The season is now past the mid-way mark, and the time for making up for lost opportunities is beginning to grow short.
This week is the last week of the season with a Thursday night game, and also includes a Pac-12 Channel double header, again underscoring the lack of distribution primarily on Directv.
The Ducks, who are averaging 52.3 points per game, second most in the country, were right on pace in their last outing, a 52-21 demolition of Washington week before last. As usual, the game was over almost before it began, as Oregon opened a 21-0 first quarter lead, and went up 38-7 early in the third period.
Marcus Mariota threw for just shy of 200 yards, but 4 touchdowns, Kenjon Barner ran for 122 of the nearly 300 yards the Ducks rolled up on his 20 carries, and De'Anthony Thomas amassed 122 all-purpose yards. The biggest problem Oregon has had is the derailment of Heisman talk for their several weapons because their need for points and yards usually comes to an end long before the game does.
The Sun Devils didn't have a bye to get ready for this week like Oregon did, having also played last Thursday in Boulder. Arizona St. pulled away in the second half with 31 unanswered points, starting with Rashad Ross' 100 yard touchdown return of the second half kickoff, to blow open what was a close, 20-17 game at half time, and wound up trampling the Buffs 51-17.
Arizona St. rolled up almost 600 yards, while holding Colorado to only 255. Sophomore sensation Taylor Kelly completed 20 of 28 passes, for 308 yards, and more importantly 5 touchdowns, against 0 interceptions, and also ran for 67 yards. The Sun Devils out-rushed the Buffs 261 yards to 75.
This game represents by far the stiffest, and most explosive, challenge either team has faced all season. And if it isn't a 90 point, 1,000 yard game, it will probably be the biggest surprise of the weekend.
It's the earliest the (fairly) Big Game has been played, a product of scheduling that placates Notre Dame, and disrupts the conference's rivalry games for the benefit of the Irish (and no one else).
The Cardinal lost 20-13 at Notre Dame, but not because Stepfan Taylor was stopped on both 3rd and goal and 4th and goal from the one. For one thing, he wasn't actually stopped, but both the on-field officiating and replay blew the call. More importantly, Josh Nunes was only 12 of 25, for only 125 yards, and he threw a pair of interceptions, but no touchdowns.
Nunes' failings resulted in Stanford not scoring an offensive touchdown, this just a week after the Cardinal had posted 54 points against Arizona. It was also the second consecutive overtime game for Stanford, and 5th of 6th decided by one score or less.
The Golden Bears beat Washington St. 31-17, giving California their second consecutive win, quite a bounce back after their disastrous start to the season. And as usual, Bears quarterback Zach Maynard was in the middle of the story. Maynard completed only 14 of 23 passes, and threw a pair of interceptions, but 11 of the completions went to his brother Keenan Allen, for 166 yards and a touchdown. Maynard also ran 10 times, for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, C.J. Anderson was rushing for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns, on 15 carries. That led a Golden Bears ground game that rolled through the Cougars for 318 yards.
With only 4 games left after this weekend, 2 of them against currently top 8 teams, California may find themselves hard pressed to become bowl eligible without this win.
Since Oregon St. plays both teams in back to back weeks next month, this is a great scouting opportunity for Beaver Nation.
The Buffs getting blown out in the second half by the Sun Devils underscored again what a lack of depth and experience does to a team in this conference. Arizona St. and Oregon St. are examples that it can be turned around, but in the meantime, there are lumps to be taken, and Colorado is taking them.
The Buffs are 105th in the country in points per game, and 120th in points allowed per game, which translates into a nearly 3 touchdown deficit per game.
The Trojans took care of the Huskies, with a 24-14 win in Seattle, and they did it without much of a passing game, though Robert Woods did get 88 yards on his 5 catches. Anthony Brown's 21 yard touchdown after blocking a punt, and 155 yards rushing by Silas Redd, including a 57 yarder, made up for it though.
