performance from Jared Goff (though he was actually outdone by Connor Halliday). The Bears are feeling pretty good about themselves now and get to host Washington at home, a very winnable game that would put them in solid footing...and at the top of the division, where they currently are.
4. Washington (4-1, 0-1): the Huskies were off this week. After having faced Stanford's top defense, they now have to face one of the conference's best offenses. Let's see how Coach Petersen prepares his team.
5. Oregon State (4-1, 1-1): the Beavers traveled Boulder and escaped with a victory behind an efficient and balanced offense. That is much more than can be said for the Beavers defense, which allowed Colorado to hang around the whole game. A road victory is always welcome though, especially before a bye week, after which they will host Utah in a Thursday night game.
6. Washington State (2-4, 1-2): a record-setting performance by QB Connor Halliday could not save the Cougars in this wild wild west shootout against Cal. Halliday threw for 734 yards and 6 TDs, but somehow could not take his team far enough in the waning minutes to get the victory. This may be their most stinging loss of the season so far, with a winnable game at home slipping away. Unfortunately, the Cougars now have to travel to face a real defense. We will see just how good Leach's offense really is when they travel to Stanford.
1. Arizona (5-0, 2-0): just like they did a year ago, the Wildcats came into the Oregon game as massive underdogs. And just like a year ago, they pulled off the upset victory. RichRod now has a winning record of 2-1 against Oregon. This victory was even more impressive, given that it was in Autzen Stadium, and Arizona starts a freshman QB and RB. Of course, Oregon is not quite the team of years past, but this Arizona team just put itself at the top of the conference, with the only undefeated record. And now they have a chance to separate themselves from the pack a little more, with Southern Cal coming to visit after a deflating loss to the other Arizona team.
2. UCLA (4-1, 1-1): Not much more remains to be said about UCLA's loss to Utah at home. The offensive line did not perform until it was too late, and the defense performed all game until it really needed to. Yes, the game came down to a field goal that went barely wide right, but at that point, with a 50-yard kick, it was already yet another disappointing game from a team that had championship aspirations. Sure, UCLA has shown grit and gumption in all of its games, fighting until the end and never giving up. But I sure would like to see the starters stop having to fight until the end to win a game, constantly coming from behind. No, we did not lose to a bad opponent on Saturday, but it was a bad loss in a winnable game. Now we will see if it was a motivating loss or a demoralizing one, as the Bruins are set to host Oregon Saturday.
3 (tie). Arizona State (4-1, 2-1): the Sun Devils really, really tried to be the best UCLA fans other than Bruins themselves. First, they lose to UCLA, then they go to the Crapiseum and beat Southern Cal on a last second hail mary. What else could a Bruin fan ask for? Unfortunately UCLA did not keep its end of the bargain. But Arizona State put itself right back into the mix for the division title, putting their lopsided loss againt UCLA behind them to beat the other LA team. Now they get to bask in that victory during a bye week.
3 (tie). Utah (4-1, 1-1): Utah played its best game of the year, unfortunately against UCLA. The Utes played a near flawless game, played hard all game and pulled out a big victory for Coach Wittingham. And how did they do it? By pulling their staring QB and putting in the backup, of course! The defense played lights out, making a mockery of the UCLA offensive line and sacking our purported Heisman contender QB 10 times. Behind a dominating running game, the Utes were efficient, not flashy, and got the final score when they needed to. And just like ASU, they now get a bye week to revel in a big win before another road game against Oregon State.
5. Southern Cal (3-2, 2-1): The Trogans ran for 220 yards, and only allowed ASU 31 yards rushing. Cody Kessler played very efficiently. They had a 35-24 lead with 3 minutes left in the game. Then somehow, their defense allowed a 73-yard pass TD, followed by a 46 yard hail mary pass TD. And just like that, the Crapiseum fell silent. This is pretty far from the feeling the Trogans had after beating Stanford and having dreams of Pac-12 championships, but they are still very much in the running and can be right back in the race if they beat Arizona at home.
6. Colorado (2-4, 0-3): the Buffaloes have come oh so close so many times this season, it is almost painful to watch. The Buffs kept coming back and coming back against Oregon State at home, until they ran out of time. Of course the last thing the conference needs right now is yet another strong team. But cursed will be those who sleep on this team (I'm looking at you, UCLA), one that continues to improve and is quite near going over that hump. A bye week and you could see just that...against Southern Cal.
A big game is looming for UCLA, a statement game. Hopefully that will be a far more palatable statement than we had this past weekend.