Monday, November 5, 2012
Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 10
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of Week 10 in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: In August, Oregon was supposed to be the supporting actor in the red-letter showdown with USC in the Coliseum. Instead, it's the Ducks who have emerged as the national title contender, and that was made clear by their thunderous offensive showing in a 62-51 victory. The 730 total yards and points were the most ever compiled against a Trojans defense.
Best game: It was a weekend of blowouts, so there wasn't much in terms of nail-biters. But the offensive firepower in the USC-Oregon game -- 1,345 yards of combined offense -- was highly entertaining, unless you are a purveyor of fine defense. Of course, both defenses had proved themselves as at least solid in the previous eight games, so the offensive explosion seemed to be more about outstanding execution than breakdowns.
USC had no answers for Oregon and Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 321 yards and five TDs.
Biggest play: Arizona State had just gone up 19-10 at Oregon State early in the second quarter. The Beavers' new starting QB, Cody Vaz, wasn't clicking. The Beavers looked to be in trouble at home. Then running back Terron Ward, filling in for an injured Storm Woods, went 53 yards for a touchdown. It was the first strike in a run of 26 consecutive points for the Beavers, who overcame a number of key injuries to keep trucking in the Pac-12 pecking order.
Offensive standout: Oregon RB Kenjon Barner quite simply posted one of the all-time great performances by a running back in Pac-12/10/8 history when he rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns against the Trojans. It shattered LaMichael James' school record (288 yards) and is the fourth-best total in conference history. That he did it on the road in such a big game is what makes it truly special. And it likely firmed up his status as a top Heisman Trophy candidate.
Defensive standout: UCLA inside linebacker Eric Kendricks is the best defensive player you might not have heard of. In the Bruins' 66-10 bludgeoning of Arizona, he piled up 11 tackles -- nine solo -- with two sacks. He leads the Pac-12 and ranks 25th in the nation with 9.67 tackles per game.
Special-teams standout: Are you kidding me? Reggie freaking Dunn... what have you been eating? Dunn returned a third -- THIRD! -- kickoff in the past two games 100 yards for a touchdown in Utah's blowout win over Washington State. Three 100-yard kickoff returns in a season is an NCAA record, as is his four in his career.
Smiley face: Stanford QB Kevin Hogan was given an opportunity and took advantage. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and led the Cardinal with 48 yards rushing in a blowout win over Colorado. Sure, it was Colorado, but Hogan has stepped up his play while Josh Nunes has been unable to tame his inconsistency. If he takes over as the Cardinal's starting QB, as expected, it will be because he earned it with his play.
Frowny face: The state of Arizona didn't distinguish itself on the road this past weekend. Arizona, coming off an impressive win over USC, got pummeled by UCLA 66-10. Arizona State jumped to an early lead at Oregon State but was overwhelmed in the second half. The Sun Devils have lost three in a row since a 5-1 start that had fans crowing. The Wildcats were thinking South Division crown after consecutive impressive wins over Washington and USC. Now both have fallen in the South pecking order. These teams' fans, who get along just grandly, have been going back and forth this season about which team is better, often forcing the poor ol', innocent Pac-12 blog into the middle of their squabble. What's become clear is the final verdict will only be delivered on Nov. 23 when they meet in the Territorial Cup.
Thought of the week: We will learn a lot about USC's resilience and Lane Kiffin's coaching in the next month. The Trojans have suffered through a supremely disappointing season, but there is still a lot to play for. They still could end up in the Rose Bowl. All they need to do is win out. At the very least, they could win the South Division. But is that enough to motivate the Trojans to continue to work hard to get better? Will these guys stick together under Kiffin and continue to fight? This team could collapse and end the season with five consecutive defeats. Just imagine: USC at 6-6. In the preseason, the Trojans looked like a potentially dominant national title contender. Now they are in danger of falling out of the national polls ... and on their face. But, hey, this is football. If you can't make the scoreboard smile at you, it's your own fault.
Questions for the week: If Oregon goes to the national title game, which Pac-12 team will do enough to play its way into the Rose Bowl, if any? The Rose Bowl wants a Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup, but for the Pac-12 to get a second BCS bowl team -- and an at-large selection to the Rose Bowl in this scenario -- it must push a team into the top 14 of the final BCS standings. It appears we have four candidates, but none is a sure thing by any stretch: Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and USC. Oregon State will play Stanford this weekend. UCLA will face both Stanford and USC this month, and already has lost to Oregon State. USC, which already has lost to Stanford, and Oregon State only would meet in the Pac-12 title game. It will be interesting to see whether a team makes a charge and rises in the standings, or whether this becomes a muddle and no one qualifies.