Imagine the storylines had a handful of Pac-12 plays gone differently this weekend. The Stanford-Washington sizzle would've fizzled. The Cardinal monkey would be off UCLA's back. The Colorado revival would've been stalled. And Clay Helton's USC critics would be momentarily quieted.
With chapter four of the 2016 college football story written, and more plot twists to come, Scout offers these excerpts from our Pac-12 experts' Week 4 thoughts.
Arizona Wildcats (2-2, 0-1)
Lost to Washington, 35-28 in OT
Next up: at UCLA
The Wildcats continued to ride Brandon Dawkins in his third start of the season. The sophomore played admirably in the loss, completing 19 of 31 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. ... With Nick Wilson recovering from an injury he suffered last week, J.J. Taylor got the start at running back for the Wildcats. The true freshman continued to live up to the hype, rushing 19 times for 97 yards and a touchdown before he also left the game with a broken left ankle.19.
Arizona's defense played well against Washington, getting stops when it needed to. However, the defense was also able to get some pressure on Jake Browning as the game wore on. Jack Banda led the Wildcat defense with two sacks and Cody Ippolito added one and a half of his own. Full story
Arizona State Sun Devils (4-0, 1-0)
Beat Cal, 51-41
Next up: at USC
If you only watched the first half of Arizona State's four games this season, you'd never believe the Sun Devils went undefeated in September.
Should we call them the Second-Half Sun Devils? If they keep doing this, maybe.
ASU shouldn't have been able to only muster 10 first-half points and 138 total yards to a Cal team that's given up nearly 50 points a game. But it probably also shouldn't have been expected to erupt the way it did in the second half, either.
Quarterback Manny Wilkins' next-play attitude has certainly contributed to the Sun Devils' second-half success. Like we've seen all season to this point, Wilkins was running around all over the place Saturday, sometimes with a plan and sometimes not. He's taken more than his share of hits, but hasn't looked bothered by any of it, not even once. Full story
California Golden Bears (2-2, 0-1)
Lost to Arizona State, 51-41
Next up: home against Utah
The California defense allowed 34 points against Arizona State in a 51-41 loss on Saturday. The Bears -- the 126th rushing defense in the nation -- held the No. 16 rushing attack to just 164 yards on the ground, with 72 of those coming from quarterback Manny Wilkins, who ran 23 times. In the first half, Cal forced four three-and-outs, and three field goals. This was not the defense's loss. This one is squarely on the offense. Full story
Colorado Buffaloes (3-1, 1-0)
Lost to Michigan, 45-28
Next up: home against Oregon State
After suffering an ankle sprain early in the second half at Michigan last week, Colorado senior quarterback Sefo Liufau participated some in practices this past week and he was in pads for warm-ups on Saturday, but Colorado's coaches decided a healthy Steven Montez gave them the best chance to win in Eugene.
They were right. Montez did throw two interceptions in the second half, but his first start went exceptionally well. The redshirt freshman from El Paso accounted for 468 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. He had the first ever 300 yard passing, 100 yard rushing performance game in school history.
Oregon Ducks (2-2, 0-1)
Lost to Nebraska, 35-32
Next up: at Washington State
When the Oregon Ducks took to the field in the 1st half of their Pac-12 opener against the Colorado Buffaloes, they didn’t seem like a team who was prepared to play at all.Both the offense and defense looked out of place and had a hard time getting any kind of rhythm going. ... Concerns about the Oregon defense were proven once again as the defensive line kept getting gouged up the middle for big plays by Colorado freshman QB Steven Montez. Full story
Oregon State Beavers (1-2, 0-0)
Lost to Boise State, 38-24
Next up: at Colorado
Let's be honest, Saturday’s 38-24 loss to Boise State was disheartening at times and embarrassing at others. The Broncos offense racked up more than 500 yards of offense, including 274 on the ground. The outcome may have been unfortunate, but Beavers fans should still be hopeful for the future.
The Beavers got a reality check against the no huddle offense, they responded well in the second half by holding the Broncos to 77 second half yards, and now the team has valuable game film to work with as the Civil War draws near. This tough loss could end up as a turning point in the all-important series against the hated Ducks.
