I optimistically predicted 8-1 weekend for the Pac-12 in non-conference day. By 3:30 in the afternoon, I was already going to be way over on the number of wins.
Colorado got the conference off to a fast start beating their in state rival Colorado State by two touchdowns (somehow the Rams held Paul Richardson to two catches and 40+ yards). Oregon and California put away two FCS opponents who most of us wouldn’t be able to point out on a map for two meaningless wins. Then it went downhill later in the afternoon.
Texas re-establishes their footprint in the Rose Bowl (sorry Cal ’04 and USC ’05 fans to bringing back bad memories) with a resounding 49-20 victory against the Baby Bears to avenge last year’s defeat in Austin. Case McCoy (Colt’s brother) established himself firmly as the #1 QB moving forward and Kevin Prince threw the ball three times to the men in burnt orange. Needless to say Rick Neuheisal’s seat is hot as UCLA now needs 5 conference wins to qualify for a bowl game.
Nebraska avenged their embarrassing performance in last year’s Holiday Bowl as they ran all over Washington’s touted run defense to beat the Huskies 51-38. Big-10 officials awarded a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties and a fumble recovery to the Huskers, but Washington lost the game simply because they could not stop the run. Once they fell behind, they could not lean on their biggest weapon, Chris Polk, and Keith Price was left scrambling for his life against the Husker pass rush. We did learn this game, Washington is capable of quick strike plays this game and there’s little reason why their offense will be an issue in conference games.
In probably the two toughest losses of the week, Arizona State follows through their motto of falling flat as they couldn’t hold on to their 14-10 lead, and Brock Osweiler couldn’t bring the Sun Devils back as they fell 17-14 to the Illini. A big 3rd down stop gave Sparky a chance to mount a comeback, but the drive stalled at mid-field as ASU decided to take big shots down field even though the Illini appeared to be playing prevent defense. The Sun Devils were able to keep dual-threat QB Nathan Scheelhaase in check most of the day, but the offense failed to move the ball constantly throughout the day. This was not a good showing by the supposed Pac-12 South favorites.
In San Diego, Washington State blew a great chance to move to 3-0 as they feel to the San Diego State Aztecs 42-24. The Cougars were up 24-14 midway through the 3rd quarter and forced an Aztec punt. But inexplicably, they attempted to try to go for a block punt and roughed the kicker which lead to 7 points on the following play. After that, the Aztecs rode the legs of Ronnie Hillman for first down after first down. Would Wazzou have been better off if Jeff Tuel was playing? Probably. But at the end of the day, they just couldn’t simply get the ball into their play-makers Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter enough in the second half.
Luckily later in the afternoon USC was able to take care of business against Syracuse and Utah was able to put away the Mormans in Provo. However, more than likely this was too little too late, as the early games were on ABC and most people were probably tuned in to Ohio State-Miami and Oklahoma-Florida State.
What does this all mean?
Two BCS bowl bids for the conference is probably a pipe-dream. More than likely, Stanford’s BCS title game hopes as well. Hopefully
The good news is that there are still two high-profile games against Notre Dame which Stanford and USC absolutely need to sweep. In addition, there’s one more game against BYU and Utah’s game at Big East favorite Pitt. Winning all those games may bring the conference back respectability. But more than likely the at-large BCS bid is going to another Big-12 team, the SEC runner up, and the Big-10 unless something strange happens later in the season. The Pac-12 will need to recover, lick their wounds, and finish strong similar to 2008 to erase memories of the performance this week.