- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Yesterday we looked at face plant games in the North and South divisions. Today, we focus on the positives and the signature wins that either propelled a team to greatness or -- at the very least -- salvaged a season. Ted showed you the South Division earlier today. Here's the North.
California: There were only two wins against FBS teams to work with, but knocking off No. 25 UCLA at home was huge. And they didn't just win, they won big, topping the eventual South Division champs 43-17. Zach Maynard was on fire, completing 25 of 30 passes with four touchdown passes. C.J. Anderson rushed for 151 yards and the defense had six turnovers. It was the a perfect example of what Cal is/was capable of when it all came together. Unfortunately for them, and their departed coach, it didn't come together all that often.
Oregon: The Ducks went 4-1 against Top 25 teams this season -- and they have a date with another one on Jan. 3. But with the country watching what was going to happen on Nov. 3, Oregon went into the Coliseum and dropped 62 points on the Trojans. It certainly wasn't a signature day for the defense -- which gave up 51 points and surrendered 615 total yards. But -- at the time -- this was a huge win for the Ducks and helped boost their national credibility.
Oregon State: The season opening win against No. 13 Wisconsin was big. As was the victory at No. 19 UCLA. But a ton of credit goes to Cody Vaz and his performance on the road against BYU. Not only was it his first road start -- it was his first career start -- and he was interception free and led the Beavers to a big win against a tough defense. Not easy to play in Provo, Utah, either. It kept Oregon State's winning streak going and really opened some eyes up nationally that the Beavers could overcome some hurdles. Of course, it helped spawn a quarterback controversy -- but that's a good thing when both QBs are talented.
Stanford: Without question, going up to Eugene and winning on the road -- with a redshirt freshmen quarterback making his first road start and second start ever -- was the signature win of the season. The Cardinal fixed their "Oregon problem" with a healthy dose of hard-nosed defense. And when the world said they couldn't do it, they thumbed their nose at the world. The victory knocked Oregon out of the national title game and propelled the Cardinal to a conference championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.
Washington: Both the Stanford and Oregon State games can be counted as signature wins. Both were against Top 10 teams. But the victory over Stanford was pretty significant. Just one week earlier the Cardinal had knocked off USC. And given the assorted cans of whoop tushy the Cardinal had opened up on the Huskies in recent years, this was a pretty huge win for the Huskies. Plus, it helped them through the first half of the season at 3-3 -- which looked a lot better coming down the backstretch.
Washington State: One team's face plant is another's signature win. And while the Huskies face planted -- hard -- in the Apple Cup, Washington State bathed in the glory. It was the largest deficit overcome in the storied history of the rivalry and it came in overtime. The win gives the Cougars something positive to build on in the off season -- both on the recruiting trail and in the weight room -- and it was a shining moment in an otherwise murky season.
8hChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell