Questions and answers for the Pac-12 North

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
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With the Pac-12 schedule beginning in earnest Week 5, we at the Pac-12 blog identified one question that each team has answered thus far in a satisfactory way and one that still needs to be figured out. First up: the Pac-12 North.

Cal

One question that has been answered: Will Cal be competitive? The Bears have taken the biggest step forward in the conference and can no longer be written off as an automatic win for teams looking up and down their schedule. Saturday's loss to Arizona was a heartbreaker, but the progress is obvious.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the defense hold up for four quarters? In its two games against FBS teams, Cal has allowed 13 total points in the first half and 60 points in the second half. That disparity needs to be rectified.

Oregon

One question that has been answered: Will Oregon be OK without Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and De'Anthony Thomas? The answer is yes, yes, yes -- a resounding yes. And that’s nothing against those three players, because they’re all very talented. But between the Ducks’ three-headed monster at running back (Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall) and their small army of receivers led by Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe, the Ducks are doing just fine for themselves.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the offensive line pull it together and protect Marcus Mariota? The Heisman hopeful was sacked seven times Saturday night in Pullman, Washington. SEVEN. TIMES. It is a little more understandable when you consider a true freshman was starting a left tackle and a former walk-on was starting at right tackle. Now, we know the mantra that every backup prepares like a starter, but it’s clear the Ducks are struggling after losing Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher. Mariota won’t be 100 percent by the end of the season if he’s sacked seven times a game. That falls on the offensive line.

Oregon State

One question that has been answered: How will the Beavers try to replace Brandin Cooks? “Try” is the key word here, as it’ll be nearly impossible to completely replace Cooks' 128-catch, 1,730-yard, 16-touchdown virtuoso performance of 2013. But in its attempt to pick up the slack, Oregon State is running the ball more effectively (Storm Woods and Terron Ward are averaging more than six yards per carry) and Sean Mannion has a new favorite target: Victor Bolden, who has 18 catches after only grabbing nine all of last season.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Will Oregon State’s rushing defense be better than last year’s? Mannion-to-Cooks was great in 2013, but the Beavers floundered to a .500 regular-season record when their defense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. The unit gave up 5.1 yards per rush last season, and the results haven’t been particularly promising so far in 2014 (allowing 4.7 yards per carry against Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State), but a veteran-heavy front seven still has a chance to post significant improvement. USC’s Buck Allen will provide a hefty challenge this week.

Stanford

One question that has been answered: Will the losses of key contributors on defense, including coordinator Derek Mason, hurt Stanford’s defense? So far, a resounding “no.” The Cardinal are proving that nasty defensive success is more about scheme and cohesion than it is about star power. A finally healthy defensive line duo of David Parry and Henry Anderson has spearheaded a suffocating unit with no glaring weakness: Stanford has already pitched two shutouts and is surrendering only 4.3 points per game. The Cardinal are also leading the nation by registering a sack on 12.5 percent of opponents’ passing attempts.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Who is Stanford’s go-to running back in the post-Tyler Gaffney era? David Shaw is still going with the four-man committee approach, and receiver Ty Montgomery has even received some carries because he’s the only one big enough to replicate the 220-plus-pound size Stanford used to enjoy at the position. The Cardinal would probably like to establish an identity soon because their lack of a go-to weapon has contributed to enormous problems in the red zone (No. 124 nationally in scoring efficiency there).

Washington

One question that has been answered: Will the Huskies be fine at quarterback in the post-Keith Price era? Cyler Miles has been solid, though the level of competition ratchets up considerably Saturday with Stanford’s vaunted defense paying a visit. Miles has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a pick. Meanwhile, the Huskies have introduced a new offensive wrinkle that’s allowed backup Jeff Lindquist to rush for a pair of touchdowns.

One question that hasn’t been answered: How will Washington’s relatively young defensive backfield hold up? Again, so far, so good -- though Georgia State racked up 233 yards of total offense while Washington slept through Saturday’s first half. But freshman Sidney Jones and the rest of this unit will be tested against the dangerous aerial threats of the Pac-12 North. It does look like veteran Marcus Peters is ready to make plays for the Huskies on the back end. He recorded two picks this past week. Washington’s nation-best 19 sacks have certainly made life easier for the team's defensive backs, too.

