1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 12
At this point in the season, it’s hard to be surprised. For the most part, we know what we know.
But to watch USC’s collapse continue in such grand fashion against UCLA on Saturday — that was a shocker.
We learned even more about the Trojans — more than we wanted to know, quite frankly.
Here is thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 12…
Arizona: Cats pull off their 5th straight — and best win in years
Yes, Utah is a shell of its former self, to the point that Kyle Whittingham is calling this the most difficult season of his coaching career.
But if you thought Arizona had made a proclamation before, its remarkable 42-18 win over the Utes left no doubt that the Cats are for real, for real.
In hindsight, 2 of Arizona’s wins in its recent 3-game winning streak over ranked teams appear to be a mirage: Besting Washington State and UCLA, while impressive, aren’t so impressive.
Yes, eking by Oregon State in a 3-point win is good. But destroying Utah, no matter how beaten up, is a feather in Jedd Fisch’s cap.
This one was never in doubt. Also not in doubt, the Wildcats ability to contend in the Big-12 under Fisch.
Arizona State: Sun Devils dealt in by the monster Kenny Dillingham created
There was some question as to if Dillingham’s familiarity with Bo Nix would help Arizona State surprise the Oregon quarterback.
Well, on Saturday, Nix had 381 yards and 6 scores … in the first half.
Coming off 2 wins in 3 weeks, ASU seemed to have some mojo going. But Oregon, like Utah 2 weeks ago, made quick work of that.
Cal: Slow and steady wins the race, even with Jaydn Ott off to the races
Facing a Stanford offense that ranks as a nipping puppy on the “threat” scale, Cal didn’t need to pull out all the stops Saturday. So the Bears did what they do best — let Jaydn Ott do his thing.
Ott had 166 yards on 36 rushes with a touchdown, helping the Bears score slowly and methodically against the Cardinal.
Cal scored 7 points in each of the first 3 quarters, plus 6 in the 4th.
Colorado: Have the Buffaloes found their back?
One of Colorado’s most identifiable issues has been the clear lack of a dependable running back. That was illustrated by one key fact: from Weeks 7-11, the Buffaloes didn’t give a single running back with double-figure carries.
Not that Colorado was particularly productive on the ground Friday night against Washington State, but the Buffaloes did appear to settle on Sy’veon Wilkerson as their top back. He had 13 rushes for 49 yards and a score, while Dylan Edwards and Anthony Hankerson each had 7 attempts, for 42 and 31 yards, respectively.
Finding a bit more success in the ground game didn’t help protect Shedeur Sanders, as he was knocked out of the game. Sanders, however, did break Colorado’s single-season passing yards record. He has 3,230 yards heading into Week 13.
Oregon: Ducks dial it back against Sun Devils
Going up 21-0 and on pace for 80 points and 800 yards, Oregon took its foot off the gas pedal in its eventual 49-13 win over former offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
In multiple ways.
It is one thing to relieve Bo Nix of his duties after a 400-yard, 6-touchdown performance. It’s another to bring such little pressure defensively. The typically aggressive unit had zero sacks against ASU.
Perhaps Dan Lanning and Co. didn’t want to put much on film heading into the season finale against Oregon State? Or perhaps they want to keep things fresh for Washington in the Pac-12 title game.
Oregon State: What’s next for Beavers?
In the continuing evolution of the Oregon State football team, you’ve got to wonder what would’ve happened had the Beavers went out and gotten a true No. 1 receiver this offseason.
Last year, they brought in marvelous freshman running back Damien Martinez.
This year, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.
But the lack of a go-to receiver hurt the Beavers on Saturday, as DJU completed just 15-of-31 passes for 164 yards and 2 interceptions. He’s been a step up at the position for the Beavers this year, but against the undefeated, 5th-ranked team in the country, he needed to do more.
Did he have the help Saturday? I’m not so sure.
Stanford: Cardinal usage continues to raise questions
Just a few weeks ago, it appeared that Stanford had found quite the innovative offense, with quarterback Justin Lamson acting like a running back. And that’s with some good backs on the roster.
In The Big Game against Cal Saturday, Lamson had just 2 carries, running back EJ Smith had 6 and no other Cardinal had more than 1, aside from quarterback Ashton Daniels. Daniels had 67 yards on 12 attempts as Stanford had 101 rushing yards.
UCLA: Laiatu Latu makes his case
There is no better story in the Pac-12 than Laiatu Latu. He’s making it clear there is no better defender, as well.
Utah’s Jonah Elliss suffered a season-ending injury, and he was far-and-away Latu’s stiffest competition.
But the way Latu played Saturday against USC — and the way he has played all season — makes it clear he would’ve fought tooth-and-nail for the trophy, anyway.
Latu was disruptive in every thinkable way against the Trojans, sacking Caleb Williams twice en route to a team-high 7 tackles.
USC: Tailback U. falls on tough times in loss to Bruins
Charles White and Marcus Allen. LenDale White and Reggie Bush. The list of legendary USC backs goes on and on and on.
They must be smacking themselves on the forehead after what may have been the Trojans’ worst rushing performance in history.
Yes, UCLA’s defense is impressive. But holding USC to 3 rushing yards?
No USC back averaged more than Marshawn Lloyd’s 2.1 yards per carry.
Restoring the ground game is priority No. 1 — or at least priority No. 4 — for Lincoln Riley this offseason.
Utah: It just never ends for Utes
Already down perhaps a half-dozen all-conference players, Utah’s much-ballyhooed defense has become more a bally-who? defense.
Three more star defenders — including a candidate for conference defensive player of the year — were sidelined against Arizona, which took advantage of the absences in a 24-point win. Losing just Jonah Elliss and his double-digit sacks alone would hurt. But missing linebacker Karene Reid and safety Cole Bishop too? The Utes were toasted on all 3 levels.
Whittingham said Jonah Elliss is a season-ending injury, Cole Bishop and Karene Reid are significantly banged up and are questionable for next week.
"Those are three really good defenders."
— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) November 18, 2023
Washington: Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t at his best against Beavers — except when he needed to be
In the pantheon of Washington games this year, Saturday will not go down as one of his sharpest performances.
But for a quarterback seeking a national championship and an undefeated season — if not a Heisman Trophy — maybe 1 brilliant throw is all you need.
Penix completed a season-low 46.4% of his passes, but hit the only one that mattered. His 19-yard bullet to — who else? — Rome Odunze on 3rd-and-3 sealed the game for the Huskies, who were given quite the scare by the Beavers.
Washington State: Welcome back, Ron Stone Jr.
One of the biggest enigmas this season was the lack of impact of Stone, projected to be one of the league’s top linemen for the 2nd straight year.
Last season, coming off a 5-sack year, Stone had just 2, along with 31 tackles. This year, he got off to a good start with 3 sacks in his first 2 games. But starting in Week 3, Stone had zero sacks until Friday, when he bullied the Buffaloes for a pair of sacks.