- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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It was "statement Saturday" in the Pac-12.
Some teams, Stanford and Arizona State to name a couple, made huge statements. Other statements were significant, if not understated. Still, others failed to make statements with the weight of increased scrutiny bearing down on them.
USC stumbled on a national stage at Notre Dame. UCLA failed to beat the Cardinal for the third time in 10 months. Arizona State absolutely stuffed Washington. Utah failed to follow up its big win last week with a win on the road. Perhaps the most shocking of all ... Andy Phillips missed! Twice! Gasp! Strange things were certainly afoot in Week 8.
And yet, isn’t this exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Pac-12? Just when we think we’ve got a handle on things, Arizona rises, Arizona State romps, Kodi Whitfield makes a one-handed grab and Washington stumbles. Parity reminded us all that each week brings unpredictability.
Speaking of the Huskies, that national goodwill they’ve garnered the last few weeks is officially all used up in the wake of a 53-24 loss to Arizona State. National opinion-makers appreciated their 4-0 start -- which included a win over then-ranked Boise State. And despite back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon, the once-15th-ranked Huskies only slipped to 20th. Come Sunday morning, they might not even be getting votes following a third straight loss.
“That was embarrassing,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We weren’t good enough. We weren’t well-enough coached, we didn’t perform well enough and we didn’t play physical enough ... give Arizona State credit. They outcoached us and they outplayed us.”
We will give them credit. The Sun Devils' run defense was vicious, holding Bishop Sankey to just 22 yards on 13 carries. Marion Grice continued his touchdown tirade with two on the ground and one in the air. Don’t be shocked if the Sun Devils re-enter the Top 25 rankings for the third time this year.
“What an impressive performance,” said Arizona State coach Todd Graham. “It might be the most impressive performance as a team that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
And then there were the Trojans. Oh, those Trojans. After scoring on two of their first three drives (with a missed field goal in between), USC went scoreless the rest of the game. Its next 10 drives consisted of six punts, a missed field goal, an interception and twice turning it over on downs. Much like last season's showdown with Notre Dame, it seems the takeaway from this season's 14-10 defeat is that USC lost the game rather than Notre Dame won it (and let’s not get started on the penalties).
Stanford reminded everyone that power running and defense can still win football games -- even in a league in which 80 pass attempts from one quarterback doesn't seem all that shocking.
UCLA and Arizona State still look like the front-runners in the South, but the rest of the division is a mess following Arizona’s 35-24 win over Utah -- which still has to be on the road for three of its final five games. Give Utah credit. With starting quarterback Travis Wilson sidelined for the second half, the Utes battled back behind Adam Schulz and took the lead in the third quarter. But Ka’Deem Carey and his 236 yards on the ground proved to be too much.
But even Oregon’s 62-38 win over Washington State had a touch of drama. Marcus Mariota set a conference record with 265 pass attempts without an interception. But he did fumble. Cue the dramatic music.
Week 8 will go down in the books as the week that set the stage for some outstanding showdowns the rest of the way. As teams scratch and claw for bowl eligibility and postseason prestige, teams like Utah, Washington, UCLA and USC will look to Week 8 and wonder where it went wrong. Of course, there is no right answer. It’s just another week in the Pac-12.
1dChantel Jennings and David Lombardi