10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 12 in the Pac-12
After UCLA’s resounding and rewarding 38-20 win over USC, it’s not about our overreaction, but possibly Martin Jarmond’s.
Will he overlook some very serious concerns and retain his beleaguered head coach after one of the most lopsided matchups in the history of the cross-town rivalry?
Will USC look at a similar set of concerns and reign in Lincoln Riley?
Now that would be an overreaction.
But here are a handful more after a truly memorable penultimate weekend of the 2023 regular season…
10. If I’m USC, I seriously question retaining Clay Helton … I mean Lincoln Riley
The absolute worst word you can use to describe a football team is quitters, but that’s the rap on USC after laying a complete egg against cross-town rival UCLA. At home. To lose for the 5th time in 6 games.
The Trojans’ fall from grace was a Shakespearean tale, replete with the evil scapegoat getting the axe, only for the kingdom’s defenses to look just as week in his absence.
So we know it’s not Alex Grinch’s fault. Who else could it be? How about the man upstairs?
Riley is now 7-7 after an 11-1 start at USC, Heltonian numbers as of late. Heading into a Big Ten debut season with a new quarterback and an absolutely sadistic schedule, the Trojans ought to think about the program they want and need to be.
I’m not sold Riley is it.
9. UCLA wins one for the Chipper — but it’s too little too late
It was as if the entire UCLA football program rallied behind Chip Kelly on Saturday, like that scene in Rudy when all the players put their jerseys on the table and they say they won’t play unless Rudy dresses.
The Bruins were just so ruthless against the Trojans, it was like they sent them back 5 years. This was drastic. It was a tease — like what if we’d seen Ethan Garbers grow and develop all year. It was the kind of win that can put a frustrated fan base at ease.
But college football needs to be about more than 1 win in 1 season, even if that win was a complete domination of a USC squad once ranked in the top 5 and 6-0 to start the season.
Yes, the Bruins were thoroughly successful in every facet against the Trojans, but what ails UCLA is far deeper than something 1 win can fix. The Bruins’ recruiting remains in the dumps. Its fundraising is kaput. Its NIL is hurting. The fan base is ready to move on. Pull the plug.
8. Laiatu Latu wrapped up DPOY honors
You never want to see a great player like Jonah Elliss go down, particularly in the midst of a breakout season, but the Utah defensive end’s loss is Latu’s gain.
Truth be told, Latu had been gaining on Elliss anyway, but his tremendous game against USC — a team-high 7 tackles and 2 sacks — was a bit of a showtime performance.
Latu has had sacks in 8 games this year, with 3 games with at least 2 takedowns.
Not only is his story fantastic, so is he.
7. Arizona, the un-USC
USC’s offense? Historically good. It’s defense? Historically bad.
OK, now do Arizona.
Why is Jedd Fisch in the position he’s in? Because the Wildcats have some of the best balance in the conference, with an ascendant defense catching up to what was already a pretty good offense.
Arizona ranks between 4th and 7th in basically every single team statistical category. It almost defies logic. If they continue to make team-wide strides next offseason, they’re stacking up to be a top-4 Big-12 team.
6. Oregon State blew its shot
DJ, come on baby. Jonathan Smith went out and wrangled DJ Uiagalelei just for moments like these, with Oregon State staring at a mountain of opportunity.
You all can’t pin all of the loss against Washignton on DJU, just most of it. The defense held arguably the nation’s most explosive passing game in check. Damien Martinez had more than 120 rushing yards.
And Uiagalelei went 15-of-31 for 164 yards and 2 interceptions. That about sums it up.
If he can bounce back against Oregon this week, all is not lost. But still, what a wasted shot.
5. The Heisman race is over
Just mail Bo Nix the trophy and make it easy on everyone involved. Nix has simply outplayed his closest competitor, Michael Penix Jr., down the stretch and his team has outplayed Jayden Daniels’ LSU squad all year long.
Some years are question marks. This isn’t one of them.
His first half performance on Saturday against Arizona State wasn’t just a thing of beauty, it was a model of efficiency. Nix wasn’t just hitting on all cylinders, he borrowed a few from the Sun Devils. He had 6 touchdown passes ranging from 16 yards to 71. He missed on just 5 of his 29 throws. He had 404 passing yards and played 1 drive into the 3rd quarter.
4. Sorry, Florida State — key injury sends Huskies up the rankings. And UW isn’t done climbing
For the greater college football community, the loss of FSU QB Jordan Travis stings. By all accounts he’s a good kid who reclaimed his career and was leading the Seminoles to the promised land.
But for the Huskies, his loss may have been a necessary evil. Barring a surprising Florida State late-season loss, it was going to take something drastic for Washington to jump the Seminoles. The loss of a Heisman-contending quarterback is mighty drastic.
In concert with the Huskies’ impressive win over the impressive Beavers, it was enough for voters to move them up to the coveted 4th spot in the AP rankings. A CFP rankings bump should ensue. And then another one.
Assuming the the Huskies take care of business in the Apple Cup as expected, with either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Michigan winning their big B1G matchup, UW will slide into the No. 3 spot heading into the Pac-12 title game.
But we won’t have to wait until Dec. 3 to know if the conference will get its first CFP invitation since 2016.
If both the Huskies and Ducks win this weekend, one of them is assured of a Playoff bid, as an undefeated Washington team would be No. 3, while a 1-loss Oregon team would be No. 4.
3. Arizona saved the deflated Pac-12 middle class
Remember just a couple months ago, when you would have thought the league was in the final throes of a desperate last gasp of relevancy.
You had a glut of 8 ranked teams, the most in the country by 3 teams, with the SEC only landing 5. Sure, the Huskies and Ducks were soaring, but so were OSU and Utah, USC and UCLA, Washington State and Colorado.
One by one, the 2nd tier fell off. Goodbye Trojans and Bruins, Cougars and Buffs and Utes.
Given their starts, it’s a surprise that we have 8 teams with at least 4 losses.
And it’s a bigger surprise Arizona is not one of them.
2. Jedd Fisch will heat up big boards this off-season
His name has already been bandied about for the Michigan State opening. If UCLA cans Kelly, some fans are wondering if they can bring back their former assistant and interim head coach.
That’s just the start. The Wildcats would be wise to give nice ol’ Mr. Fisch a hearty raise. Maybe even more important: Keeping his terrific staff intact.
1. This Pac-12 season defied reason — and expectations
There were big hopes for the conference in its swan song, but things unfolded in even more exciting and wild fashion in 2023.
The rise and fall of Colorado. The rise and fall of Wazzu. The continued anarchy that was Alex Grinch’s defense. The continued improvement of UCLA’s. Utah clinging on for dear life. Arizona landing knockout blows. Eight ranked teams at one point. Two likely Heisman finalists.
Beat that, SEC.