Gold: 1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 5
After 1 of the Pac-12’s 4 ranked teams, No. 15 Washington, fell on Friday night at UCLA, conference fans eagerly awaited Saturday, to see if any other of the league’s best would suffer the same fate.
Alas, USC, Utah and Oregon emerged unscathed from a relatively uneventful week.
Here’s one thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 5 …
Arizona: Wildcats’ relentless offense stuns Colorado
Arizona’s football team has had so many low points over the past few years that it is almost impossible to pick just one.
But a shutout loss against a bad Colorado team last year might just be it.
So credit the Wildcats for not just responding to the Buffaloes in a big way on Saturday, but never taking their foot off the gas pedal. Arizona scored at least one touchdown in every quarter, with Jayden de Laura throwing for 6 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards.
It was a resounding win for the Wildcats and a reminder of the new pecking order at the bottom of the conference.
Arizona State: Will Sun Devils win another game this year?
The Sun Devils showed some pluck scoring 25 points against the spotty USC defense. Arizona State trailed just 21-17 at the half, and while no one in the world save for maybe Shaun Aguano thought the Sun Devils could pull off the upset, kudos to Arizona State for even keeping it close against the mighty Trojans.
That things went south in the second half is no big surprise for ASU, which simply doesn’t have the staying power to stick with USC.
But now you do have to wonder if Arizona State will win another game this year. With a road game at Colorado at the end of October, that certainly is no gimme for this downtrodden Sun Devils squad.
Cal: Bears need more balanced offensive line effort
A week after Cal’s offensive line dominated Arizona in a big win over the Wildcats, the Bears struggled mightily against Washington State.
The Cougars, coming off a zero-sack performance in a 44-41 loss to No. 14 Oregon last Saturday, took down Cal quarterback Jack Plummer 4 times and had him limping all over the field. That makes 16 sacks in just 4 games for the Purdue transfer, who is battling the dual issues of holding onto the ball too long and playing behind an offensive line that is having vastly more success in the ground game.
It wasn’t just the sacks, though. The Cougars constantly got to Plummer just as he was throwing. Credit to Plummer that he completed 23-of-33 passes for 273 yards in the face of Wazzu’s pressure. He exited the game late as Kai Millner relieved him and completed just 1-of-4 passes.
With the Bears on a bye, Plummer has a chance to heal up. It doesn’t appear Millner is ready to take over the gig.
Colorado: Defense torched again
Look on the bright side Colorado fans: At least the Buffaloes didn’t lose by 25 this time.
No, just by 23 to an Arizona team that they blew out last year, 34-0, in Boulder. This time, in Tucson, Arizona exacted a measure of revenge behind Jayden de Laura’s 6 scores.
For Colorado, it was a painful reminder of how far it has fallen. And maybe a wake-up call.
The biggest problem facing the Buffaloes is a complete lack of a pass rush. Through 4 games, the Buffs have just 4 sacks. That’s not going to cut it.
Oregon: Bo Nix takes off
Bo Nix hasn’t exactly been stationary this season, entering Saturday’s matchup with Stanford with 120 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
But in a 45-27 win over Stanford, Nix flashed his dual-threat skills better than he ever has. Nix’s 141 yards on 6 carries was a new career high, with an 80-yard touchdown ranking as one of the highlight plays of his career.
Nix is off to a terrific start for the Ducks, with 12 touchdowns and 1 pick in his past 4 games. He’s really turned things around since Week 1 against Georgia. If he continues his big streak, Oregon is in position to make a big run.
Oregon State: Lagging Beaves have budding quarterback controversy
With Chance Nolan once again dimming Oregon State’s chances against a ranked opponent, Jonathan Smith and the Beavers have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks.
Nolan struggled before leaving the game with a neck strain, with 3rd-string quarterback Ben Gulbranson coming in and being only marginally more effective. He couldn’t have been much worse than Nolan.
