Clardy's Corner: 2012 Midterms

You know them. You love them. They come every year at about this time. So let's dive straight into that Clardy's Corner staple…

PAC-12 MIDTERMS
Colorado (1-3 Pac-11; 1-6 overall)
Yays:
Not many, really. I'm still trying to figure out how the hell they beat Washington State.
Nays: Where do I start? They were down 55-7 at the half to Fresno State after allowing one guy to score four rushing touchdowns on them in the first quarter. They've allowed no fewer than 34 points in four Pac-12 games so far. And they lost to Sacramento State.
Outlook: Grim.
Grade: D-

Washington State (0-4; 2-5)
Yays:
With Mike Leach's arrival, folks in the Palouse hadn't been this excited about Cougar football since scrappy Jason Gesser was taking the snaps. And with QBs Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, why shouldn't they have been excited?
Nays: Mike Leach probably lost this season when he eschewed a chip-shot field goal while up by 17 in the fourth quarter against Colorado. They didn't convert. The Buffaloes ended up winning. And they've been Couging it ever since. Dissing his seniors by calling some of them "zombie-like" probably doesn't help Leach out, either.
Outlook: The way they've been playing lately, it's hard to call any of their final five games winnable.
Grade: D

Utah (0-4; 2-5)
Yays:
It's not like going to Autzen Stadium, but Pac-12 opponents already know that going to Salt Lake City is not an easy proposition. DT Star Lotulelei has been as good as advertised. They had U$C down 14-0 just three minutes in.
Nays: QB Jordan Wynn was forced to retire after suffering one shoulder injury too many. RB John White IV managed only 18 yards on 14 carries against Arizona State. And that lightning-quick 14-0 lead over U$C may prove to be the highlight of the Utes' season.
Outlook: Against four of the Pac-12's better teams, the Utes went 0-4. Now that cal, the Washington schools, Arizona, and Colorado are left on the schedule, how will they fare when they play the Pac-12's lower half?
Grade: D+

cal (2-3; 3-5)
Yays:
They played Ohio State tough in The Horseshoe, with RB Brendan Bigelow turning in one of the plays of the year. There's a lot to like about WR Keenan Allen.
Nays: The offensive line is putrid. Just putrid. And QB Zach Maynard probably won't survive the year as a result. Plus, some of the offensive playcalling has led Old Blues to openly wonder if Jeff Tedford cares anymore. He's coaching like he's trying to sell his house or something. Oh wait…he actually is.
Outlook: In order to be bowl eligible, cal will have to beat either Oregon or Oregon State. Good luck with that, Tedford. And by the way, you need to fire your interior decorator.
Grade: C-. This program may be fraught with more future problems than Honey Boo Boo.

Washington (1-3; 3-4)
Yays:
RB Bishop Sankey has been productive, and QB Keith Price has been able to do some things Their defense looks markedly better this year than it did under previous defensive coordinator Nick Holt. And of course, they knocked Stanford out of the top ten.
Nays: The defense reverted to its 2011 form in Tucson. The schedule makers did the Huskies no favors; they've already played four Top-11 teams this year.
Outlook: After this week's meeting with Oregon State, their final four games are winnable (at cal, Utah, at Colorado, at Washington State). But in all likelihood, this will mark yet another season in which the Huskies fail to move into the Pac-12's upper tier.
Grade: C-

Arizona (1-3; 4-3)
Yays:
When that offense is humming, it can be devastatingly effective. (Stanford fans saw this for themselves a few weeks ago). Ka'Deem Carey is probably the Pac-12's best running back whom no one is talking about. They beat then-ranked Oklahoma State.
Nays: That offense short-circuited at Oregon, going 0-for-6 in the red zone. The defense allowed 613 yards in a loss to Oregon State, then coughed up 617 more to Stanford.
Outlook: The Wildcats have yet to win away from Tucson, so road trips to Pasadena and Salt Lake City will be telling.
Grade: C

UCLA (2-2; 5-2)
Yays:
An entertaining win over Nebraska put the Bruins back on the map. RB Jonathan Franklin was briefly in the Heisman conversation. Young QB Brett Huntley started with a bang (a 72-yard touchdown run on his first play from scrimmage), and has been a playmaker since.
Nays: Consistency has been a problem since they entered conference play, with the low point being a complete and total implosion at Berkeley. And it's just a matter of time before Jim Mora says something dumb again.
Outlook: Five games remain, and each pose challenges (road trips to Arizona State and Washington State, home games against Arizona, U$C, and Stanford).
Grade: B

Arizona State (3-1; 5-2)
Yays:
Todd Graham's high-octane offense has breathed new life into a program that desperately seemed to need it. Right now, their pass defense is giving up only 130.4 yards per game (tops in the nation). DT Will Sutton is a bad, bad man.
Nays: Getting shredded by Oregon on national TV wasn't what Graham had in mind. The kicking game hasn't exactly been up to snuff, either.
Outlook: After fattening up on the cals and Colorados of the world, A-State has back-to-back road trips to Oregon State and U$C, and they have to go to Tucson. We'll see if the Sun Devils are for real.
Grade: B+

