Arizona joined Utah, OSU and USC on the second tier of the title race
Recapping the Pac-12’s Week 10 action…
Theme of the week: The race begins to take shape
With three weeks remaining, victories by Washington (over USC) and Arizona (over UCLA) have helped narrow the conference race. UW and Oregon are clearly ahead of the pack, with Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, and USC forming a clear second tier. As a result, six teams will travel to Las Vegas for the Pac-12’s final championship game. We’d be surprised if the game didn’t feature either Washington or Oregon, and we’d be mildly surprised if it didn’t feature both Pacific Northwest powers.
Bowl bids are the year’s theme.
The Wildcats’ victory over UCLA earned them bowl eligibility for the first time since 2017 and ensured the Pac-12 had at least seven teams in the postseason. Adding an eighth, let alone a ninth, eligible team will be difficult: Colorado and Washington State are the closest to the six-win mark, but both require two more victories.
Week 1 game: Washington 52, USC 42
The clash of elite offenses lived up to the hype, with the Huskies and Trojans combining for over 1,000 yards and enough big plays to last a month. After trading touchdowns through three quarters, the Huskies shut down USC in the fourth quarter to remain undefeated. Quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. (UW) and Caleb Williams (USC) performed admirably, but the game’s star was a Husky tailback who was unfamiliar to many Pac-12 fans. (More on that later.)
Stanford 10, Washington State 7 in Week II
The Cardinal and Cougars combined for 17 points in Pullman, while the Huskies and Trojans combined for 94 in the Coliseum. It was a game out of the 1950s — or the Big Ten West — that the inclement weather couldn’t fully explain. There were 12 total punts, and the Cougars gained four yards on the ground. Given that Stanford had allowed at least 40 points in four consecutive games, WSU’s offensive performance is the worst in the conference this year when the quality of competition is taken into account.
Week’s thrashing: Utah 55, Arizona State 3.
With Utah spitting blood after that humiliating home loss to Oregon, this was a difficult assignment for the Sun Devils. But we weren’t expecting one of the worst thrashings in decades. Forget about the lopsided result. The numbers are even worse for ASU, which used third-string offensive tackles and gained only 83 yards. Meanwhile, the Utes amassed 513 points.
Arizona is this week’s team of the week.
The Wildcats defeated UCLA 27-10 to earn their third straight victory and bowl eligibility for the first time in six years, when they lost the Foster Farms Bowl and fired coach Rich Rodriguez. Quarterback Noah Fifita once again played like a veteran, leading the Wildcats to 429 yards against one of the nation’s top statistical defenses. It’s worth noting that Arizona is 8-1 against the spread this season, the best mark in the Power Five.
Oregon is the team of the year.
True, the Ducks were defeated by the Washington Capitals in their first meeting. However, in our opinion, they are currently the best team in the conference. The team of Coach Dan Lanning has the best offense-defense balance as well as the best run-pass balance. The evidence is in the results: seven of Oregon’s eight victories have been by at least two touchdowns. The Ducks are simply annihilating their opponents. In other words, we believe Oregon would beat Washington seven out of ten times on a neutral field.
Jedd Fisch of Arizona was named Coach of the Year.
The final three weeks will determine who wins the Pac-12 Coach of the Year award. Fisch, however, is our frontrunner based on how teams have performed in comparison to expectations. The Hotline predicted Washington to win the conference, so the Huskies’ success comes as no surprise. However, Arizona did not have a 5-3 record at this point in the season on our Pac-12 2023 bingo card.
Washington TB Dillon Johnson was named offensive player of the week.
It was an easy decision after the Mississippi State transfer rushed for 256 yards against USC — the same yardage total that Penix gained through the air. Johnson rushed for 9.8 yards per carry, breaking his previous season high of 100 yards (set against Oregon). We should probably mention that he scored four touchdowns and had the game’s best play, a 53-yard run on UW’s crucial fourth-quarter scoring drive.
Arizona LB is the week’s defensive player of the week. Manu Jacob
As the Wildcats held UCLA to 10 points and 271 yards, the sophomore had a team-high 12 tackles and a sack. Manu, on the other hand, has played at an all-conference level — he’s second in the Pac-12 in tackles — and has been the driving force behind Arizona’s remarkable defensive turnaround.
Cal TB is this week’s scare. Jaivian Thomas is a surname.
After a third-quarter collision in Cal’s loss to Oregon, the freshman lay motionless on the Autzen Stadium field for 15 minutes before being carted away on a hardboard stretcher. According to coach Justin Wilcox, Thomas was transported to a nearby hospital with movement in his extremities. Thank heavens.
Washington State is the first fade of the year.
At the end of September, the Cougars were 4-0 and one of the conference’s hottest stories. Since then, the defense has lost its mojo, and the offense has crumbled under first-year coordinator Ben Arbuckle. The 10-7 loss to Stanford was just the latest in a string of poor performances. WSU (4-5) must now win two of its final three games to be eligible for a bowl game. The Cougars travel to Cal this week before hosting Colorado and finishing the season in Seattle.
Colorado, Fade of the Year II
Remember when the Buffaloes were the sport’s top story? That seems like a lifetime ago as coach Deion Sanders tries to save the season. CU has lost five of its last six games and, like WSU, must win two of three to be eligible for a bowl game. The staff changes made no difference as the Buffs (4-5) were brutal for the majority of a 26-19 loss to Oregon State. Furthermore, CU produced the worst display of clock management in a long, long time (at the end of the first half). The blunder led to an OSU touchdown, which proved to be the winning margin.
Season statistics: USC
The Trojans have given up at least 40 points in five of their last six games and are currently ranked 124th in the country in points allowed per game (34.5). As of this writing, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is still on the job.
Utah’s Stat of the Century
According to the Associated Press, the Utes became the first Pac-12 team since at least 2000 to gain more than 500 yards while allowing less than 100.
Everlasting Statue I am from Arizona.
For the first time in program history, the Wildcats defeated WSU, OSU, and UCLA in a row to record three consecutive victories over ranked opponents. (This is based on the standings at the time of kickoff.) Arizona went 3-2 in a five-game stretch against ranked opponents, beginning with narrow losses to USC and Washington.
Arizona State University Stat of the Century II
With the 55-3 thrashing in Salt Lake City, the Sun Devils suffered their worst conference loss in 45 years. (Their previous low point was a 50-0 loss to USC in 1988.) And ASU’s yardage output on Saturday (83) was the lowest since the 1940s.
Next week’s games include Utah at Washington and USC at Oregon.
Kickoff times for Week 11 games along I-5 in the Pacific Northwest were announced Saturday night. The Seattle match will begin at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Eugene match at 7:30 p.m. Both will air on Fox. Victories by the home teams would almost certainly guarantee that the bitter rivals meet for the Pac-12 championship in Las Vegas next month.