The college football season is winding down. With only two weeks left in the regular season, jockeying for final positioning is getting intense. Despite that, the Pac-12 only managed to produce one close game this weekend.
Games in Pullman and Berkeley were interesting into the second half, but only the evening’s ASU-OSU game produced 60 minutes of fun. Regardless, the Pac-12 picture continues to get clearer.
For coverage of Arizona’s loss to Oregon, head to our UA football section here.
Here’s what else went on in the Pac-12.
Two teams in desperate need of a victory met on the Palouse on Saturday, and the home team got the win. The Cougars’ bowl hopes remain alive, while Stanford’s own hopes of continuing their bowl streak are now on life support.
It’s becoming standard procedure for Anthony Gordon to throw 60 passes per game. That may not seem that weird for a team coached by Mike Leach, but it’s excessive even by his standards. Gordon has earned the right to throw the ball so much though, and he put on another exquisite performance against Stanford, finishing 44-for-60 for 520 yards and five touchdowns. Despite Gordon’s 60 passes, running back Max Borghi got his share of action, taking 15 carries for 111 yards and a garbage-time touchdown.
Stanford’s worst season in a decade continues to spiral out of control. K.J. Costello missed another game with injury, and his backup Davis Mills couldn’t do enough. Mills actually put up solid numbers, going 32-for-49 for 494 yards and three scores. Unfortunately, he also threw two picks and had no help from the running game, which only got 16 yards on 11 carries. Mills single-handedly kept the Cardinal in the game until the fourth quarter, but Gordon simply outpaced him late in the game to make the game appear more like a blowout than it was.
The Cougars (5-5, 2-5) remaining games are at home against Oregon State and on the road at Washington. Stanford (4-6, 3-5) has home games against Cal and Notre Dame remaining.
The old saying about college football rebuilds goes “first you lose big, then you lose close, then you win close, then you keep on winning.” Jonathan Smith’s Oregon State program has entered a nice sweet spot between the second and third steps, and scored an upset over ASU.
The Beavers were decimated by Washington’s defense last week, getting shut out. OSU’s offense had a nice rebound this weekend, and it got them the win. Jake Luton went 26-for-35 for 288 yards and four scores in his last game in Reser Stadium. As usual, his favorite target Isaiah Hodgins brought his A-game, catching six of those completions and one of those touchdowns. The Beavers’ usually helpful running game was stymied, with Artavis Pierce and Jermar Jefferson going for merely 3.1 yards per carry. Luton’s big day carried OSU to its first major home win in a long time.
What was once a promising season for ASU is now almost guaranteed to be a step back from last season. Considering how well they’ve replaced Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry, that has to be a disappointment. Freshman Jayden Daniels hasn’t been perfect this season, but he’s helped ASU more than he’s hurt them, and that continued in Corvallis. Daniels went 24-for-36 for 334 yards and three scores, and almost led ASU to yet another comeback close win. It came down to a go-ahead two-point conversion attempt, and after a wild play, the conversion was failed, and ASU left Corvallis with a loss.
Jonathan Smith has already earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year in my eyes. The 5-5 (4-3) Beavers head to Wazzu next weekend, and the winner will be bowl eligible. The Beavers likely need to upset the Cougs to hit six wins, as their other remaining game is at Oregon.
ASU (5-5, 2-5) hosts Oregon next Saturday before hosting Arizona in the Territorial Cup.
No. 7 Utah Utes 49, UCLA Bruins 3
The silliest storyline of the Pac-12 South died in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. UCLA was eliminated from contention for the division crown, as Utah continued their crash course to Santa Clara with a domination of the Bruins.
For as much talk as Oregon has gotten (and deserves), it feels like the Utes are just casually standing to the side, waiting for their likely battle with the Ducks in three weeks. Utah is probably a few points worse than Oregon on a neutral field, but this is a solid as hell team. As usual, Tyler Huntley was ruthlessly efficient through the air, going 14-for-18 for 335 yards and two scores, with those touchdowns being a nice 69-yarder and a beautiful 83-yarder. As usual, Zack Moss was brilliant, going for 127 yards on 17 carries and two more scores. As usual, the defense was suffocating, spotting UCLA 3 points and then holding them to 219 yards from then on, including a scoop n’ score. The Utes are rounding into form, and they were already pretty darn good.
As for UCLA, this was a pretty rude return to Earth. Nobody would call UCLA a good team during their three-game winning streak, but they looked solid. Solid wasn’t gonna cut it at Utah. Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked a lot like his September self on Saturday, finishing 20-for-36 for 219 yards and two picks. Running back Joshua Kelley regressed as well, managing just 78 yards on his 19 carries. Combine that with Utah’s pretty methodical offense putting up explosive plays at will on the Bruin defense, and this is one game the Bruins would like to forget.
Utah now sits at 9-1 (6-1 Pac-12) and will be in the College Football Playoff conversation if they can win out. That would involve beating Arizona next weekend and the Colorado on rivalry weekend.
UCLA is 4-6 (4-3 Pac-12) heading into next Saturday’s rivalry against USC. They’ll finish the season with Cal coming to Pasadena.
They might not control their destiny, but people are forgetting that USC has a plausible path to the Pac-12 Championship. That is partly because of an easy win over the Golden Bears in Berkeley.
Regardless of what happens to Clay Helton this season, the 2020 Trojans are going to have a great quarterback. Promising sophomore JT Daniels went down early this season, and true freshman Kedon Slovis has greatly improved throughout this season.
Saturday, Slovis went 29-for-35 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. It took him a while to catch fire, but once he did in the second half, USC had control. With the new air raid offense, Slovis was always going to have a huge burden and he’s handled it well, particularly in November.
As for Cal, it was the return of bad Devon Modster against the Men of Troy. Starter Chase Garbers finally returned from injury tonight and it seemed like Cal had a chance...until he went down again.
In came Modster, who looked pretty good last week, but he regressed against the talented USC defense. Modster went 11 for 22 for a mere 92 yards and two picks. If it wasn’t for a solid running night for DeShawn Collins and a good start for a great Cal defense, the Golden Bears would have been in a lot of trouble. Of course, even with those things, the game turned ugly. Modster will need to look like his Wazzu game self in order for Cal to win.
USC (7-4, 6-2) has just one game left, hosting UCLA next week. A win and a Utah loss against one of two inferior opponents would send the Trojans to Santa Clara. Meanwhile, Cal (5-5, 2-5) will finish their season with a tour of California, visiting Stanford and UCLA to close the year.