Oh #Pac12AfterDark, how we’ve missed you.
After a relatively chaos-free first few weeks of October, it seemed like the Conference of Champions actually had its head on straight for once. Only one surprising result happened in Week 9, but thanks to two fun late-night shootouts, the Pac-12 definitely got a spotlight this weekend.
That spotlight is here to stay. Oregon is almost guaranteed to enter the AP Top 10 this week, and Utah is a pretty safe bet to reach that elite group as well. With five weeks left, the Pac-12 has two teams in CFP contention, admittedly on the fringes, but they’re there.
How did the rest of the conference fare? Find out in this week’s Pac-12 Roundup:
USC 35, Colorado 31
Despite the Buffaloes’ issues this season, Folsom Field was rocking and ready for Colorado to blow open the Pac-12 South on a Friday night. It was a good attempt, but the Trojans survived and maintain control of the division.
USC backup quarterback Kedon Slovis has looked like a true freshman a lot this season, in that he’s shown tons of promise while also having some baffling games. Luckily for the Trojans, he looked like an upperclassman Friday night. Slovis finished 30-for-44 for 406 yards and four scores, plus one interceptions. He had help in the form of Michael Pittman Jr., who eviscerated a bad CU defense for 156 yards and seven catches, two of which reached the end zone. The Trojans needed every yard and every point.
Colorado’s defense isn’t good this year, but CU’s offense played just about perfectly in front of the raucous crowd. Steven Montez returned to form with a 27-for-43 effort for324 yards and three touchdowns. It helped that he had Laviska Shenault Jr. to throw to, as he managed to match Pittman’s performance. Shenault finished with nine catches for a stunning 172 yards, plus a touchdown. The Buffs offense had the team in the lead well into the fourth, but a late USC score ruined the upset bid.
USC is now at 5-3 (4-1) and owns the tiebreaker over Utah in the South. The Trojans have their game of the year against Oregon at home next weekend. Win and a 9-3 division champ season opens up. Lose, and Clay Helton might be in trouble.
Colorado falls to 3-5 (1-4) and heads to UCLA next Saturday.
UCLA 42, Arizona State 32
There were a lot of surprising results on a fun college football Saturday, but here in the west, the biggest surprise had to be UCLA’s thrashing of Arizona State that a late comeback by the Sun Devils barely masked.
UCLA’s goal under Chip Kelly was probably “be better in November than September and get ready for 2020” all along, but it’s still shocking to see it in action. Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s maturation is a huge reason the improvement has happened. After a turnover-filled non-conference slate, DTR has looked pretty good thus far, and looked good against ASU, finishing 16-for-23 for 176 yards and two scores. Of course, having Joshua Kelley go off for 164 yards and four touchdowns helps a lot.
After getting thoroughly juiced by a more talented Utah team last week, it seemed like ASU was getting a get-right game. They did not get right. To be fair, against a mediocre defense, Jayden Daniels looked much better, finishing 20-for-29 for 271 yards and three scores. This offense relies on Eno Benjamin though, especially in opponent territory, and he was shut down for 46 yards on 13 carries. Daniels managed to rush for a decent 67 yards, but with no ground game, ASU fell behind 35-7 and didn’t make it close until the end of the game.
Prepare for the funniest sentence you will read today: UCLA is 3-5 but 3-2 in Pac-12 play, and because the Bruins have yet to play USC and Utah, THEY CONTROL THEIR PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME DESTINY. They host Colorado next.
ASU now gets a legitimate get-right week, as it is on a bye before hosting USC.
Utah 35, California 0
Lost in all the national talk about Oregon being the Pac-12’s best playoff hope is that the team just behind them in the AP Poll is still out there. After a thrashing of shorthanded Cal, that might start to change.
Quarterback injuries were the big story entering this game. Utah’s Tyler Huntley missed the second half against ASU, and was doubtful for most of the week. He announced he was playing a few days ago, and all he did was go 11-fr-17 for 214 yards and a score. The Utes limited him, and pulled him after halftime, but he still looked great. Of course, they could limit him because of the presence of Zack Moss on the roster. The star back went for 115 yards on his 17 carries, with two of those finding the endzone.
Cal, meanwhile, didn’t have the good luck at quarterback that Utah had. Starter Chase Garbers was already out for the season then backup Devon Modster, who has not performed well, was lost last week. Third-string freshman Spencer Brasch looked a lot like ASU's Daniels did last week against Utah’s defense: terrible. Brasch finished the night 7-for-19 for 47 yards, and eventually another freshman in Roddy Rowell was brought in, but didn't help. Cal’s defense is great, but they are in danger of losing out thanks to this offense.
Utah faces its last big challenge next week in a huge game at Washington. The Utes currently sit at 7-1 (4-1). Cal 4-4 (1-4) gets a desperately needed bye to try and heal up before hosting Washington State.
Oregon 37, Washington State 35
The game of the weekend for the Conference of Champions was in Eugene, as Oregon survived one of the weirdest games of the season to stay alive in the Playoff hunt.
It was pretty obvious from the beginning that this was going to be a wacky game. The officiating was strange, some of the play calls from both sides were strange, and, of course, Mike Leach was standing on one sideline.
Still, Justin Herbert came to play, and did just that with a 21-for-30 statline, throwing for 222 yards. Herbert wasn’t the story of the game though, as CJ Verdell obliterated Wazzu for 257 rushing yards on 23 carries plus three touchdowns, including a 89-yard blazer. UO was also helped by a thrilling pick-six in the second quarter by Jevon Holland.
Poor, poor Anthony Gordon. Another weekend lighting up the box score, and another loss for his Cougars. Gordon wasn’t totally himself Saturday, going a respectable 32-for-50 for 406 yards, but pairing three touchdowns with two interceptions. Bryan Arconado and Max Borghi helped keep this a game throughout, but Oregon’s extra possession plus a pick-six proved to be the difference. Wazzu took the lead after a strange Oregon punt at the WSU 33 late in the game, but Oregon drove down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.
Oregon 7-1 (4-1) will be in the AP Top 10 when it heads to the Coliseum to take on USC in a hugely consequential game. Wazzu falls to 4-4 (1-4), and will get a bye before heading to Cal.