If the Pac-12 was the “Conference of Cannibals” in the past few seasons, they’ve really outdone themselves this year. Despite keeping quite a few teams in the Associated Press Poll each week, every team in the conference has at least one loss, and only two are undefeated in conference play.
Oh yeah, and it’s only the first week of October.
The Pac-12 is on thin ice in the Playoff race, but the trade off has been thrilling football. Plenty of storylines are already intersecting, and there’s been plenty of fun games thus far. Three more were added to the roll this week, in addition to Arizona’s thrilling win over Colorado. Here’s our roundup of those three Pac-12 games.
No. 13 Oregon 17, California 7
For a while, it looked like Oregon was on upset alert in Eugene and that Cal could be back on track. Ultimately, the Ducks kept their playoff hops alive and got the win.
After quarterback Chase Garbers went down against Arizona State last week, backup and UCLA transfer Devon Modster didn’t look great. After a week of starter reps, Modster wasn’t too impressive again. He started great, leading a touchdown drive in the first quarter coming off an Oregon turnover. After that, the Bears ran into a ton of trouble moving the ball, and Modster threw two picks. He finished with a statline of 17-for-34 for 190 yards with one score and two interceptions.
Modster’s counterpart, NFL prospect Justin Herbert, started rough with an interception that was notably tipped. On the whole though, he looked like himself against a stiff Cal defense. Herbert went 20-for-33 for 214 yards and one each of touchdowns and interceptions. He was helped by a great game on the ground for Travis Dye and CJ Verdell, particularly Dye. Taking into account the Golden Bears defense, and forgetting a spout of turnovers in the first quarter, Oregon did alright to score 17 points and get the win.
California gets a bye week before hosting Oregon State in Berkeley. Oregon only has six days to get ready to host Colorado in Autzen Friday night.
Oregon State 48, UCLA 31
After taking an absurd victory over Washington State two weeks ago, UCLA seems back to their old tricks of being one of the worst teams in the Pac-12, losing at home to the rebuilding Beavers.
OSU may be rebuilding, but anyone who has watched them this year knows that this team has improved in year 2 under Johnathan Smith. One key aspect of that has been a healthy Jake Luton. The sixth-year senior went 18-for-26 for 285 yards and five touchdowns, plus one one the ground. Feature back Artavis Pierce went for 117 yards and Oregon State’s seventh touchdown, and receiver Isaiah Hodgins grabbed 10 receptions for 123 yards. OSU’s defense wasn’t awesome, but this offense has shown that they’re closer to success than most people think.
Without quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, out with injury, Chip Kelly was forced to turn to sophomore Austin Burton for his first career start. In that first start Burton didn’t look too bad, going 27-for-41 for 236 yards and a touchdown. He was asked to throw a lot of short passes, and he mostly succeeded. Overall though, the offense couldn’t keep up with Oregon State’s, and now UCLA is 1-5.
Oregon State hosts Utah in Corvallis next weekend, hoping to pull a stunner. UCLA will have a bye followed by a Thursday game at Stanford.
Stanford 23, No. 15 Washington 13
Almost nobody in the world would have picked Stanford to win almost any game just a couple of weeks ago. Nevertheless, the Cardinal utterly outplayed a talented Huskies team for the upset.
Stanford’s offense wasn’t exactly a fine-tuned machine going into the season, but injuries had turned this offense into a weight around Stanford’s neck. Almost the entire offensive line has been injured, along with star quarterback K.J. Costello. Somehow though, a lot of freshman blocking for the previously unimpressive Davis Mills owned a good Washington defense. Mills went 21-for-30 for 293 yards and a score. Cameron Scarlett, another previously unimpressive performer, balled out for 151 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries.
Perhaps an even bigger story than Stanford's offense was Washington’s offense, or lack thereof. Former five-star Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason was supposed to be a sparkplug into Washington’s offense, and while he had looked solid before tonight, he was harassed by the Cardinal defense. Eason finished 16-for-36 for 206 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Washington was playing from behind for most of the game, and Eason simply didn’t get it done against an average defense. Stanford deserves credit for controlling time of possession and scoring enough points, but Washington’s defense looked bad, adding only 88 rushing yards to Eason’s 206 in the air.
Stanford will host UCLA the Thursday after next. Washington will have to travel to Tucson on Saturday to face Arizona.