You, as an long-suffering Husky fan and observer of the PAC conference have probably more than once uttered the phrase "man, wouldn't it be nice?"
Well, my friend, that day has arrived.
I'm not sure that there is any other way to look at the weekend that was in the PAC. No doubt that the outside analysts will point to the unexpected and wonderful subjugation jobs that happened around the conference and yell "second class football". It's only natural that these so-called experts would react in such a way when the fruits of their judicious pre-season prognostication - Oregon and USC all the way, baby - continue to be challenged by the rabble.
But we know better, don't we?
The storyline in the conference isn't that every home team involved in conference matchup lost or that Oregon got annihilated in their worst home loss since 2003. Those are interesting sub-plots, to be sure. The real story, however, is the fact that 2015 marks the point where the PAC 12 can no longer be so easily characterized or projected by analysts in a television studio or oddsmakers in a smoky office somewhere in the bowels of the desert. The quality of coaching, the fruits of program investments and the constant churn of youth replacing experience has ~finally~ leveled the playing field. This is no longer a two-team conference.
No fewer than 10 teams are legitimate threats - right now - to challenge for a spot in PAC 12 Championship Game. It's a remarkable situation that won't be appreciated on the national stage but will make for unparalleled drama and intrigue for fans of PAC 12 teams on every single Saturday from here on out.
PAC 12 Roundup - Week 5
- With apologies to Cal, Utah, and UCLA, it is clear that the fall of Oregon is THE story of the weekend. Washington fans can sympathize with the growing pains that come with a secondary stocked with frosh and sophomores. However, the play of the linebackers and offensive line is extremely difficult to comprehend. The fact that Jeff Lockie "relieved" Vernon Adams in the 2nd quarter ensures that we now have a full-blown QB controversy. The receivers look soft and uninterested. And now Byron Marshall might be facing a serious injury. I'd never count out Oregon, but they look to be completely discombobulated as a squad that is now 100% of Mark Helfrich's making.
- Utah deserves some recognition here. Travis Wilson - who had not thrown for a single TD pass before going into Autzen - looked like a Heisman contender. How the Oregon defense could miss the 6'7" Wilson scrambling to the tune of 100+ yards in the game is mind boggling. The real story is that Utah D which, in my mind, is now the gold standard in the PAC. They aren't super fast, but they are big, strong and mean. Jared Norris is a stud and Gionni Paul is one mean mother. The fact that they did what they did to Oregon without DE Hunter Dimick is impressive.
- On a normal weekend, what UCLA did to Arizona in Tucson with College Gameday present would have been the headline story. The Bruins were efficient on offense and - even without Myles Jack, Fabian Moreau, and Eddie Vanderdoes - were dialed in defensively. They do what the great teams do: grab the opponent by the throat and grind them into the ground before halftime. Is UCLA "great"? With that rushing attack and an offensive line that, in my mind, has become the best in the PAC (I can't believe I just typed that), they might be.
- We need to give a shout out to Cal here. The Bears are the only 4-0 team in the North after their strong showing in Seattle. While UW still had a chance to win the game with 3 minutes left, the truth is that Cal was dominating in most aspects of the game. Jared Goff showed remarkable poise under tremendous pressure and just made good decision after good decision. Cal fans should be a little concerned about the depth of that defense and the lack of pass protection against a UW team that got only one sack against Utah State. However, there aren't many games you are going to lose if your offense can run 92 plays.
- Steve Sarkisian probably saved his job with a dominating win over ASU in Tempe. Many people will point to Cody Kessler's gaudy numbers and shout "Heisman". While I'd credit the QB with doing a good job of recognizing Todd Graham's pressures and throwing to the blitzing zones, I'm still a little skeptical about this USC offense. Still, the staff had a good game plan and they dismantled ASU piece by piece. The offense played smart, the receivers got YAC, and the defense was inspired and flying all over the place.
