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Pac-12 roundup: Utah clinches Pac-12 South, moves closer to College Football Playoff

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Rivalry week was a dull affair in the Pac-12. Utah vs. Oregon on Friday won’t be.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Yet again, as the rest of the country lost their minds, the Pac-12 remained uncharacteristically calm. Last week’s insane Oregon State-Washington State and Oregon-ASU games were proof that #Pac12AfterDark is still alive, but there was no excitement in the west this week.

Of course, boring football and bad football are not the same thing. The conference’s best two teams won this week, and their long-awaited head-on collision is only a few days away. Even better, the conference is totally alive for the Playoff for the first time since 2016. So, for now, we’ll forgive the conference for it’s calm demeanor this year.

Here’s our roundup of this week’s five non-Arizona Pac-12 games. For coverage of Arizona’s loss to ASU, go to our football section.

Washington Huskies 31, Washington State 13

Another Chris Petersen-Mike Leach Apple Cup, another victory for Petersen’s Huskies, as UW stayed in control all day to beat their archrivals.

Washington may have had a disappointing season, and Jacob Eason hasn’t always been great, but there’s no doubt he can throw a beautiful pass. He only went 15-for-22 for 244 yards and a touchdown on Friday, but some of those throws would have been admired on Sunday as well. With some help from Salvon Ahmed’s 86 rushing yards and Richard Newton’s two running scores, UW had no trouble.

62 pass attempts. That’s how many WSU star Anthony Gordon had in this game, and as usual, he completed most of them. Still, his 48-for-62 performance was marred by just 302 yards and two costly picks. Washington State will still be bowling, but it has to be frustrating for this team to not be able to get one up on the Huskies. Mike Leach certainly was, going off to a reporter after the game. They’ll have to wait until 2020 for revenge.

No. 14 Oregon Ducks 24, Oregon State Beavers 10

A week after getting their hearts ripped out in Tempe, Oregon bounced back to deliver similar heartbreak to their archrivals to the north, winning Civil War over Oregon State.

After one of the worst performances of his career last week, Justin Herbert returned and looked passable. He ended up 18-for-30 for 174 yards and a score, which aren’t super impressive but look much better than his stats last Saturday. Oregon’s offense was weirdly subdued against a mediocre OSU defense. Still, Travis Dye, CJ Verdell, and Cyrus Habibi-Likio combined for 170 yards and a score, and Mykael Wright’s touchdown return kept the Ducks ahead.

Oregon State was without Jake Luton due to injury today, and the preview of their future quarterback Tristan Gebbia went alright. The Beavers played it safe, as shwon by Gebbia’s 26-for-40 peformance for 243 yards. Still, Gebbia didn’t screw anything up, but without much help from Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce, he couldn’t lead the team to victory. Jonathan Smith still deserves a ton of credit for getting OSU within one game of a bowl, and he’ll hope to build on that with Gebbia in the future.

No. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 45, Stanford Cardinal 24

In the swan song for Stanford’s worst season since Jim Harbaugh’s first, the Cardinal managed to slow down Notre Dame for a half before eventually getting bowled over.

Stanford was probably always going to regress this season, but that process was sped along a lot by injuries. Davis Mills started at quarterback yet again for the Cardinal, and was once again average. He finished 28-for-46 for 276 yards and two scores, and was actually keeping pace with Ian Book in the first half. As usual though, almost no support came from the running game, and Mills just couldn’t outduel the Irish for 60 minutes. The best thing Stanford did today was maybe find a star receiver for 2020; sophomore Michael Wilson caught ten passes for 96 yards.

Stanford finishes the year 4-8 with a 3-6 conference record. It is their worst record since a 3-9 campaign in 2007, and even that was salvaged by the classic upset of No. 1 USC. Notre Dame, meanwhile, sweeps their two Pac-12 rivalries for the second straight year.

No. 6 Utah Utes 45, Colorado Buffaloes 15

It was a bit of a slow start, but once the Utes got rolling, Colorado had no answer for them. Thanks to the dominating win, Utah is headed to the Pac-12 Championship and has their eyes set on the Playoff.

Utah has gotten around on offense this season by running as few plays as possible and refusing to go down on any one of them. Tyler Huntley has completed 75% of his passes this season, and he actually improved that number against CU with a 14-for-17 performance for 165 yards and two scores. As usual, Zack Moss and the Ute rushing attack was ruthless. Moss went for 88 yards and the team finished with 207, with three touchdowns on the ground. Even Kyle Whittingham’s always amazing special teams got involved, with a punt return TD by Demari Simpkins.

For Colorado, this is a painful loss. This is the third straight year the Buffs will finish 5-7, and while that is probably a mild success in Mel Tucker’s first year, he’ll be rebuilding big toime on offense next year. Senior Steven Montez went 17-for-26 for 157 yards and two scores in his last collegiate game, and likely-to-depart Laviska Shenault Jr. caught four passes for 43 yards in his last game in black and gold.

The Buffs will have to work towards finally getting that sixth win with a rebuilt offense and a still building defense next season. Meanwhile, Utah is off to face Oregon in Santa Clara on Friday, and a Utah win along with a Georgia loss to LSU will put the Utes in the driver’s seat for the four-seed, although the winner of the Oklahoma-Baylor game will be over their shoulder and could overtake them.

California Golden Bears 28, UCLA Bruins 18

In the battle of the UC schools with blue and gold color schemes and bear-themed mascots, the team from the north pulled out a victory in Chase Garbers’ long-awaited return.

Cal’s hot start this season was largely mediated by a mild improvement on offense. That was mostly attributable to Garbers. After going down with an injury in the ASU loss, the Golden Bears had gone 2-5 without him. The Cal-UCLA game was going to be closely contested, and with Garbers replacing Devon Modster, Cal had the edge. Garbers went 17-for-29 for 230 yards for a touchdown and a pick. Those aren’t great numbers, but for the Golden Bears’ offense, this was a godsend. The real Cal breadwinner in Pasadena was Christopher Brown Jr., who went for 111 yards and two scores on 18 carries.

For the Bruins, this loss is a disappointing end to another season where the team looked markedly better in November. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has clearly improved this year, and his statline in the final game of his sophomore year shows this. He went 23-for-39 for 278 yards for one score and one interception. He and Garbers basically matched each other, but the suffocating Cal defense contained running back Joshua Kelley, and that was the difference. Chip Kelly’s third season in Pasadena will hopefully start much faster than his first two.