Sep 14, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton (90) celebrates with linebacker Steffon Martin (2) after beating the Wisconsin Badgers 32-30 at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Where last week was boring, this week was educational. The way I see it, there is no way that the Pac-12 can be viewed as a low-end conference as it has in the past. We all know there has always been talent in the Pac-12, but usually no one other than the West Coast fans saw that. This week, with four good Big Ten teams on the schedule and an SEC team, this week should have been a statement to all of those ready to anoint this year’s National Championship to the first SEC team to reach 12 wins. I am not saying that Alabama or LSU won’t find their way into the big dance. That said, I am doubtful that the other team on the field won’t be a Pac-12 team. Right now, my money is on Oregon, but UCLA was impressive too.
The Pac-12 didn’t go undefeated this week in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but the only loss was to a highly ranked Ohio State team. Mind you, I stand by the fact that I believe Cal really looked good in a lot of ways against Ohio State, even if Ohio State fans hate me for it, but I digress. A 9-1 weekend is not a bad considering the caliber of opponent. Let’s take a look at the rest of the weekend in Pac-12 action:
Oregon State 51, Utah 48
When you put your team in a position to win a game during the moments where everyone’s eyes are trained on you, you have to be a special player. Sean Mannion, the junior Pleasanton native , was able to put Oregon State on his back this weekend, completing 27 of his 44 passes for 443 yards and five touchdowns.
The Beavers were tied with Utah late in the game, when Mannion completed a 13-yard pass on 4th and 9 from their own 22 yard line. The drive would end with an 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandin Crooks (who has 210 yards on nine receptions with three touchdowns).
Utah was able to climb onto their own quarterback’s back, as Travis Wilson passed for 279 yards and rushed for an additional 142 yards. In fact, he threw for two touchdowns and rushed for three. He was the Utah offense. He would tie the game in the waning moments of the game, and push the game into overtime.
For as much as Wilson dominated the game, Mannion proved to be too much, finding Brandin Crooks for the third time in the back of the end zone to win the game 51-48 after Utah had gone ahead on a 41-yard Andy Phillips field goal.
UCLA 41, Nebraska 31
UCLA began the game in the most unimpressive way imaginable. The defense, which was so good last year, allowed Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez to throw for three touchdowns and put the Cornhuskers in the driver’s seat heading into half time 21-10. UCLA was outgained on the ground 80-53 and the Huskers kept the ball for close to 18 out of a possible 30 minutes in the opening half. Defensively, Nebraska also held Brett Hundley and the Bruin offense to 4-for-10 on third down.
But, late in the opening half, UCLA was slowly making a surge. The Huskers had a 21-3 advantage, when Paul Perkins found the end zone late in the half to breathe life into Bruins. They came out, keeping Nebraska’s offense to an impotent 48 yards on the ground and holding Martinez to 203 passing yards. They went on an impressive 38-0 scoring run that spanned from the :58 second mark in the 2nd quarter to the end of the game.
UCLA’s domination of the Black Shirts started with righting the ship on third down, going 3-for-4 in the second half. Brett Hundley was on his game, passing for 294 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. He was helped by a running attack that added 210 yards (61 of which were from Hundley himself), and two scores.
Defensively, UCLA played a solid ballgame after the initial 21-point start to the game for Nebraska. They ended up sacking Taylor Martinez, the mobile quarterback, twice and holding him to a rare negative in the rushing yards column.
USC 35, Boston College 7
After one of the worst games USC has played in the Lane Kiffin era (and that’s saying a lot), the Trojans bounced back with a relatively easy win over a very bad team.
They did it mostly with a stout defense who held the Eagles to just 184 yards of total offense. They were able to hold the Eagles to 4-of-13 on third down, and they kept the Eagles to just 83 yards through the air.
And while last week the Trojans had their lowest amount of passing yards in a game since 1998, they were able to pick up 521 yards, most of which came from their impressive quarterback Cody Kessler, who went 15-of-17 for 237 yard and two touchdowns. If Kessler can play like this, USC may be able to be a factor in the Pac-12 Southern Division title race.
Stanford 34, Army 20
Stanford didn’t look dominating in the first half, only leading Army 20-13, but considering that David Shaw’s team was facing the triple-option offense that Army features, the fact that they kept them at bay and eventually ran away with the game says a lot. In fact, they kept Army from scoring in the second half until a garbage time touchdown was scored with :17 seconds.
Kevin Hogan had his bright moments, passing for three touchdowns against a very game Army team. Also, the Stanford defense held Army to 49 passing yards. I don’t think any team, even a run-first team, should have less than 100 yards passing a game. That’s just bad. Stanford will have real test against a very good ASU team next week.
