Sunday, September 18, 2011
What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 3
By Ted Miller
What did we learn from Week 3 of Pac-12 action?
1. The Pac-12 won't be getting much national respect: After a weekend of going 3-4 versus FBS foes, the conference is 12-9 versus FBS nonconference foes and 4-6 against other AQ conferences, with a single win over a ranked foe. That's not terribly distinguished. That will be how many so-called pundits will measure the conference. And it will hurt teams such as Stanford and Oregon that are trying to push back into the national title mix.
Rick Neuheisel's seat got a little warmer after UCLA was routed by Texas on Saturday.
2. Stanford is good, but has questions: With 567 yards of balanced offense and a mostly dominant defense, Stanford answered questions with a 37-10 win at Arizona, and it now leads the nation with an 11-game winning streak. Still, it took two-and-a-half quarters to established dominance, struggled in the red zone and, most importantly, appears to have lost LB Shayne Skov to a knee injury. He's a first-team All-Pac-12 talent and the leader of the Cardinal defense. Still, Stanford might not be truly tested until it visits USC on Oct. 29, and perhaps not until its red-letter date with Oregon on Nov. 12.
3. Arizona State takes a step back: A nonconference road loss at Illinois won't necessarily ruin Arizona State's season, particularly if it bounces back and beats USC on Saturday. But the Sun Devils probably should have won -- they outgained Illinois 362 yards to 240 -- and they are now 3-11 in games decided by a touchdown or fewer over the past three seasons. Further, ASU lost DE Junior Onyealito a knee injury of uncertain severity early in the game. He could become its seventh starter to miss extended action due to injury, a list that doesn't include RB Deantre Lewis.
4. Neuheisel is in deep trouble, and Wulff might be, too: No coach from the conference was fired last year (Colorado's Dan Hawkins was fired as a Big 12 coach). The Pac-12 probably won't be so lucky in 2011. The hottest seat belongs to UCLA's Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins are now 1-2 and haven't looked good getting there. It's hard to imagine the Bruins winning five of their final nine games and earning bowl eligibility, a general baseline for what most think Neuheisel needs to remain at alma mater. Over at Washington State, coach Paul Wulff's task got harder when his team fell apart in the second half at San Diego State. The Cougars are 2-1 and will need to win four conference games to earn bowl eligibility -- double its conference wins in Wulff's first three seasons. And five of the final nine are on the road. The Cougs are much improved, but it's possible that backup QB Marshall Lobbestael's honeymoon is over. Things only will get tougher.
5. Utah could be factor in South Division: What we know about the South Division: USC isn't eligible and UCLA and Arizona look flawed to varying degrees. Arizona State showed it's not ready for prime time by losing at Illinois. What about Utah? All we know about the Utes in Pac-12 play is they were a blocked field goal away at USC from forcing overtime. Oh, and they were good enough to stomp their archrival BYU 54-10 on the road. The Utes do just enough on offense and play tough defense. In fact, the Utes probably should be included when we debate the conference's best defense. The home game with Arizona State on Oct. 8 looms large.