That's a wrap! Let's do our final conference roundup of the regular season.
Pac 12 Roundup
- Pac 12 Awards are out!
Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota
Defensive Player of the Year: Scooby Wright
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Royce Freeman
Defensive Freshman of the Year: Adoree Jackson
Ironic that the incompetent Pac 12 would pick Wright over the most dominating defensive player that the league has seen in the last decade in Danny Shelton, especially given that Wright probably had his worst game of his year against Washington. But, whatever, they are all tools in San Francisco. It must have really pained them to not pick David Shaw as coach of the year.
- Hey Larry Scott. Danny Shelton is coming for you.
- It is hard for me to tell if Oregon's easy run through the back half of their schedule is a good thing or a bad. On one hand, they were able to lock up the Pac 12 pretty early with a strong showing in the early and mid parts of the season. On the other, they go into the Pac 12 championship (perhaps) a little fat and happy. Given that they are still somewhat beat up (I'm particularly concerned with the absences of Hroniss Grasu and Pharaoh Brown) and that their D still isn't playing that sharp, it is hard to predict how they'll come out against a hot Arizona game.
- On the flip side is the Arizona situation. While they are hot, they are also the less experienced and probably more beat up team. The biggest question is the status of QB Anu Solomon who played last weekend despite being listed as "questionable". The truth is that Solomon seems to have been banged up for the last several weeks and he may, in fact, be getting healthier. It is really hard to know with all the secrecy Pac 12 coaches exhibit when it comes to injuries.
- Cal fans will no doubt be disappointed by not reaching bowl eligibility when it was firmly in their control to do so. The BYU Cougars were a bit more then the Bears expected to get and they ultimately fell in quite the barn burner. Regardless (and despite our little "high school game" tiff from earlier in the season), I thought Cal put up a remarkable campaign given where they started from. With all that returns on offense, the Bears are only a serviceable defense away from really making the rest of the Pac 12 North sweat their future trips to the East Bay.
- Is there a team declining faster than Utah in the Pac? Their tough schedule is finally catching up to them. That game with Colorado was way too close.
- Cougs had a tough season. So did their fans:
- While seats may be getting hot in both Corvallis and Pullman, I expect that if any coaches get replaced in the Pac 12 this offseason, the state of Arizona may be where the action is at. Openings at Nebraska, Florida and Michigan are bound to catch the eyes of a few high profile coaches who have reputations as nomads.
Pac 12 Power Rankings - Final Regular Season
|1||1||#2 Oregon||10-1 (7-1)||Pac 12 Title
|Last Week||WIN||Oregon 47 vs Oregon State 19|
|What is there left to say? Marcus Mariota is continuing to play truly perfect football and this Duck offense is more than compensating for any deficiency you perceive on defense. They are the class of the P12 right now and the only distraction that they are facing is the prospect of Scott Frost getting recruited as the new Nebraska head coach.|
|Player of the Game||QB Marcus Mariota (19/25, 367 yds, 4 TD pass, 2 TD rush)||Look at those stats. LOOK AT THEM! That is perfection. It doesn't matter who the opponent is. That kind of execution has almost become blasé for this guy. Truly amazing.|
|2||4||#7 Arizona||10-2 (7-2)||Pac 12 Title
|Last Week||WIN||ASU 35 @ Arizona 42|
|It's easy to rip on Rich Rod - and, frankly, when you watch him berate players on the sideline, he deserves it. But, seriously, is there a guy coaching at a higher level in the conference right now? UA is not a perfect team. There are marginal talents playing key roles everywhere in that lineup. However, each of those players shows that they know how to play their position and everybody plays their role. My favorite indicator of that is watching their WRs block - especially Devnote Neal whose blocking created not one but two long TDs. Add to that a PERFECT scheme to deal with Todd Graham's blitzing D and an aggressive defensive plan that created seven sacks and you have a clear example of coaching excellence. Great win for the 'Cats who now get a shot to beat Oregon for the third time in a row. Man, could you imagine?|
|Player of the Game||CB Jonathan McNight (3 tclks, 2 PBUs)||There were a few studs that could go here - Nick Wilson, Samaje Grant, Scooby Wright and Devonte Neal (just for his WR blocking!) all registered. But, c'mon, let's give the shutdown corner some credit. Early in the second quarter, Jaelen Strong was on his way to huge game. McNight gets switched to him full time and BOOM! Lights Out! I know that Strong got dinged, but McNight took advantage and flat out shut him down in the second half. It was the difference in the game.|