Washington State

One question that has been answered: Could Connor Halliday be smarter with the ball? Now, he hasn’t had a flawless season, but if Saturday’s close loss against Oregon told us anything, it’s that Halliday can really excel in this offense when he, his receivers and his offense line key in. He threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes and not throwing a single pick (just the third time that has happened since the start of the 2012 season) against the No. 2 team in the nation.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the Washington State team that showed up against Oregon show up for every game the rest of the season? If the team that challenged Oregon -- the one that sacked Mariota seven times, doesn’t throw interceptions, rushes the ball with enough success -- shows up every game, the Cougars will be competitive and have winnable games against Utah, Arizona, Oregon State and Washington. Could they pick up a win over Stanford, USC or Arizona State and still be bowl eligible after their 1-3 start?
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No. 2 Oregon goes into its bye week after surviving a scare against Washington State. Certainly the Ducks are glad to have escaped Pullman with a win, but it was very close to being very different, which would have made this bye week very sour.

But they got the win and improved to 4-0. Though it’s a perfect record, this team is far from perfect and this week, they will try to get a few steps closer to that benchmark. Here are some areas in which the Ducks must improve before they continue their march toward a Pac-12 title.

1. The offensive line must protect Marcus Mariota better

A true freshman at left tackle isn’t exactly a comforting feeling for anyone. Nor is the idea of a former walk-on at right tackle. Nor is the idea of three guys who could play offensive tackle sitting together with braces on their legs, watching these younger guys struggle so mightily.

OK, so there are a lot of non-comforting feelings. No matter how much that hurts, it probably doesn’t hurt quite as much as Mariota did after being sacked seven times against Washington State.

What is the answer? I’d imagine the Ducks are hoping that Jake Fisher will be healthy enough to play against Arizona next Thursday, and that would relieve some of the stress on at least one side of the line. But, as a whole, this group needs to improve fast. It can’t allow Mariota to be hit seven times. In the perfect world, it can’t allow Mariota to be hit at all.

2. Stop giving up so many big plays

The defense has done well in making in game adjustments this season, but it has been a little too porous a little too often. Already this season, the defense has given up 68 plays of 10-plus yards. To put that in perspective, there are 116 teams that have allowed fewer. TCU leads the country allowing just 16 plays of 10-plus yards. Stanford (19) and Oregon State (25) are both in the top 10.

Of those 68 plays, 21 went for 20-plus yards. That, once again, puts Oregon outside of the top 100 nationally in that category. There are definitely times when statistics don’t say too much, and yes, you can say this isn’t too important because Oregon is 4-0. But the Washington State game and the first half of the Michigan State game (heck, the first quarter of the Wyoming game) would have been much, much different if the defense didn’t allow quite so many big plays.

2b. Be better against the pass

Sixty five percent of opposing quarterback completions have resulted in a first down or a touchdown against Oregon. Again, that’s very, very bad (like No. 113 in the country bad). The average completion against Oregon goes for 11.6 yards. And this isn’t one of those situations where you can say, "Well, teams aren’t completing that many passes against us so who cares if 65 percent of them go for a first down or touchdown?" because you would be wrong. Teams are completing 27 passes per game against Oregon. There are only five teams in the country that have more passes completed against them per game -- BYU, Nevada, Bowling Green, Cal and Indiana.

3. Keep using as many people as possible in the offensive attack

The more the Ducks have four different names show up under the running statistics and eight different names show up under the receiving statistics, the more opposing defensive coordinators are going to shake in their boots.

Royce Freeman is leading the way for the Ducks right now with five rushing touchdowns on 48 carries and Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall have both accounted for one rushing touchdown on 40 carries and 21 carries, respectively. In the pass game, Devon Allen, Keanon Lowe and Marshall have all accounted for at least three receptions per game, and Pharaoh Brown and Darren Carrington both have nine catches this season.

It seems really, really basic to say the problem of abundance is a good one to have. But the Ducks need to keep playing this up, especially given the offensive line problems. If opponents know that every single skill position on the field is one that can burn a defense and make them pay, then maybe they won’t throw the kitchen sink at the offensive line? And if they still do, Oregon fans can be grateful they have a quarterback as smart as Mariota who knows how to get the ball to his arsenal of weapons.

