Reacting to the developments in the Pac-12 on the field…
1. How to ‘Combat Those Beavers’
It took less than four hours for Oregon State to end 61 years of vanity.
Actually, it took about 45 minutes of play time.
Because by the end of the third quarter, the Beavers were in full command and headed for their first victory over USC at the LA Coliseum since 1960.
Not only was the losing streak older than Jonathan Smith’s by 18 years, it was even older than Mike Riley’s.
What struck us most about the 45-27 victory was the way OSU crushed the Trojans with the once successfully used formula USC:
– The Beavers owned the trenches and controlled the game, churning out 322 yards.
When everyone in the Coliseum knew a run was coming, he still got the yardage he needed.
This is, essentially, the student body wherever we choose.
— His tailback, BJ Baylor, played the great USC tailback of the decades — except he was a three-star recruit with limited Power Five offers.
– His playmaking and placecalling was so impressive that the Beavers scored two turnovers and 14 penalties (for 154 yards) and still won easily.
– they were more physical; When there was a need to make a play, he did every play; They were … inevitable.
And now he is one of the favorite players to win the Pac-12.
That’s right: At this point in time, the Beavers (3-1/1-0) cannot be kicked out of the conference race.
Oregon remains the favorite, behind UCLA, Arizona is the state secret and a few others are yet to die.
But we wouldn’t dare ignore Oregon State, not the one with that offensive line and that running game. And not with quarterback Chance Nolan as the puppet master.
That said, we are left to wonder how the season might have been a little different if the Beavers had chosen Nolan to start the opener at Purdue.
It’s not hard to imagine that Nolan won at West Lafayette and the Beavers finished September with a 4-0 record, ranked in the Top 20, one of the hottest stories of the youth season.
2. Survival, Squared
The two Pac-12 Preseason favorites, Washington and Utah, were close to becoming mid-season after-thoughts, but they narrowly escaped victory, doing what they traditionally did best.
Utah’s defense played out like 2019 again and locked out Washington State in the second half. But the Utes lagged late in the fourth quarter as two fumbles in the red zone, a misplaced short field goal and a general aversion to playing up Utah’s brand of offense.
Once the Utes committed to his ground game, and especially tailback TJ Pleasure, he kept the game away and improved to 2–2 on aggregate.
It was exactly the same thing in Seattle, only different. The Huskies lost a 24-10 lead in the second half when they returned to what we would call their “Montana Mode” offense.
Cal leveled the game with three minutes remaining, but the Huskies won in overtime when their defense (of course) forced a fumble.
Like Utah, the Huskies now lead 2-2 and 1-0 in conference play. That means they are in the running, at least for the moment.
We are not convinced either team is aggressive enough to compete in November.
3. Not Your Grandfather’s UCLA
OK, we’re exaggerating – but not by much.
This is the toughest, toughest, most resilient UCLA team in ages. Certainly since the Bob Toledo versions that produced back-to-back 10-win seasons in the late 1990s, but possibly in the glory days of the Terry Donahue era.
We knew the Bruins had a first-class running game. But the 35-24 win at Stanford on Saturday afternoon showed us something else.
It showed quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson playing Fresno State’s Jake Hainer at the Rose Bowl a week earlier:
Battered, hobbling, in apparent pain and in need of healing on the sidelines, Thompson-Robinson nonetheless directed a 13-play, fourth-quarter touchdown drive that won.
It was exactly the kind of drive we had often seen from Stanford during our decade-plus dominance in the series. The Cardinal knew what was happening and yet he couldn’t stop UCLA, who rushed for 204 yards and converted 53% of his third down.
And for readers who haven’t picked up on our topic of the night, we’ll make it clear: UCLA and Oregon State both ride their offensive lines to road victories over opponents who have generally tormented them for years. .
The conference title will be won up front. And to be honest, we’re not yet sure which team will benefit.
4. Oregon wins, and wins
The Pac-12’s best hope for the college football playoffs couldn’t have asked for a better result from Other Coast.
Clemson’s surprise defeat to NC State forced a perennial playoff team out of the race and effectively reduced the ACC’s chances of sending a team to the CFP.
The Tigers have two losses (Georgia and NC State), while the ACC’s remaining unbeaten or one-loss teams are: Wake Forest, NC State, Louisville, Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Duke and Pittsburgh.
Neither of them is good enough to finish 13-0 and neither of them is going to end up with a loss. Sure, they would never squeeze Oregon if the Ducks finished 13-0 or 12-1 and won the Pac-12 title.
What’s more, Oklahoma — the only Big 12 team that could bid away from a one-loss Oregon — looked grim in a narrow victory over West Virginia.
Yes, Notre Dame was impressive; Alabama and Georgia won easily; And there are still five unbeaten teams in the Big Ten.
But clearly, there is room for freshmen at the top tier of the playoff rankings.
Especially newcomers who have a Power Five championship and a win at Ohio State on their resume.
5. Number 2s to the Rescue
Despite throwing five interceptions – five! – Arizona quarterback Jordan McCloud is expected to start the next game (against UCLA).
Why? Because McCloud is the team’s best choice, that underscores one of Tucson’s key issues, but also highlights an emerging trend at the convention.
For at least five teams, a quarterback who did not start the season offers the best chance for success.
– McCloud, a transfer from USF who joined the program over the summer, was number 3 on the depth chart behind Gunner Cruise and Will Plummer.
– USC freshman Jackson Dart, while currently injured, should resume after Kydon Slovis recovers.
— Oregon State’s season has gone to the next level since the switch from Sam Noir to Nolan, who relocated from Colorado.
– Stanford started Jack West as the opener but quickly realized that Tanner Mackie was a better option.
— and Utah has staked its fortunes for Cam Rising, who sat on the bench for three games behind Charlie Brewer’s transfer.
(There may be a sixth example, but Washington State’s quarterback position is unstable due to injuries.)
All of this highlights the difficult nature of managing the quarterback room in the era of transfer portals. And The risk that comes with relying on newcomers to direct an unfamiliar offense.
Currently the top six or eight quarterbacks in the conference are in their second season (if not third or fourth) in the system.
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