Sunday, September 29, 2013
Blowouts revealing for teams, Kiffin
By Ted Miller
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was blowout Saturday in the Pac-12. It was not a day and evening for subtlety. It was a time for loud butt kickings. Substantive statements were made in Seattle, Eugene and Tempe. And there was one notable whimper.
That whimper came from USC coach Lane Kiffin, whose Trojans were battered by Arizona State 62-41. It was the most points the Sun Devils have ever scored against USC. That sort of ignominy, coupled with an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play, pushed the likelihood Kiffin will be fired further from the speculative and toward the certain. All Kiffin could do afterward was show growing resignation about the crescendoing "hot seat" talk.
"I'm fine with that," he said. "I have been dealing with that for 12 months. That's fine. That's the last thing I'm worried about. We have to find a way to coach better and play better and get our backups ready."
Lane Kiffin has been hearing "hot seat" talk for a long time. After Saturday, it'll only get louder.
The most notable backup will be whoever replaces Biletnikoff winner Marqise Lee. The unanimous All-American hurt his left knee in the fourth quarter and was carted off the field.
"Obviously it didn't look very good," Kiffin said. "It didn't sound very good or look very good, so that's all I got for you."
USC's wasn't the only dreary losers' locker room, as some harsh reality was delivered by conference favorites on Saturday.
The average margin of victory in Pac-12 games among Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington was 29 points. The closest game was Washington's 31-13 win over Arizona. The biggest margin was Oregon's 55-16 battering of California. Stanford humbled Washington State 55-17, while Oregon State brought Colorado back to earth with a 44-17 victory.
The Sun Devils made a statement in the South Division a week after getting pushed around at Stanford. They, by the way, are the only South Division team that owns a conference victory at this point.
It was an impressive bounce-back win for the Sun Devils, who gained 612 yards, their most since piling up 667 yards in a loss to Oregon in 2000. QB Taylor Kelly passed for 351 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 79 yards. Touchdown-generating machine Marion Grice scored twice rushing and twice receiving. With 12 touchdowns this season, he seems likely to continue to lead the nation in scoring again this week.
The Sun Devils scorched a defense that hadn't yielded more than 285 yards or 14 points in its first four games. The offensive fireworks helped background a struggling run defense, one that yielded 247 yards to the Trojans.
While Arizona State made the first move in the South Division, the two North favorites, Oregon and Stanford, playing in the rain-soaked Northwest, continued to look like the lords of the Pac-12 manor.
The Ducks jumped all over mistake-prone Cal, grabbing a 27-0 lead in the first quarter and coasting home. The Ducks needed only 381 yards to score 55 points because of five Bears turnovers, including four fumbles.
Stanford did a slower mash on Washington State, turning a 17-3 halftime lead into a second-half laugher. The Cardinal scored touchdowns on a pair of pick-sixes, and a reinvigorated downfield passing attack included three scoring strikes from QB Kevin Hogan.
Looking up at the Ducks and Cardinal in the North are Washington and Oregon State. The 16th-ranked Huskies took down previously unbeaten Arizona behind 161 yards from RB Bishop Sankey, who did his damage with a school record 40 carries. Oregon State got a school record six touchdown passes from Sean Mannion while whipping Colorado.
The Huskies can make a big statement in the North next Saturday at Stanford. Washington upset the Cardinal last year in Seattle, but that was before Hogan took over at quarterback.
That's the headliner game in the conference next week. Arizona State will play Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium, giving the Pac-12 another shot at being loud in nonconference play.
There was no fourth-quarter excitement on Saturday in Pac-12 games. But not only thrillers are meaningful.
While the Pac-12 has been lauded for its depth over the first quarter of the season, what Blowout Saturday made clear is there remains a clear line of demarcation between the teams in the top-half and the bottom half.
And USC's apparently being in the bottom half is going to be a problem for Kiffin.