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What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 12

11/20/2011

What did we learn from Week 12 of Pac-12 action?

The conference is out of the national title race (probably): The Pac-12 produced two teams -- Oregon and Stanford -- that were mentioned in the national title discussion much of the year. But as we head into the last weekend of the regular season, it appears the conference won't be in the mix, obsessively waiting for the BCS standings on Sunday evening. First, Oregon beat Stanford, then Oregon added a home loss to USC to a résumé that included a defeat to LSU in the opener. While there are scenarios that could get the conference back into the discussion -- such as utter chaos with all the contenders sudden saddled with two losses -- it appears that the best the conference can hope for is two BCS bowl berths.

Arizona might not be the only state school looking for a new head coach: After a 5-1 start, Arizona State has lost four of five and three in a row, and not exactly against elite competition. That's bad. But getting upset by rival Arizona at home, a team that was 2-8 and has already fired its coach, may mark the end of the line for coach Dennis Erickson. The season began with such promise, but it's spiraled in the muck, even if the Sun Devils' hopes of winning the South Division remain alive.

The Pac-12 South is a mess: Somebody has to win the Pac-12 South, despite the best efforts of the contenders not to do so. Here's how it goes: If UCLA beats USC next weekend, it's the champion. If UCLA loses and Arizona State beats California, and Utah beats Colorado, the Sun Devils are the champs (the Bruins lose a three-way tiebreaker due to a 2-3 divisional record versus 3-2 for the Sun Devils and Utes; ASU eclipses Utah due to a head-to-head win). If UCLA loses and Arizona State loses, and Utah wins, the Utes are the champs. If all three lose, UCLA is the champion.

Washington has regressed: After a 5-1 start, Washington has lost four of five and three in a row, the latest being an embarrassing 38-21 defeat at previously 2-8 Oregon State. A significant amount of blame falls on the defense. The Beavers gained 484 yards, 116 more than their season average, and those 38 points are 18 more than the Pac-12's lowest scoring offense had been averaging. The Beavers scored 27 points in their previous three games.

LaMichael James isn't going to win the Heisman Trophy: James has had a great career. He may win the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back again. But after he rushed for just 78 yards and fumbled inside the USC 10-yard line in the Ducks' 38-35 loss to USC, it seems highly unlikely that he will win the Heisman Trophy. In fact, it's iffy as to whether he gets invited to New York for the ceremony again.