After several weeks of nuttiness, silliness and general tomfoolery, the pecking order of the PAC is finally starting to work itself out. This past weekend featured a near full slate of games with the contenders continiuing to separate themselves from the pretenders.
Here are some observations from the weekend that was.
Pac 12 Conference Roundup
- Oregon's offensive line seems to be back to a general state of high functionality. While their pass protection is still a little suspect, the lanes are opening for that rushing attack. I know that Mark Helfrich is going to want to see more effectiveness with the inside zone read before he starts dreaming about playoffs, but the Ducks offense is clicking nonetheless.
- I was really impressed with how aggressively USC came out against Colorado. Steve Sarkisian challenged QB Cody Kessler to give his receivers chances to make plays down the field and Kessler took the message to heart. They averaged a stellar 12 yards per attempt for the game and now lead the PAC in conference wins.
- Does UCLA have anybody else on offense other than Brett Hundley? Just curious.
- UCLA would have beaten Cal handily if it were not for three turnovers that turned into 21 Cal points. Cal played with a lot of spunk and character, but their rebuilding is still in the early stages.
- Utah and Oregon State both showed a lot of defensive toughness in their matchup. It wasn't all slop. Both have pretty effective front sevens. We already knew about Utah's - they still lead the nation in sacks - but Oregon State's was a bit of a surprise.
- The Utah QB situation is a bit of a problem that you'd not expect to see on a team with the gaudy record that Utah sports. Kendal Thompson looked completely out of sorts before being pulled. I would be shocked if Utah doesn't go back to Travis WIlson.
- UW isn't the only team sporting offensive ineptitude. I'd rank Stanford's, Utah's and Oregon State's offensive outputs this past weekend as "worse" than what UW did against Oregon. in Stanford's case, I think that might even be an understatement.
- As bad as UW looked against Oregon, I was still (relatively) impressed with our play on both LOSs. It certainly wasn't dominant, but both lines played well enough for UW to have been more competitive. The DLine was doing a good job at creating a pass rush while I thought the OLine had its best game of the season in Pass Pro.
- What about the OLine and the rushing attack, you say? It looks bad. However, with opposing defenses only defending 5 yards in due to UW's inability to establish any downfield passing threat, it isn't surprising that there always seems to be an extra man around to clog a rushing lane.
- Final word goes to ASU. They played a weird game where the defense actually won it for them. ASU got off to a quick start by scoring two first quarter TDs, but only managed FGs the rest of the way. It was the unheralded ASU D that salted the upset over Stanford away. I'm not sure that this is sustainable for them and I wonder if Taylor Kelly will be ready to take the reigns at QB over again in time for the Sun Devils's trip to Montlake.
PAC 12 Power Rankings - Week 9
|1||1||Oregon||6-1 (3-1)||@ Cal|
|Last Week||WIN||Washington 20 @ Oregon 45|
|With two convincing wins over teams that had various degrees of high expectations coming into the season, Oregon is really starting to separate itself as the class of the PAC. The emergence of Royce Freeman has been something to behold as he now leads the conference in rushing TDs. I was also impressed with how much faster the back two levels of the defense looked compared to even just a few weeks ago vs WSU. The lack of any real pass rush has to be concerning but, beyond that, there aren't any other glaring weaknesses for this club right now.|
|Week 8 POG||RB Royce Freeman (29 rushes, 169 yds, 4 TDs)||Freeman has clearly wrestled the title of "feature back" away from Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall. He's not going to outrun anybody, but what does it matter if you can't tackle him?|
|2||3||Utah||5-1 (2-1)||vs USC|
|Last Week||WIN||Utah 29 @ OSU 23 (2OT)|
