It's Turkey Week, and its also the last weekend of the regular season, exclusive of the Pac-12 Championship game, and Oregon St.'s makeup of the Nicholls St. game, postponed in the storm wake of Hurricane Isaac. However, only 4 of the 6 "rivalry" games are being played this weekend, and California isn't even playing, their 3-9 (2-7 in the Pac-12) season already over.
There are 6 games, 3 on Black Friday, followed by 3 on Saturday. Due to the "Notre Dame Affect", the Battle For The City between UCLA and USC was last week, which decided the Pac-12 South Championship, so that the Trojans could host the Irish Saturday evening. This also means Stanford, who played the [Moderately] Big Game against California back in mid October, will be visiting the Bruins, in order to see if they get to have a rematch next week in the Conference Championship game, or if UCLA can earn another trip to Autzen to play Oregon, where they faced the Ducks in last year's initial Pac-12 Title Game (which will only eventuate if Oregon wins the Civil War).
The fun starts Friday at noon, with the Fox channels dividing their audience, a programming decision second only to the Civil War, which has the highest combined ranking of the contesting teams of the weekend, being the only game of the 6 not being shown on a regularly distributed network, being instead relegated to the Pac-12 channel, in terms of dubious programming and exposure moves.
The Utes will be staying at home during the bowl season for the first time in 10 years, after Arizona ran off 17 unanswered 4th quarter points to come from behind for a 34-24 win in Salt Lake City. That happened after Utah had come from behind twice themselves, including a run of 17 consecutive points in the middle periods.
Freshman quarterback Travis Wilson appears to have emerging as the Ute's quarterback for the future, though. Wilson completed 28 of 40 passes, for 311 yards, and both of the touchdowns in that mid-game run, and without any interceptions, easily out-performing Arizona's more heralded Matt Scott.
After rushing for 112 yards on 27 carries against the 'Cats, John White IV will need 127 yards to close out his career with a second consecutive 1,000 yard season, and its a good bet coach Kyle Whittingham will try to get that mark for White against the defense that has given up more points than anyone else in the country.
The Buffs kept it close and competitive for a half, trailing Washington only 7-0 at half time. But as happened time and again, Colorado's lack of depth, experience, and big play capability caught up with them. The Huskies blew the game open, pulling away to a 38-3 win.
Having one of the worst defenses in the country won't work when the offense only runs for 90 yards, and can only pass for 51, which is what happened against Washington.
Last year, the Buffs cost the Utes a shot at the Pac-12 Title with an upset after a similarly disappointing season. This time, its already too late for Colorado to impact the now non-existant post season plans for Utah, but there might still be some interest by the Utes in a pay-back in the one time rivalry that's been re-activated with both teams' move into the Conference. A loss will mean the season will go down as the worst one since '90. [1890.]
Price completed 22 of 29 passes, to 8 different receivers, for 229 yards, and 5 touchdowns, to 5 different receivers, and with no interceptions. Sankey ran for 139 yards on 23 carries, leading a Washington rushing attack that piled up 228 yards.
With wins over Stanford, and then Oregon St. to start their current 4 game winning streak, the Huskies can finish 3rd in the Pac-12 North with an Apple Cup win and an Oregon St. loss in the Civil War. Beating the Cougars would also result in the first 8 win regular season for Washington since 2001.
The Cougars only avoided getting shut out in Tempe when Connor Halliday hooked up with Kristoff Williams for a 54 yard touchdown with 57 seconds left. That represented 22% of the day's offensive production for Washington St. in their 46-7 loss to the Sun Devils that wasn't as close as the score suggests.
After sacks and other miscues were subtracted, the Cougs finished with 1 net rushing yard. That won't work on a day when Halliday and Jeff Tuel combined completed only 42% of their passes, while their defense was allowing the Arizona St. quarterback duo to complete better than 84% of their passes, and allowing 561 total yards.
