Fool's Gold: First impressions and false impressions from Week 10 in the Pac-12
Coming off one of the pass-happiest Saturdays in recent memory, the Pac-12 enters its final 3 weeks with things starting to sort themselves out.
Week 10 offered some answers, but how much of what we learned will be fact and how much of it will be fiction? Read below.
1. Impression: Oregon won’t have a cakewalk with Washington
It’s a good thing Oregon is so good: No Pac-12 team has a more perilous road ahead in the regular season’s final 3 weeks than the Ducks.
Washington’s prolific passing attack could spell trouble for Oregon, which has had some trouble against the pass this year.
The Ducks rank 11th in passing yards allowed and 9th in pass efficiency defense and now come the Huskies’ most prolific passing offense in the Pac-12.
When Oregon allows 247 passing yards to Colorado’s JT Shrout, it’s fair to wonder if Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. will top 400 yards.
Verdict: First impression is correct. The Ducks will survive to square off with Utah with just 1 loss … but it won’t be easy.
2. Impression: Who needs Zach Charbonnet?
Charbonnet was a late scratch Saturday against Arizona State, but no one bothered to tell the Bruin backfield that would be a problem.
And it wasn’t.
UCLA rushed for more than 400 yards behind 100-yard games from Kazmeir Allen and Dorian Thompson-Robinson and key backup performances from Keegan Jones and Colson Yankoff.
The Bruins might not need Charbonnet back against Arizona’s porous defense in Week 11, nor would they miss him much in Week 13 against Cal.
But that Week 12 matchup with USC? Yeah, that won’t be fun without him.
Verdict: False impression. The Bruins obviously need Zach Charbonnet.
3. Impression: Oregon will allow a sack before Caleb Williams throws an interception
How can you possibly decide between the 2 biggest stats to define the Pac-12 this season?
The Ducks’ 1 sack allowed this year is absolutely stunning and is getting far less coverage than it deserves.
Williams’ 1 interception thrown is just as impressive, and has a chance to hold up longer than Oregon’s stingy offensive line. The Ducks tangle with Washington and Utah’s impressive defensive lines over the next 2 weeks, while the Trojans face Colorado this weekend.
If the Huskies don’t get to Bo Nix, the Utes almost certainly will.
If they don’t, Oregon’s offensive line will go down as one of the best in history.
Verdict: First impression. The Ducks are going to struggle against the Huskies and Utes to keep Nix standing.
4. Impression: Oregon State should turn back to Chance Nolan
For 3 games, Ben Gulbranson stood strong enough to help the Beavers go 3-0 in relief of Chance Nolan.
Strong enough until Friday night, that is.
Gulbranson collapsed against Washington’s weak pass defense, throwing for just 87 yards in a 24-21 loss.
That kind of showing should be enough to move Nolan back into the starting lineup, as he returned healthy last week but backed up Gulbranson.
Nolan hasn’t been all that good this year but he’s better than Gulbranson, and he takes more chances.
Verdict: First impression. The Beavers would do right by going back to Nolan.
5. Impression: The impact of Jordan Addison was overstated for USC
Addison, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, has had a solid season for the Trojans. He’s caught 39 passes for 585 yards and 7 scores to lead USC receivers in production.
Mario Williams, who came to Hollywood from Oklahoma along with QB Caleb Williams, has been a great complement to Addison, catching 26 balls for 493 yards and 4 scores.
But as USC has proven the past 2 games, the Trojans are probably deepest at wide receiver.
On Saturday against the Bears, Michael Jackson III had 5 grabs for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns, Tahj Washington had 7 grabs for 112 yards and a score and Terrell Bynum added 7 catches for 68 yards.
Verdict: First impression. As much as Addison’s star shines, the Trojans have reinforcements.
6. Impression: The conference will finish the regular season with 5 10-win teams
As it stands, 5 Pac-12 teams have 10 wins as a possibility heading into the final 3 weeks.
Some paths to that goal are easier than others.
At 8-1 and with 2 patsies (Cal, Arizona) and 1 matchup with cross-town rival USC ahead, UCLA has the clearest path to 10 wins.
The 8-1 Trojans must contend with Colorado, and then travel to UCLA before returning home to play a resurgent Notre Dame squad that just took down No. 4 Clemson.
Mighty Oregon also clocks in at 8-1, but the Ducks have an unenviable final stretch, which includes matchups with Washington, Utah and Oregon State.
In addition to the Ducks, the 7-2 Utes have gimmes against Stanford and Colorado.
Washington’s path forward is the hardest to navigate, with a road trip at Oregon next weekend and matchups at home against Colorado and Washington State to close it out.
Verdict: False impression. It’d be a stretch to imagine the Huskies reeling off 3 straight.