|With Utah's win over OSU, we are starting to get a clear picture of what this team is - and it should look strikingly familiar to Husky fans. The Utes are sporting a tenacious D characterized by an elite - yup, I said elite - defensive line and an increasingly effective rushing attack. Unlike Washington, the Utes now have a full blown QB controversy with both Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson showing ineptitude last week. Travis sucked a little less, so I suppose he'll get another chance. The real issue will be how much of a distraction to a team that is otherwise well-positioned in the South.|
|Week 8 POG||RB Devonte Booker (32 rushes, 234 yds, 3 TDs)||Look at that stat line. Is that a Bishop Sankey sort of day or am I losing my mind? A former transfer, Booker has found himself a home in Salt Lake and is clearly one of the top three backs in the conference.|
|3||4||USC||5-2 (4-1)||@ Utah|
|Last Week||WIN||Colorado 28 @ USC 56|
|Putting on a clinic against a woeful Colorado team isn't exactly going to wow anybody. However, watching Cody Kessler get aggressive in pushing the ball downfield and take advantage of his playmakers was a refreshing sight. It made me all misty-eyed thinking about the offense that UW used to have. It was also a reminder of how dangerous USC can really be. Depth will continue to be a challenge for them, but they are still playing at the upper tier of the conference.|
|Week 8 POG||QB Cody Kessler (19/26, 313 yds, 7 TDs)||7 TDs on 19 completions? 12 YPA? Those are some crazy numbers. Sark challenged his QB to be more aggressive this week and Cody Kessler delivered in spectacular fashion.|
|4||5||Arizona||5-1 (2-1)||@ WSU|
|Anybody starting to sense that the South may well come down to Zona and Utah? USC can get back in the mix if they beat the Utes next week, but right now the 'Cats are pretty well positioned.|
|Week 8 POG||n/a|
|5||8||ASU||5-1 (3-1)||@ Washington|
|Last Week||WIN||Stanford 10 @ ASU 26|
|It is always hard to draw conclusions off of a team right after they have played Stanford, so I'll try not to. I think ASU looks like a team that has a good passing attack, a good-but-struggling rushing attack and a quick enough defense. Just as we will with our Huskies, we'll learn a lot about ASU this weekend. Both teams seem to be two sides of the same coin.|
|Week 8 POG||RB DJ Foster (151 APY, 1 TD)||While his stock continues to diminish as a runner, his 151 all purpose yards were nearly half of ASU's total output against Stanford. He kept chains moving and was a big factor in helping ASU win the field position game.|
|6||2||Stanford||4-3 (2-2)||vs OSU|
|Last Week||LOSS||Stanford 10 @ ASU 26|
|I'm not sure what is harder to explain, Stanford's D surrendering more than 17 points for the first time all season or Stanford's O being unable to move the ball against a pedestrian ASU D. After surrendering two TDs in the 1Q, that D did settle down and hold that explosive ASU offense to just FGs the rest of the way - so that is good. However, Kevin Hogan and his 4 yards per attempt is putrid. The play of the vaunted Stanford OLine is even more so. All of a sudden, OSU is a really interesting match up for the Cardinal.|
|Week 8 POG||LB Kevin Anderson (10 tckls, 1 sacks, 4 TFLs)||Kevin, not to be confused with Harry, has not only been the surprise of the Stanford D this year, he may be its best player. Another huge day for KA helped keep Stanford close against ASU.|
|7||7||UCLA||5-2 (2-2)||@ Colorado|
|Last Week||WIN||UCLA 36 @ Cal 34|
|After jumping out to a big lead at Cal, I was mentally preparing myself to boost UCLA in the rankings. However, then UCLA went and not only let Cal back in the game, but they took the lead. Credit UCLA for stopping a critical 2 pt conversion and finding (yet again) another sneaky way to win. However, I'd caution anybody to get too excited about the Bruins. They just cant seem to get anything going offensively besides that WR screen - which was their only weapon in 2012 - and QB Brett Hundley running the ball. In addition, that D continues to play below it's talent level - though holding Cal under 400 yards is a pretty decent day.|
