It was a limited schedule in the PAC 12 during week 10 as four teams had BYE weeks. The four games that were held, however, were extremely impactful for both the winners and the losers.
With their dominating wins, both Utah and Oregon made statements in the two games that matched up what many thought were the four best teams in the conference to start the season. Each are now the clear favorites to win the respective divisions.
A third team, however, kept their own hopes alive with a big win of their own. UCLA’s efficient win over the Buffs make them a factor in how the South division finishes. A long shot to be sure, but the only team left among the remaining ten that have a puncher’s chance at making a surprise appearance in the PAC 12 Championship.
Overreactions of the Week
I’m not done overreacting to this weekend. Sorry.
The Cool Chart
The PAC 12 Power Rankings - after Week 10
12. Colorado (3-6, 1-5)
Colorado 14, UCLA 31
While it is still technically possible, the Buffs are pretty much out of bowl contention. They now face the task of playing for pride and featuring their seniors, particularly on offense, who have helped to bring Colorado from the dustbins of the PAC to some semblance of relevance.
On the field, there is little to report. Mel Tucker is trying to install a physical brand of offense and a defense that emphasizes stopping the run. The personnel on this team, as proven against UCLA, isn’t equipped to do that. 88 yards rushing for against 200 yards rushing against pretty much says it all.
In addition, the inability of Colorado to get Laviska Shenault involved in the offense will continue to be inversely related to wins for as long as Shenault continues to be a Buff. Three catches for 16 yards isn’t going to get it done.
POG: LB Nate Landman (11 tckls, 2 sacks)
The best LB in the PAC not named Evan Weaver had another great game despite having to carry the rest of his defense. Tucker is fortunate that Landman is just a junior and will in all likelihood return in 2020.
Next Up: vs Stanford
11. Arizona (4-5, 2-4)
Oregon State 56, Arizona 38
The Wildcats are a wild mess right now. A fired defensive coordinator, a QB controversy and a former Heisman candidate losing his grip on a post college playing career are just a few of the storylines challenging Kevin Sumlin and his team.
It is hard to describe what went wrong at home against Oregon State other without using the phrase “total meltdown”. The defense is a complete disaster right now and the offense, at least when led by QB Khalil Tate, continues to shoot itself in foot with weird sacks and unforced errors.
The only thing that Arizona has going for it right now is true freshman Grant Gunnell and the skill sets he brings to the table. At this point, it is obvious that he needs to be starting.
POG: QB Grant Gunnell (269 yds, 9.3 ypa, 2 TDs)
Gunnell brings life to the Wildcat offense and has completely separated himself from incumbent Khalil Tate. Sumlin can’t really save face with this team when it comes to “best opportunity to win” without turning the job over to Gunnell.
Next Up: vs Oregon State
10. California (4-4, 1-4) ▼
Nothing new to report for Bears. They come out of their second BYE with bowl eligibility in sight but requiring two wins in the final four to secure. Will they summon up enough offense to get there is an open question.
Next Up: vs Washington State
9. Stanford (4-4, 3-3)
Stanford comes out of the BYE with three winnable games ahead of them before the end of year road trip to Notre Dame. They have time to make some noise with KJ Costello seemingly healthy and some intriguing young players ready to take on expanded roles.
Next Up: at Colorado
8. Washington (5-4, 2-4) ▼
#9 Utah 33, Washington 28
Raise your hand high in the air if you had pegged UW as a 2-4 team going into it’s final three games of the season? C’mon, let me see them.
Since I doubt many of you are sitting in front of your screen with your hand raised, I’m going to go ahead and state with emphasis that this season is officially a wasted opportunity. With yet another loss (which really wasn’t as close as the final score suggests after Utah flat out dominated the second half), Chris Petersen now finds himself facing the first real test of adversity since he and his staff took over. Fan interest is waning, player morale is low and expectations around this program are plummeting. Of most concern is the unanswered criticism that this staff can’t eke out a level of performance from its team that even occasionally outpaces the baseline talent of the players. The opposite is much more common and frustrating to fans.
While bowl eligibility isn’t a real concern yet, this team is increasingly facing the likelihood of a 7 to 8 win season. That would basically put UW back to where it started when Petersen took over and raise significant debate about the vision for the program.
POG: TE Hunter Bryant (6 recs, 105 yds, 2 TDs)
Bryant had a real standout game on an afternoon that did not go well for UW. The Huskies would have been lost without his contributions.
Next Up: at Oregon State (Fri)
7. Oregon State (4-4, 3-2)
Oregon State 56, Arizona 38
Go back a few short weeks and it was hard to see a path for Jonathan Smith and the Beavers to get bowl eligible. Now, not so much.
Starting with Friday’s home game against UW, the Beavs look like they have the kind of offensive production that could give them a puncher’s chance in at least thee of the next four. If they can replicate what they pulled off against Arizona where they showed off efficient QB play, two 100 yard rushers and superstar receiving performances from guys like Isaiah Hodgins and Noah Togiai, they are going to get those two wins, no question.
Defense continues to be a challenge, but the Beavers seem to have found their niche. They have some strengths to build on including a pretty good blitz game (Hamilcar Rashed had another great game generating 3 sacks as a blitzing backer) and a percolating rush defense. Getting just enough resistance is going to be important as the Beavs chase bowl eligibility in what is quickly becoming one of the best stories in the PAC this year.
