In a game that showcased several of the Pac-12's faults, here are three thoughts from Stanford's upset 30-22 win over No. 9 Washington.
1. On a night where a marquee Pac-12 matchup scheduled for a 10:30 p.m. EST kickoff was delayed due to the Camping World Truck Series on FS1, it seemed fitting that the conference’s playoff chances would end a few hours later. Every Pac-12 team has already suffered at least two losses, the only Power 5 conference with that distinction.
While the conference didn’t wield any elite teams this season, it also didn’t help that its best teams were put in a perilous position with their schedules. USC, Washington and Washington State all lost a Friday night conference road game on short rest when they were ranked in the top 10. There are usually multiple Pac-12 games per week that flirt with or go past a midnight finish on the West Coast.
The conference’s two top Heisman contenders—Stanford tailback Bryce Love and Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate—have lost out on eyeballs and potential votes with their teams being subjected to play multiple times on Pac-12 Network and FOX Business Network. Simply put, the teams and players in this conference have not been put into a great spot by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
2. At first glance, Love’s stat line isn’t one of his most prolific efforts this season. But considering he was battling a gimpy ankle, it was his gutsiest. Dealing with the same injury that caused him to miss a game two weeks ago, Love hobbled off the field a couple times Friday night. He fought his way back on though, and tied his season-high with 30 carries. He had runs of 21, 17 and 37 yards to key three different Stanford scoring drives in the second half.
Love finished with 166 yards and three touchdowns on those 30 totes, good enough for 5.5 yards per carry. In fact, the speedster’s three trips to paydirt were the same number of rushing scores that Washington allowed to their first nine opponents. Love certainly deserves an invitation to New York as a Heisman finalist because of the absurd numbers he’s put up, however he now finally has a signature performance to his name to boost his case after leading Stanford to its biggest win of the season while playing at far less than 100%.
3. Washington had one of the country’s best defenses coming into this game, but the unit let the Huskies down with a potential College Football Playoff berth in sight. Particularly, it was third down that was the Washington defense’s Achilles’ heel.
Coming into this Friday night affair, the Huskies allowed opposing offenses to muster 3.7 yards per play. On Stanford’s 18 third-down attempts, the Cardinal averaged 9.7 yards per play, a figure that would’ve been higher than 10 if not for a third-down kneel to end the contest.
The costliest third-down conversion surrendered by Washington came when a stop appeared imminent. Huskies defensive tackle Vita Vea sacked K.J. Costello on third-and-18, but committed a facemask penalty to give Stanford new life in the red zone. Love scampered 13 yards to the end zone the very next play, and the Cardinal took its first lead of the game that it wouldn’t relinquish the remainder of the way.