It's the first Apple Cup not played on a Saturday since 1936, and Husky Nation is not too happy about it. Cross-state travel for this one will conflict with Thanksgiving festivities, and that's going to keep some of the hostile Purple away. Will it impact the atmosphere? Or will it even matter, with most of the Washington St. student body gone for the holiday, and serious doubts as to whether the Cougars will show up (they didn't at Arizona St.). Halliday is apparently going to have to miss the game, due to concussion-like symptoms, meaning it's Tuel's show for better or worse. Coug standout linebacker Travis Long is expected to miss his final game as well.
The Territorial Cup won't be a bowl eligibility elimination game as was widely suspected would be the case at the start of the season, but it will be a factor in who goes where, and with only 7 guaranteed bowl berths if there isn't a second team in the BCS, the loser, especially if its Arizona St., could be in a bit of limbo. That won't do anything to reduce the chippiness this series is known for.
The Sun Devils broke a 4 game losing streak, and averted a possible losing season, becoming bowl eligible in new coach Todd Graham's first year with their blowout win over Washington St.
It was over almost before it started, with Arizona St. going up 18-0 in the first quarter, 32-0 by halftime, and 46-0 with still over 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Taylor Kelly completed 20 of 23 passes, for 246 yards, and 4 touchdowns, 2 of them to Rashad Ross. Michael Eubank completed 7 of 9, for another 55 yards, and another touchdown.
The Wildcats rolled up 320 rushing yards on Utah, led by Ka'Deem Carey's 204 yards, on 26 carries. Carey is the nation's leading rusher this season. Scott only threw for 160 yards, completing just 12 of 27 passes, in his first game back after missing a game due to a concussion, but he did avoid any interceptions as well, and found Austin Hill for the go-ahead touchdown. Scott did run 13 times, for 74 yards, including the 10 yard touchdown run that put Arizona up by 10 points in the second quarter.
What was impressive is how well Arizona ran the ball despite having to come from behind twice, and having the ball more than 10 minutes less than the Utes.
With both new head coaches having had success beyond expectations (Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez can match former coach Mike Stoops' best years in his first campaign with a win), and armed with balanced offenses, this could be an entertaining shootout.
The Ducks saw their National Title hopes take a serious hit in their 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford, and will need a win plus a win by UCLA over the Cardinal to even reach the Pac-12 title game.
Oregon's defense did an adequate job, but the Ducks just couldn't get Kenjon Barner going, never mind De'Anthony Thomas. Barner finished with only 66 yards on 21 carries, and Thomas only had 74 yards of total offense, on 13 touches. And while Marcus Mariota threw for 207 yards, he completed only 21 of 37 passes, and none of them for more than 28 yards.
Mariota did run for a team high 89 yards, but 77 of those came on one run, the only really big play the Ducks had all night against the Stanford defense. And when a 4th down gamble came up short, that drive didn't even hurt the Cardinal.
The Ducks never figured out a solution for the Stanford defensive ends Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner, who were able to get upfield on a consistent basis, hemming in and hurrying the Oregon zone read offense.
Multiple missed field goals by Alejandro Maldonado, including one in the first possession of overtime, also contributed to the Ducks' demise.
The Beavers blew open what was a 14-7 game after the first quarter, as Sean Mannion, who returned to the starting lineup, threw 3 second quarter touchdown passes, opening a 35-7 lead. Mannion finished with 4 scoring tosses, and completed 24 of 34 passes, for 325 yards.
The Beavers' 62-14 win was the second most points they have ever scored against a conference opponent, as was the worst loss the not so Golden Bears have suffered in California team history. It was the last straw, leading to the firing of head coach Jeff Tedford.
If Oregon wins the Civil War, it will pretty likely ensure the conference gets a 2nd. BCS berth IF Stanford beats UCLA, and claims the Pac-12 North, as its highly unlikely the Ducks wouldn't still get an at large BCS berth. Any other combination of outcomes opens up all sorts of possibilities, which will make a number of other games relevant to every team in the conference.