Oregon 59, Tennessee 14
Oregon may be the best team in the country. They have looked dominant on both sides of the ball, scoring at least 59 points in the first three games and allowing no more than 14 points per game. In fact, I turned on the game, to find the score 59-7 and I thought it was the end of the game. It was only the third quarter. Tennessee might be on the upswing, but Oregon is a team that should find its way back into the BCS bowls and maybe even to Pasadena for the National Championship game.
Marcus Mariota was on fire, going 23-of-33 with 456 passing yards and four touchdowns, and also ran for a score. Oregon racked up 687 yards of total offense, and really, they straight up outplayed Tennessee, making them look as if they are on the same level as Virginia and Nicholls State, when they are way better than both of those teams.
Washington 34, Illinois 24
Keith Price was so mad after Washington’s win on Saturday: “We had a chance to finish them off and we didn’t do it.” Maybe that’s true, but you can’t argue with the 615 yards of total offense that Washington racked up against Illinois at Soldier Field this weekend. Washington did the same thing in week one, when they rolled up 592 yards on a very talented Boise State team. Unlike that 38-6 blowout, Washington was unable to keep the Illinois offense at bay.
Price had a night, throwing for 342 yards and two scores. Running back Bishop Sankey ran for a career best 208 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, defensive end Josh Shirley had a monster game, with seven tackles and three sacks.
If this is a poor outing, a 10-point win against another AQ conference school in an NFL stadium that plays more like an away game than a neutral game, than I shudder to think what a good game for Washington is.
Washington State 48, Southern Utah 10
Connor Halliday had a coming-out party this weekend as he led Washington State to a lopsided win over FCS Southern Utah. He went 32-of-41 with 383 passing yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
Washington won the turnover battle, as they picked off the Thunderbird quarterback, Aaron Cantu, three times. Overall, a pretty cut-and-dry game – not too much more to say about it.
Arizona 38, University of Texas-San Antonio 13
This game was a real blow-out. Arizona should have won by 32-points rather than the 25 they ended with. Still, Arizona is not any closer to fixing their quarterback woes. B.J. Denker looked decent, but you want to have a more than decent outing against a team like UTSA. He ended the game 14-of-21, 158 yards with one touchdown. In fact, he looked better running the ball than passing the ball, as he rushed for 90 yards and two scores.
Obviously, the Wildcat offense lives and dies by Ka’Deem Carey’s performance. The junior ran for 128 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.
Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30
It’s a shame that such a good game will be forever remembered as a game that ended on a referee gaff. This seems to happen way too many times. But alas, this game was more than just good. It was entertaining. Wisconsin is supposed to be one of the few teams that may give Ohio State a scare this year, and they looked the part. That said, Arizona State played up to potential and deserved the win (even with the gaff).
The big star of the night, if you ask me, was Marion Grice, who ran for 84 yards and four touchdowns. Considering the run defense that Wisconsin features, those numbers are not bad at all. Arizona State’s defense was little much for the Badgers in the first half, holding them to 101 total yards. Both teams would end up with over 400 total yards to end the game.
This game, I think, solidifies Arizona State as a real team in the Pac-12. I expect them to make a run at UCLA this season in the south.
Here is the line-up for this coming Saturday. It is an upgraded slate than the borefest we got this weekend.
Idaho State at Washington, 12:00 am, Pac-12 Network
Utah State at USC, 12:30 am, ABC
Arizona St. at Stanford, 4:00 pm, Fox
Oregon St. at San Diego St., 12:00 pm, CBS Sports Network
Utah at BYU, 7:15, ESPN 2
Idaho at Washington St, 7:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
New Mexico St at UCLA, 7:30, Pac-12 Network
Next week will be a bye week for more than a few teams, including the Golden Bears, who will be getting ready to face a tremendous Oregon squad. Most of these games are not much more than fodder. That said, the highlights are the BYU/Utah, Utah State/USC and the Arizona St/Stanford games. BYU/Utah pits two good, offensive clubs against each other, and the rivalry aspect is always fun. Utah State may be too much for USC to handle, but we’ll see if USC is the team that played Boston College this weekend, or if they are as bad as their Washington State performance dictates. Finally, a matchup of ranked Pac-12 opponents is always a must see. Stanford has looked okay so far, but they are a team who plays up to competition, while Arizona State is riding high off of their win this weekend and can put themselves in the conversation for the Pac-12 title with a win over Stanford.