It's another week with everyone in the Pac-12 in action, but this week there's a Friday night game, and therefore only 5 games on Saturday. Fox had the first draft pick of conference games this week, and they opted for a 4 PM start for what was the most anticipated game of the season, Oregon's visit to USC, at least until the Trojans were tripped up a couple of times. It puts the game on an hour ahead of the SEC West showdown from Baton Rogue, between Alabama and LSU, which CBS will show. So the Trojans' task is to take the game down to the wire, similar to last year in Eugene, in order to hold the audience. If Oregon does what the Ducks have been doing this season, blowing the game open early, that clicking sound will be channel changers punching up the weekly SEC game of the century.
Oddly, it leaves ABC/ESPN showing Oklahoma St.-Kansas in the 5 PM PT / Eastern prime time ABC slot. Of course, that may actually be the most entertaining game of the 3.
With 2 night games in the Pac-12, involving the best of the rest of the conference teams, a substantial chunk of the conference's fan base will miss part or all of the "blockbusters".
The Huskies pulled out a 20-17 win over Oregon St. on Travis Coons' field goal with 1:20 left, their second win over a top 10 team this season at the Clink. It was the first time since 2001 that Washington has defeated 2 top 10 teams in the same season.
Washington won despite amassing less than 300 yards of offense, and picking up only 3 out of a dozen 3rd/4th down situations, and it was their defense, and the 4 interceptions they snagged, that did it.
The Bears were blown out of Salt Lake City, losing 49-27 to Utah, but California scored 2 4th quarter touchdowns to make the score still not close, long after the Utes opened a 49-13 lead on Reggie Dunn's second kickoff return that went over 100 yards for a touchdown, which earned him the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week award.
Brendan Bigelow had a 57 yard touchdown run on the last play of the 3rd quarter for California, but he only had 2 carries in the game, and by then, Utah was already ahead 42-6.
Compounding the problem going forward for the Bears, Keenan Allen, California's career leading receiver, is out for this game, after suffering an injury late in the Utah contest.
It's the "Tosh Lupoi Bowl", in celebration of the return of the former California assistant who jumped to the Huskies last off-season, taking some prized recruits with him. It may also be the Dead Bear Walking Bowl, as an increasing number of Cal supporters are saying its time to replace Bear Head Coach Jeff Tedford, and if California becomes the second conference team to be assured of a losing season, and before Washington St., the growls of dis-satisfaction will increase substantially.
The Cardinal performed barely well enough to beat Washington St. 24-17, though their defense did register 10 sacks. The Cougars' Jeff Tuel completed 43 of 60 passes, and with sacks and scrambles, Washington St. ran more than 70 pass plays, yet still held a time of possession edge of over 7 minutes over Stanford.
Stepfan Taylor was held to only 58 yards rushing, on 21 carries, and the Cardinal amasses only 256 total yards, while their defense gave up a 401 yard passing effort. However, that defense got 10 sacks, and Ed Reynolds got a 25 yard pick-6 in the 4th quarter, otherwise Stanford would not have escaped with the win.
As a result of another less than stellar performance by Josh Nunes against the Cougs, 7 completions on 15 attempts, for 136 yards, Stanford head coach David Shaw has announced he will play freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan more, and didn't rule out changing starters down the road if Nunes struggles again.
The Buffs became the first team in the Pac-12 to be officially eliminated from any possibility of post-season play, and it happened long before their game against Oregon was over. Colorado was down by 8 touchdowns before halftime came.
The only noteworthy accomplishment was the 121 yards and 2 touchdowns Christian Powell ran for on 20 carries. But both scores came almost midway in the 3rd quarter, long after Oregon had emptied the bench.
Exactly why FX took this barn burner off the hands of the Pac-12 is a mystery.
Washington St. (2-6, 0-5) at Utah (3-5, 1-4) at 1 PM MDT (Noon PDT) on the Pac-12 Channel.
