Oct 5, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Kevin Smith (8) fumbles the ball before later recovering it after being hit by Stanford Cardinal strong safety Jordan Richards (8) and cornerback Usua Amanam (15) in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal defeated the Huskies 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
This week was kind of a strange in that there was only one game that should have been close (the Washington/Stanford game) while the other ones, in theory, shouldn’t have really been competitive. That said, there were three close games, one of which ended up being a non-conference loss I did not expect to see. That said, this week made it even clearer that this is a deep, talented conference that should have one team representing it (probably Oregon) in the national champion.
Obviously, the Washington State/Cal game was not quite what I expected, but the ending was about what I expected. Anyways, let’s take a look at the rest of the weekend in Pac-12 action:
UCLA 34, Utah 27
UCLA made this game entirely too close. Lack of tackling in the first half, playing a lax style that allowed Utah to really dig into big spaces, the non-pressure applied on Travis Wilson and the lazy-looking offense all contributed to Utah really being tied with UCLA midway through the fourth. Utah played like a team that knew it needed to win to have their presence be known in the Pac-12 South. The problem is UCLA is supremely talented and was able to use their talent, collectively to overcome the short comings of the performance.
What really killed Utah were the six interceptions Wilson threw. That means that six drives were handed right back to the Bruins and the Bruins had six extra opportunities that they shouldn’t have had. You cannot do that and hope to win against a good team such as the UCLA Bruins. This game, in a lot of ways, told me that UCLA (who has the talent and leadership to be a 11-1 team heading into their presumptive third straight Pac-12 Championship game) could skate by and still go undefeated in the South. Really, the only team who can keep UCLA from playing in the Championship game this season is UCLA.
Brett Hundley had another solid performance, going 17-of-27 with 211 passing yards, a touchdown, 85 rushing yards, seven receiving yards, a receiving touchdown and a rushing score. He basically did everything by himself. However, he really didn’t get much help at times, watching his well-placed, well-timed passes fall through open receivers hands. The Bruins will need to have better output from nearly every other player going forward in order to be a real threat to just more than this years Pac-12 South Division title.
Oregon 57, Colorado 16
I don’t know if there was much to talk about in regards to this game. Oregon scored and scored often. They mauled the Buffaloes, which isn’t a surprise, as they may be the only team that is worse than Cal at this team, and I’d say thats’s more due to the long layoff between games rather than a lack of depth/talent/solid game plan. Oregon scored double digit points in the first three quarters, had 755 yards of offense and, most impressively, held Colorado to 0-15 on third down.
Oregon’s Heisman hopeful quarterback Marcus Mariota went 16-for-26 with 355 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Oregon rushing attack featured 11 different players who combined for 62 rushes, 349 rushing yards and three scores. Plus, to make matters worse, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison were able to torch the Buffalo secondary (the two caught 10 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns) and account for over half of the receiving corps 19 catches, 406 yards and five touchdowns.
I doubt this team isn’t a national championship team.
Notre Dame 37, Arizona State 34
I am not a believer in Notre Dame. I thought they got lucky to get back into the game against Michigan, another team I don’t believe in, and I still believe that the Sun Devils are a solid team. That said, this game was frustrating to watch. As a Pac-12 fan, I really wanted to see the Irish go down. But Arizona State’s quarterback Taylor Kelly, who went 33-for-47 with 362 yards and three touchdowns, kept shooting himself in the foot with turnovers. The biggest one coming with about a minute left in the game; Arizona State was matching downfield for a game-tying or go-ahead score, when Kelly was picked off by Irish linebacker Dan Fox picked the ball off and ran it back to put the Irish up 10-points with a little over a minute left to play.
This season was going to be the first season, in a long time, where the Sun Devils were about to make that move from being good to being a title contender. But now, after two losses (both of which were winnable) in their last three games, I just don’t see them making that leap to contender. I think their absolute last possible chance to show that they are a South Division contender comes October 19th against Washington. If they lose that game, they are probably not worth worrying about in the standings. If they win that, they set up a match up in late November against the Bruins in Tempe, where the winner could be the division champion. That said, this all becoming null if UCLA continues to play their absent-tee first half style that has gotten them in trouble in the last few weeks.
Stanford 31, Washington 27
Here is the great travesty of this game. It ended on a good call (the trapped ball that was not a catch by receiver Kevin Smith), but the fact is that the Husky receivers – who had been great all game long (33 receptions, 350 yards and two touchdowns as a team) – really did not help during the final drive of the game. Keith Price really had Stanford on the ropes all game long, going 33-for-48 with 350 yards and two touchdowns with only one interception. He was able to keep the Stanford defense, which is very deep and talented, on their toes without rushing the ball once.
Stanford really made this game hard on themselves because, once again, they decided to go the conservative route. Rather than go for the kill late in the third, they seemed to be okay with rushing the ball and eating up clock. If they were up big, I’d understand, and if they were up against a weak team, I’d understand, but Washington is ranked in the top-20 because they are a really good team.
The best player on the field, though, had to be Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery. Montgomery had 56 yards on three catches with a touchdown, but he also had 204 returning yards (99 of which came on the opening kick off return score).
The other thing that unimpressed me about Stanford’s win was the report that they faked injuries during the game in order to slow down the fast-paced Washington Huskies. It happened in the middle of the fourth, when both Ben Gardner and Shayne Skov, who fell to the ground during a Washington drive that was humming along rather quickly. This would result in an interception to hold onto a 10-point game.
This game proved that both of these teams are really good and could cause problems for nearly every team they take on this season. Next weekend’s Oregon/Washington game in Seattle is going to be a bloodbath worth watching.
Here is the line-up for this coming week. It features a marquee matchup in Seattle this week, but also has a few under-the-radar match-ups that could really make for some entertaining television
Arizona at USC, 7:30 pm, Fox Sports 1
Oregon at Washington, 1:00 pm, Fox Sports 1
Stanford at Utah, 3:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Arizona State, 7:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Oregon State at Washington State, 7:30 pm, ESPN U
California at UCLA, 7:30 pm, ESPN 2
Next week is going to be a good one. Obviously, the game to watch is the epic matchup between the two powers of the Pacific Northwest. I don’t need to tell you why it’s important, but for those who don’t pay attention – Washington can put themselves back in the Pac-12 North race with a win, while Oregon can set up the probable division title game on November 7th between the Ducks and Cardinal. The game will feature to really good, really fast quarterbacks who can dissect nearly any secondary. The other interesting game to watch will be that Oregon State/Washington State clash. The Beavers and Cougars have good quarterbacks who can throw for a high volume of yards and a slew of touchdowns, but can be turnover machines. This battle will include the best mid-round quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft over the next few years. And of course the UCLA/Cal game…Who am I kidding. I have to give myself a “Bye, Felicia” for even brining up that game as a potential interesting watch.