Monday, November 7, 2011
Weekend rewind: Pac-12
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the 10th week of games in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: UCLA and coach Rick Neuheisel were left for dead on Oct. 20 after an embarrassing loss at Arizona in which ESPN commentators questioned the Bruins' pride. Since then, however, the Bruins have won two in a row, including nipping No. 19 Arizona State on Saturday. That 29-28 win means the Bruins control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South Division. Win-out, and they play for the conference championship on Dec. 2.
Best game: The UCLA-Arizona State game wasn't decided until Sun Devils kicker Alex Garoutte missed from 46 yards on the game's final play. It was Garoutte's third missed field goal. The game featured five lead changes.
Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince delivered in the clutch in UCLA's win against Arizona State.
Biggest play: Facing a third and 29 from the Arizona State 39 on a desperation drive, UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince found Nelson Rosario for 33 yards to the Sun Devils' 6-yard line. Three plays later, the Bruins scored the winning points.
Offensive standout: USC quarterback Matt Barkley set a school record with six touchdown passes in the Trojans 42-17 win against Colorado. He completed 25 of 39 throws for 318 yards with an interception. His 28 touchdown passes ranks first in the Pac-12 and third in the country.
Defensive standout: Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant grabbed two interceptions in the 34-17 win against Washington. His returning those picks for 65 combined yards also helped set up two short Ducks touchdown drives.
Special teams standout: Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker averaged 44 yards on five punts against Stanford, with three downed inside the 20, including one at the Cardinal 8-yard line and another at the 5-yard line. He also had a 65-yard punt.
Smiley face: Oregon and Stanford took care of business -- last weekend and all season -- to set up the Pac-12 game of the year, a matchup of top-10 teams with national title implications in Palo Alto. It looked like a redletter date in the preseason, but both teams had to avoid upsets to make it happen. They did.
Frowny face: Arizona State had a chance for a special season. The schedule set up for a 10-2 regular season and a South Division championship. Such a finish likely would have landed it in or at least near the top-10. And a win in the Pac-12 championship game would have earned them a Rose Bowl berth. The Sun Devils might, indeed, still win the South, but the loss at UCLA put an unexpected smirch on the season. And certainly made the Sun Devils, who are no longer ranked, look less like a team that could beat the eventual North champion.
Thought of the week: Zzzzzzzzz. Oh, hey... Sorry. I was just watching a replay of last weekend's game of the century between Alabama and LSU. Great defenses yes. Some of the best we've seen in college football, no doubt. But, really, let's admit what's unquestionably true. The great numbers of SEC defenses are due, in part, because of bad -- terrible in some cases -- SEC offenses. I'd pick LSU and Alabama to beat any Pac-12 team. And, yes, extra time to prepare makes those SEC defenses particularly valuable in BCS bowl games. But I guarantee five conference teams -- Oregon, Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington -- would at least score a freaking touchdown against either one.
Questions for the week: Speaking of games of the century, what will the Pac-12's version at Stanford yield? Will Andrew Luck and the Cardinal come out and make a Heisman Trophy and national title statement? If the Cardinal beats Oregon worse than LSU beat Oregon -- 13 points -- then that will raise some national eyebrows. And if the Ducks win decisively, might they become a darkhorse for the national title discussion? And when the smoke clears, will the Pac-12 be well-positioned, at least, to earn two BCS bowl berths?