John Hefti / USA TODAY Sports

Around the Pac-12: What We Learned Week 3

Sep. 19 -- The Pac-12 strengths and weaknesses are becoming more defined with the non-conference slate now largely complete...

Most Pac-12 teams had a nice weekend, thanks for asking.

Seventh-ranked Stanford and No. 9 Washington remain solid (and comparable) Top 10 teams after easy wins. Cal scored a confidence-boosting upset by outracing Texas. UCLA, Utah and ASU proved they can win with without their A-game. Washington State and Oregon State secured their first ‘W’ of the year, while OSU and Arizona bullied their inferior opponents to a satisfying degree.

While certainly not angst-free, Colorado and Oregon should be able to extract some positives despite losses to respectable Big Ten teams.

And USC? Well, maybe playing on a Friday (at Utah) will change the reeling Trojans’ luck.

Here's what's on the collective minds of Scout's Pac-12 experts as conference play begins in earnest this week. 

Arizona Wildcats

Beat Hawai'i, 47-28

As incumbent starting quarterback Anu Solomon rested a tender knee, backup Brandon Dawkins lit up the Rainbows, rushing for three touchdowns and passing for a fourth. Should Dawkins start even when Solomon returns? “That’s a fair question but it’s not fair for me to answer,”  coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I think Anu’s a really good quarterback when he’s healthy. I’m hoping he’s healthy so we have two starting quarterbacks.” WildcatAuthority asked its users the same question, and the results were mixed.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Beat UTSA, 32-28

One of the things ASU did reasonably well against Texas Tech [on Sept. 10] was spy its mobile quarterback Patrick Mahomes in order to keep him from beating the Sun Devils with his legs. Against UTSA, Todd Graham said he knew that quarterback Dalton Sturm would be a threat in a similar way. … Even so, the Sun Devils inexplicably weren't focused on spying Sturm with its inside linebackers in the first half of the game, and he made them pay for the decision. Ultimately, it was only Sturm who had any success running against ASU, doing so to the tune of 82 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown. … ASU began keeping its inside linebackers focused more on Sturm's running, and it worked, adjustments that defensively probably came later than they should have, but performed very well when implemented. -- Full story

California Golden Bears

Beat Texas 50-43

On a night when the Bears hosted their 2017 quarterback commit Chase Garbers and the 2018 and 2019 signal callers that are the apples of offensive coordinator Jake Spavital's left and right eyes, respectively (Adrian Martinez and Michael Johnson Jr.), plus an Auburn commit, plus a former Ole Miss commit, plus a Texas A&M commit, surely, Cal would find a way to Cal itself, again, sideways. … But, yet, here were are. ... Forty throws, 40 runs – there was balance in the Cal offense, as opposed to the 72 throw and 18 runs the week before. There was change. There was adaptation. There was pure imagination. … From the very first drive, when, on third-and-one, Davis Webb sent Melquise Stovall in motion, faked the handoff and tossed an end-around pitch to Stovall for a gain of 16, Spavital announced that this game would be different. -- Full story

Colorado Buffaloes

Lost to Michigan, 45-28

It boils down to 'What could've been' if this team was just average on special teams and Sefo Liufau not getting hurt (ankle). ... This coaching staff has spent so much time patching up weakness on this team. And for them to finally be ready, to not be a afraid, and even land the first punch, only to have punting be the Achilles Heel. For that to be what unravels them is just brutal. It's another reminder that every unit counts. ... The special teams failed spectacularly. -- BuffStampede Radio

Oregon Ducks

Lost to Nebraska, 35-32

Oregon’s propensity to go for 2-point conversions was the difference in this game, the wrong way, as the Ducks failed to convert four times and lost 35-32. … Oregon’s defense, played better in the fourth quarter and stubbornly gave up ground, but throughout the second half was plagued by penalties. The Ducks were called 13 times and lost 126 yards due to mistakes, including pass interference, late hits, holding and unnecessary roughness. -- Full story

Oregon State Beavers

Beat Idaho State, 37-7

Treston Decoud ran away with the Giant Killer Award this week, helped by his two interception (including a pick six) day.  Decoud seemed to be in the right spot several times as he also added four tackles during the game. Linebackers were also very active on the day led by MVP winner Caleb Saulo who had five tackles (including a tackle for loss) and an interception.  Manase Hungalu led the team in tackles with six and also added a fumble recovery, while Titus Failauga forced a fumble on the day and added two sacks. -- Full story

