Let’s see, what happened this weekend?
Well, for one, the PAC 12 suffered what looks like a death blow to their chances of landing in the College Football Playoff. That kind of sucked.
Oh, and the Cougs tried to CougIt only to turn around and hang a CougIt on the Beavers in a game that saw over 100 points in combined offensive output. That was exciting.
We saw a glimpse of the future offensive stars of the conference in a shootout in Los Angeles. All we want to know there is who will be coaching the scarlet side when all is said and done.
And, well, the Huskies lost to a really, really bad football team for the first time in an eon (which is Greek for “a really effing long time”). That has obviously sent Husky fans into a tizzy and sparked rages of CBD-fueled protest on this forum and others.
Hey all, gather your balls and bring them back here. We have some football to discuss.
Overreactions of the Week - CFP edition
“The Utes still have a great chance to make the playoff”
I heard this one all week leading up to last weekend’s games and am still hearing it now in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. So, let’s discuss.
Before we begin, it is useful to gather some updated information that might help us understand the current lay of the land.
#1 - the current AP rankings are out with the only rated PAC 12 teams being #6 Utah (up one spot), #14 Oregon (down 8 spots ), and #25 USC (not ranked previously).
#2 - while said rankings may or may not match tomorrow night’s updated CFP rankings, it is safe to presume they are directionally correct.
#3 - Oregon is now the lowest ranked 2-loss team among Power 5 schools and one ahead of independent Notre Dame
#4 - one-loss Utah has one win over an opponent ranked at the time of the game (ASU) and no wins over currently ranked teams
#5 - looming just behind Utah at #7 is one-loss Oklahoma - a team with wins over two top 15 teams and boasting a leading Heisman candidate
#6 - the Committee has already elected once, and will certainly do so again, to keep a one-loss, no-Tua Alabama team ahead of Utah despite the fact that the Tide have just one top 25 win.
With all of that evidence on the table, there is really only one scenario where Utah makes the CFP and it involves all of these things happening. To get to this conclusion, you have to assume that Clemson, the SEC champ and the Big Ten champ all have already punched tickets (which is a very high likelihood scenario). Thus, for Utah to get that last spot, all of this has to be true:
- There can be no two-team Big Ten scenario which means that Ohio State, who has already clinched the West, needs to win the whole thing
- There can be no two-team SEC scenario. This one is a little tricky. For this to be a non-factor, Alabama must lose to Auburn this weekend. On top of that, Georgia has to either lose to Georgia Tech this weekend or LSU (by a lot) in the SEC championship. A competitive game between the two division winners will result in a serious threat of both of them going no matter who wins (and, yes, I’m aware that Georgia may have two losses)
- Oklahoma cannot win the Big 12 championship. If they do, their one-loss resume is objectively superior to Utah’s no matter how badly Utah wails on #14 Oregon.
- And, of course, Utah must beat Colorado and Oregon.
Sorry, that’s a lot. Possible? Yes. Lots of things are possible. Clemson could lose the ACC championship, for instance. But are the odds good? Not at all.
PAC 12 Bowl Projections
We had a few teams get eliminated from bowl eligibility this past weekend. Cal took away not just the Axe but also Stanford’s bowl hopes with their win. Similarly, Utah pounded away any thoughts that Kevin Sumlin had about going bowling just as USC did to UCLA. In all, there are now seven bowl eligible teams with only Colorado and Oregon State still hopeful of having their ticket’s punched.
All of that gives us enough information to begin making some projections. Here is where my head is at right now:
College Football Playoff: none
Rose Bowl: Oregon
Yes, I think the Ducks are still the more complete team and will beat the Utes in the PAC 12 Championship. What’s worse is that there is a good chance they will play Minnesota and win. We will then all be subjected to the “how long since you won a Rose Bowl?” taunts.
Alamo Bowl: Utah
Holiday Bowl: USC
This seems a lock barring some kind of strange blowout in the PAC 12 Championship. That said, USC might still get a shot to play for the Rose Bowl if Utah falls to Colorado this weekend.
Redbox Bowl: Arizona State
Washington could get selected here if they win the Apple Cup. I’m projecting ASU here because the odds of ASU winning this weekend are greater than those of Washington. However, UW probably takes this spot with a convincing Apple Cup win.
Sun Bowl: Washington
Las Vegas Bowl: Cal
Cheez-It Bowl: Washington State
If WSU beats UW in the Apple Cup, you can swap these two. But with UW at home, I think the odds slightly favor them for the purpose of this projection.
The Cool Chart
The PAC 12 Power Rankings - after Week 13
12. Arizona (4-7, 2-7)
#7 Utah 35, Arizona 7
I’d like to personally thank the Wildcats for making this spot in the rankings easy for me. I don’t have to copy and paste their slot somewhere else. I don’t have to move their logo in the cool chart. I just keep letting them be #12.
