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Around the Pac-12: What we learned in Week 6

Pac-12 experts try to make sense of another inscrutable week in the conference of champions.

Unless Washington loses, it seems no Pac-12 result should shock you in 2016.

Three Pac-12 underdogs won on Saturday (Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State). We'd predict even more upsets next week, but that assumes Vegas will even establish clear favorites going forward in a league rife with injuries, immaturity or inconsistency at quarterback. Only Utah, Washington and Washington State have healthy, mature QBs at the season's midpoint. 

As they do each week, our experts share their insights on Saturday's results in the anything-goes Pac-12. 

Arizona Wildcats (2-4, 0-3)

Lost to Utah, 36-23

Next up: USC

It was obvious right from the start that Brandon Dawkins wasn't normal. He wasn't nearly as quick as he normally is, was waiting much longer than usual to take off. It wound up being a concussion that did him in, but I think he could have used the week off instead of battling through a rib injury against a hard hitting defense.

Khalil Tate had a rookie mistake and that's taking the good and the bad with a raw freshman quarterback. However, his throw to Samajie Grant was probably the best pass an Arizona quarterback has thrown all season. He deserves to start an entire game, and I would love to see what he can do.

Next week Arizona might not have a choice, but Tate against USC is intriguing for a ton of reasons. Arizona has absolutely no run game right now and Tate is a better thrower than Dawkins. I don't necessarily believe that Dawkins was hurt when Tate was put in at the one, but that's not for me to say. He deserved to come in earlier in this game. Full post

Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 2-1)

Beat UCLA, 23-20

Next up: at Colorado

Arizona State defeated UCLA Saturday night in what was certainly an odd game. ASU entered the game more than a touchdown underdog playing against a top-flight passer in UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with one of the worst pass defenses in the country. Add in ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Brady White making his first start before getting injured, and the win was a big one for the Sun Devils' program.

We are starting to see some of the inexperienced players emerge into established roles. The pass defense issues are still there and probably will be throughout the rest of this season but the program is position to have a good year and certainly a much better one than most predicted before the season.

For ASU to continue to overachieve it will first have to get healthy at quarterback. It's an educated guess but it is probably safe to assume that they would not have burned Dillon Sterling-Cole's redshirt if they did not already have a good idea Manny Wilkins would be out next week. It's not even inconceivable that we see Bryce Perkins under center this year.

On defense ASU needs continued development from players such as Koron Crump, Renell Wren and Marcus Ball. Getting Christian Sam back would help on defense.  Full story

California Golden Bears (3-3, 1-2)

Cole Elasser / USA TODAY Sports

Lost to Oregon State, 47-44

Next up: Bye

Davis Webb (above) didn't complete a pass of over 12 yards until the final drive of regulation. He averaged just 4.9 yards per completion, and 2.6 yards per attempt.  His downfield throws were high, wide, or underthrown. He had one pass deflected at the line. Even the screen game -- to which Oregon State had appeared susceptible through the first four games -- wasn't there.

By the fourth quarter, Oregon State wasn't only mixing coverages from play to play, but within each play, with two defensive backs playing press, and one playing off, and the single-high safety rolling to help.

That, combined with Webb's hand injury, did in the Bears. Full story

Colorado Buffaloes  (4-2, 2-1)

Lost to USC, 21-17

Next up: Arizona State

The end result is disappointing. This is a program that should be beyond moral victories. Yet they were in it in the end. USC dominated the game, but the Colorado defense caused enough turnovers to keep it close. Buff fans should at least be happy with the fact that this team keeps fighting and had a chance to win, which is impressive considering how poorly the offense played. CU only scored 7 points off four turnovers.

Steven Montez looked like a freshman quarterback out there early, especially when the running game sputtered and USC brought the house. ... There's no debate at quarterback now. You want Sefo Liufau back there when his ankle is healthy. 

USC exposed deficiencies on both sides of the ball, but the Buffs' opportunistic defense kept it close and suggested that this long-downtrodden program can hang with anybody. Full story

Oregon Ducks (2-4, 0-3)

Lost to Washington, 70-21

Next up: Bye

With apologies to Sleepless in Seattle, twelve years of frustration ended on Saturday night in Eugene as the No. 5 Washington Huskies completely dominated and humiliated the Oregon Ducks 70-21. The game wasn’t really that close as Oregon was outclassed, out-hustled, out-muscled and out everything else one can think of.

Defensively, it was a complete disaster for the Ducks. ... Oregon continued to miss tackles; the defensive front was simply over-powered by the Huskies offensive line. Defensive backs were out of position or were caught standing watching the Husky receivers run past them.

Oregon mumbled, stumbled and bumbled along. Full story

Oregon State Beavers (2-3, 1-1)

Beat Cal, 47-44 (OT)

Next up: Utah

After a rough outing in Boulder the week before, the Oregon State defense bounced back at home and held tight to help preserve a 47-44 overtime victory in Corvallis, the first Pac-12 win in 12 games for the Beavers and the first under the Gary Andersen era. Cornerback Xavier Crawford earned his second Giant Killer Award of his career and season with a ten tackle, one tackle for loss and three pass break-up day. The Beavers secondary held a very potent Cal passing attack to 124 yards on Saturday. Full Story

Stanford Cardinal (3-2, 2-2)

Lost to Washington State, 42-16

Next up: at Notre Dame

UCLA Bruins (3-3, 1-2)

Lost to ASU, 23-20

Next up: at Washington State

Every element of the running game is poor, the actual ball-carrying, the blocking, the scheme and the playcalling.  No matter whether UCLA employs a man or zone blocking scheme, whether it runs out of the big formation or a shotgun, it’s anemic.  With the totals for the ASU game figured in, the rushing stats for the season are stunning:  99.2 yards averaged per game, and 2.9 yards per carry.  That now gets UCLA ranked 121st in the nation (out of 128 teams) in yards per game, and 123rd in yards per attempt.   It’s right there in the rankings with the likes of Marshall, Kansas, Miami (Ohio), South Alabama and Texas State.  

