Around the Pac-12: What we learned in Week 7

Pac-12 experts' unique insights on what happened in Week 7.

Though the Pac-12's Week 7 offered little in the way of surprises, with the favorites reigning and three teams on a bye, there were plenty of revelations, as shared by our Pac-12 writers below. 

Arizona Wildcats (2-5, 0-4)

Lost to USC, 48-14

Next up: Stanford

True Freshman Khalil Tate made his first start of his career on Saturday, marking the first time a first year player started under center since Willie Tuitama did it back in 2005. The results were not as most would have hoped. Tate struggled for most of the day, completing just seven of 18 passes for 58 yards and an interception.

The quarterback was the team's leading rusher, carrying the ball 14 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. Tate also fumbled early in the game and set up an easy USC score. 

Tate was replaced in the second half by former quarterback turned tight end Matt Morin. Seeing his first quarterback action in years, Morin did an admirable job, completing four of eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown to Samajie Grant. Full story

Arizona State Sun Devils (5-2, 2-2)

Lost to Colorado, 40-16

Next up: Washington State

The Sun Devils' 5-1 start to the season was somewhat beguiling. They were not a very good football team at the midway point of the season when looking at advanced analytics, and a clear sign of this was how they were favored to lose in four or five -- depending on the computer modeling -- of their final six games of the regular season. It's still going to be a very good season if they can somehow win three of their last five, including home games against Washington State and Utah. But even if they only win two of those five, it's probably a reasonable fulfillment of what the Sun Devils could have reasonably expected for their season, particularly in light of the injury challenges they've dealt with at key positions.   Full story

California Golden Bears (3-3, 1-2)

Bye

Next up: Oregon

For a team that had thrown the ball as many as 72 times in a game this season, and had run as few as 14 times in a single game -- just the week before -- and for a team who had seen four of its previous five games decided by 10 points or less, the run game wasn't as big a part of the offense as it was projected to be. In five previous games, the Bears were averaging just 119.4 yards per game on the ground and 29.6 rushing attempts per game.

But, with a hamstrung quarterback and an unexpectedly close press man coverage, Cal OC Jake Spavital had to go to the ground. Cal rushed a season-high 44 times --  the most since the Bears ran 46 times against the Beavers on Nov. 14 of last year, and tied for the fourth most rushing attempts since Sonny Dykes came to town. Full story

Colorado Buffaloes  (5-2, 3-1)

Beat Arizona State, 40-16 

Next up: at Stanford

Perhaps feeling the most love at the outset was Sefo Liufau. As far as storybook returns go, Saturday was about as good as it could have gotten for the senior signal-caller. Liufau orchestrated a complete and precise deconstruction of the Sun Devil defense.

Facing the team he made his first appearance against three years ago, and a program that Colorado had never beaten, Liufau and his unit came out and charged down the field on their first possession, moving as fast as they have at any point this year going 81 yards in just under three minutes and scoring on a 16-yard Kyle Evans touchdown run. 

Colorado is now in a position to control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. Each successive week has served to prove to this team and the rest of the conference that they are fully capable of winning their division. Full story

Oregon Ducks (2-4, 0-3)

Bye

Next up: at Cal

Oregon State Beavers (2-4, 1-2)

Lost to Utah, 19-14

Next up: at Washington

The Beaver defense definitely didn't let the weather dampen their efforts against the Utes on Saturday giving up 17 points (10 if you take out the touchdown scored after Conor Blount's fumble in the fourth quarter).  Either way, the Beavers scored a solid B average against the Utes led by this week's Giant Killer, safety Devin Chappell. Chappell was all over the field, accounting for eight tackles, including two for loss.  He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble on the way to his second Giant Killer award of the season. Brandon Arnold and Xavier Crawford added ten more tackles for the secondary. Full story

Stanford Cardinal (4-2, 2-2)

Beat Notre Dame, 17-10

Next up: Colorado

Stanford turned the course of its season around with its win against Notre Dame in game fraught with tension and drama. The offense struggled overall, but wer able to run the ball. Bryce Love came with with 23 carreis for 129 yards in relief of Christian McCaffrey, who made his presence felt on the sideline but not in the game (due to injury). 

In the second half the game turned around and the charge was led by the defense. Quentin Meeks had a 50 yard interception return for a touchdown on a play when he ran for way more than 50 yards. That was just the beginning for Stanford's defense.  

UCLA Bruins (3-4, 1-3)

Lost to Washington State, 27-21

Next up: Utah

UCLA lost 27-21 to Washington State last night, and the 2016 version of this team is starting to resemble some of those fundamentally crippled teams of the Dorrell and Neuheisel years. The UCLA defense is clearly very good (and possibly elite, according to advanced stats), but the offense is so bad that it is weighing the entire team down like an anchor.

