Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Rethinking the Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip
By Kevin Gemmell
As is common every summer, we throw together the Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip series to get you through the dog days. It also gives me something to do while Ted is jet setting across the South of France. The “Road Trip Revisited” post was a hit last season. So we bring the 2013 edition.
Our pick: Boise State at Washington
End result: A 38-6 smackdown that pushed the Huskies into the Top 25 and sent a clear message to the rest of the country that Washington was ready to be a ranked team.
In retrospect: Surprisingly, the most entertaining game was Oregon State’s loss to Eastern Washington. But knowing what we know now, a trip to Auburn may have been worth the time to see WSU push the Tigers to the brink.
Coach Mike Leach and Washington State stunned USC in Week 2 of the season.
Our pick: Washington State at USC
End result: The Cougars pulled off an early-season stunner -- and they did it with defense.
In retrospect: I remember taking some heat for this pick. I suppose a trip to Cal might have been nice to see what would be the Bears only win this season. But I think we made the right call given the fact that the Cougars are bowl eligible and this win is a major reason why.
Our pick: UCLA at Nebraska
End result: It was an emotionally-heavy week for the Bruins following the death of Nick Pasquale. After a sluggish start, the Bruins exploded in the second half en route to a tearful 41-21 win in Lincoln.
In retrospect: It was hard not to feel great for Jim Mora and the Bruins. Who didn’t get chocked up when Anthony Jefferson recovered that fumble and ran the ball to Mora with a big hug? The Pac-12 blog certainly did. But for entertainment value, watching Utah and Oregon State exchange late touchdowns and go to overtime, which the Beavers won 51-48, was thrilling.
Our pick: Arizona State at Stanford
End result: The Cardinal stomped the Sun Devils through three quarters, holding a 39-7 lead before a few late touchdowns by ASU gave us the final 42-28 margin.
In retrospect: We thought this game would be better. And maybe Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game between these two teams will be. But the Holy War produced another thriller – and another Utah win.
Our pick: USC at ASU
End result: A high-scoring affair that propelled the Sun Devils to the top of the South Division and ended Lane Kiffin’s coaching tenure. All in all, a pretty exciting and impactful game on the Pac-12 landscape.
In retrospect: It was a rain-soaked weekend, so we’re thinking we made the right call with this pick.
Our pick: Washington State at California
End result: The Air Raid out dueled the Bear Raid.
In retrospect: OK, so we were looking for a little diversity with this pick. And the Mike Leach vs. Sonny Dykes storyline was fun. ASU-Notre Dame was pretty exciting. But Washington at Stanford provided some of the most entertaining football this year. Tight game, controversial calls, and the squabbling fallout about injuries that carried over into the next week was delicious.
Our pick: Oregon at Washington
End result: 10 in a row.
In retrospect: Utah provided one of the biggest upsets of the college football season with its win over Stanford. It shook up the rankings and surely was a turning point for the Utes. Of course, weeks later, we know Stanford is back in the title game and Utah (plagued by an injured Travis Wilson) went on to lose five of its final six.
Our pick: USC at Notre Dame
End result: Watching USC’s offense in Notre Dame territory was painful as the Trojans dropped their first game of the Ed Orgeron era.
In retrospect: This was a taking case of business sort of week as the Cardinal got back on track against UCLA, Oregon topped Washington State, ASU pummeled Washington etc. For as frustrating as the USC game was to watch, it was probably the best for entertainment value.
Our pick: UCLA at Oregon
QB Marcus Mariota and the Ducks had no problem with UCLA in Week 9.
End result: The Ducks handed the Bruins their second straight road loss and exploded for 21 fourth-quarter points in a 42-14 win.
In retrospect: Stanford at Oregon State turned out to be a pretty close game -- especially after a late Stanford turnover brought the Beavs back into contention. Utah at USC was pretty sloppy. Not a ton of great games, so we’ll stick with this one as the top pick for what we knew at the time.
Our pick: USC at Oregon State
End result: The Trojans snapped their Corvallis Curse and suddenly people were asking two questions: 1) Can USC make a run in the South? 2) Should Ed Orgeron be our head coach permanently?
In retrospect: Arizona and Cal was tighter than a lot of people thought it would be. But with only four games on the docket, USC-Oregon State was the game that made the most sense -- and still does.
Our pick: Oregon at Stanford
End result: The Cardinal pounded away for 45 minutes (and 45 Tyler Gaffney carries) en route to their second straight win over the Ducks.
In retrospect: There should be no arguments here, this was the game of the week. Amazing atmosphere (good work, Cardinal fans) and the Ducks made it thrilling in the fourth quarter. Great times all around.
Our pick: Stanford at USC
End result: The Trojans turned the league back on its head with a last-minute field goal victory -- keeping with theme of amazingly close games between these two teams.
In retrospect: We didn’t know it when the Ultimate Road Trip was written, but this week would be flip week. I was in SEC country and Ted was in The Little Apple. I vividly recall following the Stanford-USC ESPN.com gamecast on my cell phone during Steve Spurrier’s postgame news conference. The UCLA game was fun to watch because it showed Myles Jack was more than a one-week wonder. But we got it right with this pick.
Our pick: ASU at UCLA
End result: The Sun Devils locked up the Pac-12 South championship with a signature road victory. They built a huge lead, but UCLA stormed back in the second half and had a chance to win on the final drive.
In retrospect: We theorized in the preseason that this game would determine the winner of the Pac-12 South. And we were right. What we didn’t know was that the outcome of the Oregon-Arizona game would determine the winner of the North. We still feel solid about this pick. But if you made the trip to Tucson, you saw one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Our pick: UCLA at USC
End result: The Bruins topped the Trojans for the second straight year and won at the Coliseum for the first time since 1997.
In retrospect: Surprisingly, this game turned out to be pretty one-sided. Given the fact that UCLA was coming off a loss and USC had a ton of momentum, it actually wasn’t all that thrilling of a game. The real action was in Eugene – where the Ducks pulled out a last-minute, one-point victory over the Beavers.