Monday, November 12, 2012
Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 11
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of Week 11 in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: Stanford's showdown with Oregon State was the game of the week, with the winner becoming the top potential challenger to Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division. When the smoke cleared from a highly physical contest, it was the Cardinal and freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who had made his first college start, making the key fourth-quarter plays to notch the victory 27-23.
Best game: While a furious Washington State comeback made things interesting against UCLA, it was another weekend mostly of blowouts. So Stanford's gritty victory is hard to ignore. Hogan threw a 13-yard TD pass with five minutes left to put Stanford ahead, and the Cardinal defense made it stand with a pair of subsequent defensive stops.
Kevin Hogan, making first collegiate start, made plays like a veteran in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Cardinal.
Biggest play: With 8:34 left at Stanford, Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz lost control of the ball without contact, and Stanford recovered at the Beavers' 29-yard line. That set up the Cardinal's decisive score. It also seemed to shake Vaz, who was out of sorts on Oregon State's next two possessions.
Offensive standout: While it was against the terrible Colorado defense, it's impossible to overlook Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, who set a new Pac-12 single-game rushing record with 366 yards against the Buffaloes. He averaged 14.6 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns in the blowout win.
Offensive standout II: Despite getting banged up in the first half, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was brilliant in the win at California, completing 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed six times for 42 yards. He's now No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency.
Defensive standout: UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr recorded eight tackles, 2.5 sacks -- one of which produced a safety -- and blocked a punt in the win over Washington State. He has 10 sacks this season.
Smiley face: When California went 74 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on its first third-quarter possession to cut Oregon's lead to 24-17, there was just a tremor of worry among the Ducks' fan base, right? Weird things happen to Oregon in Berkeley. And Alabama already had lost, making it feel as though it might become one of those weekends in college football, when things go haywire. But the Ducks answered emphatically, rolling up 35 unanswered points to turn the game into another blowout victory. Oregon is flashy, yes, but as important is its poise and mental toughness.
Frowny face:: Because there are two sides to every story, the best assessment of the Marquess Wilson versus Mike Leach dustup is both parties probably haven't always conducted themselves in a laudable way. Wilson's attitude and effort were often transparently mediocre, something you could see during games and ascertain from practice reports. But there's also this: Leach's motivational techniques have failed this season. He inherited a team that had potential to get to a bowl game and made it worse. That doesn't mean things won't get better -- way better, perhaps -- in the future. It only means that he seemingly sacrificed this season to install a "my way or the highway" approach that included a near weekly calling out of his team's character. The media love Leach's intelligence, humor and candor. But they also sometimes make just about any observer squirm.
Thought of the week: If things hold true to present form, Oregon will meet Kansas State for the national title on Jan. 7. That means the infamous canceled series between the two could end up getting played on the biggest stage in college football. That surely will settle things! And talk about a story that will get beaten to death for weeks in advance of the game. If the Wildcats lose to either Baylor or Texas, then it's likely the Ducks would meet Notre Dame. If Notre Dame loses to either Wake Forest or at USC, then the Ducks probably would play the SEC champion -- Alabama or Georgia -- for the national title.
Questions for the week: Which of Oregon's long list of injured players on defense will play against Stanford on Saturday, and which will not? At some points against California, the Ducks were playing five freshmen along their defensive front seven. The Cardinal, with a much better offensive line than California, will have a chance to exploit that. If D-linemen Taylor Hart (foot), Dion Jordan (shoulder), Isaac Remington (ankle), Ricky Heimuli (knee) and tackle Wade Keliikipi play, then the Ducks defense will have an advantage up front. If they -- or most of them -- don't, then things could get interesting.