U$C (4-1; 6-1)
Yays:
QB Matt Barkley may not hold the Heisman Trophy this year, but he already holds the Pac-12 passing touchdown record. WR Marquise Lee is about as good as you can be on the collegiate level. The defense hasn't been dominating, but they've been steady.
Nays: Stanford pummeled the Trojans. Again. So, in many ways, U$C's season is already ruined.
Outlook: With Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, and Notre Dame all still left on the slate, the Trojans have the toughest remaining schedule of any Pac-12 team.
Grade: B+

Stanford (3-1; 5-2)
Yays:
As expected, RB Stepfan Taylor has been the battering ram in the Card's formidable ground attack. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz are freaks at tight end. The front seven is one of the country's best, with Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy, and Ben Gardner throwing parties in the backfield.
Nays: As expected, the quarterback play has not been up to the same level as it had been the previous three years. Sadly, Josh Nunes generally hasn't received much help from his own receivers. As dominant as Stanford's defense has looked, they also let Arizona roll up 617 yards and 48 points.
Outlook: Those final three games (Oregon, at Oregon State, at UCLA) will be big, big tests.
Grade: B+

Oregon State (4-0; 6-0)
Yays:
Any time you're off to your school's best start since 1907, you're doing something right. QB Sean Mannion has been very impressive, as have receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton. CB Jordan Poyer has been one of the best individual defenders in the conference.
Nays Not much, really. Although injuries to key players (Mannion and Poyer) are starting to become a bit worrisome.
Outlook: They're in good shape, although they still have to go to Seattle and Palo Alto. But as of right now, all signs point to a huge Civil War on November 24.
Grade: A-

Oregon (4-0; 7-0)
Yays:
The beat goes on for Chip Kelly and the Ducks. They have speed at every position, and can make plays just about every way possible. And I'm not just talking about the offense, either. The defense is finally playing back to its 2010 level, forcing turnovers and making big plays.
Nays: The uniforms are out of control.
Outlook: Three big tests remain: at U$C, Stanford, and at Oregon State. As long as they don't get bored against the wrong team, they're in the drivers' seat for the Pac-12 title…and probably more.
Grade: A

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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

Obviously I'm observing from 2,000 miles away, but it certainly didn't feel like a Big Game last week…

I'm sorry, but if you as a Stanford fan were bored by the second half of last week's Big Game, then you just don't appreciate defensive football. That was fun to watch those guys suffocate and paralyze the Bears…

By the way, who predicted in this very space last week that cal wouldn't score a touchdown? I'll give you one guess…

Arizona State lost any chance of beating Oregon on the second play of the game. While forcing a fumble, Sutton banged knees with Duck QB Marcus Mariota and was knocked out with a bone bruise. The Sun Devils recovered the ball and scored on the next play, but without Sutton, ASU had no chance of clogging up the middle and controlling the line of scrimmage. On that play, the Sun Devils won the battle, but lost the war…

I'll say this now: the Card may have a better chance in Oregon than you might think. Why? Because of their defensive line. Stanford has the depth, size, and strength to dominate the scrimmage line against anyone they face. If they can do what Arizona State could not, that puts a critical checkmark in Stanford's favor…

Quick: name the team that has scored the most points against U$C so far this year. Answer coming in just a bit…

Yes, I thought Stanford's offense got a little too cute at times against cal. But this isn't exclusive to the David Shaw/Pep Hamilton playcalling braintrust. Remember when Jim Harbaugh spent a good deal of 2008 stunting Tavita Pritchard's rhythm by subbing in Jason Forcier and Alex Loukas? I do…

Quite honestly, when I watch Arizona play, I see how I thought Washington State would look at this point…

I would think Mike Riley would be dominating Coach of the Year conversation right now, if not for Brian Kelly. Or Bill O'Brien…

December 1 is the date of the Pac-12 Championship Game, but the only Pac-12 team guaranteed to be playing on that date is Oregon State. Thanks to Hurricane Isaac, the Beavers were forced to reschedule their game with Nicholls State for that date. But if OSU wins the Pac-12 North, the Beavers will cancel that date with Nicholls State and play in the conference title game instead. So now you know…

Answer: Syracuse scored 29 points in a loss to the Trojans on September 8. No team has scored more against U$C this year…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… the folks who went to Morgantown to watch Kansas State-West Virginia came to see the Heisman Trophy favorite. And they did…only it was the wrong guy. Collin Klein was incredible…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… look who's starting at outside linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals: an undrafted rookie problem child named Vontaze Burfict

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… the following fact tells you everything you need to know about the parity in the NFL: if the playoffs began right now, the AFC's sixth seed would belong to the Miami Dolphins

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PAC-12 PICKS

Colorado @ Oregon. The only question is how many points the Ducks will score before they get bored. I like Oregon by 54.

UCLA @ Arizona State. As I type this, Will Sutton's status is uncertain (bone bruise). If he can go, I like the Sun Devils' chances. If not, well, I still like the Sun Devils' chances. I like ASU by 12.

U$C @ Arizona. If I had more faith in Arizona's defense, I'd be calling this an ambush situation for the Trojans. But as it is, I like U$C by 16.

cal @ Utah. Star Lotulelei against that offensive line? Oh boy. I like Utah by 11.

Oregon State @ Washington. I have a funny feeling about this one. But I'm too chicken to pick the upset here. I like Oregon State by 9.

Last week: 4-0 (straight-up), 3-1 (ATS).
This year: 17-4 (straight-up), 11-10 (ATS).
Last year: 27-19 (straight-up), 28-18 (ATS).


Troy Clardy is in his 20th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 11th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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