After four weeks, we still know nothing

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
11:00
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The Socratic smugness that enveloped me in the wee hours of Sunday morning was a revelation of sorts, though a recognition of futility isn't terribly comforting.

After the tumult of another thrilling weekend, Twitter spun and spun with ostensible wisdom, with Pac-12 and college football philosophers insisting this or that was true based on this or that result. As for me, all I knew is that I knew nothing. Therefore, I am wiser than Twitter, for neither Twitter nor I appears to know anything great and good; but Twitter fancies it knows something, although it knows nothing. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than Twitter, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

Ya know?

Dominant teams? There may not be any. Florida State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon etc. Each seems to be surviving rather than asserting itself. Same holds true in the Pac-12.

The good news is Socrates also believed an unexamined college football season is not worth following. Further, after four confounding weeks, both nationally and within the Pac-12, we figure to scrape and claw toward more substantial revelations this week, at least on the West Coast. Probably. Maybe.

First, just the facts.

Seven Pac-12 teams remain unbeaten, though hardly unblemished. Three in the North Division: Oregon, Washington and Oregon State. And four in the South: Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah.

At least one of those will go down before next weekend, as UCLA visits Arizona State in a critical South clash on Thursday. Both teams have looked vulnerable. Both teams have QB questions, with Taylor Kelly definitely out for the Sun Devils, and Brett Hundley trying to come back from a hyper-extended elbow that knocked him out of the nail-biting win over Texas.

Oregon, the putative top Pac-12 team and favorite to represent the conference in the College Football Playoff, is off this week. The Ducks might be good enough to win the national championship or they might lose three games due to an injury-riddled offensive line or a leaky defense. We've seen Oregon dispatch mighty Michigan State with a dominant second half on both sides of the ball and then cling for dear life at Washington State, the only conference team presently owning a losing record.

Just as UCLA-Arizona State is a separation game in the South, so is Stanford’s visit to Washington on Saturday in the North. We have little feeling on the potency of either. Both have flashed potential on both sides of the ball. Yet both also have looked feckless and discombobulated, which is surprising when you consider the reputations of their respective head coaches. The winner becomes the top potential foil for Oregon in the North.

Or might that actually be Oregon State? We don’t really know what to make of the Beavers, who visit USC on Saturday, because they haven't played anyone. For that matter, we don’t really know what to make of USC either because it was good enough to beat Stanford and bad enough to be humiliated at Boston College.

Things are perhaps just as intriguing -- read: hard to figure -- among the hoi polloi, among the teams not widely viewed as serious threats to win the conference. And by "widely viewed" keep in mind the chattering classes tend to talk themselves into general agreement based their need to wheeze carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, yours truly not exempted by any means.

Colorado's trip to California is a game that matches teams that both said, “We can win this one!” in the preseason. The loser’s long shot bowl hopes will take a huge hit. You could probably say the same about Washington State’s trip to Utah, though a Utes victory might propel them into the Top 25 and transform them into a popular new dark horse in the South.

In fact, our limited intelligence after four weeks might merely be a confirmation of what most suspected in the preseason: There will be no easy outs this fall, which might be as much a function of the top slipping as the bottom rising. Sure, Washington State is 1-3, but the Cougs pushed Oregon to the brink. A little less brilliance from Marcus Mariota and a little more help from the officials and things might have been different. Colorado is 2-2 but it gave Arizona State trouble, the Buffs rushing for 232 yards against the Sun Devils' rebuilt defense. California was a Hail Mary pass away from winning at Arizona and improving to 3-0. Utah won convincingly at Michigan, which might not mean much but it's still a happy ending in the Big House against a team wearing cool winged helmets.

So expect to muddle forward toward clarity, even if we encounter a few false summits along the way. No Pac-12 team appears unbeatable. And no team appears incapable of playing competently. Each fan base should remain hopeful while not ruling out the possibility of eventual despondency.

The good news, as Socrates noted via Plato, is there are two ruling and directing principles in a college football season. It always at least teases our innate desire for pleasure. And, at its end, we acquire grounds to judge excellence.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
8:00
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Hey Shane Falco. I lost a ton of money on that Sugar Bowl disaster of yours. What a bloody shambles that was. You could smell the stink all the way back in bloody Wales.

Leading off

Have we all caught our respective breaths? Good.

