Martin's Musings is back as the Pac-12 starts to shape itself with conference play. This week we take a look at the weekly pecking order, the games to watch, and more.
1.) Washington (3-0) LW: 1 - I have been hard on Washington in the past, but this season, the Huskies have the feel of a team that deserves all of the hype. Sure they have only played mediocre teams at best, but they have beaten all of them just how you would expect a championship contender to do. Jake Browning is dominating through the air and the defense is one of the best in the country.
2.) Stanford (2-0, 1-0) LW : 2 - Sure, the Cardinal beat USC and took the first conference match up of the season, but how good was the win? USC is staring down the barrel at a 1-3 start. Stanford has an opportunity to steal the top spot back from Washington with a dominant performance over UCLA, but both teams are looking solid right now.
3.) Utah (3-0) LW: 4 - The Utes are such a strange team this season, as they have been for the past few years. Utah just doesn't seem to know whether it is supposed to be a good team or an average team. The first half against San Jose State was dreadful, but Kyle Whittingham found a way to get his team to turn it on in the second half to pull away. I don't usually like to reward meh performances, but the state of the conference really doesn't give me any other choice.
4.) Oregon (2-1) LW: 3 - I should drop Oregon down to 8th just for the crap that Mark Helfrich pulled with his two-point conversions, but no one else in the conference really took the bull by the horns this week and it's disappointing. Oregon played good enough to win even though it shot itself in the foot, but Tommy Armstrong wasn't going to let the Ducks win the day on the road. Oregon is on the decline and it wouldn't shock me if a healthy Colorado comes away with the win this week.
5.) Colorado (2-1) LW: 5 - Colorado got overrun in the second half on the road mostly because starting quarterback Sefo Liufau left the game with an injury. Before he got hurt, the Buffs were hanging tough and looked like they would be in it to the end. Can't fault Colorado too much there as it proved that with Liufau in the game, it will be able to hang with some of the big boys.
6.) Arizona State (3-0) LW: 6 - I'm not in the business of rewarding a team for taking advantage of the opponents' complete let down in the second half. Arizona State has looked horrid in the first three games of the season, but somehow managed to be 3-0. Credit is due there, but ASU doesn't look like a good team and should get exposed here in the coming weeks.
7.) UCLA (2-1) LW: 7 - The Bruins continue to under perform. BYU has hung tough with the Pac-12 so far, but the UCLA nearly handed the game away there at the end. I can see the Bruins taking off and excelling once Josh Rosen finds himself again, but I can also see them crumbling under the weight of the conference. This week's game against Stanford is a big crossroad for the team.
8.) California (2-1) LW: 9 - If I'm not in the business of rewarding teams for opponents mishaps, I am certainly not rewarding a team for referee ineptitude. California has an incredible offense and a terrible defense, but any team that drops the ball before scoring probably deserves to be punished. That is all I will say about that.
9.) Arizona (2-1) LW: 10 - If you are here to find out whether Arizona beats Washington, check the picks below. The Wildcats showed some flashes of greatness against Hawaii, but the reality is that the depth chart is very thin at key positions and they haven't proven anything yet in terms of being able to stand up with the heavyweights, take a punch and throw one back. It may not matter who starts for Arizona under center if the rest of the team can't withstand the Washington buzzsaw.
10.) USC (1-2) LW: 8 - The Trojans are in a complete free fall, but it isn't all bad news. The last time USC went 1-3 to start the season was Pete Carroll's first season in Southern Cal. With the state of the program, I'm not sure Clay Helton gets the 1-4 leash that Carroll got, but who can really say. USC has a big game against Utah this week that could determine how the rest of the season unfolds.
11.) Oregon State (1-1) LW: 11 - Getting the first win of the year is always good regardless of who it is against. I'm still not sold on Oregon State, but they get Boise State this week, so we should know more about the Beavers after that one.
12.) Washington State (1-2) LW: 12 - Mike Leach promised changes and changes were made. Wazzu got the first win of the season over Idaho, a team who might be better potato farmers than football players. The Cougs fell from grace the first two weeks and have a long way to go to earn back some respect and trust in the conference.
Crumbling Clay's Bungle
This week's off the field media star is USC Head Coach Clay Helton. In the midst of a poor 1-2 start, Helton decided that it was time to make a change at quarterback, demoting junior signal caller Max Browne in favor of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. While this may be the right choice for the Trojans, the timing and the reasoning behind it seem to be muddied.
"I had an opportunity to evaluate the first three games and made the decision for our football team to make a change at quarterback," Helton said. "I truly appreciate how honorably Max has played and he's competed. He's done it with extreme honor and extreme class.
"He is not the reason we are 1-2. He is not the scapegoat here."
If Browne is not the scapegoat in this scenario, why choose to replace him now? Helton is moving Adoree Jackson to offense in order to jump start things and in hope to score more than his team did against two of the best defenses in the country. Browne may not have the official title of scapegoat, but it certainly seems like he is taking a lot of the blame for the two early losses.
If that wasn't bad enough, the news caused a ripple effect through the program and the surrounding media outlets. Reports started popping up that numerous players were intending to transfer and even that offensive lineman E.J. Price had punched Helton. The punching rumor was dispelled by the coach shortly afterwards, but the turmoil around the current state of the program makes any of the wildest stories seem believable.
Games to Watch - Week 4:
USC at Utah: With the above section being said, this is a pretty important game for USC and for the Pac-12 South race. Utah has looked a little lackluster at times so far, but the Utes have been known to play to the level of the opponent. USC is in desperate need of a win and Utah is looking to continue it's run of strong seasons that fall apart down the stretch.
Jackson greatly helps USC on offense and the Trojans actually manage to get 11 men on the field for a PAT, but it isn't enough to win on the road. Utah 27, USC 23.
Washington at Arizona: It is true that Washington hasn't played anyone who resembles a decent football team this season, but the Huskies have looked far superior in all of those games, which is more than you can say for Arizona, who was nearly 1-2 if not for a six turnover half for Grambling State. Washington is the better team and it will show this weekend.
The Huskies are the real deal and if Chris Petersen is anywhere close to a solid coach, he will have Browning pick on the secondary all night and let his defense do the rest. The Wildcats get solid, promising play across the board, but it isn't enough to top the Huskies. Washington 35, Arizona 24.