PAC 12 Power Rankings - Week 5
|1||1||UCLA||4-0 (1-0)||vs ASU|
|Last Week||WIN||UCLA 56 @ Arizona 30|
|UCLA holds onto the top spot for one more week with a thoroughly dominating win over Arizona. If there were ever a way to protect a young QB and a short-handed D, it is to grab an early lead and to knock out the opposing team's starting QB. The Bruins led this one 42-14 at halftime and were able to play the clock game the entire second half. I almost dropped them to #2 based on the strength of Utah's win at Oregon, but just couldn't pull the trigger. The Bruins clearly benefited from playing an Arizona team that had not had a single pre-season game against a legit opponent and wasn't ready for P12 speed. They won't be so lucky this week against a desperate ASU club.|
|Week 4 POG:||WR Jordan Payton (7 recs, 136 yds, 1 TD)||Payton isn't getting enough love for the work he is doing, but his productivity is notable with a young QB at the helm. Compare and contrast to the UW situation where no WRs have done anything to help their young QB. Payton was a force in this one.|
|Last Week||WIN||Utah 62 @ Oregon 20|
|Ironically, I had Utah ranked #2 in the Power Poll going into Week 5 one season ago. Is history repeating itself? I know Ute fans hope not. I still can't be sure what I'm looking at with their offense. But their D has dictated the tempo and style of play in every single game they've been in this season, even while being somewhat dinged up. This is team that is surging and their epic blowout of the Ducks was one for the ages.|
|Week 4 POG:||LB Gionni Paul (5 tckls, 1 FR, 1 PBU)||The Miami transfer plays with a chip on his shoulder and might be a little too comfortable playing outside the spirit of normal on-the-field sportsmanship, but he's a bad, bad man whose style infects the play of others around him. A true enforcer who set the tone in the beat down of Oregon. Impressive.|
|3||4||Cal||4-0 (1-0)||vs WSU|
|Last Week||WIN||Cal 30 @ Washington 24|
|Now that all of the "but it's Cal" talk is over and the 6 game winning streak over the Bears is over, we can do an honest assessment of the Golden Bears. Obviously, Jared Goff is the real deal. He handled a pretty heavy dose of pressure all day and simply converted third down after third down. Without the benefit of a lot of explosive plays, he was able to manage the Bear offense and keep the chains moving. Impressive stuff. I also thought the Cal D was ok. They benefited from 5 TOs and not having to be on the field very much. As such, I was a little shocked at how winded they looked in the fourth quarter. DT James Looney's fake injury in the 4th quarter kind of told that story. But they are definitely better than a year ago and good enough to protect the leads that the offense will put on the board. They have a chance to go to 5-0 with the Cougs up next.|
|Week 4 POG:||WR Kenny Lawler (7 recs, 152 yds, 1 TD)||When UW fans want to know what a good receiver looks like, they only need to see how Lawler handled himself. He blocks, he runs the scramble drill to a "t" and he attacks the ball when it is in the air. He's not the most physically gifted guy, but he plays big. I thought he was stellar on Sat.|
|Last Week||WIN||Stanford 42 @ Oregon St 24|
|Stanford followed up their huge upset of USC the week before with an efficient but hard-fought win over Oregon State in Corvallis last Friday. The offense continued to build on Christian McCaffrey, despite the fact that Remound Wright continues to get the payoff with the goal line carries. I was a bit surprised to see Oregon State's offense give the Cardinal some trouble in the first half, but Stanford cleaned it up. Steady as she goes in Palo Alto.|
|Week 4 POG:||RB Christian McCaffrey (30 carries, 206 yards)||He may have started slowly this season, but McCaffrey is becoming that "between the 20's" workhorse that David Shaw needs him to be. I don't like that he comes out of the game in the red zone, but he is the man on that Stanford offense right now.|
|Last Week||WIN||USC 42 @ Arizona State 14|
|I'm not sure what was more impressive for USC - the bevy of ball carriers and receivers that were generating huge plays after contact or the swarming nature of the defense that really responded just one week after being dismantled by Stanford. Either way, Sark avoided a huge career pitfall by bouncing back and not just winning in Tempe, but embarrassing Todd Graham in every phase.|
|Week 4 POG:||LB Su'a Cravens (6 tckls, 2 TFLs, 1 FF)||Cravens is putting together a fantastic season. He was USC's leader on the field on Sat and he was flat out everywhere. When Mike Bercovici closes his eyes to go to sleep, visions of Su'a will fill his mind.|
|6||2||Oregon||2-2 (0-1)||@ Colorado|
|Last Week||LOSS||Utah 62 @ Oregon 20|
|Wow. Oregon is sucking wind right now. I'm not sure what else there is to say. DC Don Pellum is coming under a lot of heat for a Defense that, statistically, is one of the worst in the nation and HC Mark Helfrich has an old-fashioned QB controversy on his hands.|
