Sunday, September 22, 2013
What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 4
By Kevin Gemmell
A look at what we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 4.
Stanford made short work of Arizona State on Saturday, showing that the Sun Devils aren't quite ready to compete with the Pac-12 elite.
The Pac-12 might be the deepest conference: The league wrapped up the majority of its nonconference slate with an impressive 29-4 record, including a mark of 21-3 against FBS teams. With Oregon State’s win over San Diego State and USC’s victory over Utah State, the Pac-12 moves to 10-0 this season against the Mountain West -- a lower-level conference that gave the league fits last season. Some wins were spectacular, some weren’t. But the fact that only Cal had a sub-.500 record out of conference speaks volumes about the league's depth. And even those two losses came against top-25 teams.
Arizona State isn’t there yet: After last week’s controversial ending against Wisconsin, the Sun Devils were eager to show that they were worthy of their top-25 ranking. But trailing 39-7, ASU simply didn't look like a team ready to contend with a top-five team on the road. Give it credit for fighting back and scoring 28 second-half points. It's not hard to imagine previous ASU teams throwing in the proverbial towel. And the Sun Devils still should be considered contenders for the Pac-12 South. We’ll know more when they host USC next week, but for now, the Sun Devils look more like a second-tier Pac-12 team than a group that could challenge Stanford and/or Oregon.
Apples good, potatoes bad (at least in football): Combined points for Washington and Washington State in Week 4: 98. Combined points for Idaho and Idaho State in Week 4: 0. Granted, this wasn’t the stiffest of competition. But Washingtonians from Aberdeen to Yakima to Pullman can feel pretty good about the state of football in their state. The Huskies have scored 34 points for three straight games for the first time since 2002. They posted their first shutout since 2009 and the margin of victory was the largest since beating Oregon 66-0 in 1974. And yes, it was very cool seeing Deontae Cooper get his first career touchdown. For the Cougars, it was their first shutout since 2005 -- which also came against Idaho. The defense posted a season-high five sacks.
A W is a W: While Washington, Washington State and UCLA cruised to easy wins, Oregon State, Utah and USC needed all four quarters to get the job done. Of course, there were different reasons for all three. Utah was playing a rivalry game against a team receiving top 25 votes. It was a hard-fought game and a solid victory for the Utes (you’re really going to throw a flag on Eric Rowe? For all the extra shoves and questionably late hits that went on in that game, that’s what gets the flag!?), USC was facing an extremely dangerous quarterback in Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. But they sacked him four times for minus-15 rushing yards and kept him to just 179 yards in the air. The USC offense, however, continues to be a work in progress. And then there’s the Beavers ... oh, those Beavers. Credit them for coming from behind late to beat San Diego State. But don't lose sight of the fact that they had to come from behind late to beat San Diego State. Sean Mannion had another monster game, and Brandin Cooks had another monster game. But the defense and the running game continue to be issues that will get exposed if the Beavers can't fix them as they get deeper into conference play.
We can start thinking about league play! There’s only three “official” nonconference games left, and they all involve Notre Dame (still waiting on the possibility of Colorado and Fresno State rescheduling). But by this time next week, every team except UCLA will have played a conference game. Of the three league games we’ve had so far, the North has gone 3-0 against the South, with Washington State, Oregon State and Stanford all getting victories over USC, Utah and Arizona State, respectively. Next week we get some intra-division showdowns between USC and ASU, California and Oregon and Stanford and Washington State in Seattle. But it’s the inter-division matchups that are very intriguing. Undefeated Arizona travels to undefeated Washington -- where we’ll learn a little bit more about the Wildcats. And a confident Colorado team visits Oregon State in a game that seemed like a sure thing for the Beavers a month ago.