What a weekend it was for the Pac-12. Thrilling games in Tucson and Pullman were the exclamation point on a day that saw Colorado cap the Hawaii sweep, OSU take care of business against SDSU, Utah go to B1G country and win on the road and 30 fantastic minutes of football from the Huskies. Here are some reactions from across the league and country:

Jon Wilner weighs in on the weekend in his Pac-12 roundup, with some harsh analysis for the Bears:
Cal played well, led 31-13 entering the fourth quarter and had the Wildcats beaten time and time again (or so it seemed). But with an offense incapable of eating the clock, the defense wilted and Arizona pounced on the opportunity. In the Hotline’s opinion, the Air/Bear Raid approach is inherently flawed. The next time it wins a major conference championship will be the first time.

Things aren't looking great in Michigan after Utah rolled through town, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today. And Athlon Sports offers up their thoughts on the Michigan-Utah game.

By now, we've all seen the highlights of the Arizona-Cal game. Rich Rodriguez and his guys just want to remind you of the duration of the game:

In the rankings

The Ducks had a good chance to slide up into that No. 1 spot, but Washington State's gutty performance gave voters enough pause to not give Oregon top honors. Kyle Bonagura broke it down here for you.

Here's where the ranked Pac-12 teams stand. As always, the AP ranking is first followed by the coaches poll. You can see the complete polls here.
  • Oregon 2 - 4
  • UCLA 11 - 10
  • ASU 15 - 12
  • Stanford 16 - 14
  • USC 18 - 22

Utah, Washington Arizona and Oregon State all received votes in the AP poll. Washington, Arizona and Oregon State got votes in the coaches poll. Also, thought you'd like to see how a couple of people voted. Here is Bill Rabinowitz's ballot and Wilner's ballot.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

The victory announcement from the Cal store is kind of funny if you haven't heard about it yet.

Creepy? Adorable? A little bit of both?

Kind of dig this move from ASU and Todd Graham.

Finally, thought this was funny as an impromptu game of Twitter-tac-toe broke out between Utah football and the Pac-12 Network during the rain delay.

Early Offer: Tough times ahead for UF? 

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:45
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Recruiting in the SEC is already difficult, but the difficulty in Gainesville is about to be ratcheted up even more as rival recruiters are already pressuring Florida recruits to reconsider. Plus, it was clear Saturday night that Oregon needs help on the offensive line, but the good news is that help is on the way.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
8:00
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What did we learn this week, people? The Pac-12’s depth is going to make for a fun season and probably a good dose of insanity when trying to sort out the postseason.

For example, two late games Saturday night that ended in dramatic fashion could have bowl implications. When you look at Cal’s remaining schedule, are there four wins out there? How about Washington State? Had the Cougars won, you could make a case that, at 2-2, they weren’t out of it yet. But what are the odds the Cougars win five of their next eight?

The Bears kick off a stretch of three games against nonranked opponents (Colorado, Washington State, Washington) before closing the season against five of six teams currently ranked in the Top 25. They will need an upset or two along the way. As for Colorado, that Cal game is a huge swing game for the Buffs as well.

Seven Pac-12 teams are still undefeated -- Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah. We know that isn’t going to last. Oregon and Arizona are two wins away from bowl eligibility. Washington needs seven because of the Hawaii rule, and Oregon State, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah are halfway there.

Things are sure to get more interesting in the coming weeks as we plow full steam ahead into conference play.

For now, here are the projections. As always, salt heavily.

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: UCLA
Valero Alamo Bowl: Stanford
National University Holiday Bowl: Utah
San Francisco Bowl: USC
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona State
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Washington
Cactus Bowl: Arizona
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Oregon State
*-At large
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College football reporter Adam Rittenberg reacts to the latest AP Top 25 poll, which includes East Carolina for the first time since 2008 and Mississippi State for the first time in two seasons after it broke a losing streak against LSU.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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Drawing conclusions from Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:05
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Week 4: Oregon vs. Washington StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29

Louisiana native Dak Prescott passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 and a TD at Tiger Stadium as the Bulldogs snapped a 14-game losing streak to LSU.


No. 1 Florida State 23, No. 22 Clemson 17 (OT)

Jameis Winston, suspended for the game after making "offensive and vulgar" comments earlier this week on campus, was reduced to cheerleader as Karlos Williams scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to rally Florida State past Clemson in overtime.


