PALO ALTO, Calif. — Two fumbled snaps, one pass breakup and one big heartbreak. This was the cruelest version of #Pac12AfterDark yet, with Oregon upsetting No. 7 Stanford in Palo Alto 38–36. Stanford had a shot to tie the game when the Cardinal scored with 10 seconds left, but Kevin Hogan’s pass to Austin Hooper on the two-point conversion try was incomplete, allowing the Ducks to hold on for a win that has major postseason implications.
Here are three thoughts on Oregon’s upset:
1. If you’re a Pac-12 fan, time to cheer on Utah
For those who want the Pac-12 to make the playoff, start rooting for the Utes, who are likely now the conference’s only chance at a playoff bid. Stanford has two losses (both to teams that were unranked at the time), and even if the Cardinal win the Pac-12 title game, they’ll almost surely not end up in the top four with an 11–2 record.
So it’s time everyone study up on the Utes, who entered Saturday with only one loss. Granted, that loss is to unranked USC, and as of publication, Utah was not playing inspired football against Arizona on Saturday night.
Stanford wining the conference championship in a few weeks still seems likely, but after Saturday, Larry Scott & Co. can plan on enjoying the playoff from their West Coast-based New Year’s Eve parties.
2. This is the Vernon Adams everyone’s been waiting for
The graduate transfer missed three and a half games earlier this season with a broken index finger on his throwing hand while fans trashed him on message boards, questioning if “Big Play VA” could exist in the Pac-12 full time. In a word: Yes.
The 5’11”, 201-pound quarterback, who was an FCS sensation the last three years at Eastern Washington, looked every bit the Giant Killer on Saturday, completing 10 of 12 passes for 205 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. For a pro-style offense like Stanford, it’s tough to simulate a dual-threat opponent in practice reps. It’s even tougher with Adams, who exhibits a playground-like quality that involves a lot of scrambling in the backfield, chucking it toward the end zone and celebrating touchdowns with his buddies.
By the way, one of those buddies, running back Royce Freeman, is pretty good in his own right. Freeman rushed 16 times for 105 yards with one touchdown against the Cardinal. He’s the best running back in the Pac-12 that no one talks enough about.
3. So much for Christian McCaffrey winning the Heisman Trophy
To be clear the 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore running back is one of the best players in the country, and there’s no disputing that. He put on another impressive all-purpose show Saturday, rushing 33 times for 147 yards with one touchdown, catching five passes for 42 yards and finishing with 244 all-purpose yards.
McCaffrey should get an invite to New York City for the Heisman ceremony. But he’s not going to win because players from two-loss teams don’t often win trophies given annually to the most outstanding player in college football. It’s a shame, too, because the website Stanford created purely for his Heisman hype — WildCaff.com — is pretty sweet.