The Bruins are now 3-4, and what that means is that bowl eligibility is suddenly a question, when it hasn't been at any point during the Mora era. UCLA needs to find a way to win three of Utah, at Colorado, Oregon State, USC, and at California, and if you can find three definite wins in that group, you haven't been watching UCLA lately. 5-7 or 6-6 are certainly the most likely results going forward, though obviously there's still a chance at something loftier -- or something much worse. Full story

USC Trojans (4-3, 3-2)

Beat Arizona, 48-14

Next up: Cal

Sam Darnold is pretty good and getting better. Had some difficulty with the long ball, although lack of separation was as much of a problem on the numerous first-down play-action throws that he coudn't connect on but all he did was make up for those with third-and-long first down scrambles while clutching the ball to his chest securely. Oh, and he threw a career-high five TD passes.

So is.JuJu Smith-Schuster when teams have to back off him a bit to defend against Darreus Rogers, Steven Mitchell, Deontay Burnett, not to mention the long ball threat from tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who is getting deep and catchng the ball like a wide receiver, something he did again Saturday. Hard for defenses to single out JuJu now. Full story

Utah Utes (6-1, 3-1)

Beat Oregon State, 19-14

Next up: at UCLA

Winning is more fun than losing. Beating a rival coach that used to work for you while everyone on your own squad is dropping like flies is definitely more fun than losing. Because I don't even want to think about what this message board would have looked like had Utah actually lost (and Twiotter, good grief think of how insufferable Twitter might have been). Here are a few quick thoughts on today's game:

What I Liked

  • Joe Williams. I don't think people realize what a warrior effort that was for him to do what he did after missing a month. Sure his legs were fresh, but you could see how he wore down as the game went on. But he played his guts out. And he ran hard. Utah doesn't come close to winning this game without Joe. Welcome back, kid.
  • Cory Butler-Byrd. Yet another terrific game for CBB. He was versatile in the run game. He even lined up at RB in certain sets. He made some big plays when it mattered most. He blocked like a madman down the field. I loved the game he had today. 
  • Mitch Wishnowski. He was phenomenal again in a game where no punter had a right to expect to be good. 
  • Chase Hansen's first quarter was the best defensive quarter of football from a Ute in a long time. He was flat out dominant, and he was all over the field. It was fun to watch.
  • Bowl eligible. Gotta love that. 

What I Didn't Like

  • Pretty much this entire game. Gross weather? Check. Gross offensive execution? check. Gross second half? Check. The feeling I got when Marcus Williams went down? Especially gross. 
  • Red Zone execution. This is officially a red alert problem. Turnovers. Turnovers on downs. Bad snaps. Head scratching play calls (or the offense not executing the call). This has been a problem all year and these problems reared their ugly heads again today. This should have been a 17 point win. But woulda, coulda, shoulda will get you jack on the open market. This one's on the coaches to fix. Not sure what they can do, but something's got to change. 
  • Turnovers. I said turnovers and special teams play would make the difference. Utah's special teams play won them the game. The turnovers kept the Beavers in it.  Full post

Washington Huskies (6-0, 3-0)

Bye

Next up: Oregon State

MIdseason grades for offense

Where to begin...wow. Jake Browning leads the country in pass efficiency and it's considered, at a minimum, a top-5 Heisman Trophy candidate. It's kind of hard to imagine the season going much better for the quarterbacks right now, or the offense playing at the level they currently are without the quarterbacks killing it. Browning is responsible for an average of 26 points per game on his own, good enough for top-3 nationally. All the statistics are incredible, but according to Browning the only one he's really concerned about (besides wins) is turnovers. His touchdown-interception ratio is pretty ridiculous: 23-2. Just to compare, the next quarterback nationally with the most touchdowns, California's Davis Webb, has seven interceptions to go with his 22 touchdowns. Per Chris Petersen's wishes, Browning has been striving for perfection but has settled for excellence. Not too bad. A+. Full story

Washington State Cougars (4-2, 3-0)

Beat UCLA, 27-21

Next up: at Arizona State

So here we are, 4-2, 3-0 in Pac-12 play, on the season and undefeated in conference play. There’s still a long road ahead, but from the way I see things the Cougs could be in for another historic season.

After knocking off the likes of Oregon, Stanford, and now UCLA, the Cougs are now the team to beat in the north (Yeah, yeah, yeah the Huskies… we will deal with them later when the time comes). But to be honest, I don’t think these Cougs or WSU fans mind the pressure at all. In fact, it’s not a bad problem to have considering that WSU hadn’t had a winning season for over ten years until 2015.

Everyone talks about the Air-Raid, Luke Falk, and Gabe Marks, but the defense is the unit that is really starting to become the heart and soul of this team. Full story


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