|3||3||#17 ASU||9-3 (6-3)||Alamo Bowl?|
|Last Week||LOSS||ASU 35 @ Arizona 42|
|I'm leaving ASU at #3 really because there isn't a better candidate. But, in truth, this is a team that has been exposed in the last month. The brand of football that Todd Graham is dialing up is dangerous if not flat out irresponsible. You simply can't blitz as aggressively as he does without expecting teams to gash you once in a while. Sure, it worked against Notre Dame. But look at what Arizona did to them. And then to not adjust once it was clear that Arizona had the blitz solved is questionable. AND THEN, to bench your three-year starting QB - who was playing decent - on a whim in a close game is a VERY questionable tactic. I was quite underwhelmed by what I saw from Todd Graham in a big-game loss that I think falls squarely on his shoulders.|
|Player of the Game||DL Viliami Latu (6 tckls, 1 sack)||Latu is not a sexy player. But he is a big, mean man who can really set an edge. He was the only guy that I thought really stood out on that ASU defense.|
|4||6||#25 USC||8-4 (6-3)||Foster Farms Bowl?|
|Last Week||WIN||Notre Dame 14 @ USC 49|
|Seven Win Sark broke the mold and finished his first regular season in Los Angeles with eight wins and a victory agianst storied rival Notre Dame. It wasn't just any victory - it was a classic "feast or famine" style thrashing that Sark is prone to put on a competent rival from time to time. I know that the heat is pretty high on Sark right now, but to do what he did against Notre Dame with less than 50 scholarship players (and Adoree Jackson went out in the second quarter) is pretty good stuff.|
|Player of the Game||WR George Farmer (4 recs, 85 yds, 2 TDs)||Perhaps the most over-hyped recruit in the history of the Pac 12 finally had a game worthy of accolades. Farmer exploded in this one - in particular with a handful of big plays in the first half - and really put Notre Dame away.|
|5||7||Stanford||7-5 (5-4)||Vegas Bowl?|
|Last Week||WIN||Stanford 31 vs UCLA 10|
|I'll move Stanford higher this week because their win over a UCLA team competing for a chance at the College Football Playoffs was comprehensive and dominating. Even without star Ty Montgomery, Stanford controlled every phase of the game and thoroughly whipped the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. Most impressive was an out of this world clinic of QB efficiency put on by struggling QB Kevin Hogan. He completed 16/19 passes with a 12.3 YPA. That, my friends, is PERFECT QB play. Great win for Stanford in a high profile game. And, all of a sudden, the Cardinal have scored 69 points in the last two weeks while still presenting that stifling defense.|
|Player of the Game||QB Kevin Hogan||I noted his stats above. About as perfect a day as a QB can have - high percentage with outstanding YPA. Solid day for a beleaguered QB.|
|6||2||#15 UCLA||9-3 (6-3)||Holiday Bowl?|
|Last Week||LOSS||Stanford 31 vs UCLA 10|
|Let's face it, Jim Mora is the second coming of Steve Sarkisian minus the moral deficiencies. He is a coach that relies on emotion and natural talent more so than fundamentals and scheme. His staff reflects this. Their defensive base is simple and limited to a half a dozen looks. His offense is a lateral passing game, a straight forward rushing attack and whatever his QB can create freestyling. This past weekend, the things that had been working for him got completely neutralized by Stanford. There was no lateral game and that surging D-Line was stone-walled by that Cardinal front line. In addition, that UCLA O-Line that so many pundits had called "on the rise" was completely dismantled. I'm not one to buy in to coaching carousel hysterics, but I can't help but to wonder how far Jim Mora can really take that team now that Brett Hundley is on his way to the NFL. What I don't wonder about is how unacceptable a 10 point output at home in a game with a championship ticket on the line is to a hungry fanbase.|
|Player of the Game||RB Paul Perkins (17 cars, 116 yds)||Perkins is living proof that sometimes it simply takes a few seasons to grow into a role. When he first arrived he was, well, awful. Now he leads the PAC in rushing. And he did it with almost no support from his O-Line or the deep pass. He was the only player with a pulse against the Cardinal.|
|7||8||Washington||8-5 (4-5)||Cactus Bowl?|
|Last Week||WIN||Washington 31 vs WSU 13|
|One week after turning in their most complete game of the season, the Huskies went out and dismantled their long-time rival in an even more complete game. We saw a little of everything - Kasen scoring TDs, Cyler pulling himself out of a second quarter slump, John Ross playing both ways and barrel rolls. The Huskies close out the regular season giving Chris Petersen his 100th win as a college coach and poised to go into bowl season riding a wave of momentum.|
