A Look Back at Saturday around the Pac-12
Offense: The obvious headlines surround injuries, but as Chip Kelly reminds all fans, injuries happen and good teams have to overcome them when they occur. Oregon was in position Saturday thanks in large part to Darron Thomas' very good first half throwing the ball. With only one really horrendous throw, he showed why he is a clear favorite as the starter.
Let's not discount, though, the job the offensive line has done since the loss to LSU. This unit gelled very quickly and are performing as a unit very effectively. Their cohesion and effort are a large part of the 314 yards per game on the ground, including another 327 against the Sun Devils.
Defense: Many will look solely at the yards gained by ASU, 460, and make some assumptions that this was just another one of those bend don't break type games. But that would be a very unfair portrayal of this game. With the game in hand at 41-27 with just 4:30 left, Oregon made the decision to keep everything underneath, giving up the short passes to protect against an explosion play that might have allowed the Sun Devils a glimmer of hope. The Devils gained 87 yards on that last drive, 30 on the ground and 53 through the air. Prior to that the Oregon Defense, especially in the 3rd quarter was playing lights out.
After taking their first possession 67 yards for a touchdown, ASU managed only 2 total yards the rest of the quarter. During that stretch, Osweiler was harassed and hounded including being sacked twice on consecutive plays on their last possession of the quarter. In the meantime, the defensive stops gave the offense life. Oregon scored 17 unanswered points to take control of the game.
Coaching: I have seen some wonder why it takes so long to make adjustments to what the other team is doing. This strikes me as rather ironic as the main complaint during Bellotti's coaching tenure is that the team would come out very hot, then the other team would adjust and the Ducks would "hang on" for a victory. It seems the "complaint de'jour" during Mike Bellotti's tenure is that we did not make halftime adjustments; now the complaint is that we don't make adjustments early enough. When all is said and done, the Duck offense is a rhythm offense, it needs time to "do it's thing." That is a tough pill to swallow at times, but it is difficult to argue with the results.
Around the rest of the conference:
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have some deficiencies that were exposed late Saturday night, but their remaining schedule should make for an easy road to the Pac-12 South title.
Arizona: The Wildcats had the week off; and used it to move a new direction firing Mike Stoops. The rest of this season is, essentially, lost for the Wildcats, save for the hope of ruining Arizona State's plans in their rivalry game.
California: The Bears are a mess. Their best athletes, Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones, are relying on a quarterback seemingly in over his head. Against USC, Maynard was not very good; and that is putting it kindly. Their defense is not at the level it was last season. With their exceptional recruiting over the last several years, one has to wonder how much longer Tedford has to "work it out." He has the talent to win, but not enough wins.
Colorado: The saving grace is that their new coach has the team playing extremely hard every game. They do not give up. That being said, there just is not much talent on either side of the ball in Colorado. Their lackluster recruiting will make this a longer term rebuilding job.
Oregon State: the Beavers, like Colorado, are a product of several years of poor recruiting. There just is not that much talent in Corvallis. The departure of Quizz Rodgers has left a void that the team has been unable to fill. The "guys in the trenches" are not doing their job on either side of the ball. Injuries have hit the team hard, the lack of quality depth is beginning to show in Corvallis.
Stanford: Stanford, looking somewhat like Oregon from last year, started slow again on Saturday, but finished strong. Leading just 10-7 against a revitalized Washington State, Stanford used 28 unanswered points to down the Cougars. Stanford's defense played another solid game as the team relied on the golden arm of Andrew Luck for most of their offensive production.
USC: The Trojans looked good in stretches against Cal on Thursday night, but they are far from their days of ruling the Pac-12. In a watered down South Division, if not for sanctions, they might have a chance to steal the division, but their toughest games still lay ahead. Their running game was not very good, but their run defense held Cal to just 1.2 yards per carry on the ground. The defense sacked Maynard 3 times and forced 3 interceptions.
UCLA: the Bruins also had the week off. Rick Neuheisel may be able to stave off the axe for another season. The Bruins have four winnable games ahead (Colorado, Arizona, Utan, Cal) as well as the finale against the Trojans.
Utah: Utah was able to gut out a tough win Saturday, but that victory said more about the weaknesses of the Big east than Utah's strength. The offensive line did not look very good most of the game. The defense did a nice job of containing Ray Graham of Pitt, but they still look like their only chance for conference wins are going to be against Arizona and Colorado.
Washington: Washington is looking like a real deal mid-way through 2011. Keith Price threw for another 4 touchdowns against Colorado as the Husky defense controlled the Buffs for most of the game. their depth is not great, but their starting units are good and the Huskies will have a say in who wins the North division title. The meat of their schedule begins this Saturday with a trip to Stanford.
Washington State: The Cougars are an improved team this year. Marshall Lobbestael, the back-up QB has played well in Jeff Tuel's absence. Though the Cougars are improved, they still have three very tough games ahead of them. The Cougars will need to beat Oregon State, Utah and Cal to become bowl eligible. Who would have thought that the words "bowl eligible" and "Washington State" would be uttered in 2011? They have a legitimate shot.
PAC-12 Schedule for Week 7:
UCLA @ Arizona 6:00PM
Oregon at Colorado 12:30PM
Utah @ California 4:00PM
USC at Notre Dame 4:30PM
Washington at Stanford 5:00PM
Oregon State at Washington State 7:30PM