Because we have one more game to play before we officially call an end to the 2019 PAC 12 College Football season, we’ll save the final power rankings until next week. Instead, we’ll do a quick recap of the conference goings-ons from rivalry week and then walk through a “what does it all mean” analysis of where things stand for bowl projections.
Week 14 Recap
Apple Cup - Washington State 13, Washington 31
First, let’s talk about that Mike Leach quote:
“You run your mouth in your little column and stuff like some sanctimonious troll. Where you’ve never been far or even-handed with us, so I really don’t care what you think. Because you’re going to write some nasty stuff anyway like you always do, and I don’t know which Coug way back when did something that offended you, and I really don’t care about that either. You can live your little meager life in your little hole and write nasty things, and if that makes you feel even -- you go right ahead. Ok, next.”
Then there was Leach’s comments on UW’s defense and their defensive coordinator, Jimmy Lake:
“It was a great team effort on their part. I know he likes to take credit for everything ...”
Take away the obvious combination of hilarity and vitriol that are present in those post-game quotes. Between the lines, the tone is one of obvious frustration. Seven losses in a row to your rival and, more significantly, a single head coach, is going to give birth to an intense level of exasperation. This is especially true when that same rival was not only coming into the game with a flawed football team but then proceeded to play a flawed game that still turned out a lopsided result.
And, let’s not mince words here, this was hardly the most impressive end-to-end performance we’ve seen during this streak. The Huskies offense continued to struggle to convert third downs (2 of 8), generate a rushing attack (98 yards on 28 carries), involve the receivers (just two WRs caught five total balls past the LOS), or control the clock (-9 minute TOP advantage).
Nevertheless, the Huskies broke their season-long mold in three important ways: they generated a pass rush (5 sacks), they forced some turnovers (3) and they scored in the red zone (4 of 5 RZ trips converted to TDs). Against a good-not-great Coug team, that was all that had to be done to walk away with the Apple Cup and spark and opposing coach’s meltdown with the media. Good times.
Notre Dame 45, Stanford 24
The Cardinal (4-8) saw their worst season under David Shaw come to a disappointing end against their long-time rival.
Stanford actually held a 10 point lead midway through the first half in this one. But, as things have tended to go for the Cardinal all year, the crap hit the fan when Stanford punter had a punt blocked towards the end of the half. That mishap turned into Notre Dame’s second TD of the game and pretty much spelled doom for Stanford’s upset ambitions.
Where the Cardinal go from here remains to be seen. While they do have a roster still stocked with highly rated talent, there have been some rumblings about David Shaw potentially looking to make a move. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing that happen. I think it is more likely that Shaw is going to point to the young talent he has coming at d-line, running back and o-line and relish taking on the “rebuild” of his program back into one that emphasizes physicality on the line of scrimmage and ball control. Regardless, he’s going to have a lot of time to think about it.
Cal 28, UCLA 18
This weird undefeated streak that Cal has when QB Chase Garbers plays more than one half of the football game continued for the Bears last weekend against UCLA. This despite the fact that Garbers actual productivity can be best characterized as “ok”.
The real story of this game was the Cal defense. They did a great job of reverting the UCLA offense back to the familiar inefficient version that we saw for much of the first half of the season. The punished UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson with five sacks and forced five UCLA punts through the game. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins, DE Cameron Goode and LB Evan Weaver - all the familiar names - all shined in what was an impressive overall performance.
With that, one has to wonder if the Cal D will keep up the pace as we peek ahead to next season. The latest rumors coming out of Las Vegas are that DC Tim DeRuyter is the top candidate for the open UNLV job. To lose him and all of that senior leadership might be a bit too much for Justin Wilcox going into 2020.
Territorial Cup - Arizona 14, Arizona State 24
Kevin Sumlin continued his QB shuffling strategy - one that will assuredly end with this last game - when he inserted struggling senior Khalil Tate back into the starting lineup to start the Territorial Cup. All Tate did was throw three interceptions and allow the Sun Devils plenty of time to clean up their own offensive problems early in the game. ASU would go on to put on their big-boy pants and pound the overmatched Wildcats with a healthy dose of Eno Benjamin (34 rushes, 168 yards) and just enough Jayden Daniels efficiency (12 of 19, 104 yds plus 62 yards rushing) on their way to an easy win.
The buzz after the game was on the coaching status of Kevin Sumlin. So much so that Arizona AD Dave Heeke had to make this statement:
“I want to make it real clear that as we embark into Year 3 of this rebuild program, Coach Sumlin is our head football coach. We’re not where we want to be. This is not the spot we wanted to be in this point. But we’re committed … to the process of moving this thing forward moving into Year 3.”
Wow. The dreaded statement of support almost always portends a trip to the coaching hot seat for next season no matter what the sport.