|Player of the Game||WR Kasen Williams (3 recs, 25 yds, 1 TD)||This isn't about the stats. It is about how he finished. In an incredibly disappointing season, Kasen exemplified the wherewithall that Petersen is trying to ingrain in his new team. Kasen stuck through the most difficult set of circumstances that any Husky has had to endure this season (maybe aside from Ben Riva) and was rewarded in a small way for his commitment. It doesn't erase all that went wrong around him this year, but it was an eloquent way to close the book on his P12 career.|
|8||5||#23 Utah||8-5 (5-4)||Sun Bowl?|
|Last Week||WIN||Utah 38 @ Colorado 34|
|I know that Utah doesn't consider Colorado a "rival" in the traditional sense. However, if they keep dragging their cranks every time they play them, it may soon become one. While Utah was fortunate to pull out the win (it took a rather fortunate pick six to secure it), this is a team that has really declined over the past four weeks and one that enters bowl season looking for answers.|
|Player of the Game||WR Kaelin Clay (10 recs, 88 yds, 2 TDs)||It turns out that Clay is more than just a kick returner and the guy who screwed up the Oregon game. He was a grinder at WR today, pulling in 10 tough catches, moving chains and scoring TDs. In fact, he had almost no impact on special teams today - 0 KO returns and 2 small Punt Returns. However, he was undoubtedly Utah's most important contributor in a tough win.|
|Last Week||LOSS||BYU 42 @ Cal 35|
|I admit it, I didn't get to watch this game. So, no in depth analysis here other than to say not getting bowl eligible with a chance to do so on your home turf is not a good look. On the flip side, BYU is an incredibly gritty opponent every year and this game, based on a box score review, was very much back and forth all day. It's not like Cal embarrassed themselves. I'm holding them steady.|
|Player of the Game||WR Kenny Lawler (12 recs, 137 yds, 3 TDs)||Lawler isn't getting enough recognition for his production this year. Part of that is the presence of other great P12 receivers - Nelson Spruce, Nelson Agholor, Vince Mayle and Cayleb Jones - and part of it may be the system thing. But Lawler has been solid all year and he was Cal's best player on Saturday.|
|10||9||Oregon State||5-7 (2-7)||---|
|Last Week||Oregon 47 vs Oregon State 19|
|Oregon State went down meekly in the last game of Sean Mannion's career as a Beaver. Given how OSU got blown away by two of its biggest rivals in the last two weeks of the season, it is almost a certainty that Mike Riley's will become the hottest seat in the conference. All I can say is "Be careful, Beaver fans. You may get what you wish for. Then what?". This team isn't really that far away from being decent again. The pieces just need a little time to gel, just as they always do in Corvallis.|
|Player of the Game||RB Storm Woods (22 cars, 128 yds, 58 yds rec)||Thank you, Storm, for reminding us that it is still possible to gash the Oregon D. Woods capped off a nice season by leading OSU in both rushing and receiving.|
|Last Week||LOSS||Washington 31 vs WSU 13|
|The WSU season ends in very disappointing fashion for Mike Leach and his young team. While I know many Coug fans are distressed by the lack of competitiveness mustered in the Apple Cup, the truth is that the game could have been much closer save for a few dropped passes and a cold-weather induced fumble by Vince Mayle. The immediate axing of two defensive assistants following the game was probably an overreaction, but also a sign that the pressure is beginning to mount on AD Bill Moos and Leach. Whatever it is, the Cougs players will have a lot of soul searching to do this offseason. Missing a bowl game may be the biggest disappointment of any team in the conference.|
|Player of the Game||LB Peyton Pelleur (8 tckls, 1 sack)||I hadn't really noticed Pelleur, a WSU legacy player, much during the season. However, he got the start at MIKE and really popped in the Apple Cup. He showed surprising speed and a willingness to stick his nose into the middle of the scrum while a lot of other players were shying away from contact in the frigic cold. I was impressed.|
|Last Week||LOSS||Utah 38 @ Colorado 34|
|While it is true that the Buffaloes will record their first winless conference season in 99 years, it is also true that they went down punching hard. In fact, they had a lead or were within a possession every step of the way in this one. If you watched the game, you were treated to a really quality game put up by Colorado and impressed with the prospects of this team under the leadership of Mike McIntyre. They are just knocking on the door and it is shame that they couldn't get one win at the end.|
|Player of the Game||RB Christian Powell (10 rushes, 75 cars, 3 TDs)||Sefo Liufau probably deserves this honor giving how well he performed after not even knowing if he was going to start, but the pick six to lose the game really sours his game. Powell carried this team generating big plays almost every time he touched it. For Colorado to really take that next step, they need a rushing attack. Powell gave them one today.|