|Week 4 POG:||None||I don't think Oregon fans would want me to honor any single player for this debacle. I'm happy to oblige, although I wouldn't mind giving a tip o' the cap to WR Byron Marshall. He's been a warrior for a long time, but he needed a cart to get off the field on Sat.|
|Last Week||LOSS||Cal 30 @ Washington 24|
|We can talk about the offensive line, the poor tackling, the failures on third down ... blah blah blah. This Husky team can be expected to be mistake prone and sluggish given all of the young players they are breaking in. But credit them for their toughness - that defense was out there for 92 plays against one of the best offenses in the PAC and never got gassed. The D will keep them in any game. But, until UW can get something out of its WR corps, they will struggle to find many scoring opportunities in PAC 12 play.|
|Week 4 POG:||DT Elijah Qualls (4 tckls, 2 sacks)||This was a Shelton-esque effort by Qualls. Not only was he on the field for a ridiculous number of snaps, but his was collapsing the pocket all day. His efforts contributed to each of the five sacks that UW recorded. He was a beast.|
|Last Week||LOSS||UCLA 56 @ Arizona 30|
|The Wildcats were definitely caught flat-footed at home against a well-tested UCLA team. They got beaten in just about every aspect of the game. Along the way, we learned that the 'Zona defense still isn't very good, that LB Scooby Wright isn't ready to be back on the field and that QB Anu Solomon might have to miss some time after taking a pretty significant concussion in the first half. Tough week for the 'Cats, but too early to write them off altogether.|
|Week 4 POG:||RB Nick Wilson (24 cars, 136 yds)||I continue to be impressed with what a workhorse Wilson is becoming. Once Solomon was knocked out, everybody and their mothers knew that the offense was going to go through Wilson and, yet, he kept coming. Carry after carry, yard after yard. He's an impressive back.|
|9||6||ASU||2-2 (0-1)||@ UCLA|
|Last Week||LOSS||USC 42 @ Arizona State 14|
|We've talked about this for a few weeks now, but something is not right with ASU. These "little things" cropped up again last weekend and got blown up by the USC Trojans. The biggest issues that I can see involve the continued lack of accuracy from the QB (which is clearly partly on the WR corps), the struggles that the offensive tackles are having controlling the edges of the line and the continued over-running of plays by the ASU linebackers. I also think that the P12 coaches are starting to figure out the pressures that Todd Graham used to so effectively disguise. That said, UCLA QB Josh Rosen - who the Devils play next - will have never seen anything like it. The Sun Devils are desperate and on the edge.|
|Week 4 POG:||LB Salamo Fiso (8 tckls, 4 TFLs)||Fiso may have been the only guy who actually showed up to play for ASU this past weekend. He's quietly putting together a really good season amidst ASU's struggles.|
|Last Week||WIN||Nicholls St 0 @ Colorado 48|
|Another week, another blowout win for Colorado. Credit the Buffs for doing what they are supposed to do against inferior competition. Two 100 yard rushers and an efficient passing attack led by Sefo Liufau were the stories on offense while, on the other side, the defense pitched a shut out. The Buffs will see their situation get a little more complicated with a damaged and pissed off Oregon Ducks team coming to town. We'll see if they can give the Ducks a contest.|
|Week 4 POG:||DL Michael Matthewes (5 tckls, 1 sack, 1 FF)||A lot of Buffs got snaps in this one, so it was hard to point to a single guy. But I'd like to honor a defensive player here and I thought Matthewes had a particularly good showing for Colorado.|
|11||12||Oregon State||2-2 (0-1)||BYE|
|Last Week||LOSS||Stanford 42 @ Oregon State 24|
|The scoreboard won't tell the story here, but Oregon State put up some serious fight in this one. The offense took some shots and the defense played a spirited and physical game. So much so that the outcome of this game was in doubt going into halftime. The Beavs clearly wore out as the game wore on. The depth of the young talent there isn't fully established and I expect endurance will be a continuing theme for OSU. However, I'm very impressed with what we are seeing out of Corvallis and this new coaching staff. I'm bumping OSU this week and issuing a warning: watch out. The Beavs are going to get somebody at some point this season.|
|Week 4 POG:||LB Caleb Saulo (14 tckls, 1 FF)||This guy just keeps showing up both on the field and in the stat sheet. He was very productive against Stanford and his effort just seems to typify the kind of "go for it" mentality that Kilani Sitake is crafting down in Corvallis.|
|The Cougs are off to Berkeley this weekend in a game that they simply must win if they are to hold on to hopes of a bowl season.|
|Week 4 POG:||n/a|