Gold: 1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 6
UCLA’s major win over No. 11 Utah on Saturday was not just a statement game for the Bruins this year.
The Bruins enter their bye week 6-0 after another win over a higher-ranked opponent. They’ll have 2 weeks to prepare for a pivotal matchup at Oregon. And speaking of byes, Cal and Colorado were both off this week.
Here’s one thing I learned from every other Pac-12 team in Week 6 …
Arizona: Running game draws a blank against Ducks
In an alternate reality, homegrown star Bijan Robinson is racking up his 4th straight 100-yard game on Saturday not for the Texas Longhorns in a 49-0 win over Oklahoma but for the Arizona Wildcats in what might not have been a 49-22 loss to the No. 12 Oregon Ducks.
Instead, the local Salpointe Catholic star joined the Longhorns in the midst of a major downswing for the Wildcats, who could’ve used him in the big loss to the Ducks.
As it stands, Arizona rushed for just 115 yards on 25 carries, with lead back Michael Wiley sidelined because of an oblique injury after gaining just 10 yards on six carries. Unlike the workhorse Robinson, who had 130 yards and 2 scores on 22 carries for the Longhorns, no Arizona back had more than Jonah Coleman’s 9 carries.
The Wildcats need to do two things going forward: Get a featured back and make sure no local stars like Robinson bounce to bigger, better programs.
Arizona State: Sun Devils make their case for Aguano in upset win over Huskies
With their head coach fired in the first month of the season, the Arizona State football team could have been forgiven for folding under the pressure of a program in shambles.
But last week, the Sun Devils put up 25 points on USC, at the time their highest point total since a Week 1 win over Northern Arizona.
They did themselves one — or maybe even two — better on Saturday, upsetting No. 21 Washington on the strength of a career performance from backup quarterback Trenton Bourguet.
Thrust into action when Emory Jones took a vicious hit to the head from Washington’s Asa Turner, who was subsequently ejected for targeting, Bourguet completed 15-of-21 passes for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception.
On the other side of the field, Michael Penix Jr. continued his slide, looking more like the former walk-on than Bourguet. Penix had his second straight poor game in his second straight loss, completing just 33-of-53 passes for 311 yards, zero touchdowns and 1 interception.
Oregon: Dinking and dunking Ducks move the ball around
One of the amazing things about the Oregon offense of the late-aughts was how well the Ducks distributed the ball.
With new coach Dan Lanning bringing a defensive approach to the Ducks, he’s left the offense to Kenny Dillingham, who is dialing it up all over the field, too.
Six Oregon players carried the ball in a 49-22 win over Arizona, teaming to gain 306 yards on 41 rushes. The Ducks had 7 rushing touchdowns, including 3 by quarterback Bo Nix. Impressively, 4 Oregon players had more than 65 rushing yards, including 92 yards on 6 carries for Noah Whittington and 70 yards on 8 carries for Nix.
The passing game wasn’t much different: 10 Ducks caught passes, with 7 catching multiple balls.
Oregon State: Has Oregon State found its quarterback of the future?
With Chance Nolan sidelined by a neck injury, Oregon State redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Gulbranson got his first career start. And what a finish it was.
After stepping in for Nolan in a 42-16 loss at Utah last Saturday to poor results — Gulbranson completed just 12-of-21 passes for 177 yards and 2 interceptions — Gulbranson capped off a 20-for-29, 250-yard performance with his second touchown of the game, a 56-yard connection with Tre’Shaun Harrison that got the Beavers to within 2 of Stanford with 13 seconds left. Then Gulbranson ran in the 2-point conversion to lift Oregon State to its first Pac-12 win this season and a 4-2 overall record.
A win over Stanford is nothing to sneeze at, even if the Cardinal have been down. This could mean big things in Corvallis. Even if Nolan is healthy, do you turn the keys back over to him?
