- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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A look at what we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 3.
UCLA ... simply awesome: It doesn’t matter what team you cheer for, it’s hard not to feel good for UCLA and what it did in Lincoln. Trailing 21-3, the Bruins looked like they had a lot on their minds in the first half -- and they did. But in the second half, they were nothing short of sensational in their 41-21 win over Nebraska, which snapped the Huskers’ 14-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents. How’s this for second-half adjustments? In two games against UCLA (2012 and 2013), Nebraska has put up a combined 558 yards and 45 points in the first half against the Bruins. In the second half of those games, a combined 225 yards and six total points. There were plenty of great moments, but the Pac-12 blog got a little choked up when Anthony Jefferson recovered Nebraska’s red zone fumble in the fourth quarter and ran off the field and gave the ball to Jim Mora, followed by a hug that was pure emotion.
Challenge accepted: After rolling through a considerably easy slate of nonconference opponents in Week 2, the Pac-12 had a serious step up in competition on the Week 3 agenda ... including four head-to-head matchups with the Big Ten. The Pac-12 went 3-1 against its Rose Bowl partners with wins from UCLA, ASU and Washington. Ohio State was the Big Ten’s lone winner after topping Cal. Overall, the league went 8-1, with USC, Washington State, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona all scoring victories. Plus, it likely knocked a pair of ranked Big Ten teams out of the Top 25, bringing ASU into the fold. Don’t be shocked to see the Bruins sniffing the top 10, either.
Wake-up calls: In the eight nonconference games the Pac-12 won on Saturday, only three of them were wire-to-wire victories. The rest of the league had to overcome early deficits. Arizona, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA all gave up the first points of the game and ASU trailed 14-3 after going ahead 3-0. Of course, UCLA’s comeback was the most emotional one of the day. But the strangest goes to the Sun Devils, who were bailed out by Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave and his phantom kneel. USC, Washington and Washington State were the only teams to get an early lead and hold it. Washington led 31-10 at one point, before clinching a 10-point victory over Illinois. The Trojans were up 28-0 on Boston College, and the Cougs broke it open in the second half versus Southern Utah.
Offensive business is booming: The lowest scoring team in the Pac-12 this week was Arizona State -- yeah, the Sun Devils with their explosive, high-octane offense “managed” a measly 32 points. In total, the 11 Pac-12 teams combined for 454 points in Week 3, an average of 41.2 points per team. The most offensive state of the week award goes to Oregon -- which saw the Ducks and Beavers both crack 50 points (59 for Oregon, 51 for Oregon State). The shootout of the week award goes to the Beavers and Utes, who combined for 99 points and 1,030 yards of offense. Sean Mannion’s five touchdowns matched a school record. Utah receiver Dres Anderson went for 101 yards, giving the Utes three straight games with a 100-yard receiver. And in case you were wondering, the latest update as of 3:20 a.m. PT, Storm Woods is doing well. Oh yeah, Oregon’s offense is pretty awesome, also.
Next week could be fun, maybe: Week 2 was a bunch of yawners. Week 3 was exhilarating. Week 4 should be a mix of both. Arizona State and Stanford meet in what should be a marquee conference battle between two ranked teams. Both had their Week 3 issues. Stanford got off to a sluggish start against Army (time zone might have had something to do with that), and ASU avoided a disastrous meltdown when Stave failed to kneel before Zod. USC takes on a very talented Utah State squad, and the Utes try to rebound in the Holy War against BYU. The newly-invigorated Beavers travel to San Diego to face an Aztecs team that is off to a terrible start (they, too, lost to an FCS team in Week 1), while the state of Washington takes on the state of Idaho in a four-way showdown. Colorado, after having its game against Fresno State postponed, gets a much-needed bye to address needs much greater than football.