Two of the six "rivalry" games are a part of the next to last week of the Pac-12 regular season, when either, both, or neither of the berths in initial Pac-12 Championship game could be clinched. One thing we do now know is that the game will be in either Eugene or Palo Alto. With losses by both UCLA and Arizona St., both the winner and the runner up in the North will have better records than whomever emerges from the South.
Both teams are stumbling into this one. The Huskies lost 40-17 at USC, their second lopsided loss in a row, and their third one in four games. The Beavers lost 23-6 to California in San Francisco, their third loss in a row by three or more scores.
The root of the problem for both Washington and Oregon St. in last week's road games was the running game. Neither the Huskies nor the Beavers could generate one, or stop their opponents ground game either. The Huskies only got 36 yards from Chris Polk, and as a result, only 46 total yards running. The Trojans on the other hand trampled the Huskies for 252 rushing yards, including 148 by Curtis McNeil.
The Beavers were even worse, running for only 27 yards, while the Golden Bears' Isi Sofele ran for 190 yards, which contributed considerably to the 296 total yards California piled up on the ground.
It's Dads' day and Senior Day in Corvallis, and Oregon St. will need whatever emotional lift they can find to try to regain some momentum against their northwest neighbors. Washington will be trying to regain some form before the Apple Cup, and also move up in the bowl selection picture. Additionally, the Huskies have elected to rest Keith Price's banged up knees, and go with Nick Montana as their starting quarterback instead.
The team that does better at solving their problems in the running game, offensively or defensively, probably wins as a result.
(Good luck with FCS Atlantic on most systems. The Pac-12 Network can not come soon enough, assuming, of course, that it ever gets distribution beyond Comcast, Cox, and Time-Warner.)
The Utes became bowl eligible with a 31-6 snow balling of UCLA. In fairness, who expected the Bruins to be prepared for a foul weather game? Suddenly, Utah is on a roll, having won 3 games in a row. John White IV ran for 3 touchdowns in the middle two quarters, and finished with 167 rushing yards, and 180 total. Meanwhile, the Ute defense picked off Kevin Prince twice, and only allowed UCLA inside their 30 yard line twice.
The Cougars decided to give redshirt freshman backup quarterback Connor Halliday a shot, and he proceeded to take a number of shots at the Arizona St. defense. Halliday completed 27 of 36 passes, 75%, for 4 touchdowns, 494 yards, a 37-27 win over the Sun Devils, and the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Honors. And the start this week against the Utes.
It's the last home game of the season for the Cougars, who will need to win to keep their post-season hopes alive pending next week's Apple Cup in Seattle. The Utes won't let up, though, just because they have a post-season berth assured, preferring to improve the likeliness of a more attractive game. They need help, but Utah can still reach the Pac-12 Championship game if UCLA falters once, and Arizona St. twice.
Unlike last week's sunny weather victims, neither team will be all that bothered by the weather.
The Buffs got their first Pac-12 victory, a 48-29 win at the expense of Arizona, in yet another episode of a warm sunny team having to travel to a place that actually has winter weather in the winter. Once again, the story was the winner could run the ball and defend the run, and the loser did neither.
Rodney Stewart ran for 181 yards on 24 carries, threw for 14 more, and caught a couple of balls for 23 more yards. In all, Colorado ran for 273 yards, and allowed Arizona only 60 on the ground.
Additionally, nickel back Travis Sandersfeld earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. In order to try to at least slow down the 'Cats quarterback Nick Foles, Colorado played at least a nickel defense every play of the game, and Sandersfeld recorded 11 solo tackles, and 3 assisted ones, including 3 tackles for a loss, and he also had 1 of 3 interceptions of Foles the Buffs snagged.
The Bruins had won consecutive games for the first time since early in the 2010 season, so getting dominated came as a bit of a surprise, though all but one of their wins has been at home. UCLA was actually balanced against the Utes, rushing for 149 yards, including 89 by Johnathan Franklin, and getting 146 yards passing. But Prince only completed 50% of his passes, and the 2 interceptions really hurt an offense that was already struggling in the cold.
It's UCLA's last home game, before playing USC in the Coliseum, so there is a lot of urgency to get that 6th. win that would send them to a bowl game this week. However, despite the lopsided loss in snowy Salt Lake City, the Bruins still control their own destiny in reaching the Pac-12 Championship game.
Oregon not only took control of the Pac-12 North with their win at Stanford, they won the ABC broadcast, which would have been the Cal-Stanford "Big Game" has the Cardinal won.
