Pac-12 Round-Up: What We Learned Week 5

Oct. 3 -- The Pac-12 goes back to the future with Washington and Colorado emerging as leaders in the North and South...

What decade is it again? After five weeks in the Pac-12, we're experiencing '90s flashbacks. Washington is in the national championship conversation, Colorado sits atop the standings, Washington State has a running game and Oregon has lost three in a row. What's next, a Clinton in the White House?

Our Pac-12 experts try to make sense of a season brought to you by Doc Brown with this week's edition of What We Learned.

Arizona Wildcats (2-3, 0-2)

Lost to UCLA, 45-24

Next up: at Utah

The defensive isn't as bad as it is going to seem. UCLA only ran for 125 yards on less than four yards per carry. The defensive line actually played pretty well for the most part. The linebackers were decent, but the secondary was just awful. Cornerback recruiting has been awful and this class will fix some of it, but it will take one more to be really effective.

This team isn't good enough to not be healthy, but the problems are bigger than that. Yes, I think [former DC] Jeff Casteel and his staff's lack of recruiting is absolutely killing this team. However, I think Rich Rodriguez should have recognized it and fixed it before it got to this. I like him as a coach, more so than others, but that's his responsibility so he deserves the blame.

Even he admits that a lot of problems Arizona has aren't getting fixed this season.. Full story

Arizona State Sun Devils (4-1, 1-1)

Lost to USC, 41-20

Next up: UCLA

Arizona State lost only one football game on Saturday, but it felt like more.

Maybe it was the Sun Devils' sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins watching the second half on the sidelines with the aid of crutches and with his left foot in a walking boot. Perhaps it was junior running back Demario Richard sitting on the exercise bike for much of the game with an apparent ankle injury.

It also could have been the pestering tendency for the Sun Devils to miss on tackles and breakdown on defensive assignments. Then there was the inability to run the football on first down, which ASU head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey candidly admitted following the 41-20 thrashing they took at the hand of USC. That wasn't the case earlier this season, but it was tonight. 

A silver lining? There wasn't much of one. Full story

California Golden Bears (3-2, 1-1)

Beat Utah, 28-23

Next up: at Oregon State

California got a stand-up defensive performance when it needed it most, holding Utah to 23 points and making a goal-line stand on the final drive.

In a game that was slated to be yet another shootout -- with an over-under in the mid-60s -- it was California's defense that came out swinging against a Utes squad that tested the Bears' very, very public weakness -- the run game -- in what would end up as a relatively (compared to Cal's last four efforts) staid affair, with the Bears holding Utah to 362 total yards of offense and 176 rushing yards.

The Bears defense -- Cameron Saffle, with seven tackles, 0.5 sacks and 0.5 tackles for loss, in particular -- bent, but did not break. Full story

Colorado Buffaloes  (4-1, 2-0)

Beat Oregon State, 47-6

Next up: at USC

With a 47-6 victory over the Oregon State Beavers, the Colorado Buffaloes affirmed their triumph in Eugene and gave further notice to the rest of the Pac-12, and the nation, that their rise really is real. After missing his first three passes, Steven Montez would proceed to hit 11 consecutive completions, encompassing 232 yards and 3 touchdowns. Through his first two full games Steven Montez has impressed, playing with a level of consistency and poise well beyond his years.

The Colorado defense, anchored by the front seven, did their part and continued their opportunistic run of play, forcing a turnover for a nation-leading 18th straight game.

That next step is defeating a storied program for the very first time. Colorado heads to Los Angeles next weekend looking as sharp, and as confident, as any team in the conference. Full story

Oregon Ducks (2-3, 0-2)


Lost to Washington State, 51-33

Next up: Washington

There were so many mistakes on defense it is too painful to record or even think about. Earlier this week, Ducks defensive backs coach John Neal said WSU would be tough because they are so well oiled its task of timing routes, that it will be tough to cover. However, it really become more simple than that. The Cougar receivers simply ran to where the Duck defenders weren’t, looked at Luke Falk who threw the ball and the receiver caught it. It was more of a game of catch.

The real damage came on the ground. The Cougars racked up 280 yards of net rushing. For Mark Helfrich’s part, he again said the Oregon coaches will need to do a better job in coaching up the players. No kidding. Full story

Oregon State Beavers (1-3, 0-1)

Lost to Colorado, 47-6

Next up: Cal

Entering the game against Colorado, Gary Andersen indicated that starting quarterback Darell Garretson was injury-free. However, after Garretson was ineffective through the first few offensive series, he replaced him with walk-on Conor Blount. Blount didn't fare much better than Garretson. Afterwards, Andersen was non-commital on who would be the starter going forward.

