Gold: 1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 7
Leave it to the Pac-12 to spoil the hopes of its fans with 6 weeks remaining.
The biggest winner on Saturday? UCLA, which will likely move into the top 10 following losses by 4 top-10 teams.
Unfortunately for the conference, one of those teams was USC. That’s not a good thing for the conference, which is now led by a Bruins team with a soft schedule and an Oregon squad — which was also on a bye — that lost to Georgia by 46 in Week 1.
The one thing we know is the conference has a rocky road ahead if it wants to complete in the CFP for the first time since 2016.
Here’s one thing I learned from every other Pac-12 team in Week 7 …
Arizona: Passing game shows up, but defense lets down Cats again
If I’m Jedd Fisch, I’m looking far and wide once the transfer portal opens up to secure some decent defensive talent.
Once again, Arizona’s offense looked impressive while the defense was abused in a 49-39 loss at Washington. Coming off a 1-win season, a win at rollicking Husky Stadium would have been a tough task.
But you’ve got to love the Wildcats’ future.
Sophomore Jayden de Laura completed 25-of-34 passes for 400 yards and 4 scores with 0 interceptions, hitting true freshman Tetairoa McMillan 7 times for 132 yards and 2 scores and sophomore Dorian Singer 6 times for 99 yards and a score.
That’s what you call a core.
Cal: Bears bowl chances take big blow
When Cal ultimately falls short of the postseason, it’s going to look back to Week 7 and wonder what the heck happened.
As it stands, I don’t see 3 wins the rest of the year for this Bears team, which became Colorado’s first victim of the season. Cal faces a gauntlet of Washington, Oregon, USC, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA the rest of the way — 4 of the conference’s top 5 teams plus a formidable Beavers squad and an always-emotional Cardinal rival.
With the running game going surprisingly sour, Cal needs to ask itself what its identity will be the rest of the way.
Colorado: Buffaloes snap putrid streak with emotional victory
Sometimes it takes a loss to spark a win.
A winless Colorado squad was galvanized by what appeared to be a serious injury to running back Deion Smith, who was taken off the Folsom Field turf on a stretcher, coming from behind to stun Cal for its first win of the season.
The Buffaloes’ 20-13 overtime win wasn’t particularly pretty, but it was significant and emotional, with Buffs fans rushing the field.
By the time the players danced into the locker room after Jack Plummer’s 4th-down pass, Smith was up and walking to the delight of his teammates.
Ultimately, it was another injury that also led to the Colorado win. When QB Owen McCown went down with an abdomen injury, JT Shrout stepped in and led the Buffaloes to the win, completing 8-of-12 passing for 69 yards and a score. McCown was 13-of-21 for 104 yards with a pick before he was injured.
For the Buffaloes, holding Cal’s freshman star Jaydn Ott to just 47 yards on 13 carries with no scores has to be particularly uplifting.
Oregon State: Beavers control Cougars on the ground
The last time the Oregon State running game piled up the kind of yardage it totaled on Saturday in a 24-10 win over Washington State, the Beavers were dancing over Montana State in a 68-28 win over the Bobcats.
Oregon State totaled 214 yards in that win, with six players gaining between 13 and 63 yards.
On Saturday against the Cougars, it was the Damien Martinez show, as the shifty back had 111 yards on 16 carries, while Swiss Army Knife Jack Colletto brought two drives home with rushing touchdowns.
The Beavers totaled 203 yards on the ground, their 2nd-highest total of the year.
Stanford: Pass defense steps up in South Bend
It’s one thing to let Caleb Williams hit you for 20-for-27 passing for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns. It’s one thing for Michael Penix Jr. to ding you for 309 passing yards and 2 scores. It’s one thing for Bo Nix to put up 302 combined yards (including 141 rushing yards) and 4 scores.
But when Oregon State’s backup quarterback Ben Gulbranson won the day last weekend with a 20-for-29, 250-yard, 2-score performance including a game-winning score with 13 seconds left, it really spelled doom for Stanford.
The Cardinal bounced back on Saturday against Notre Dame, though, holding Drew Pyne to 7-of-17 passing for 49 yards through nearly 3 quarters as Stanford clung to a 13-0 lead. Then Pyne hit 4 of his next 5 passes for 90 yards and a score and looked like he was about to get on a roll.
Stanford allowed him to hit just 2 more passes the rest of the way, though, and the Cardinal pulled out the crucial 16-14 win in South Bend.
USC: Pass rush disappears again in costly loss
The last time USC’s pass rush had such a poor performance, the Trojans were able to eke out a 17-14 win over Oregon State. This time around, no such luck.
For the second time this season, the USC pass rush went mysteriously silent, a worrisome trend with some good offensive lines on the way.
USC had 4 sacks in the season-opener against Rice and followed with 5 against Stanford in a Week 2 win and another 5 in Week 3 against Fresno State. Then they had none against Oregon State’s veteran unit before bouncing back with 5 more against Arizona State in Week 5 and another 5 against Washington State last weekend.
Facing the creative and crafty Cam Rising in a 43-42 loss, the Trojans managed zero sacks and 1 combined tackle for loss. That’s a shocking result for USC, which came into the game so aggressive on the defensive side.
Utah: Dalton Kincaid is filling in for Brant Kuithe just fine
When Utah’s tremendous tight end Brant Kuithe was lost for the season with a knee injury, the biggest concern for the Utes would be schematics.
The Utes loved to play bulldozing 6-2 Kuithe off the 6-4 Dalton Kincaid, a matchup nightmare for opponents. The Utes’ 2-tight end sets were a thing of beauty.
Before Saturday, Kincaid had had a rough go of it in recent weeks. He hadn’t topped 100 yards since Week 2 and managed just 14 combined receptions the past 4 weeks, with 2 4-catch games and 2 with 3 catches.
Against a susceptible USC front 7 that wasn’t putting much if any pressure on Cam Rising, Kincaid was a star. He had 16 grabs for 234 yards and a score, tearing up the Trojans’ defense all evening.
Washington: Michael Penix Jr. rediscovers his mojo against Wildcats
Penix wasn’t the reason Washington lost in Week 5 at UCLA.
But he may have been the reason the Huskies didn’t win last week, if that makes sense.
Against the Bruins, Penix went 33-of-48 for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions, far from his best stat line of the season, but still pretty good.
Last week at Arizona State, he went 33-of-53 for 311 yards and an interception, and he did not connect on a pass for more than 26 yards.
Against Arizona on Saturday at Husky Stadium, Penix rediscovered his edge, completing 36-of-44 passes for 516 yards and 4 scores with 0 interceptions. His 81.8 completion percentage was a season-high, his 516 yards shattered Washington’s record and he put together one of the great passing days in Pac-12 history.
Washington State: Running game collapses once more
Washington State’s running game has been bad before, and it hasn’t been good in quite some time. But it fell to new depths Saturday as the coaching staff abandoned the ground game completely in a 24-10 loss to Oregon State.
Before Saturday, the Cougars had run for 53 yards twice and 72 yards once this season; against the Beavers, Washington State managed just 23 rushing yards, including -21 for Cameron Ward. Jaylen Jenkins averaged an impressive 7.0 yards per carry, but he only got 6 of them.
Ward tried to make up for it through the air and managed a respectable 345 yards on 25-of-54 passing, but the Cougars could not maintain any semblance of rhythm with so many incompletions.