To the casual observer, it might seem that Arizona is in dumpster fire mode. Maybe. But it seems more likely to me that the rebuild is already underway. There are a lot of young players getting playing time, not the least of which being Grant Gunnell who continued his job-splitting with Khalil Tate despite it being senior night in Tucson. The bottom line, though, is that the Wildcats have lost six straight, have scored 13 total points in the last two and will not have a post-season.
POG: LB Colin Schooler (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PBU)
The final score doesn’t show it, but the Wildcats bowed up a bit on defense during the first half. Schooler did a nice job taking on RB Zack Moss and getting a few blitzes in on the Utah QB.
Next Up: at Arizona State
11. Stanford (4-7, 3-6) ▼
Cal 24, Stanford 20
It’s official: the Cardinal postseason hopes will now come to a screeching end. In fact, not only did the Cardinal lose its first Big Game in the last ten tries, but they guaranteed themselves their first losing season since 2008.
Unlike Washington who have been mostly healthy all year, the Cardinal will at least be able to point to a series of debilitating injuries including stars Paulson Adebo and KJ Costello. The latest to go down was star WR Conor Wedington who was injured on the opening kickoff. Counting the presence of WR Elijah Higgins in Stanford’s first offensive snap, the Cardinal have had to start 8 freshmen at different times this season.
Nevertheless, I do wonder how loud the chorus will be for change down on the Farm. David Shaw is a man of many interests, including broadcasting, and it wouldn’t shock me if there were some discussions already happening about who might be interested in bringing a new vision to Stanford.
POG: DL Jovann Swann (5 tckls, 3 TFLs, 1 sack)
Swann is kind of like Joe Tryon at Washington. He’s supremely talented, but way too up and down for the fanbase to stomach. Saturday was one of his two best games of the year.
Next Up: at #15 Notre Dame
10. UCLA (4-7, 4-4) ▼
UCLA 35, #23 USC 52
I kind of feel bad for the Bruins. Getting blown out against your arch rival in a game so special that they let both teams where their home colors is hard enough. But to stomach the disaster that this defense has put up (despite some pretty good individual efforts - looking at you Krys Barnes) over the last few weeks might leave a less experienced coach than Chip Kelly feeling hopeless.
The shame of it is that this game was probably Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s finest as a QB. He made plays, protected the ball and had USC defenders running around in circles trying to figure out where he was going. You can see what Chip’s strategy is with this offense now that he has a playmaking receiver (Kyle Philips), a versatile tight end (Devin Asiasi), a workhorse RB (Joshua Kelley) and a jack of all trades playmaker (Demetric Felton). This thing is starting to come together even if bowl eligibility is no longer an option.
POG: QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (337 yards, 3 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT)
DTR really came out of his shell in one of the most important games on the UCLA roster. I’m not sure if it was a breakout as much as it was just a matter of him getting hot. Regardless, the results were spectacular. He looked confident and in control as he made good play after good play.
Next Up: vs Cal
9. Colorado (5-6, 3-5) ▲
Washington 14, Colordao 20
Give the Buffs some credit. They did two things on Saturday that made sure their seniors went home winners. First, they constantly overloaded the defensive line to create pressure that Jacob Eason couldn’t or wouldn’t adjust to. Second, though their offense wasn’t that good, they consistently converted the third downs that they had to in order to control the ball. Never was that more obvious than on their last possession when they took the ball from their own 1 yard line and strung together an 11 play, 81 yard drive that ran the clock out. They brutalized the Husky defense on that drive just as their defense, which ranked last in the PAC 12 in points per game allowed coming in, dominated the Husky offense.
This is the game that Mel Tucker will point to in the offseason whether Colorado qualifies for bowl eligibility or not when trying to sell recruits on the vision of his program. It was an SEC kind of performance against a Husky team that is quickly becoming the poster child for PAC 12 softness.
POG: RB Alex Fontenot (24 carries, 105 yds, 1 TD)
I’m not sure what it is about the Huskies that turns average backs into stud workhorses (e.g. Chris Brown Jr, Cameron Scarlett), but let’s give it up for Alex Fontenot. He ran tough and crossed over the 100 yard mark for just the third time this season. He picked up some difficult third downs and his TD run was a game clincher.
Next Up: at #6 Utah
8. Oregon State (5-6, 4-4) ▼
Oregon State 53, Washington State 54
The Beavers came out of the ASU game having eeked out a one point win after giving up what seemed like a game-saving TD drive to the Sun Devils. Last Saturday, they were not so lucky. Oregon State could not convert a 4th and 6 with a little over a minute on the clock and, instead, watched the Cougs take that field position and turn it into a game-winning TD as time expired. Ironically, it was Max Borghi, the very same Coug player who gave OSU bulletin board material by guaranteeing a win earlier in the week, that scored the TD.