If you need to point to something to figure out why UCLA is 3-3, this is it.  The fact that UCLA spent its entire off-season building an offense around a new power running game and this is what it produced will be the #1 takeaway factor on why UCLA under-achieved this season.  

Second on that list of takeaways on why UCLA has under-achieved this season would be dropped balls.  There were a couple of touchdown passes dropped against ASU.  They weren’t the easiest catches, but you’d probably say they were still catchable.  The heart-breaking drops on the season have been pretty well-chronicled and, as we said at the top of this piece, UCLA is probably three dropped passes away from being 6-0. Full story

USC Trojans (3-3, 2-2)

Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

Beat Colorado, 21-17

Next up: at Arizona

They looked like they were going to run away with it then USC's Trojans looked like they were going to give it away. In the end, they did neither, hanging on to close out 21st-ranked Colorado, 21-17, at the Coliseum.

A loss in this game, after that first half when USC could have, should have, been up by four scores, would not have been survivable for this staff. Now they live to play another day. Thanks, of course, to a defense that recorded four sacks and sent another starting quarterback out of the game after a first-half Porter Gustin rolled through Colorado freshman Steven Montez, a tough cookie who did return in this battle of freshman prodigies.

And yes, despite his three turnovers, Sam Darnold made up for it in ways it's easy to number. His 25-of-37 passing produced a career-high 358 yards and all three USC TDs, two to his roommate Tyler Petite.  Full story

Utah Utes (5-1, 2-1)

Beat Arizona, 36-23

Next up: at Oregon State

What I Liked

  • Troy Williams was an absolute beast tonight. He was every bit the QB we hoped he would be. He was (mostly) accurate. Made some big plays with his arm. Made some bigger plays with his legs. And when Shyne went down and Utah needed to grind clock and score a TD, Williams answered the call and willed his way into the end zone. 
  • Jordan Howard. JUCO transfer. Walkon. Beast. He made some important runs down the stretch to seal it. 
  • Cory Butler-Byrd. Is there anything more fun than watching that guy run with the ball in space. I think another Arizona defender just fell down from one of his jukes. He made some huge plays when the Utes needed them most, none bigger than the 60+ yard catch and run on a 3rd down in the 3rd quarter. Too bad he ran out of gas on that one. He deserved a TD.
  • Marcus Williams' interception was one of the plays of the year. The hit by Chase Hansen was also outstanding. Both safeties played their guts out.


What I Didn't Like

  • First half O line/false start issues. It's clear they were being caused by Arizona mimicking the snap count. Once they changed things up, that got cleared up. My biggest problem was that they didn't make the adjustment earlier. In the end, all's well that ends well. 
  • I am absolutely sick for Armand Shyne. His season has to be over based on what it looked like on the sideline. Just awful. Truly awful. I wish him a speedy recovery. 
  • Speaking of which, these injuries are an absolute killer. I don't think I've ever seen a Utah team so snakebitten by the injury bug. Their luck has just been terrible. Someone needs to leave an offering of Cheez-Its and orange soda to the football gods to try to appease their anger. If that doesn't work, try voodoo that involves Moochie's jalapeno sauce. That stuff is pretty magical. 
  • Pac-12 officials are the worst. Literally the worst. How can officials so consistently not understand the most basic rules of the game they're officiating? And how can the conference not understand that it's KILLING their brand? I'll never understand. 

Full post

Washington Huskies (6-0, 3-0)

Beat Oregon, 70-21

Next up: Bye

Some, including me, thought that Washington would come out a little flat after last week's big, emotional win over Stanford, but that wasn't the case. This team is much more even keel and they don't get too high or too low. They went out and beat a team that is reeling right now and there really wasn't any doubt about the outcome after the first five or six minutes of the game.

At 6-0, Washington is squarely in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. They just got rid of 12 years of frustration in one fell swoop and they have beaten the two "bullies of the conference" in successive weeks. It's time to heal up over the bye week and to get ready for the push to the end of the season. With tough tests looming -- Utah, Cal and USC -- the Huskies can ill-afford to look past anyone and, if you believe it what Chris Petersen is preaching, that shouldn't be a problem. Full story

Washington State Cougars (3-2, 2-0)

Beat Stanford, 42-16

Next up: UCLA

The Cougar front-7 absolutely dominated the Cardinal offensive line from start to finish. They set the tone early by applying pressure to the quarterback, stuffing run gaps, and playing tight coverage over the top in pass defense. This was by far their best performance of the season

Luke Falk is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen play the game. He  continued to bounce back with fire in his eyes even after taking a targeting hit on Saturday (pictured above). And he has completely turned his game around after the Cougs started the season 0-2. His hesitation was long gone against Stanford, and he continued to show trusts in his receivers that has been building since the Idaho win. Falk also continued taking more shots down the field against Stanford. Granted, I love to see his aggressiveness, but that aggression can lead to some of those careless throws and that's what you saw on the two picks by Stanford. But it's a tradeoff worth making in my book Full story


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