And that was just the Arizona side. Even in victory, ASU was not to be outdone on the topic of coaching intrigue. Herm Edwards, almost immediately after the win, announced the shakeup of his offensive staff with this news:
BREAKING: According to Herm Edwards, ASU will not be bringing back Rob Likens, Charlie Fisher and Donnie Yantis next season.— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) December 1, 2019
“We’re headed in a different direction philosophy-wise moving forward.”
Likens, Fisher and Yantis will not participate in the bowl game.
In a follow up quote released by the school, Edwards indicated that he was unsatisfied with the results on the field this season.
You’e got to score points. We were in the mid 20s. You’ve got to be in the 30s. That’s college football.
This kind of decisiveness when it comes to managing your assistants is unusual for a team that hasn’t yet finished their season and is something that will be fodder for analysts to debate over the next few weeks.
Civil War - Oregon State 10, #14 Oregon 24
One has to wonder whether or not a fully healthy Beaver team may have been poised to get bowl eligible with an upset should Luton have been healthy. The Duck offense was lethargic for a second straight week. Oregon’s offensive line struggled against OSU’s pressure scheme and, though they prevented any sacks, it caused Justin Herbert problems. He was 18 of 30 for the game and converted just 3 of 14 third downs en route to a sub 400 yard game for the Duck offense.
As the Ducks look forward to a PAC 12 Championship bout against Utah, one would have to imagine that Mario Cristobal and his staff are going to take some extreme actions to try to get the offense back on track. They might also have to take a look at a defense that failed to generate any serious pressure on the Beavs and seemed to be playing with a hangover. The Ducks aren’t exactly exiting the season on fire.
Colorado 15, #6 Utah 45
The Utes, powered by ridiculous efficiency on both sides of the ball, continue to plow through the soft part of their soft schedule. QB Tyler Huntley probably locked up his offensive player of the year campaign with a stat line that included going 14 for 17 and nearly 10 YPA with no turnovers. The Utah D also shined (again) by containing the Colorado offense and essentially shutting out star WR Lavinia Shenault, Jr (43 yds rec, 25 yds rushing).
The only big question left for the Utes is whether the weak 2nd half schedule will hamper them as they try to adjust to a competitor in Oregon that is every bit their equal defensively and at least as physical on offense. The Utes were helped tremendously by Auburn when Gus Malzahn’s trick punt formation ploy cost Nick Saban a chance to tie the Iron Bowl. Whether they can capitalize on that opportunity and fend off Oklahoma for that last CFP spot is an tantalizing bit of drama to look forward to this week.
As for Colorado, the rebuild is now in full swing as Mel Tucker and crew say goodbye to guys like Steven Montez, KD Dixon and Shenault. The Buffs will have the advantage of getting to focus on recruiting and the early signing period while others begin their bowl prep.
PAC 12 Bowl Projections
Last week, I predicted a third straight season with no CFP appearance for the PAC. Since then, a couple of scenarios that would have kept Utah out self-resolved. The loss by Minnesota to Wisconsin in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe eliminated the remote possibility of a 2-B1G team scenario. More importantly, Alabama’s loss in the Iron Bowl eliminates the Tide from the CFP for the first time ever.
While Utah remains a mystery, we have some other things that are more concrete to ponder. The PAC has seven bowl eligible teams to send to seven contracted bowl games. Neat.
College Football Playoff: none
I’m in the same spot that I was in last week thinking that the Ducks will win next weekend’s P12 Championship. Call it a hunch, but I happen to think that the Ducks differentiate themselves from the Utes with superior playmakers whose impact tend to be most felt in crunch time. That along with the fact that Utah hasn’t been in a close game in a month leads me to believe that the Ducks have an edge.
Rose Bowl: Oregon
The winner of the PAC will almost certainly play the Badgers if things work out as they should. That’s a winnable game for the conference.
Alamo Bowl: Utah
I’m sure Utes fans will take this forecast as a mean-spirited act of aggression on my part, but a second loss probably takes them out of consideration for the Cotton Bowl. Nevertheless, this is a good game for them. I’m guessing Texas would be the matchup - interesting given that Tom Herman yesterday fired most of his coaching staff.
Holiday Bowl: USC
The Huskies could jump up to this spot as I suspect they would be the most attractive invitee for the bowl organizers among the muddled middle of 4-5 PAC teams. But Utah not getting to a NY6 bowl in my scenario makes this automatic for USC. I’m guessing Michigan would be the matchup, though it could still be Minnesota.
Redbox Bowl: Washington
I’m moving UW up to this spot after an Apple Cup that contrasted well against a dull Territorial Cup. The known commodity that is Chris Petersen and the Husky fan base that is expected to travel well makes this a good pick for the bowl. My projection is a 6-3 Iowa as the opponent.
Sun Bowl: Arizona State
Miami is my projected opponent here. That would make for an interesting matchup for either one of UW (based on history) or ASU (based on the Herm factor).
Las Vegas Bowl: Cal
Boise State is a near-lock for this game. Enjoy it Cal.
Cheez-It Bowl: Washington State
San Diego St? Maybe?