10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 9 in the Pac-12
Utah is toast, USC is barely functioning and Washington lacks the killer instinct that defines College Football Playoff teams.
So of course I’m leading off with the dominating Oregon Ducks in my list of 10 things I’m reacting to after Week 9 in the Pac-12 …
10. Oregon is winning the Pac-12 … and maybe more
The AP Top 25 poll voters got it right this week, moving Oregon up to No. 6 after a complete domination of then-No. 13 Utah.
The Ducks are clicking on all cylinders, and Dan Lanning is going to get some votes for national coach of the year if this train keeps rolling.
Oregon so thoroughly handled Utah’s star-studded defense in a way that just doesn’t happen to Kyle Whittingham and Morgan Scalley-type teams. Credit goes to Will Stein for finding a way to gel with Bo Nix so quickly.
Kudos all should go to the Oregon defense, which showed zero let up against a wounded and woozy Utah offense.
9. UCLA/Arizona has stolen USC/Washington’s shine
USC has been a mess for weeks and almost allowed half-a-hundred to a mediocre at best Cal offense. Washington hasn’t put a team away early for what feels like an eternity.
And there go UCLA and Arizona, simply rewriting the stories about themselves in real time.
Both teams’ defensive improvements are 2 of the important stories to come out of the Pac-12 this year, and suddenly this game looks like the conference game of the week. The national attention will be all Huskies/Trojans, but true #AfterDarkers know that Tucson is where the real action is at this week.
8. The Trojans saved their season, but all the issues are still there
It’s downright annoying that Lincoln Riley continues to insist that things are just chipper in Heritage Hall, even if their double-comeback victory over Cal on Saturday did ensure the Trojans a winning record.
But the fact we’re talking about the USC season in such terms is a complete indictment in the first place. This was a Playoff contender less than a month ago.
Technically the Trojans have 3 games left and a chance to finish 10-2 and 8-1 in league. Technically.
Literally, USC must take on Washington, Oregon and UCLA. Literally.
They’re not going to win another game. But at least they won’t be .500.
7. Kenny Dillingham is going to be dangerous
After losing to Fresno State, 29-0, on Week 3, the Arizona State Sun Devils have looked like a totally different team, even if they hadn’t gotten completely over the top.
Following a 42-28 loss to then-No. 5 USC, a game they trailed by 1 touchdown with less than 8 minutes left, ASU lost 3 consecutive 1-score games, including 2 straight 3-point defeats.
It felt like the Sun Devils were due to break out, and they did Saturday in a 38-27 win over Washington State. They went off for 500 yards with a balanced offensive attack — 274 passing yards, 235 rushing — and a stifling run defense that bottled up the Cougars already lagging running game.
Dillingham and his Sun Devils haven’t quite arrived, but they’re at least getting dressed for the red carpet.
6. Jedd Fisch already is
If the Sun Devils are on the rise, their Territorial Cup partners are in a hot air balloon.
Beating a ranked Washington State team clearly on a downward spiral 2 weeks ago meant something. Scoring 2 4th-quarter touchdowns to defeat the No. 11 Oregon State Beavers is another thing entirely.
It was clear last year that Jedd Fisch was building something sustainable in Tucson. But the outlook is even brighter today than it was last week.
A win over No. 20 UCLA — which would be the Wildcats 3rd straight over a ranked opponent — would be mighty convincing.
5. Even the beard can’t hide Coach Prime
Deion Sanders was everywhere the first month of the college football season.
But now that his Colorado Buffaloes have fallen back to .500, he seems to want to be incognito, sporting an impressive silver beard, but even that can’t hide him from the reality of his team.
The Buffaloes were the best story in football in September, but everyone’s fears have been realized: Colorado has neither the depth nor the non-negotiables to withstand adversity. The Buffaloes are bad up front and bad on defense.
Instant turnarounds are made that way.
Facing a great defense and a potential 10-win UCLA squad, Colorado was exposed once more.
4. Against good defenses, this is who Utah is
OK, so we all got a little excited with the Pig Farmer, forgetting Bryson Barnes was playing the USC defense in Week 8. An actual pig farmer could put up points against the Trojans. Literal pigs might break a few runs.
So maybe we should have expected him to crash back down to Earth like a satellite knocked out of orbit against Oregon’s stout unit on Saturday. And he did, hitting just 15-of-29 passes for 136 yards and 2 picks.
Against the likes of UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon, the Utes have a combined 20 points.
If only they could play USC every week.
3. Stanford has its QB of the future
Ashton Daniels made his first big splash for Stanford 2 weeks ago in an improbable comeback win over Colorado, when he threw for 396 yards and 4 scores as the Cardinal shocked Coach Prime, 46-43, in triple overtime.
But that was against the Colorado defense, making it worth about 60%.
What he did Saturday in a near-upset of No. 5 Washington, though, changes his trajectory. He basically went toe-to-toe with Michael Penix Jr., and in some ways bested him. He completed 31-of-50 passes for 367 yards and a score, basically matching Penix’s 369 yards, but he added 18 carries for 81 yards and 2 scores.
His versatility will be mighty important in Troy Taylor’s innovative offense.
2. Arizona has its QB of the present
I hope Jayden de Laura is spending some time watching QB-needy teams to close out the year, because it’s hard to imagine him ever getting his gig back in Tucson.
Anyone who watched Noah Fifita in limited action last year saw flickers of greatness despite limited success: He completed just 9-of-19 passes for 128 yards, but even that says something. He was always looking downfield, looking to extend plays.
Now coming off his 4th consecutive strong showing — and his best yet — there’s no way he’s going back to the bench. He absolutely lit up a terrific Oregon State with 25-of-32 completions, 275 yards and 3 touchdowns. That marked his 3rd game with 3 or more scores. He could very well lead the Cats to a 4-0 finish, too.
1. But forget QBs — the Pac-12’s RB crop is plenty impressive, too
No, this is not the throwback year of 2018, when 8 Pac-12 running backs topped the mythical mark, but we should not be ignoring the ground games that are leading the Pac-12 to glory.
For the 4th consecutive full season, at least 5 conference backs are on pace for 1,000 yards. Jaydn Ott has been terrific. Damien Martinez got off to a record-breaking start, even if he’s cooled down a bit. Bucky Irving is Bucky Irving, and the L.A. backs — MarShawn Lloyd of USC and Carson Steele from UCLA — are near locks.
They are all averaging at least 84 yards per game.
There’s no Bijan Robinson in the bunch, but it is an overlooked group.