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Around The Pac-12 On The Bye Week: Oregon State is for Real

Christian Petersen - Getty Images

Arizona had Week 7 off to regroup, while its last two opponents traveled for showdowns with independent opponents and varied results.

Oregon State proved it's for real, hanging 42 points on BYU with back-up quarterback Cody Vaz behind center. The Beaver reserve surpassed 300 yards and scored three touchdowns. Vaz likely has two more starts while Mannion recovers from knee surgery, the next two in the Pac-12 against struggling Utah next week and at Washington in two weeks.

His performance against one of the premiere defenses came as a surprise to everyone -- except Mike Riley.

"I don't think anybody in our locker room was particularly surprised Cody played well," Riley said in his post-game press conference. "I think they've had faith in him as a teammate for a long time. I knew this was going to be a hard venue to step into but I thought guys helped him out and made plays."

Riley might need every play he can get from Vaz with OSU leading rusher (and noted Arizona punisher) Storm Woods lost to injury. OSU hasn't been particularly vested in the rush this season, with Mannion and now Vaz connecting well with the outstanding Beaver receiving corps. Still, UW and UU have been two of the better defenses in the conference and having a balance of the rush to keep opponents off-balance is important.

Stanford had its second game in the last three without an offensive touchdown. Of course between those two performances was the 54-point effort it had against the Arizona defense. Stepfan Taylor might wish he could transfer a yard of his 142 accrued against UA to Saturday's game at Notre Dame. He was oh-so close to extending overtime -- some might contend he scored. But the call in Notre Dame Stadium was that he was short, perhaps serving as the karmic penance for the Bush Push.


Washington had its second impressive defensive performance in conference play, but was unable to muster much offense in its loss to USC. The reversal from last season is one of the more fascinating in the conference. The Huskies are struggling mightily without stud running back Chris Polk gone, ranked No. 90 rushing the ball at 131 yards per game. Even more disconcerting is that UW is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry.

The Huskies' inability to consistently establish the rush is contributing to Keith Price's under-performing, a shame for UW because as mentioned, Justin Wilcox has the defense playing great. USC had to earn what it could muster against the Dawgs, which is becoming more regular for the preseason conference favorite.

Since losing at Stanford, the Trojans are 3-0 but not overly impressive on offense. Still, with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee in the receiving corps, it's only a matter of time before they start clicking with Matt Barkley more in a rhythm akin to last season. USC flipped the switch in late October a year ago -- Arizona fans should hope a similar resurgence doesn't commence Oct. 27 this year.


Despite starting slow at putrid Colorado, and failing to make good on linebacker Brandon Magee's shutout goal, the Sun Devils lowered the boom in the second half to move to 5-1. ASU leads the South division as its sole unbeaten.

But the Sun Devils' five wins are against opponents with a combined record of 13-19; that mark falls to a much uglier 8-18 when 5-1 Northern Arizona is removed from the equation. In fact, NAU is the sole team with a record over .500 ASU has faced all year. Missouri sits at 3-4.

Sparky can't be blamed for the structure of its schedule, and ASU has largely handled its business. The schedule gets a lot more challenging, and quickly with No. 2 Oregon visiting Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday night. Thereafter, the Sun Devils travel to Oregon State, USC and Arizona, and get UCLA and Washington State at home.

So are you buying or selling ASU as a legitimate Pac-12 South title contender?


Washington State was perilously close to its third final score in single digits of the season, but scored a garbage touchdown in the fourth quarter well after Cal had sealed its second Pac-12 win. Mike Leach came to Pullman with impressive offensive credentials, WSU returning several important skill position players and the promise of putting up big points.

Yet, the Cougars have been anemic. Leach has played musical chairs between Connor Halliday and Jeff Tuel at quarterback, and the WSU head coach has also chided upperclassmen for "zombie-like" play.