Stanford: Bad running game rears its ugly head
Stanford knew it was in trouble when EJ Smith was lost for the season. But the running game has reverted to the ugly performance of the past 2 years, totaling just 90 yards on 27 carries — a 3.3 average — in a 28-27 loss to Oregon State.
The Cardinal elevated Casey Filkins to the feature back role, but it’s not working. He had just 62 yards on 21 carries and a score against the Beavers. That’s not going to cut it.
UCLA: Running game off to races with Zach Charbonnet
After seeing little playing time as a sophomore for Michigan in 2020, Zach Charbonnet moved out west and quickly entrenched himself as a force for UCLA last year. But even after rushing for 106 yards on 6 carries in his first game for the Bruins, he constantly had to prove himself.
Eventually, he improved from consistent threat to workhorse back for the Bruins, and he proved it again Saturday.
Charbonnet’s season-high 198 yards and a score were a major statement against one of the league’s top defenses. He broke tackles, he punished Utah’s front seven and he regularly turned negative plays into positive ones. He played the part of a workhorse and he looked the part, as well, frequently delivering blows before he received. them.
He’s headed to his second straight 1,000-yard season, with some prime opportunities left this season.
USC: Passing game fades despite win over Washington State
While Travis Dye continues to tack on the yardage for USC — the Oregon transfer added 149 yards and a score in a 30-14 win over Washington State on Saturday — the Trojans’ passing game continues to have its curiosities.
After appearing to right the ship last week in a 42-25 win over Arizona State, Caleb Williams completed just 15-of-29 passes for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns with no picks.
All-world wideout Jordan Addison had a measly 37 yards on 3 catches, the second time in 3 weeks that he was shut down. You don’t expect to see the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner disappear in such a noticeable way, but it’s clear something is off in his chemistry with Williams.
Meanwhile, Williams connected with his former Oklahoma teammate Mario Williams 4 times for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was USC’s only receiver with more than 38 yards on the day.
Utah: Passing game in trouble as Cameron Rising starts to falter
A year ago, Cameron Rising could turn it up when he needed to, throwing for 306 yards and 2 scores in a 42-26 win at USC in Week 5 and 294 yards in a surprisingly close 38-29 win over Arizona in mid-November.
Rising was expected to take a bit of a leap in the passing game this year, but he hasn’t been nearly as productive as anticipated. On Saturday in a 42-32 loss at UCLA, he wasn’t the reason Utah lost — he had 287 yards on 23-of-32 passing, but threw a pick — but he didn’t do much to help them win, either.
Rising’s yardage total was his best of the season, which isn’t saying much.
Washington: Where did the pass rush go?
Just a week after allowing 5 second-half sacks in a loss to USC, Arizona State manned up the imposing Washington front seven and the Huskies were shut down for the second straight week.
It’s one thing for Washington to sack elusive UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson just once in the Huskies’ loss to UCLA in Week 5. It’s another thing for Washington to fail to take down Arizona State backup quarterback Trenton Bourguet even once in a 45-38 loss to the Sun Devils.
The Huskies had 15 sacks in the first 4 games but have been neutralized in the last two. That doesn’t bode well for Washington’s long-term chances.
What was once a promising start for the Huskies has spiraled into a surprising 2-game losing streak. Washington faces Arizona next week, and the 3-3 Wildcats have allowed just 8 sacks all year.
Washington State: Cameron Ward struggles to avoid USC pass rush
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward has had a fine debut as a Pac-12 starter, and he wasn’t half-bad against USC on Saturday, completing 19-of-32 passes for 172 yards and 2 scores with no interceptions. It was his first zero-pick performance since Week 1.
But Ward’s fatal flaw has been holding onto the ball too long, and he was sacked 5 more times against the Trojans. USC star defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu had 3 sacks while Nick Figueroa added 2.
That gives him 20 sacks allowed on the season, one of the worst marks in college football.
Ward was sacked 5 times 2 weeks again against Oregon and 4 times the week before that against lowly Colorado State. Those numbers have to be drastically reduced if the 4-2 Cougars hope to contend for a top-flight bowl game.