That the Beaver defense surrendered 54 points masks what was an otherwise brilliant day for the Beaver offense. QB Jake Luton continues to string together a fantastic season. He got great support from his o-line, RB Jermar Jefferson and WR Isaiah Hodgins who had a couple of circus catches that have to be seen to be believed.
The Beavs still have a chance to get bowl eligible, but they are going to have to outscore a wounded Ducks (pun intended) squad in Eugene to do it. I believe that they have the confidence to do it and they certainly can roll out an aggressive game plan with nothing really to lose. But it will be a challenge nonetheless.
POG: RB Jermar Jefferson (21 rushes, 132 yards, 2 TDs)
Jefferson has been banged up all season. It was good to see him back to health and back to workhorse status. His tough running gave the Beaver D at least a little bit of relief and kept the Beavers in the game throughout.
Next Up: at #14 Oregon
7. Washington (6-5, 3-5) ▼
Washington 14, Colordao 20
The Huskies have this season now lost twice coming out of BYE weeks in an era when Chris Petersen, the coach, had never before done so even once over his entire career. That right there probably tells you all that you need to know about how abominable this season has become for the Huskies.
Look, we can all sit here and repeat the same refrains we’ve talked about for two seasons. The playcalling. The awful QB habits. The lazy WR play. The soft middle of the defense. The young defense. The inability to win big games or come from behind ... blah, blah, blah, blah.
The reality is that UW’s culture is either a) broken or b) a work in progress (depending on what half of the glass of water you focus on). As it is currently constructed, there are no playmakers on this team. Or, more accurately, none of the players with the underlying talent to do so seem to be making plays when the tide is pushing against the Husky boat. This team looks like it has had the joy of playing football sucked out of it. They just go through the motions when it is going easy and they run for the hills when it is difficult. For six seasons, Chris Petersen has been building a football machine that has focused on fundamentals, details and his OKG-ness. But, in doing so, he has fielded a group of drones who lack the intangibles to cope with the chaos that comes when another team fights back.
I don’t know what the fix is. Maybe CCP is overcoaching and these guys need to be given more of a chance to just play. Maybe this team needs an overhaul of the offensive philosophy. Maybe the program needs new voices on the staff. Maybe shock therapy might help. Whatever it is, this thing isn’t working. And, if we are being honest, it hasn’t worked for more than just this season despite the roster being stacked with some of the highest rated talent it has ever had.
POG: LB Edefuan Olofoshio (11 tackles)
I was debating between Edefuan and Terrell Bynum. All I can say is at least they tried.
Next Up: vs WSU
6. California (6-5, 3-5) ▲
Cal 24, Stanford 20
The Bears bounced back with a big win over Stanford to claim their first Axe in the last ten years. The victory was led by QB Chase Garbers who led his team on a thrilling final drive before walking into the end zone virtually untouched on a game-cinching 16 yard TD run late in the fourth quarter.
Remarkably, the Bears are 11-2 when Garbers is able to play more than one half of any game. I had to do a double take when I saw that stat. Though this offense has its issues, Garbers seems to give it just enough life to pull out games. Of course, having a D that holds its opponent to 20 points and 2.5 yards per rush certainly helps.
POG: S Jaylinn Hawkins (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT)
There were a few strong defenders in this one including Evan Weaver and Camryn Bynum. But I feel like Hawkins has been a bit underappreciated. I thought it was time to send him some love. As a converted WR, Hawkins has turned into a next-level caliber safety. He certainly showed it against Stanford.
Next Up: at UCLA
5. Arizona State (6-5, 3-5) ▲
#6 Oregon 28, Arizona State 31
What a weird year it has been for the Sun Devils. Such is the case, I suppose, when you roll with a young QB. Even one as exciting as Jayden Daniels. Just one week after losing to Oregon State on a failed two-point conversion, the Sun Devils head home and wallop the undefeated Ducks for three quarters before doing just enough to hold on in the fourth and score the upset.
The story of this season continues to be Jayden Daniels. I definitely want to give the Sun Devil defense credit for taking away the Duck offense (although there certainly was enough bad Oregon QB play to at least lay some of that ineptitude on the visiting team). But Daniels was spectacular in providing the Sun Devils with a monumental victory and getting the team bowl eligible.
POG: QB Jayden Daniels (22/32, 408 yards, 12.8 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INT)
No ASU QB has passed for over 400 yards in a game since Mike Bercovici - who ironically is now on the Herm Edwards’s staff - did so in his one year as a starter. But that doesn’t even tell the half of it. With the Ducks coming back strong and within a field goal, Daniels delivered the play of the game. Third and 16 backed up into his opponent’s red zone, Daniels uncorked a perfectly placed rainbow that turned into an 81 yard, game-saving TD pass. That, my friends, is what a playmaker does.