The Cougars completely abandoned the running game, relying totally on Tuel to try to throw them to victory, as the Mike Leach "Air Raid" offense reached full bloom. Had it not been for the defense giving up a single 70 yard touchdown pass, or had the offensive line prevented even a couple of the 10 sacks, it might have resulted in knocking off a top 20 team that actually climbed in the rankings despite their secondary getting torched.
Marquess Wilson led the Washington St. receiving corp, with 9 catches for 100 yards, but 5 different players had at least 50 yards receiving.
The Utes snapped a 4 game losing streak with their rout of California, and they used a balanced attack to do so. John White IV had 105 yards and 2 touchdowns, on 22 carries, and freshman Travis Wilson completed 16 of 24 passes, for 156 yards, including 5 to Kenneth Scott, for 59 yards.
And Utah didn't even need an offense to get on the scoreboard, or to put the game away, as Reggie Dunn took kickoffs back over 100 yards twice. Dunn earned the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honor for taking the kickoff all the way back after California had taken a 3-0 lead on the first possession of the game, and negated Bigelow's 57 yard scoring run at the end of the 3rd quarter by going the length of the field with the ensuing kickoff to start the 4th quarter, and put the Utes up 49-13 on the Bears.
The Cougs will become either the second or third conference team to be eliminated from any post-season possibilities if they fall to the Utes.
#2 Oregon (8-0, 5-0) at #18 USC (6-2, 4-2) at 4 PM PDT on FOX.
The Ducks just destroyed Colorado, jumping out to a 28-0 first quarter lead, and extending their advantage to 56-0 before halftime, on their way to a 70-14 win over the Buffs.
Kenjon Barner led an Oregon rushing onslaught that rolled up 425 yards on Colorado, with 104 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 carries, and DeAnthony Thomas was right behind him, with 97 yards and a touchdown on just 5 carries. Barner also had 47 receiving yards, and Thomas added a 73 yard punt return for a touchdown.
Marcus Marriota completed 10 of 14 passes, for 136 yards and a touchdown, and ran for an additional 22 yards, plus another score, before calling it an afternoon early. That didn't take any heat off of Colorado though, as Bryan Bennett came off the bench to complete all 4 of his passes, for 56 more yards, and run for 73 yards and 3 touchdowns, on 10 carries.
In all, Oregon racked up 617 yards against the Buffs.
The Trojans lost a 39-36 shootout to Arizona, and it happened despite Matt Barkley completing 31 of 49 passes, for 493 yards and 3 touchdowns, and a record book rewriting day by Marqise Lee. Lee caught 16 of Barkley's passes, for 345 yards, including touchdown catches of 49 and 44 yards, and another 57 yard reception.
Lee broke both Keyshan Johnson's Trojan record for most yards in a game, and the Pac-12 single game record for receiving yards of 293, previously held by Oregon St.'s Mike Hass. By the time Lee was done, it was the 5th highest receiving yardage total in a game in NCAA history.
Lee also had 123 yards on 3 kickoff returns, and finished with 469 yards of total offense, and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
But it wasn't enough to overcome 5 turnovers, including 3 fumbles and 2 interceptions of Barkley, and a run by Arizona where the 'Cats scored 4 touchdowns in 13 1/2 minutes to go from down 28-13 to a 39-28 lead.
Fun fact about why network execs who don't know football shouldn't be the ones making some of the decisions they do: Petros Papadakis, who lives and works during the week in the Los Angeles area, and has covered more Pac-10/12 games than anyone else working in television currently, is being sent to West Virginia instead of covering this game.
Arizona St. (5-3, 3-2) at #13 Oregon St. (6-1, 4-1) at 7:30 PM PDT on ESPN2.
This is the "Disappointed the 4-letter mothership bowl", after both teams lost late last weekend, taking some of the luster off the game from when ESPN picked it. They might have suspected something, opting initially to not assign it to a channel. When both teams were upset last Saturday, this quickly became an ESPN2 game.
The Sun Devils lost a shootout to UCLA on the final play of the game for the second year in a row. Last season, it was an Arizona St. field goal that sailed just feet wide as time ran out that allowed the Bruins to escape with the win. This year, it was UCLA that got into position for the game winning field goal, and Ka'imi Fairbarin, who hasn't made a kick of 40 yards or longer, but is perfect from 35 yards and in, drilled the 33 yarder that secured the 45-43 win.
