Gold: 1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 8
With 4 teams on bye weeks, you’d think Week 8 of the Pac-12 schedule would lack fireworks.
But Oregon’s big win kept the league in the national eye as the Ducks seized control of the Pac-12 regular-season race, its Civil War opponent Oregon State and Washington both became bowl eligible and Stanford eked closer to .500.
It wasn’t the most memorable Pac-12 weekend, but the league managed to remain in the conversation, and that’s all that matters.
Here’s one thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 8 …
Arizona State: Sun Devils still can’t cover the tight end
Arizona State has not covered tight ends well all season.
Washington’s Devin Culp and Jack Westover combined for 6 catches for 63 yards in the Sun Devils’ surprising 45-38 Week 6 win.
Dalton Kincaid did his usual damage for Utah in a 34-13 Week 4 win, catching 4 passes for 66 yards and 2 scores, while Brant Kuithe had 2 catches for 15 yards before he was injured, and subsequently lost for the season.
Even Eastern Michigan’s Andreas Paaske and Gunnar Oakes got in the mix in Week 3, combining for 5 grabs for 51 yards in a 30-21 win over the Sun Devils.
On Saturday, it was Stanford’s Benjamin Yurosek who doomed the Devils. Yurosek had 10 catches for 78 yards, constantly serving as an outlet for Tanner McKee, who had a 300-yard passing day. The Cardinal’s offense wasn’t particularly good, but Yurosek was.
Cal: Bears can’t stop the bleeding
October has truly been scary for Cal, which heads into Halloween having lost 3 straight games.
And here’s an even scarier reality: The Bears have lost 3 straight conference games for the 14th straight year, a truly putrid streak.
This time it was the pass defense that did Cal in. The Bears had played Michael Penix Jr. relatively tough for the first 3 quarters, holding a high-scoring Washington offense to just 6 points until midway through the 3rd quarter. Penix, who had no touchdown passes the first 3 quarters, hit for scoring balls of 36 and 13 yards in the 4th quarter as Washington’s passing game came alive.
Cal’s rough October puts them in a bad position, with 5 games remaining to win 3 games to become bowl eligible, but matchups with No. 10 Oregon, No. 12 USC, Oregon State, Stanford and No. 9 UCLA still to come. Show me 3 wins in that group. Not finding it.
Colorado: JT Shrout shows why Owen McCown is the man for Buffaloes’ QB job
After engineering an overtime win last Saturday after freshman Owen McCown went down after a big hit, JT Shrout was named starter against Oregon State earlier this week. He got a big vote of confidence from interim head coach Mike Sanford and looked to build some momentum from the Buffaloes’ first win of the year.
But against the Beavers, Shrout was his usual wild self, completing just 13-of-29 passes for 206 yards and 2 interceptions while doing little with his legs, gaining just 9 yards on 4 carries.
The Buffaloes had just 17 first downs on the day and went 2-for-11 on 3rd down, finishing with just 57 offensive plays and a time of possession of 25:39.
Oregon: Another inspired performance from the offensive line
The best offensive line in college football made yet another statement on Saturday as the Ducks’ fearsome five helped pave the way for a big day on the ground while once more giving Bo Nix all the time in the world.
Nix did plenty with his time in a 45-30 win over No. 9 UCLA, connecting on 22-of-28 passes for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns with zero picks. He was in little trouble throughout the day and was hurried just 1 time and sacked zero times, with the team allowing just 1 all season. And of course, he did some damage on the ground, rushing for 51 yards on 7 carries.
Nix’s running effort added to a big day for the Ducks, who demolished UCLA’s front seven to the tune of 262 yards on 46 carries. The Bruins managed just 3 tackles-for-loss as Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington ran all over them.
Oregon State: Martinez seizes control of the ground game
Jonathan Smith appears to have his foundational future set for the time being.
Ben Gulbranson moved to 3-0 as a starter, helping Oregon State become bowl eligible before November for the first time since 2013, and Damien Martinez ran for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries in the Beavers’ 42-9 victory over Colorado.
Gulbranson, a redshirt freshman, continues to hold down the fort in the absence of Chance Nolan. But after completing 14-of-22 passes for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns with zero interceptions, his grip on the starting role is stronger than ever.
The same can be said for the true freshman Martinez, who has brought a consistency and electricity to an Oregon State running game that was lacking it. A week after rushing for 111 yards on 16 carries in his most significant action of the season, Martinez looked like a bell-cow back. With Jam Griffin adding 7 carries on 48 yards and Isaiah Newell contributing 36 yards on 5 carries, the Beavers were consistent on the ground.
DAMien Martinez 😤@damienfor6 | 📺 Pac-12 Network pic.twitter.com/cAGwIJjOPG
— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) October 23, 2022
A week after rushing for 203 yards, Oregon State totaled 270 against the Buffaloes, and they’ve got some downhill speed heading into a bye week. Then comes a final month that includes road matchups against Washington and Arizona State and home games against Cal and No. 10 Oregon in the Civil War. If the Beavers even manage to split those games, they’ll have their best season in years.
Stanford: Joshua Karty putting the special in special teams
It’s usually not a great thing when your kicker is your best player, but the Cardinal kicking game is clicking on all cylinders.
Karty went 5-for-5 on Saturday, providing all 15 points in a come-from-behind win over Arizona State. Karty’s eventual game-winner was a 47-yard bomb that matched his 2nd-longest kick of the season.
After winning Pac-12 special teams player of the week in 2 of the past 3 weeks, Karty is almost assured of a 3rd award this week.
The Cardinal are winning by the skin of their teeth, but they’re winning. After upsetting Notre Dame last week in South Bend and beating the Sun Devils this week, Stanford can get even at .500 if it can pull off the upset at the Rose Bowl next weekend against UCLA.
UCLA: Pass defense folds for the first time
Plagued by a poor defense throughout Chip Kelly’s tenure in Westwood, UCLA appeared to turn the corner this season under the stewardship of new defensive coordinator Bill McGovern.
The Bruins entered the game allowing less than 250 passing yards per game and coming off back-to-back impressive performances against terrific quarterbacks in Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Utah’s Cameron Rising, both in wins.
But UCLA was consistently tested by Bo Nix on Saturday, and for the first time this year, they failed. Nix and the Ducks kept the Bruins guessing throughout the game, and UCLA guessed wrong time and time again, as Oregon put up 545 yards, including 283 through the air. Even worse, Nix was particularly accurate in the red zone as he finished with 5 touchdown throws.
The Bruins have a get-right game on Saturday as they host Stanford, whose passing game hasn’t exactly been prolific.
Washington: Pass rush comes alive once more
Well, it appears we’ve discovered the secret ingredient for Washington’s success this season: An active and successful pass rush.
After storming out of the gates this year with 15 sacks in its first 4 games, including 8 sacks against Stanford in Week 4, the Washington front seven went silent the next to weeks with 1 combined sack. Little surprise the Huskies went from 4-0 to 4-2.
Again the surprise is limited this time around, as Washington’s pass defense got after Cal’s Jack Plummer. After sacking Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura 4 times last week in a 49-39 win, the Huskies got to Plummer 5 times on Saturday, including 2 sacks by Bralen Trice.
With a bye week next week before a Friday night showdown with Oregon State, we’ll see if the Huskies can introduce some new stunts and designed blitzes against the Beavers.