USC's defense also picked off Washington quarterback Keith Price twice, and forced a pair of fumbles by Price as well, to help keep the Huskies in check.
USC has never lost to Colorado in 6 meetings, and its hard to see that streak being broken, or for this game ending as anything but the mismatch of the week.
The Huskies got a pretty good game out of Price exclusive of the 4 turnover plays. Price completed 20 of the other 26 passes he threw, for 198 yards and touchdowns to Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and also ran for 34 more yards.
But getting out-rushed by a 2 to 1 margin and losing the turnover battle 4-1 on top of the blocked punt for a score more than wiped out what Washington did well. The Huskies went 1-3 against ranked teams in the first half of the season, but only have 1 ranked opponent left, and turning their season around, starting with this trip to the desert, is still possible.
The Wildcats had an extra week to shake off the sting of their 3rd consecutive loss to ranked opponents, and second in a row by a single score and/or in overtime. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor didn't get credit for punching the ball into the endzone in overtime against the Irish, but he did the week before to beat Arizona 54-48.
And it happened despite Matt Scott airing it out 69 times, with 45 of them caught for 491 yards and 3 touchdowns. Austin Hill hauled in the largest share of them, catching 11 balls for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns. And Ka'Deem Carey had 132 yards and 3 touchdowns on 29 rushes, to go along with 7 catches for 68 yards.
Like Washington, there's only 1 ranked team left on the schedule for the 'Cats, at least at the moment, and Arizona can also start to turn around their season with a win in this one.
Both teams will be having their quarterbacks make their second career starts.
The Utes began the Travis Wilson era when head coach Kyle Whittingham decided to turn to his freshman quarterback of the future against UCLA. And even though the Bruins won 21-14, Wilson didn't do too badly. Despite an early interception, Wilson completed 23 of 33 passes, for 220 yards, and though Jon Hays threw a touchdown pass, it was Wilson who engineered the drive down to the UCLA 1 yard line.
The surprise in LA was the degree to which the Utes struggled to run the ball, as John White IV was held to just 44 yards on 11 carries, and Utah overall ran for only 75 yards.
The Beavers got a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week grade effort from Cody Vaz, who completed 20 of 32 passes, for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, with no turnovers, in relief of Sean Mannion, who is out temporarily after having to have the meniscus cleaned up in his left knee.
Vaz's award winning performance might have cost Brandin Cooks, who had 8 catches for 173 yards, or Markus Wheaton, who scored 3 touchdowns, the weekly award. It also produced a 42-24 win for the Beavers, who are off to their best start since 1939. A win this week will be the Beavers' best since 1926. Its doubtful any of the Homecoming attendees will recall that streak, which ironically reached 6 games on Oct. 20 as well.
Oregon St. leads the series 9-6-1, but Utah won last year, and 4 of the last 5 times they have met.
The Bruins bounced back from being blown out of Berkeley, beating Utah 21-14 behind another big day by Brett Hundley. UCLA's redshirt freshman quarterback completed 15 of 21 passes, for just 183 yards, but one went for 64 yards to Shaquelle Evans for a touchdown, and none were picked off. Hundley also ran for 68 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
If UCLA can use the week off to shore up their pass defense, the Bruins could make a second half of the season run at one of the Pac-12's upper echelon bowls.
The Cougars are in severe need of the bye to try to figure out a way to salvage their season, which probably means turning the starting quarterback job back over to Jeff Tuel. Against California, Tuel took over after Connor Halliday completed only 4 of 10 passes, and threw a pair of interceptions.
With no rushing game (Washington St. managed only 36 net yards on the ground, after a half dozen sacks cost 30 yards), the Cougars had to rely on Tuel. And he aired it out 53 times, completing 30, for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But with a defense that's 123rd (of 124 teams) against the rush, and 103rd in points allowed, it wasn't nearly enough.
Here's the complete, national schedule, mal-adjusted for eastern time, but still useful for Beaver fans, who will have all day to watch before Oregon St. finally takes the field.