The Cardinal got a great game from freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who was making his second start, and the first one on the road. Hogan completed 25 of 36 passes, for 211 yards, and the game tieing 10 yard touchdown toss to Zach Ertz, with only 1:35 left in regulation.
Oregon St. fans will recall Ertz catching the game winning touchdown pass from Hogan late in the 4th quarter a week earlier against the Beavers. Ertz is Hogan's favorite target, catching 11 balls for 106 yards against the Ducks, after being Stanford's leading receiver against the Beavers as well.
Hogan also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown, a good compliment for the 161 yards Stepfan Taylor rolled up on 33 carries.
The Bruins wrested control of Los Angeles away from the Trojans, and claimed the Pac-12 South from their cross-town rivals as well, with an impressive 38-28 win. UCLA jumped out to a 17 point lead in the first quarter, and opened the lead to 24-0 midway in the second quarter, on the first of 2 Johnathan Franklin touchdown runs.
Even more impressive, after a 20-0 USC run, and then after the Trojans pulled within 3 points in the middle of the 4th quarter, the Bruins answered with touchdown drives of their own.
Franklin finished with 171 yards on 29 carries, including the 29 yard touchdown run that about put the game away with just over 4 minutes left. And Brett Hundley was an efficient 22 of 30 passing, for 234 yards and a touchdown, on a rainy day, the first time that's happened for a USC-UCLA game since in the 60's, that produced the turnover that the Trojans' George Uko recovered for the touchdown that made it 24-20 barely a minute into the second half.
8 of the completions went to Shaquelle Evans, for 114 yards.
If UCLA wants to face Oregon again, OR host the Pac-12 Championship game in a rematch against Stanford, they would do well to find a way to take Ertz away from Hogan, who showed wisdom beyond his years in quickly making the 6'6", 252 lb. rhinoceros of a tight end his favorite target.
The Irish ascended to the top of the college football world with a 38-0 win over an asleep at the wheel Wake Forest team, and more importantly, Oregon's loss to Stanford and Kansas St.'s 52-24 loss at Baylor. The Wildcats' loss was stunning not only for Baylor's 17 unanswered 3rd quarter points, but also the fact that Kansas St. didn't score a point over the last 27:25 of the game.
Notre Dame rolled up 584 yards of offense against the un-Deamon-like Deacons, as Everett Golson completed 20 of 30 passes, for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Cierre Wood ran for 150 yards, including a 68 yard touchdown run to get the Irish started, on only 11 carries.
A Notre Dame win will send the Irish to the BCS National Championship game, doubtless against the winner of the SEC Championship game in 2 weeks between Alabama and Georgia, where the SEC will be looking for their 7th consecutive National Championship.
The Trojans would figure to win when they match UCLA's rushing yardage, as Curtis McNeal ran for 161 yards on 21 carries, and Matt Barkley throws for over 300 yards, and 3 touchdowns. But a pair of interceptions blunted that, and even another highlight video game by Marquise Lee, who had 9 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown, wasn't enough.
Barkley was knocked out of the game late, and though he will be back for his final game as a Trojan, in whatever bowl game USC winds up in, he will miss this game. Barkley also missed the USC home game against Notre Dame 2 years ago, after suffering a knee injury against Oregon St.
Freshman Matt Wittek, who came on in relief of Barkley, and completed all 3 passes he threw, will make his first career start against the Irish. Wittek previously saw limited mop-up action in the Hawaii and Colorado games.
As a result, Notre Dame finds themselves in the rare (in recent times) position of being favored against USC. The Trojans have beat the Irish in 9 of the last 10 years.
If USC does not upset Notre Dame, its likely they will be the first team ranked #1 in the preseason to finish unranked since Mississippi in the early 60's. The Trojans are also the first pre-season #1 to lose 4 games since Auburn in 1984.
But the biggest surprise, and a big motivation for USC to salvage their season with an upset of #1 Notre Dame is the prospect of the Pac-12 having half their teams in the BCS top 25, and without the Trojans being a part of that.