Recapping the best and worst from Week Nine in the Pac-12 …
Theme of the week: Barking dogs
Underdogs either won outright or made life difficult for the favorites across the conference. Washington State beat Arizona State by 13 points as a 16.5-point road dog. Cal was a slight home underdog and handled Oregon State impressively. Arizona made USC sweat as a massive dog in the Coliseum. And in the nightcap, Washington, a small dog — a Chihuahua, if you will — beat Stanford with a touchdown in the final seconds.
Theme of the season: Parity
The state of play in the Pac-12 before COVID remains entrenched on the other side of the pandemic. The conference has one team with fewer than three losses: Oregon (7-1). In contrast, the SEC has six teams with fewer than three losses and the Big Ten has five. Pac-12 cannibalism is in full swing, folks. And all those non-conference losses to Group of Five opponents don’t help matters.
Game of the week: Washington 20, Stanford 13
It was straight outta the 1950s, with nothing but field goals for three quarters. If you stuck with it, there was a reward. Stanford scored 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to claim a 13-12 lead and had possession with three minutes left. But an incomplete pass on third down gave Washington plenty of time to respond: The Huskies went 67 yards for the game-winning touchdown to record their first victory at Stanford since 2007.
Team of the week: Cal
The Bears entered the weekend with a weak resume (wins over Sacramento State and Colorado) and left with an impressive takedown of a North division co-leader. They rolled up 517 yards of offense, took advantage of three OSU turnovers and churned to a 39-25 victory that significantly widens their path to the postseason.
Team of the season: Washington State
The Cougars (5-4/4-2) bludgeoned Arizona State for their fourth consecutive conference win and are one victory from both bowl eligibility and control of the division: Beat Oregon in Eugene in two weeks, following a much-needed bye, and WSU would be in first place. Not bad for a team that lost its head coach and four assistants in the middle of the season to an unprecedented situation.
Tribute of the week: No. 22
On the day Utah honored the memory of former players Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe — both wore that jersey number — the rest of the conference did the same: The hashmarks at the 22 yard-line were painted red on fields throughout the conference.
Flop of the week: Arizona State
Everything was set up perfectly for the Sun Devils: They would be fresh following an extra week of rest; their opponent, Washington State, was a heavy underdog; it was Homecoming in Tempe; and the Sun Devils were honoring their 1996 conference championship team. All in all, an ideal time for a rousing victory. Five turnovers and one face plant later, ASU had its second consecutive loss, a chorus of boos and some serious soul searching ahead.
Offensive player of the week: Utah’s Tavion Thomas
The sledgehammer tailback rushed for 160 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Utes (5-3/4-1) to their decisive victory over UCLA in a duel for the division lead. We should also mention USC tailback Keaontay Ingram, who rushed for 204 yards, albeit against a lesser opponent (Arizona).
Defensive player of the week: Washington’s Carson Bruener
The freshman linebacker was everywhere Saturday night as UW’s defense held Stanford to a single touchdown. The son of former UW tight end Mark Bruener, he totaled 16 tackles — it felt like 20 — in addition to 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Co-coaches of the week: WSU’s Jake Dickert and Arizona’s Jedd Fisch
Dickert directed the Cougars to their upset of Arizona State and recorded the first victory as the acting head coach; his work keeping the team together has been admirable. Fisch deserves a mention, as well: He crafted a smart game-plan under difficult circumstances (third-string quarterback) and had his beleaguered team ready to play. Even when they fell behind by 17 points at the end of the third quarter, the Wildcats kept plugging.
Streaks of the week: Oregon and Arizona
The Ducks won their 17th consecutive home game, the third-longest active streak in the country behind Clemson (32) and Cincinnati (24). They haven’t lost in Autzen Stadium since September 2018 (Stanford). Meanwhile, the Wildcats lost their 20th consecutive game, the longest active losing streak in the country. They haven’t won since Oct. 2019 (at Colorado).
Stat of the month: Oregon State
There’s an old saying that defenses travels, but that’s not the case with OSU. The Beavers have allowed 70 points and 1,008 yards in their past two road games, in Pullman and Berkeley. Both were losses.
Stat of the season: USC
The Trojans are yielding an average of 34 points at home, which is fairly remarkable considering one of their five opponents managed a single touchdown (San Jose State). Within the Power Five, only Missouri and Vanderbilt are worse. That’s not company USC wants to keep.
Stat of the past four years: UCLA
Speaking of bad defense: The Bruins were overrun by Utah on Saturday night, to the tune of 44 points and 469 yards. The woeful effort continues a trend that spans not only this season but the entirety of Chip Kelly’s tenure. UCLA’s national ranking in yards allowed per play the past four seasons (chronologically): No. 95, No. 123, No. 43 (short season) and No. 81 (current). It appears the Bruins will be dressing as a turnstile for Halloween.
Game of next week: Oregon at Washington
One of the best rivalries in the conference received a primetime TV slot (4:30 p.m. on ABC) and larger stakes than we might have expected. Washington’s win at Stanford has created a duel for the division: Oregon (7-1/4-1) is alone in first place, but the Huskies (4-4/3-2) are one game back and would control a tiebreaker with a head-to-head victory.
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