Pac-12 weekend rewind: Arizona State back in conversation


If you stepped away for a weekend, all you missed in Week 5 were one-handed grabs, receivers throwing touchdowns, Oregon doing Oregon things in the ground game and the highest-ranked team in the league going down. This will get you caught up.

Offensive player of the week: Oregon running back Royce Freeman netted 163 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against a much-improved Colorado team that was shoving eight or nine men in the box. He also hauled in three catches for 32 yards. As the Ducks continue to sift through the quarterback situation, they have one of the steadiest and most reliable backs in the country to help them keep pace.

Defensive player of the week: The Cal Bears continue to impress with their ability to create turnovers. After nabbing just 17 all of last season, they already have surpassed that total with 18 through five games. Safety Stefan McClure added to that number when he recovered a fumble and returned it 45 yards in the Bears' 34-28 win over Washington State. He also had six tackles and a sack.

Special teams player of the week: No kick returns for scores this week? Utah must have been on a bye. Here’s a chance to spread the love to Arizona State punter Matt Haack. He dropped five of his eight punts inside the UCLA 20 in the Sun Devils' 38-23 upset win. He averaged 43.1 yards per kick, including a long of 63. And his final punt pinned UCLA at its own 1-yard line, forcing the Bruins to take the rare self-induced safety.

Team of the week: Another highly ranked Pac-12 opponent falls -- at home. The Sun Devils rebounded from one of the worst losses of the Todd Graham era to stun No. 7 UCLA and reclaim some position in the Pac-12 South race. The Sun Devils looked more like the team Graham talked about in the preseason -- “the most talented team he’s ever coached” -- and less like the one that got run up and down the field against USC in Week 4. They did a much better job protecting the football and the active defensive front tallied seven tackles for a loss, an interception and a pair of sacks. If this is the ASU team that’s going to show up each week, then the South race just got even more interesting.

Trend of the week: We can’t hit on the home vs. road trend every week (noteworthy, though, that the road teams are now 8-2). We’ll check back in with that number periodically. But on a special teams note, kickers continue to impress this season. The Pac-12 leads all Power 5 conferences with a 76.5 percent completion rate on field goals. The league’s kickers in Week 5 went 9-of-11, including a 52-yarder from Colorado’s Diego Gonzalez and a 53-yard kick from UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn -- both in a losing effort.

Play of the week: While McClure’s fumble return was dramatic, and Bralon Addison delivered a pretty deep ball, Kenny Lawler’s one-handed catch is the winner this week. Lawler actually had two outstanding touchdown catches. The one-hander, which you can see here, was the first. The replay doesn’t do it justice. To see just how much his left arm was tied up, click here.

Theme of the week: We’re still a little less than a month away from the first round of College Football Playoff rankings being released (Nov. 3). But as we close in on the midway point of the season, it’s worth noting that the Pac-12 continues to ravage itself. Per ESPN Stats & Info, following UCLA’s loss, there is now a 74 percent chance the Pac-12 champion will have two or more losses and a 30 percent chance the league champ will be a three-loss team. After next week, only one Pac-12 team will be undefeated. And it’s tough to imagine anyone running the table over the final eight weeks. One team simply isn’t that much better than the others.

Non-football random thought of the week: Really good pie is better than really good cake.