The Trojans had Washington on the ropes with 16 points in the second quarter, and essentially ended the game when Marqise Lee took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. It made it easier for McNeil to have a career day, and to make Polk a non-factor. USC is ever so close to being a one loss team, had the ball bounced differently in overtime against Stanford, and is playing much better, or more accurately, much more consistently, lately.
It might be a good thing for someone that the Trojans won't show up in the Pac-12 Championship game and a bowl game. Look for them to treat this game as their statement on the subject. The fact that WR Robert Lee will be a game time decision, and a surprise if he plays, could be a serious adjective on that statement, though.
The Ducks took control of the Pac-12, never mind just the Northern Division, with their wire to wire 53-30 win at Stanford. La Michael James demonstrated for the second week in a row that he's completely healed from his elbow injury, running for 146 yards, and 3 touchdowns, in the win over Stanford. And Darron Thomas is over his knee injury as well. Thomas completed 11 of 17 passes, for 155 yards, and Oregon's other 3 offensive touchdowns.
Oregon does still need one win, or a Stanford loss, to lock up both the North Division championship and home field for the Pac-12 Championship game. This game could be the start to the greatest home stand in the history of Autzen, if Oregon can sweep the Trojans, who have lost 5 years in a row in the Willamette Valley, Oregon St. in the Civil War, and then claim the Conference championship game.
The Territorial Cup lost a lot of its luster with the recent downturn in fortunes of both teams. Arizona's season went in the tank early, and stayed there, but Arizona St. looked to be headed for an easy trip to the Pac-12 South Division title after they went on a 3 game winning streak that started with a 3 touchdown win over USC. But then road games started to pile up on the schedule. The Sun Devils have lost 2 in a row, and 3 of their last 4, with all of those losses on the road. Arizona St. is 1-4 away from Tempe this year. However, they are 5-0 at Sun Devil Stadium, and that's where their last 2 regular season games will be played.
The 'Cats put on another air show against Colorado, as Foles aired it out 53 times. He completed 35 of them, for 353 yards, but only 1 touchdown, and, as noted above, 3 interceptions. Despite all those passing yards, Arizona got 2 of their 3 offensive scores running. They also got a defensive score. But the 'Cats were playing catchup all game long, and never could, losing their third straight as a result.
The Sun Devils jumped to the lead against Washington St. when Jamal Miles took the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown, and didn't surrender it until late in the second quarter, despite giving up an 85 yard touchdown pass from Halliday to Marquess Wilson. And they took it back, going up 27-23 late in the third quarter when Brock Osweiler hooked up with Gerell Robinson for a 16 yard touchdown pass. Osweiler wound up throwing for 351 yards, though just that one touchdown. But the Cougars were relentless, pulling ahead and away with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns.
Arizona St. contributed to their own demise, with a pair of drives that failed inside the Washington St. 10 yard line, one on a failed 4th. down gamble, and one on a missed field goal. And they fumbled on a kickoff return.
If the Sun Devils get help in the form of a UCLA loss to either Colorado or USC, they can still reach the Pac-12 Championship Game. But they will need to clean up the kind of game losing mistakes that made a cold night in Pullman even more uncomfortable, and might have put coach Dennis Erickson, being touted as a candidate for the conference coach of the year honor a couple of weeks ago, back onto the hot seat. That can happen when you lock up a bowl berth early, then stumble.
The "Big Game" is still fairly big, but shrank off the ABC radar when Stanford couldn't keep up with Oregon. California is still hunting for a better bowl than maybe going back to AT&T park one last time. Stanford could still find their way into a BCS bowl at-large bid if they bounce back strong.
The Golden Bears became bowl eligible, something they came up a game short of last season, with their win over Oregon St., who had destroyed them the last 3 years. Sofele did by far the most damage to Oregon St., but C.J. Anderson had a big night as well, with 96 yards rushing, and 2 negated scores due to penalties, vs. just one by Sofele that was called back. Cal will need another solid night running the ball on down the road at "The Farm", but that's a reasonable possibility for Sofele, given that in their last 4 games, the Cardinal defense has seen James run for 146 yards, McNeal 145, and Polk 144.
The Cardinal still scored at least 30 points for the 22nd time in their last 23 games in their loss to Oregon, but Stanford suffered 5 turnovers in the game. Andrew Luck even threw 2 interceptions, and he only threw 5 in the first 9 games of the year. Coupled with the lack of two of his best receivers in Zach Ertz and Chris Owuso, the lost opportunities were too much for Luck to overcome, though Griff Whalen did have 9 catches for 107 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. Especially when the usually sound Stanford defense gave up 3 touchdown plays that went for 40 yards or more. Don't look for Stanford to suffer as many self inflected wounds in what is still a "Big Game" in the Bay Area.
Here's the complete national schedule, unadjusted for east coast