Next Up: vs Arizona
4. Washington State (6-5, 3-5) ▲
Oregon State 53, Washington State 54
Let’s just start with this: on a senior night with one of their own joining them in spirit if not form, seeing the entire WSU senior class walk out to greet the family of Tyler Hilinski is a stark reminder of what is good about college football. How could the Cougs lose on a night where they put such positive karma back into the galaxy?
Well, they almost did. In what was one of the most remarkable games of the PAC 12 season, the Cougs surrendered 29 points to the Beavers in the fourth quarter and, yet, still found a way to win the game with a final possession touchdown drive. QB Anthony Gordon, who tried his hardest to give the game away with three picks, also tried his hardest to win it by racking up 606 passing yards. His six TD passes made that 45 on the year, tying both Jared Goff and Jake Browning for the PAC 12 record. Ironically, he’ll probably break that record in Seattle this week.
In addition to hanging 54 on a team that UW only managed 19 points against the week prior, the Cougs also got themselves bowl eligible for the fifth straight season.
POG: WSU Offensive Line (one sack allowed)
Let’s acknowledge what has greatly been ignored in Anthony Gordon’s record-setting season: the WSU offensive line has been all right. Oregon State opened the night tied in the lead with Oregon for sacks per game. The Coug big uglies gave up just one to the Beavs in 70 Gordon drop backs. Not bad.
Next Up: at Washington
3. USC (8-4, 7-2)
UCLA 35, #23 USC 52
It’s hard to watch true freshman Kedon Slovis slip and glide around a collapsing pocket on play after play and not think to yourself, if you are a Husky fan, why our QB can’t learn those footwork skills. Maybe it is just a matter of natural talent. Regardless, Slovis has it. His performance in USC’s last regular season game was one to behold on a day that the defense wasn’t able to stop anything that UCLA was doing.
The Trojans now find themselves a Utah loss away from an outright win of the PAC 12 South. While it looks like that Buffaloes may have burned up all of their powder in their upset over Washington, one has to think that the players and coaches have some optimism that the Buff may be peaking at the right time. Could it lead to a miracle? We will see.
POG: QB Kedon Slovis (37/47, 515 yds, 11 YPA, 4 TDs, 0 INT)
Those numbers are sick.
Next Up: BYE
2. (14) Oregon (9-2, 7-1) ▼
#6 Oregon 28, Arizona State 31
This was the loss that we all expected to see coming. An overconfident Oregon team that had put plenty of flaws on tape but endured unending adulation in the press. An inconsistent QB who was putting on tapes streaks of inaccuracy that partially offset his streaks of brilliance. A road trip to a hostile desert environment that has robbed more than one PAC 12 contender of its hopes and dreams. A wily veteran coach who is the ultimate motivator. A breakout freshman QB who just has the “it” factor.
The truth is that Oregon was totally outclassed in this one. Until a furious comeback attempt was mounted by QB Justin Herbert and WR Johnny Johnson in the fourth quarter, one could say that this was a blowout in process. That the Ducks made it a game by posting 21 points in the fourth quarter was impressive. But the stagnation in the first three quarters along with a defense that had no answer for ASU’s multi-talented QB was too much to overcome as Oregon’s playoff hopes evaporated.
The good news for Ducks is that they probably are still the best overall team in the conference and the PAC 12 North is already cinched. There is still a Rose Bowl out there for them.
POG: WR Johnny Johnson (10 recs, 207 yds, 2 TDs)
Johnson had a career night and was almost soley responsible for that furious fourth quarter comeback. I don’t have the official stats in front of me, but both his TDs and at least 120 of his yards came in that rabid fourth. It just wasn’t enough.
Next Up: vs Oregon State
1. (6) Utah (10-1, 7-1) ▲
#7 Utah 35, Arizona 7
Break up the Utes!
Utah continues to steamroll through its unusually not-stacked PAC 12 schedule with yet another blowout of another underwhelming team. But give the Utes credit, when they blowout a team, they do it in style.
Tyler Huntley had another ridiculously efficient day (19/23, 9.2 YPA) while Zack Moss continued to show that he’s the best back in the conference. Still, it’s hard to know how good Utah really is. The teams they are playing haven’t really challenged them and the best win they have all year is against a 6-5 Husky team that has already been physically blown out by both Stanford and Colorado this season. Still, they are the new standard bearer in the conference and should have little difficulty with the Buffs this weekend.
POG: RB Zack Moss (23 rushes, 206 yds, 1 TD)
Enjoy him while you got him. There isn’t another one of these kinds of guys coming through those doors for a long while.
Next Up: vs Colorado