But as the general of the offense, the quarterback position is critical to its success.  You cannot win in the Pac-12 without solid quarterback play.  And it's not unheard of to have a young QB step in and immediately be successful (see Colorado the past two weeks) if they have the pieces in place around them.  Of course, Oregon State is not yet at that point. Full story

Stanford Cardinal (3-1, 2-1)

Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today

Lost to Washington, 44-6

Next up: Washington State

You want numbers?  Stanford rushed for 29 yards on 30 carries. Washington rushed for 214.  The Huskies sacked Cardinal quarterbacks Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst eight times.  Burns completed 15-22 passes, but was under constant siege and did not look comfortable at all in the pocket. Stanford did not record a sack, and amassed 100 yards in penalties on a night in which the team's identity was totally and unquestionably seized by the Huskies.

Stanford is still 3-1, but the gap between that record and Washington's 5-0 seemed significantly more than one game in the loss column on this crisp Seattle evening. Full story

UCLA Bruins (3-2, 1-1)

Beat Arizona 45-24

Next up: at Arizona State

At this point, five games into the season, we can start to draw some conclusions about this UCLA team.

First, defensively, this team has a chance to be very good. With DE Takkarist McKinley in there, UCLA actually has the ability to get home with four up front from time to time, which is critical. UCLA's staff has also loosened up quite a bit this season, with significantly more blitzing than last year (or the previous year). UCLA hasn't played a truly elite offensive unit yet (and Arizona without Dawkins for most of this game certainly doesn't qualify), but we've liked what we've seen.

Second, offensively, this team looks like it might be limited all year by some trouble running the ball. UCLA hasn't been consistent running between the tackles against anybody this year, and the Bruins have already played two poor rush defenses in UNLV and Arizona. Running off tackle and outside can work to an extent, but good-ish defenses will shut that down. As we've mentioned in the last couple of weeks, the offense might rest progressively heavier on the right arm of Josh Rosen. Full story

USC Trojans (2-3, 1-2)

Beat Arizona State, 41-20

Next up: Colorado

It's a new world for this USC team playing behind Sam Darnold and getting the offense and the defense in synch. ... Funny how things open up for the running backs when Sam is throwing the ball the way he can. And how things open up for the receivers when the defense knows that Sam can run the ball, which he did to close out USC's scoring on a read-option keep from the 3 that was as easy as it looked.

Sure, it's been, as Clay Helton said, "a September not to remember." But games like Saturday in front of an announced attendance of 71,214 but surely 20,000 short of that with actual people in the seats, will be easy for this USC team, should it get things turned around and start a run, to recall.

One of the reasons to remember will be the way the USC defense, after falling flat at the end in Utah, allowing a game-losing 17-play, 93-yard drive, stepped up here and essentially held ASU without a touchdown until mopup time in a game that was 41-6 until late with the backups in the game. Full story

Utah Utes (4-1, 1-1)

Lost to Cal, 28-23

Next up: Arizona 

What I Liked:

  • Utah executed their gameplan. They wanted to possess the ball; they did it for 42 minutes. They wanted to sustain drives; they got 30 first downs. They wanted to run the football; they rushed for 176. They had the chance to win it at the end and came up four inches short. It happens.
  • Utah had a couple of moments where they could have quit - especially in the first and 4th quarters. They didn't. The last defensive series was as clutch as it comes. The offense kept fighting back. They've just got to learn how to finish more consistently.
  • Only three penalties, and none of them were really killer.

What I Hated:

  • Four long pass plays. Yes, I know that's what Cal does. But in a game where the difference is literally one play, those can be killers.
  • Pac-12 referees. Kyle Whittingham said he DID NOT call time out when they awarded it to him. What a bunch of bumbling buffoons. That hurt the Utes in a big way. 
  • Dropped passes. By my count, there were at least 11. The Moeai one at the end possibly hurt the most. I'm not sure he would have scored, since the defender had an angle, but I would have liked to have found out. That HAS to get fixed.

Full post

Washington Huskies (5-0, 2-0)

Beat Stanford, 44-6

Next up: at Oregon

It’s good to have Washington Football back.

It was evident in seeing so many of those legends with big smiles on their faces all day long. It was evident in the multiple comments made from said players about the ‘feeling’ among the tailgates in E12 and beyond. They could sense something special, and they know all about that feeling.

It only took 25 years, but Husky Stadium was finally able to recapture - for a night - the aura that made ‘The Greatest Setting in College Football’ what it used to be. And what it can obviously be again. 

Washington has, for the time being, altered the college football playoff landscape. Full story

Washington State Cougars (2-2, 1-0)

Beat Oregon, 51-33

Next up: at Stanford

All three running backs -- Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks -- not only ripped off big runs, they did some of their best work when WSU needed it most, seizing back any brief momentum Oregon might have gathered. WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro’s three Cougar 'backs unofficially combined for 273 ground yards and -- wait for it -- 6 rushing TDs.  Even when Oregon knew the run was coming, the Wazzu ground attack continued to rack up the hashes.

Washington State beat Oregon up -- I'm not talking about the Duck players who were injured during the game --  Oregon's D had hands on its hips before the first half had even ended.  Meanwhile, Washington State's stop corps, along with its offense, looked daisy fresh late in the fourth quarter.

That Luke Falk and defensive players like d-lineman Hercules Mata'afa performed at a high level in  the Pac-12 opener would certainly seem to bode well going forward for Washington State. Full story

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