Bright Ugwoegbu has been with the Beavers for a while now, and his growth is apparent. The young linebacker can rush the passer--something the Beavers desperately need--and he does well in coverage. It's a tad early to call Ugwoegbu a star, but his talent and growing importance to the team is undeniable. Full story
Stanford Cardinal (3-0, 2-0)
Beat UCLA, 22-13
Next up: at Washington
It may not have been pretty but we'll take 9 consecutive wins over the UCLA program. Quarterback Ryan Burns didn't have the greatest night, but when it came down to the most important pass of the night, he nailed it. This was a game where Stanford lost both starting cornerbacks and lost Francis Uwusu in what was clearly an uncalled targeted penalty. The Stanford players said afterward that that was the play that galvanized the team. Stanford's offensive line was not dominant. Christian McCaffrey got his 5+ yards per carry but no long runs. Many second guessed David Shaw's decision to punt on fourth and one late in the game.
But, it worked out in the end. Now they take on Washington on a short week, on Friday night, in Seattle. Full story
UCLA Bruins (2-2, 0-1)
Lost to Stanford, 22-13
Next up: home against Arizona
After watching the UCLA teams get physically out-matched against Stanford for the last five straight games against Jim Mora's program, going primarily to the heavy formation for this game was a clear decision to go mano a mano with the Cardinal and beat them straight up, their heavy formation versus Stanford’s. It stubbornly was the mission and UCLA, regrettably, didn’t stray from that plan, even when the indications going into the game were that UCLA should exploit Stanford’s passing defense and – most importantly – after it was clear in this game that UCLA’s offense wasn’t going to be productive using its heavy formation so predominantly. Whether it was the offensive line missing blocks or the running backs missing holes, or both, it wasn’t the most effective offensive strategy, and neither was doggedly sticking to it.
In the end, this ultimately was the most discouraging and deflating loss of the Jim Mora era. Full story
USC Trojans (1-3, 0-2)
Lost to Utah, 31-27
Next up: home against Arizona State
It was that close. Maybe if your best defender, so good for much of the game, could have made one more play against the pass. Or your front seven run-stoppers, especially in that drive’s two fourth-down situations, could have found a way to fight through even though they’d been on the field for some 75 plays and 38 minutes at the time.
Most of all, lost was a chance to make something of this season. Something almost special after the 1-2 start. Only now USC is 1-3 and 0-2 and at the bottom of the Pac-12. And if you thought USC didn’t get any calls before, wait until there’s no reason for Pac-12 officials to pull USC through.
Although there is a flip side to that. Needing to finish up 5-3 to get bowl-eligible, maybe USC gets the calls its opponents often get from a league that as much as it doesn’t much care for the Trojans, does iike to brag about its depth and how many bowl teams it has – so there’s that. Full story
Utah Utes (4-0, 1-0)
Beat USC, 31-27
Next up: at Cal
Troy Williams won this game for Utah. When the team needed him most, he stepped up, and in a big way. That comes from talent and preparation. His ball placement was very impressive, putting it where only his guys would get it and threw all over the field. It was a masterful performance in the biggest win of Williams' career thus far.
We saw the impact of what losing your best player, DT Lowell Lotulelei, has. The USC offensive line dominated the trenches, they were just bigger & badder.
Ugh. The linebacker play was beyond frustrating. Way too many mistakes. They were out of position too many times, and at times when they were in position, they were just beat athletically. They just looked lost and completely unaware of what was going on. If things don't improve, there should be changes. Full story
Washington Huskies (4-0, 1-0)
Beat Arizona, 35-28 in OT
Next up: home against Stanford
The Huskies couldn’t get out of their own way or give themselves a break. Cameron Van Winkle, the Lou Groza Watch List Cameron Van Winkle, the one ranked, number-one all-time in UW history for field goal percentage, missed two field goals.
Five of Washington’s drives that finished in Arizona territory resulted in scores. The others ended up in no points, an ill-advised interception by Jake Browning, and a turnover on downs after Jonathan Smith decided a slow-developing counter run on 4th and 1 was the call to make, the same call that couldn’t deliver earlier in the game on third down.
Washington had 12 penalties all season before Saturday night: they had eight against Arizona.
But for all the miscues, misdeeds and yellow flags, the Huskies never sent up the white flag. While UW fans were scurrying to bathrooms and trying to find cover under couches, unable to endure the final quarter of torture, Washington hung tough, stayed together, and pulled out the guttiest of wins.
To coin a phrase folks in Tucson would appreciate, they ‘Bear’d Down’. Full story
Washington State Cougars (1-2, 0-0)
Next up: home against Oregon
The Cougar D did more than just shut down (almost) anything the scout team tried to put together in practice Saturday, they were playing with fire – knocking ball carriers to the ground and forcefully attacking the football on every play. Between the front seven and secondary, bodies were flying into the offense at a high speed. Gaps and leverage were on lockdown, and did I mention speed to the football was never an issue? The contain men held up and did their jobs well against the read-option and other UO offensive staples, giving the defense a spectacular day in my book. Full story