|Week 8 POG||QB Brett Hundley (330 yds passing, 92 yds rushing)||UCLA fans have to be wondering just what the UCLA offense is going to look like a year from now. Right now it is only Brett Hundley and pretty much nothing else.|
|8||6||Washington||5-2 (1-2)||vs Ariz St|
|Last Week||LOSS||Washington 20 @ Oregon 45|
|I'm trying hard to not overreact here. The Huskies sit at 5-2 with losses to Stanford and Oregon - about where most people thought they'd be at the start of the season and probably where they'd be even if there had not been a staff turnover. The inability for UW to tackle carriers that were in contain was a problem that we really hadn't seen most of the season. Otherwise, I actually don't think the D was all that bad - in particular with the pass rush. I continue to be mystified at how poorly prepared and executed Jonathan Smith's gameplans are and now, with injuries piling up, you have to legitimately wonder if UW is the worst offense in the conference. I don't really think so - but we'll find out versus ASU next week.|
|Week 8 POG||DE Hau'oli Kikaha (2.5 sacks, 10 tckls)||Kikaha highlighted what was decent day from the Husky DLine. A couple of more sacks against the elusive Marcus Mariota will really pop when pro scouts get it on tape and will help to keep him on his record-setting pace. He may have been the best player on the field for either team.|
|9||10||Cal||4-3 (2-3)||vs Oregon|
|Last Week||LOSS||UCLA 36 @ Cal 34|
|Interesting game for Cal who started out getting blown away but then was able to leverage 3 UCLA turnovers to get back in the game. Ultimately, it wasn't enough as their undersized back end got gashed by UCLA's horizontal attack all day. I was also underwhelmed by another non-descript offensive performance by Jared Goff (#Drop50?). That said, there is some scrap to this team and the way they fought back last weekend is worthy of recognition.|
|Week 8 POG||WR / KR Trevor Davis||There were not any standout performances for Cal last weekend, but I did want to send a WOOF out to Trevor Davis. After taking a knee to the head in an ugly play, Trevor was taken from the stadium in an ambulance. Thankfully, he's since been released. Scary stuff. Get well, Trev.|
|10||9||Oregon State||4-2 (1-2)||@ Stanford|
|Last Week||LOSS||Utah 29 @ OSU 23 (2OT)|
|I didnt want to move OSU too much this week in spite of their home loss to Utah (what, another home team lost a PAC game?). It is pretty clear now that OSU is going to have trouble scoring the ball. They simply have a dearth of playmakers available to feed off of Sean Mannion's strength as an accurate passer. Unfortunately, Mannion cannot compensate for it himself and, as a result, is having a very significant regression season as a Senior. The good news is that the Mark Banker defense is quite gritty and one that is going to give whatever offense they face a pretty good fight. Watching them go at it with Utah was quite entertaining.|
|Week 8 POG||DB Justin Strong (6 tckls, 1 FF, 1 PBU, 1 sack)||Strong, who normally plays nickel, was active all night and exemplified OSU's saltiness on D. He was all over the stat sheet and just seemed to keep showing up around the ball.|
|11||11||WSU||2-5 (1-3)||vs Arizona|
|No real change here for WSU. They still look like a team that you'd expect to beat Colorado but would surprise you if they took out any other P12 team.|
|Week 8 POG||n/a|
|12||12||Colorado||2-5 (0-4)||vs UCLA|
|Last Week||LOSS||Colorado 28 @ USC 56|
|The drubbing that Colorado took at USC is easy to overreact to, especially when the opposing QB has a record-setting type of day. However, it is clear to see that the luster of "competitiveness" is starting to come off of the Colorado 2014 season. The defense isn't really going to stop anybody. The benching of QB Sefo Liufau in the third quarter after a series of bad decisions is likely going to set an already edgy fanbase into a fit of discontent. Mike McIntyre will have his hands full getting ready for UCLA.|
|Week 8 POG||WR Nelson Spruce (9 recs, 72 yds, 1 TD, 1/1/17)||Spruce is really the only Colorado player playing at a high, Pac 12 level. He is getting his as a pass catcher and was even able to complete a pass against USC. This is his 4th POG from me.|