No. 2 Oregon 38, Washington State 31

Marcus Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 58 net yards despite being sacked seven times as the Ducks scraped by the Cougars 38-31.


(Read full post)


Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
9:00
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Recovered from the sensory overload that was college football Saturday? Time to re-live some of this weekend's star performances.

Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado: Hawaii had no answer for the junior, who caught a school-record 13 passes for a career-best 172 yards in the Buffs' 21-12 win. Spruce's most explosive play came late in the first quarter, when Sefo Liufau found him for a 71-yard touchdown that gave the Buffs a lead they would not relinquish.

Travis Wilson, QB, Utah: His helmet popped off and his neck bent uncomfortably far out of its usual position during a nauseating second quarter spill, but Wilson returned to the game in the second half to assert total Utah control and get a rain-delayed 26-10 win at Michigan. A 28-yard touchdown strike to Dres Anderson highlighted Wilson's gutsy return, and the Utes knocked the big road monkey off their backs.

Special Teams Unit, Utah: Kaelin Clay's 116 return yards included a stunning, sideline-tightrope-walk of a punt return that kept Utah afloat while the offense was still sputtering in the first half. "Automatic" Andy Phillips booted four field goals to drive the nail into Michigan's rain-soaked coffin. The Utes have been spectacular in this third phase of the game.

Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: Georgia State outgained the Huskies 233-62 in the first half, but they led only 14-0 at that point. Washington may have Peters to thank for that manageable deficit, because he recorded two impressive interceptions in the first frame. The second featured a beautiful diving effort near the sideline and served as a prelude to the Dawgs' furious 45-point second half rally in a game they won 45-14.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State: In a narrow escape over San Diego State last year, the Beavers went scoreless in the second and third quarters. This time, they outscored the Aztecs 21-0 over those middle two frames. Mannion executed Oregon State's adjustments with surgical precision, finishing 24-for-31 for 275 yards in his team's 28-7 win.

Austin Hill, WR, Arizona: He caught a game-winning Hail Mary. He should have the right to distribute helmet stickers, for crying out loud. Let's not forget about fellow receiver Cayleb Jones, whose 13 catches, 186 yards, and three touchdowns also spearheaded a 36-point fourth quarter. Oh, and the guy throwing all those passes may be icing his arm right now: Anu Solomon threw 73 times for 520 yards as the Wildcats shocked the Cal 49-45. A replay, just for fun.

Jared Goff, QB, Cal: Amidst the Arizona Hail Mary hoopla, it's important to not forget the strides Cal has made in the quarterback's sophomore season. The Bears' defense obviously collapsed, but Goff was spectacular for most of the contest: He delivered lasers downfield, averaging over 21 yards per completion and over 12 yards per attempt.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: His stat line was close to perfect in the face of ferocious Washington State pressure (seven sacks) -- 21-for-25, 329 yards, five touchdowns, and 58 more yards on the ground in the Ducks' 38-31 win. The Ducks could have very well lost this game considering how badly they were struggling up front, but Mariota's composure ended up Winning the Day (yes, that was intended). It never hurts to have track star Devon Allen on your side, either (20.3 yards per catch).

River Cracraft, WR, Washington State: The Cougars played the Ducks tough, and much of that can be credited to a series of fine Cracraft grabs against a very talented Oregon secondary. He finished with eight catches for 107 yards, and it seemed that every one of those receptions came in a clutch spot to keep Wazzu in the ballgame.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
3:20
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Some things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 4:

No quit in Arizona: California led 28-6 at halftime and 31-13 going into the fourth quarter, and Arizona needed to go 85 yards in less than a minute without any timeouts. There were plenty of reasons to quit believing. Didn’t happen. Instead, the college football world was treated to the best game of the season. Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon's 47-yard Hail Mary to Austin Hill as time expired to give Arizona a 49-45 win and the play of the year so far. Arizona’s 36 fourth-quarter points mark a new school record for a quarter and more than the Wildcats scored all game against Cal the past season (33).

