Welcome to the Week 7 edition of Martin's Musings, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and at the week to come. We had a short hiatus, but we're back and ready to attack the conference.
Weekly Pecking Order (Record)
1.) Utah (5-0) – Not many people outside of Salt Lake City could have foreseen the Utes sitting in this prestiged position seven weeks into the year. Devontae Booker is a one man wrecking crew, leading the team in receiving and rushing, but the real treasure is Utah's defense, which has been outstanding for a majority of the season. Utah hasn't allowed more than 3 touchdowns in a game all season and has shut down some solid opponents, including a rapidly rising Michigan team.
2.) Stanford (5-1) – I'll be the first to admit that the Cardinal have certainly surprised me this season. It's only halfway over, but David Shaw has his team playing like a National Championship contender. Stanford beat UCLA in the early game this week and doesn't have much of a challenge left in the rapidly deteriorating Pac-12 North. What's worse is that the Cardinal get all three of their toughest opponents (Oregon, California, and Notre Dame) at home to end the season.
3.) California (5-1) – Someone told me before the season that Jared Goff could lead Cal to the playoff if he limited his interceptions and I laughed at him. Through the first five games, he was doing just that. Then, Utah found a way to make the junior throw five (!!!!!) interceptions and completely rattle one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and the Golden Bears were still somehow in the game. Color me impressed with the job Sonny Dykes has done in Berkeley.
4.) UCLA (4-2) – UCLA seems to be a true two-faced team in the conference. One week, the Bruins are the steamroller and the next they are the steamrolled. Stanford picked them apart on Thursday and it wasn't even close. UCLA's defense seems to be one of the worst in the conference and at the very least it is the most inconsistent, but the Bruins have just enough talent to overcome that one offense.
5.) Arizona (4-2) – The Wildcats are another weird team this year, where you never know which version of the team you are going to get. So far, Arizona seems to have been in good shape when Anu Solomon has the reigns to the offense. If the Wildcats can keep him healthy and can win the easy ones in the middle of the schedule, then they can stay in the hunt.
6.) Arizona State (4-2) – See Arizona and UCLA. In all seriousness, ASU is on the uptick right now and a win over Utah certainly gives it the top spot in the South, but there has been so much wrong with the Sun Devils this season that it is easy to write them off. This isn't a team that is going to run the table, but it is a team that could shake some things up down the stretch.
7.) Washington (3-2) – The Huskies are another team on the rise, finding ways to win games. Beating USC was an impressive feat, especially on the road. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win and it eventually led to the departure of coach Steve Sarkisian from the Trojans. Getting your former coach fired from his new job must feel pretty uplifting to the Huskies all things considered.
8.) USC (3-2) – Losing an assistant coach midseason is always rough, but losing the head coach with a winning record just plain doesn't happen. The fact of the matter is that there is a complete mess in the Athletic Department at USC and it's only a matter of time before it affects performance on the field. For now, the Trojans are trending down and it may take quite a bit to right the ship for long term durability.
9.) Washington State (3-2) – Mike Leach said before Saturday's game that Oregon's Lewis and Clark helmets (more about that later) wouldn't be a factor in the game and he was right. Luke Falk trashed Oregon's defense for 506 yards through the air and even more surprisingly rushed for 136 yards in the game. Take a second for a few extra breaths when I say that Oregon only passed for 123 yards in the game. Yes, a Mike Leach offense ran for more yards then Oregon passed for.
10.) Oregon (3-3) – When you are out there losing to Washington State on your home turf, there is not much that is going right for you. The Oregon offense is missing a leader, which is bad, but the defense is absolutely atrocious. It almost seems like the Ducks decided that it was just going to outscore teams forever, but now that it can't do that, not being able to stop the other team is kind of a serious issue.
11.) Colorado (3-3) – Mike MacIntyre has done a hell of a job trying to turn Colorado around, but so far, the Buffs can't get over the hump. Beating Arizona this weekend would be a huge milestone, however the Buffs defense is really hurting and I'm not sure that Colorado can generate enough stops to stay in the game.
12.) Oregon State (2-3) – The Beavers are the only team in the conference with a losing record at this point and it seems reasonable. They have struggled with many aspects of the game this season. Oregon State may be good for an upset down the line, but I doubt that it takes down a powerhouse.
Normally, I am all for exclusive, one-time-use uniform variants, but Oregon's "Oregon Pioneer" uniforms on Saturday were out of place in more way than one. The uniforms featured topographical maps of the state, a 33-star flag, and a Lewis and Clark logo on the helmet. I would expect something like that from the likes of resident Pac-12 historian Mike Leach, but not from the Ducks and especially not from an Oregon team as bad as the one that took the field last weekend.
Right now, the Ducks lack an identity. Is a healthy Vernon Adams the answer? Has the rest of the college football landscape passed up the Ducks? Heading into the season, Oregon needed to replace All-Universe quarterback Marcus Mariota, but the questions and issues keep piling up. Mark Helfrich's team is in fifth place in the Pac-12 North and is out of contention for any serious bowls and the big question is: How much leeway does he get before Oregon decides that there needs to be a change?
Games to Watch Week 7
Oregon at Washington – Just how bad is Oregon? We all get to find out this week as the Ducks travel to the steadily rising Huskies. Chris Petersen has to be given some credit for what he has been able to accomplish with this team and a win here would certainly boost Washington's stock. On the other hand, if the Ducks lose, Mark Helfrich could be sitting on an awfully warm throne. Nothing is better than two team desperate for a big win. Oregon 42, Washington 35.
USC at Notre Dame – This game is a big one purely because of the issues that the Trojans had this week. Interim Head Coach Clay Helton should have USC bonded together and it certainly seems like this one could turn into one of those boxing movie slugfests with Cody Kessler screaming, "Adoreeeeeeee," as a Hail Mary is clutched in the end zone. I don't see how this one could end any other way. USC 31, Notre Dame 28.