Next Up: vs Washington (Fri)
6. Arizona State (5-3, 2-3)
ASU holding pat after a much needed BYE. This upcoming game against USC is one that will reveal much about where Herm Edwards is with his program’s rebuild.
Next Up: vs USC
5. Washington State (4-4, 1-4)
The Cougs find themselves in a pretty favorable position with three winnable games right in front of them before a trip to Seattle for the Apple Cup. Despite only having one conference win under their belt, there is enough offense with this team to justify a win-out projection for the Cougs.
Next Up: at Cal
4. UCLA (4-5, 4-2) ▲
Colorado 14, UCLA 31
Don’t look now, but the Bruins control their own destiny.
Yup, that’s right. Should the Bruins win out they will represent the South in the PAC 12 Championship game.
There isn’t a whole lot to be gleaned from a win over a flailing Colorado program. We did see a couple of interesting things including some very good pass defense (a total shut down of Laviska Shenault) and continued prowess of the rushing attack behind Joshua Kelley. I’m still a little skeptical about the QB situation (Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a “good game” by his standards), but Chip Kelly has done a nice job figuring out how to cover up DTRs flaws with his rushing attack and selective usage of short and medium range passes.
POG: RB Joshua Kelley (23 carries, 126 yds, 2 TDs)
Kelley continues to shine now receiving this award for the third straight week. UCLA’s resurgence can be traced directly back to his healthy return to the lineup for Chip Kelly.
Next Up: BYE
3. USC (5-4, 4-2)
#7 Oregon 56, USC 24
Mama said that there’d be days like this ... but this one hurt.
The Trojans never really showed up in what was a golden opportunity to not only save their coach but to also alert the nation that the PAC 12 South was theirs for the taking. But taking a blowout at home against the standard-bearer of the conference is a tough blow that may have sunk Clay Helton once and for all.
Turnovers and shoddy special teams play were the primary culprit against the Ducks. Kedon Slovis turned the ball over four times himself (three INTs, one fumble) which translated into points every time. One of those INTs turned into a pick six in a stretch that saw the Ducks score two TDs in 20 seconds. In addition, the Trojans gave up a back-breaking 100 yard kickoff return after their answer to that second TD.
I also have to say that what I saw out of the Trojans secondary was concerning. Duck receivers were dancing around midfield basically unchecked and converting long Justin Herbert passes into explosive plays. It certainly looked to me that USC was having an effort problem which is no bueno for Helton as he tries to keep a handle on his team.
POG: WR Drake London (4 recs, 51 yds, 1 TD)
The Trojans’s 6-5” freshman receiver got the most snaps in a game that he has ever seen and turned that opportunity into his first TD of the year. I thought it would be cool to call out Drake as POG because he also happens to be an intriguing prospect for the USC Men’s hoops team and will be playing for Andy Endfield once the football season concludes.
Next Up: at Arizona State
2. (8) Utah (8-1, 5-1)
#9 Utah 33, Washington 28
Give the Utes credit: they walked into a hostile environment against a team whose coach has never lost a game coming off a BYE, absorbed a couple of chin shots in the first half, and then methodically asserted their will in pulling off a dominating win.
This is the second straight impressive win for Utah. The Huskies made a bit of a change from their normal script in how they rolled out extra d-linemen to stop Zack Moss putting their secondary in more man situations. Utah adjusted well by the second half and rode the arm of Tyler Huntley to absolutely shred UW’s defense. I can’t really recall any game in UW’s history under Petersen where the opposing QB netted nearly 12 yards per attempt, but Huntley did that in Seattle.
If he can keep doing that at the same time the Utah defense continues to lead the nation in rush defense, the Utes could be formidable candidate for a Rose Bowl.
POG: DB Julian Blackmon (8 tckls, 1 INT)
I was at the game on Saturday and had a bird’s eye view to how effective Blackmon played against the UW passing attack. He seemed to be in all the right spots at all the right times and affect how Jacob Eason was reading routes. It was a great game all around for a player who has successfully converted from corner to safety.
Next Up: BYE
1. (7) Oregon (8-1, 6-0)
#7 Oregon 56, USC 24
It’s amazing how easy this game can be when you can generate points off of both defense and special teams ... in the same quarter. Such was the case with the Ducks when a pick six and a kickoff return netted Oregon 14 points in a 28-point 2nd quarter outburst against USC.
From there Oregon cruised in what has to be one of the more eye-popping scores posted in the conference all season. I get that USC turned the ball over a bajillion times, but you have to give Oregon credit. Domination is domination. And this was that.
Of most interest might be the awakening of WR Juwaun Johnson. The Penn State grad transfer was supposed to be the big play guy to replace Dillon Mitchell this year. However, injuries have waylaid him and kept him from being a serious contributor. His breakout was undoubtedly a welcome sight for an offense in need of a perimeter gamebreaker.
POG: WR Juwaun Johnson (7 recs, 126 yds, 3 TDs)
There aren’t many receivers in the conference with a 6-5 frame and blazing speed like Johnson has. If he can harness that potential, avoid the drops and stay healthy, he’s a gamechanger for Oregon. His seven catches more than doubled his season total so far.
Next Up: BYE