[+] EnlargeKaelin Clay
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsKaelin Clay and Utah struck a pose and took over the Big House from Michigan.
Utah is a complete team: It’s not that we learned the Utes are a complete team this week, more that our previous assumption was confirmed. Let’s recap Utah's 26-10 victory over Michigan. Special teams: Kaelin Clay added a punt return for a touchdown and now leads the nation with three returns for scores; kicker Andy Phillips was 4-for-5 on field goals in bad weather, including one from 50 yards; and punter Tom Hacket twice pinned Michigan inside the 20. Defense: Allowed only a field goal, intercepted three passes and forced a quarterback change. Offense: There is room for improvement, but quarterback Travis Wilson bounced back from a scary injury and immediately led the team on a seamless touchdown drive. Backup quarterback Kendal Thompson threw a sloppy pick-six, but on the next drive he settled down and showed he can move the team as well. Next week against Washington State should be interesting. And the Utah fans came to play as well.

Mannion into record book: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion became the school’s all-time leading passer. He eluded a pass rush and completed a 27-yard pass to Hunter Jarmon in the third quarter to take the record from Derek Anderson, who threw for 11,249 yards between 2001 and 2004. Mannion finished with 275 yards passing and now has 11,339 for his career, but he didn’t throw a touchdown and had one pick against the Aztecs. The most impressive part of the 28-7 win over San Diego State was the Beavers’ defense, which allowed just 215 yards of offense.

Colorado takes advantage: By giving both Washington a game and Oregon State a late scare, Hawaii proved it could hang with Pac-12 teams. But that was in Hawaii. Colorado’s 21-12 win started at 8 a.m. Hawaiian time and was played at altitude, and the Warriors’ flight was delayed on Friday, which canceled its walk-through. That’s tough sledding. Still, Colorado deserves credit for taking advantage. The Buffaloes built a 21-6 halftime lead and hung on to move to 2-2 for the second straight season -- they’ve yet to start 3-2 since their move to the Pac-12 in 2011. WR Nelson Spruce continued his torrid start with 13 catches for 172 yards, which included a 71-yard touchdown.

Another passed test for Oregon: Oregon's first road game of the season didn't go as smoothly as it would have liked, but a 38-31 road win over Washington State is a road win, and the Ducks are probably better for it. Offensive line issues remain a concern, but Marcus Mariota again looked like the Heisman favorite, as he finished 21-of-25 for 329 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 58 yards on 13 carries. Sports Illustrated jinx? Better luck next time.

Inconsistency remains at Washington: Georgia State has never beaten an FBS opponent but led Washington 14-0 at halftime. Sure, the Huskies bounced back to score 45 points in the second half and win 45-14. Still, the first half has to be concerning. Take it from coach Chris Petersen, who said, “If we show up like we did in the first half from here on out, we’ll get run out of the stadium and won’t be able to get back in.” Washington is still searching for an identity after playing starkly different types of games in each of Petersen’s first four as head coach. The competition level takes a big jump next week, when the Huskies get a visit from No. 16 Stanford. The 45 second-half points were the most a team scored in the second half after being shutout in the first since West Virginia scored 46 against Louisville in 2005.

Time to take Cal seriously: First, poor Cal. To play that well for that long only to lose on a Hail Mary is torture for a team and fan base that suffered mightily a year ago. Be extra nice to your Cal fan friends this week; this isn’t the time for jokes. As devastating a loss as this could be, the performance did legitimize the Golden Bears’ first two games. Quarterback Jared Goff played like an All-American for long stretches, and the defense played well early before being gassed. That fourth quarter, however, was worse than anything the Cal defense did a year ago. The lack of depth was again on display, just like it was against Northwestern.

Cougars can compete: The WSU team that showed up in Pullman was the version many were expecting -- and maybe even better -- to see all season, but for WSU to beat Oregon, it would have taken a near-perfect game. The Cougars made a few too many mistakes to get this win, but overall, it was a positive step -- just don't tell Mike Leach. All of a sudden, WSU looks like it can compete week-in, week-out. Two games into the season, that wasn't the case.

College Football Minute

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
3:10
AM ET


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The top two teams in the nation survive scares, the SEC has an old new star, and the Big Ten starts the road to redemption. It's all ahead on the "College Football Minute."

No. 2 Oregon 38, Washington State 31

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
2:38
AM ET
video Marcus Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns in Oregon's 38-31 win over Washington State.

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