Monday, October 15, 2012
Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 7
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the seventh week of games in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: Lose starting QB Sean Mannion to a knee injury? No problem for Oregon State. Backup Cody Vaz, making his first career start, was exceptional, and the defense was opportunistic as the Beavers rolled 42-24 at BYU. Oregon State is 5-0 for the first time since 1939. So, yeah, this is big.
Best game: However you want to view the ending -- and the accurate way is Stanford got screwed by the Pac-12 officials! -- Stanford's 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame was great theater. Two good defenses, two struggling offenses, physical football and every point counted. And the rain provided a nice backdrop.
Stepfan Taylor was unable to find the end zone on the final play of the game.
Biggest play: Four of them actually: Four straight-ahead, overtime runs from Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor that didn't -- at least clearly and without a doubt to everyone -- get into the end zone. When Stanford gets a first-and-goal on the 4-yard line, you typically like its chances.
Offensive standout: Vaz completed 20-of-32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 42-24 victory at BYU. The efficiency rating on those numbers -- 180.6 -- would rate only slightly below West Virginia's Geno Smith for No. 1 in the nation. And the Cougars entered the game with one of the nation's best defenses.
Defensive standout: Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy is one of the Pac-12's most underrated players. He rolled up a team-high 10 tackles at Notre Dame, with 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries.
Special-teams standout: Know a good way to crush the hopes and dreams of an underdog? Return the third-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a TD. That is what Arizona State's Rashad Ross did to Colorado after the Buffaloes had rallied late in the second quarter to make it a 3-point game at halftime in Boulder. Ross' dash was the first -- and loudest -- of 31 unanswered second-half points from Arizona State in a 51-17 win.
Smiley face: Hey, how about a weekend with no chokes, with the favorites coming out on top, as well as Oregon State, a highly ranked underdog? Arizona State, UCLA, USC and California each took care of business as favorites, while the Beavers overcame the loss of their starting QB in a road date with a solid BYU team. If Stanford had prevailed instead of falling in overtime at Notre Dame, it would have been an exceptional weekend for the conference. Oregon, at 6-0, is already bowl eligible and Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and USC have five wins. At this point in the season, some of those six- and seven-win teams of past years are positioned to win eight, nine or even 10 games.
Frowny face: Stanford had a chance to make a big statement at Notre Dame but it fell just short. While the officiating got the publicity, the Cardinal are going to look at that game tape and slap their collective forehead many, many times. Lots of miscues, mistakes and missed opportunities.
Thought of the week: Maybe we need to give USC a break. Coach Lane Kiffin has decided to win ugly, so be it. Run the ball, play to his defense, etc. Fine. QB Matt Barkley is 30th in the nation in passing efficiency? USC is 48th in scoring offense? Sure, it's surprising. Sure, it doesn't fit our preseason image of the Trojans. Sure, it seems like this team isn't nearly as dominant as many projected. Still, USC is ranked ninth in the coaches' poll and, at 5-1 overall, is in good position in both the Pac-12 and perhaps even nationally. If the Trojans don't lose again, it won't matter if it was pretty.
Questions for the week: Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the Pac-12 this year? It appears that Barkley's candidacy is over. If a guy is going to emerge, it might happen Thursday in Tempe. Oregon's one-two punch of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas will be on display against a good Sun Devils defense. And what happens if ASU QB Taylor Kelly, presently third in the nation in passing efficiency, is lights out?