Nolan went just 2-for-7 with 2 picks before Gulbranson came in to complete 12-of-21 passes for 177 yards and 2 interceptions. Backup quarterback Tristan Gebbia, meanwhile, didn’t play. How the Beavers decide to move forward will be a fascinating thing to watch, as the wheels have come off for Oregon State.
Stanford: The worst is over for David Shaw and Co.
Last year, if you could’ve looked ahead at Stanford’s early Pac-12 slate this year, you wouldn’t have been too worried.
After all, USC and Washington were both 4-win teams a year ago.
But one year can make a world of difference, and Stanford found out the hard way this year with one of the toughest early-season conference slates in the country. Now, after falling to No. 10 USC, No. 18 Washington and No. 13 Oregon in consecutive weeks, the Cardinal get a bit of a reprieve.
They won’t play another team that is currently ranked until Utah on Nov. 12.
UCLA: Bobo’s breakout fueling Bruins
Jake Bobo was expected to make an instant impact for UCLA after transferring from Duke. The towering target, who stands 6-5, 215 pounds, opened the year with just 1 touchdown in 4 games, and a high of just 89 yards.
On Friday in front of a nationally televised audience, Bobo broke out in a big way, catching 6 passes for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns.
His ascension will be key for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was looking to cultivate a new No. 1 wideout.
USC: Caleb Williams rekindles connection with Jordan Addison
USC’s star quarterback Caleb Williams had an off day last Saturday in a 17-14 win over Oregon State. One of the many ways he was off was in his connection to stud wideout Jordan Addison, who was nearly silent until the last catch of the game against the Beavers, a game-winning 22-yard touchdown score.
Williams looked Addison’s way with regularity against Arizona State in a 42-27 win on Saturday, connecting with his favorite target 8 times for 105 yards. The Sun Devils took away Williams’ deep passing game — his longest completion was just 31 yards, a far cry from the regular 60-plus connections he’s had through his career — but he was able to find Mario Williams, Kyron Hudson and Malcolm Epps for touchdowns in his 4th multi-score game of the year.
Utah: Can Tavion Thomas find his mojo?
Last year, Utah running back Tavion Thomas was among the most impactful players in the Pac-12, a certifiable touchdown machine who finished with 21 scores to go along with more than 1,100 yards.
He’s been a shell of his 2021 self this year for the Utes, gaining 282 yards on 61 carries with just 4 scores. Thomas hasn’t scored in 2 weeks and his 6 carries marked a season-low.
What happened to the guy who ran for multiple touchdowns in 6 games last year? Including 13 scores from Weeks 7-10?
Utah’s got to be worried about its running game right about now.
Washington: Huskies can march back up polls with 3 convincing wins
After a 40-32 loss to UCLA that is sure to send No. 15 Washington down in the rankings, the Huskies have a cakewalk for the next month with matchups against Arizona State, Arizona, Cal and Oregon State.
A road loss to an undefeated Bruins squad at the Rose Bowl is not exactly a cause for alarm, but it will be alarming if Washington doesn’t put a hurting on the Sun Devils next Saturday. Arizona State has folded after the early firing of Herm Edwards, so if the Huskies don’t handle business, they’ll struggle to regain the trust of poll voters.
Washington State: Cougars rediscover their pass rush
With a veteran front seven and an aggressive coaching staff, the Washington State pass rush has been one of the most impressive units in the Pac-12 this year.
When the Cougars have decided to show up at all, that is.
Wazzu showed up Saturday, pummeling Cal quarterback Jack Plummer with 4 sacks and numerous knockdowns, a week after failing to sack Bo Nix once in a 44-41 loss to Oregon. Washington State now has games of 7 sacks (vs. Colorado State), 6 (Idaho), 4 (Cal), 1 (Wisconsin) — and zero against Oregon.
If the Cougars are going to keep their nice season alive with an upset over USC next week and beyond, they’ll have to develop some consistency.