Stanford Cardinal

Shotgun Spratling |

Beat USC, 27-10

The gulf between Stanford and USC wasn’t as evident as it was in, say, Alabama’s 52-6 trouncing of the Trojans two weeks ago. But you could tell by the way the Tunnel Workers Union pushed USC’s defensive line around for the final three quarters and by the way JuJu Smith-Schuster was essentially a non-factor and – especially – by the way USC punted in the fourth quarter while down 17 points that the Trojans were absolutely facing a better team and, more importantly, they knew it.

Christian McCaffrey was  “held” to 260 all-purpose yards in another stellar performance against the Trojans but contributed to the highlight reel (as usual) with a 56-yard touchdown pass on play action in the first quarter where he ran a wheel out of the backfield and the entire USC defense just… lost him. Kind of important to keep an eye on that guy, no? -- Full story

UCLA Bruins

Beat BYU, 17-14

Josh Rosen threw for 307 yards, and for anyone just reading the box score they might come away thinking it was a good game for him.  But he faltered on many levels, and that quarterback inefficiency is what kept the game against BYU close. ...  In just about every series, Rosen missed seeing an open receiver, and many times it wasn’t as if the receiver was out of his immediate vision.

After watching UCLA’s rushing defense get gashed in so many games last year and then, to a degree, in its first two games this season, it was like going to a day spa for a rejuvenation package to watch UCLA’s stacked box plug running holes in this game.  UCLA got six tackles for loss and four sacks and, most importantly, every running lane had a Bruin filling it. -- Full story

USC Trojans

Lost to Stanford, 27-10

A slow, plodding, uncertain, unsure USC team's 27-10 fail in its Pac-12 opener in which it made some good plays but not any really big ones, and allowed some really bad big plays -- four or five of them that destroyed it -- makes it impossible to conclude anything other than this: It's all about the coaching. … As someone who's been with this team from winter workouts through spring ball and the summer's player-run practices, it's almost impossible to consider what we're seeing but the more this team gets coached up, as it has in the six weeks since the first of August, the worse it gets. The slower it plays. The lower its football IQ goes. The more excuses it makes. The less it looks like it knows who it is or what it's supposed to do or how that's supposed to look. -- Full story

Utah Utes

Beat SJSU, 34-17

Quarterback Troy Williams’ INT in the red zone was an absolute killer. That was a terrible decision, they should’ve ran it first of all, but Troy shouldn’t have thrown it. He ended up completing 20/28 for 257 yards 1 TD and 1 INT, which is a good stat line, but it just felt like it could have been much better. … This defense must like a swift kick in the rear before getting down to business. Maybe they like toying with their opponent, giving them some false sense of hope and accomplishment. Whatever it is, they seem to put it together by about the end of the first quarter. -- Full story

Washington Huskies

Beat Portland State, 41-3

There's no question Washington is a good football team, and they have improved from last season. Chris Petersen had created a culture where sound football is played. Certainly they are going to have moments where things need to be cleaned up, but that's no different than any other team in the country. ... There's no doubt the Huskies have seen plenty of spread and read option and all the variants through the first three games to be fully up to speed on what Arizona's spread attack will bring Saturday. ... They have held teams to just three first-half points. That's ridiculous. ... Husky players know they haven't accomplished anything yet, other than match expectations. They were supposed to win the first three games, put their opponents out of reach quickly, and do it in style.  -- Full story

Washington State Cougars

Beat Idaho, 56-6

Mkristo Bruce: “I was hoping for much more pressure than WSU have gotten in the first two games this year. The (third-year) sophomore DE Hercules Mata'afa was consistent with some flashes to the QB and plays in the backfield. But overall, not too much pressure on the QB. The opposing teams have had way too much time to pick and chose their targets. This also leaves our secondary exposed for big plays. For WSU to be successful in the Pac-12 this year, the Cougs need to get to the quarterback better."

Deron Pointer: “I loved the fact that the Cougars started off running the football. Watching the receivers blocking downfield was a joy to see and I'm sure the running backs loved their efforts. (That) really set up a lot of opportunities for receivers to create openings off the play fake. A great building block for WSU's next game.” -- Full story

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