Monday, September 24, 2012
Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 4
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the fourth week of games in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: It's premature to say we're back to 2008-09, when Oregon and Oregon State played the Civil War for a Rose Bowl berth, but both teams made big statements over the weekend. The Ducks' 49-0 win over No. 22 Arizona announced them as a national title contender, albeit of the early-season variety, while the Beavers' 27-20 win at UCLA announced their return to relevance and the national polls.
Best game: The Beavers' win over UCLA was a well-played game with plenty of momentum swings. It was far more about the Beavers going on the road and taking a win than the Bruins giving one away at home.
Jordan Webb walked in for the game-winning score against the Cougars.
Biggest play: For three quarters, Colorado's visit to Washington State was just sloppy football between teams that clearly have some work to do to get into the Pac-12 picture. Still, it appeared our preconceptions would hold -- Washington State was superior to woeful Colorado -- even as the Buffaloes came storming back from a 31-14 fourth-quarter hole. But on fourth-and-4 with nine seconds left, Buffs quarterback Jordan Webb simply ran up the middle untouched on a quarterback draw for the winning score after the PAT. In terms of monumental games, this one won't rate highly this season. But if Buffaloes coach Jon Embree gets things turned around in Boulder, it might be retrospectively imbued with a transformative glow.
Offensive standout: In contrast to a couple of other young Pac-12 quarterbacks, there was little preseason chatter about the grand promise of Arizona State's Taylor Kelly. Perhaps there should be some now. Kelly was in complete control during the Sun Devils' 37-7 whipping of Utah, slicing and dicing what was supposed to be an A-list defense. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 326 yards with three touchdowns. He now ranks first in the Pac-12 and ninth in the nation in passing efficiency.
Defensive standout: USC defensive end Morgan Breslin has gone from stopgap junior college transfer to budding star. He recorded three sacks in the Trojans' 27-9 win over California and has five for the season. He finished with six total tackles, with 4.5 coming for a loss. He now has 9.5 tackles for a loss.
Special-teams standout: Arizona State kicker Alex Garoutte, much-maligned last year, was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts against Utah, with a long of 43 yards. His lone miss came at 50 yards. He also was 4-for-4 on PATs.
Smiley face: Pac-12 defenses continue to show up this season, as another weekend passed without teams combining for 80 points in a offensive shootout. Oregon shut out Arizona. Arizona State shut down Utah. Oregon State's defense controlled the previously potent Bruins. And USC kept California out of the end zone. Losing teams used to regularly score 30 points per game in the Pac-12. This year, they are as often failing to get past 20. Heck, there have now been three shutouts and eight games with opposing offenses not reaching double digits.
Frowny face: It's strange to watch USC quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojans' passing game struggle. Barkley's Heisman Trophy candidacy has faded in a shocking way. He and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee felt like about as sure a thing in the preseason as one could imagine. The reality, however, is this after four games: Barkley ranks 51st in the nation in passing efficiency, one spot ahead of New Mexico State's Andrew Manley. Barkley is completing just 61 percent of his throws and already has five interceptions.
Thought of the week: Anyone think in the preseason that the winner of Oregon State's visit to Arizona on Saturday would be ranked? Or that either team would be ranked at any point in the season? It's pretty cool that a game that was so far off the radar a few weeks ago now has Pac-12 and, yes, national ramifications. We can break down returning starters and perceived strengths and weaknesses in August, but you still have to go out and play the games, and that they annually present some surprises is a big part of the fun.
Questions for the week: Who is going to be the first-team All-Pac-12 quarterback? That spot previously appeared reserved for Barkley. And he probably is still the front-runner, unless the previous three seasons were simply a mirage. But if you were handicapping the race today and ignoring name recognition, the top three candidates would be first-year starters: Kelly, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley. That's a sophomore (Kelly) and two redshirt freshmen.