Arizona St. played without DT Will Sutton, and then lost DE Junior Onyeali as well, and the Sun Devils are certainly hoping for their return this week, after surrendering 486 yards to the Bruins. It was just a little too much for the Arizona St. offense, which rolled up 535 yards, and rallied from 9 points down late in the 4th quarter, to overcome.
Taylor Kelly had a tremendous game, completing 25 of 35 passes, for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns, as well as running for an additional 55 yards, a quarter of the Sun Devils' rushing total. The rest came from a tremendously well balance effort, as D.J. Foster picked up 61 yards on 13 carries, Cameron Marshall added 57 on 18 rushes, and Marion Grice had 48 yards and a touchdown on his 13 runs.
Foster also had a game high 7 catches, for a game high 107 yards, including a 49 yard catch and run, and the touchdown that put Arizona St. ahead with a minute and a half left. Grice had 6 catches, for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns
The Beavers' Sean Mannion tossed all 4 of the interceptions against Washington before being relieved by Cody Vaz, who completed 7 of 11 passes, and drove Oregon St. for the game tieing touchdown he threw to Connor Hamlett. As a result, Vaz will start this week.
Vaz should have the services of Markus Wheaton back. Wheaton was knocked out of the game against the Huskies in the second quarter, which should restore the Beavers' usual balance opposite Brandin Cooks, who had 9 catches for 123 yards, including a 54 yard touchdown pass, against Washington.
The turnovers frustrated the Beavers, who out rushed and out passed Washington despite being without Wheaton for much of the game. Storm Woods' 90 yards rushing, plus 22 more by Cooks, produced the second best rushing night of the season for Oregon St.
The 'Cats' Matt Scott watched Nick Foles fall just short in last year's Arizona-USC shootout, which the Trojans won 48-41, and decided to not come up short this year when he got his shot. Scott completed only 27 of 50 throws, for "only" 369 yards, shy of what Barkley threw for, but he also threw for 3 touchdowns, and only 1 interception, 1 less than Barkley.
And Scott also ran for 100 yards, and a touchdown, on 15 carries. And Austin Hill "only" had 10 catches, for "just" 259 yards, which would have been a contender for player of the week honors had Lee not been having a record book day.
But the 'Cats also got a game high 129 yards and a touchdown on a game high 28 carries by Ka'Deem Carey. And they got a big defensive effort from linebacker Marquis Flowers, who had both of the interceptions of Barkley, as well as forcing a fumble, striping USC's Silas Redd deep in Arizona territory, probably saving a score, and earning him the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor.
The Bruins got their usual 1-2 punch from Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin in their win over Arizona St. in Tempe. Hundley completed 19 of 29 passes, for 274 yards and 4 touchdowns. Damien Thigpen only got 3 of those throws, but he got 92 yards and 2 touchdowns with them, one a 65 yarder.
Hundley, who is from the Phoenix area, also ran for 27 yards in his homecoming, which supported Franklin's game high 26 carries for a game high 164 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. The pair also accounted for 60 of the 65 yards in UCLA's game winning drive in the last minute and a half of the game.
UCLA will also unveil special, dark blue uniforms (helmets, jerseys, and pants) for the game, which is homecoming in Westwood.
With only 3 night games in the country, 2 in the Pac-12, an interesting choice presents itself to tv viewers, as the other option, which is on the CBS Sports Channel, is the Mt. West Conference showdown between San Diego St. (6-3, 4-1) at #19 Boise St. (7-1, 4-0). A game that has some relevance in several Pac-12 markets, as well as in the east, with the Aztecs and Broncos set to become the western face of the (soon to be really) Big East next year. And wider distribution than the Pac-12 channel. While the average fan focuses on the action on the field, this could be critical evening for recruiting and ad sales.
Here's the complete, national schedule, adjusted for eastern time zone bias.