The Pac-12 season is hanging on by a threat, but we trudge ahead assuming that thread is made of .
Top five questions after Week 3
---Will Oregon be in the top-10 of the first College Football Playoff rankings, scheduled to be released Tuesday night?
The Ducks surprisingly moved up two spots to No. 9 in this week’s AP poll despite their disappointing shwoing in a 38-35 victory over UCLA, which was on the road and without starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson yet was in position to win the game in the closing minutes. Oregon has a negative turnover margin and ranks 82nd in the nation in total defense. The Ducks' three victims this season (Washington State, Stanford, UCLA) are a combined 2-6 and were all picked to finish in the bottom half of their division. And Oregon might be the Pac-12’s only hope for a team in the four-team CFP.
---Who would have thought this Saturday’s USC-Colorado game might determine the Pac-12 South’s championship-game participant?
The Buffaloes were picked to finish last in the South, their quarterback (Sam Noyer) was a safety last season, and they are 0-14 alltime against USC. But 2-0 Colorado ranks first in the Pac-12 and 12th in the country in scoring (41.5 points per game), and it will have two weeks to rest and prepare after the cancellation this past weekend. The Trojans, though 3-0, certainly have not looked unbeatable.
---Does the Pac-12’s original decision back in August to cancel fall football and possibly play in the spring look like a better option now?
At the moment, the Pac-12's 2020 season is bordering on becoming a travesty. Maybe there will be a vaccine by Christmas that college football teams would have access to by late January. Maybe in two or three months the pandemic will not be the debilitating factor for football that it is now. Maybe Pac-12 teams could have played a nine- or 10-game schedule starting in late February and in ending in late April. Maybe the start of the 2021 fall football season could have been delayed five or six weeks as a result. Just a thought.
---Why does there continue to be questions about USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, with some suggesting he might be injured?
Slovis has led USC to a 3-0 start and a No. 19 AP ranking, and he has engineered last-minute, game-winning scoring drives in two of those wins. But some of his flutter-ball throws and way-off-the-mark passes don’t resemble the crisp, accurate passes of last season. He finished seventh in the country in passer rating last year with a mark of 167.6; this year he is 48th at 141.3. How significant is passer rating? LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Ohio State’s Justin Fields finished first, second and third in the nation, respectively, in passer rating last year, and they finished first, second and third, respectively, in the Heisman Trophy voting, and all three of their teams played in the four-team College Football Playoff.
---Will a Pac-12 team play a nonconference opponent this season?
There has been plenty of talk about possible games against nonconference foes since the Pac-12 ruled last week that those games would be allowed. A game against BYU has been the major subject of such talks, with Washington being the prime potential opponent for the Cougars this weekend. The Huskies (2-0) desperately need another game because they currently have only two more games scheduled before the Pac-12 title game participants are determined.
A couple things in the Pac-12 parameters for a nonconference matchup could stand in the way.
First is what could be construed as The BYU Rule, which states all Pac-12 testing and related protocols must be adhered to by the nonconference opponent. At the moment, BYU’s testing parameters don’t meet those standards, although presumably they could change.
Second, if a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by Thursday in the week in question, the conference game is played instead of any nonconference game. The Utah-Arizona State game, currently scheduled for Sunday, is still in jeopardy, as is virtually every other conference game. A matchup against a Pac-12 opponent could be arranged by Thursday, and BYU – or any other potential nonconference foe – will not want to wait that long to get a solid commitment. Of course, the Pac-12 has shown a willingness to amend its rules to accommodate football games in this unique season.
This Week’s Conundrum
Besides the ongoing question of whether the Pac-12 season will reach a satisfactory ending is the mundane issue regarding the absence of a bona fide star. The Pac-12 always has a player or two who are considered Heisman hopefuls, but can you name one player who looks like a star? Maybe Kedon Slovis? Maybe Jermar Jefferson? But the former has not been as sharp as he was last year (see question above), and the latter plays for a 1-2 team that seems to be headed nowhere. You won’t find a single Pac-12 player on any list of Heisman Trophy candidates this week.
Hoping someone will emerge in the limited time available, but . . .
Top Five Pac-12 Teams (at the Moment):
1. Washington (2-0) – The Huskies’ dominating performance against Arizona boosts them to the top spot. And we still don’t know if redshirt freshman Dylan Morris will be their quarterback the rest of the season.
2. Colorado (2-0) – The Buffaloes may not stay here, but their wins over UCLA (with Dorian Thompson-Robinson) and Stanford (with Davis Mills) look pretty good now.
3. Oregon (3-0) – The Ducks showed why teams often elect to take a knee at the end of the first half, when they had a game-changing pick-six on the very last play of the opening half against UCLA.
4. USC (3-0) – The Trojans looked decent against Utah, but the Utes were playing their opener and lost their starting quarterback early.
5. Arizona State (0-1) – But will the Sun Devils play another game?
Player of the Year Standings:
1. Tyler Shough, Oregon quarterback – He’s here pretty much by default, but his team is 3-0 and ranked ninth in the country, and he leads the conference in passer rating by a significant margin.
2. Jarek Broussard, Colorado running back – Broussard leads the Pac-12 in rushing (154.0 yards per game) for a team that is 2-0, but his status will be determined by this week’s game against USC.
3. Kedon Slovis, USC quarterback – His team is 3-0, and he has engineered two late-game winning drives.
4. Sam Noyer, Colorado quarterback – The guy seems to have the "IT" factor, but his worth will be measured against USC.
5. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State running back – The Beavers are just 1-2, but it’s hard to argue with his numbers – 149.7 yards per game, 7.2 yards per carry.
Player of the week
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State – His performance was not as impressive as his numbers, but the simple fact is that he ran for 196 yards in a victory over Cal.
Jordan Happle, Oregon – His 58-yard pick-six on the final play of the first half against UCLA turned the game around, and he recorded 11 tackles in the game.
Numbers that matter:
10.9 – Jermar Jefferson’s average yards per attempt in 18 carries against Cal.
3.6 – Jermar Jefferson’s average yards per attempt in his 16 carries between his first carry of the game (75 yards) and his last carry (65 yards with less than a minute left while Oregon State was running out the clock).
1.5 – Point spread (as of Monday) of the Stanford-Cal game, with Cal being the favorite. It’s the third time in their first three games that the Golden Bears have been favored, and they lost the first two.
13.5 – Point spread (as of Monday) for the USC-Colorado game, with USC being the favorite.
4 – Number of games on Washington’s current schedule, including the two games they have played (and won). They would play a fifth game on the weekend of Dec. 18-19, possibly a Pac-12 title game.
7 – Number of Pac-12 games that have been canceled so far.
12 – Number of Pac-12 games that have been played. (Well, it’s more than half.)
2 – Number of combined games Arizona State and Utah have played, and they just hope that number increases this weekend.
0 – Number of turnovers committed by Washington this season.
Minus-3 – Utah’s turnover margin per game, worst in the country
Minus-2.33 – UCLA’s turnover margin per game, second-worst in the country.
0 – Number of Pac-12 players ranked among the nation’s top 10 in passer rating
0 – Number of Pac-12 players ranked among the nation’s top 10 in receiving yards per game
3 – Number of Pac-12 players ranked among the nation’s top 10 in rushing yards per game (No. 3 Jarek Broussard of Colorado, No. 4 Jermar Jefferson of Oregon State, No. 10 Deon McIntosh of Washington State).
“From last week to this week, it's the same result but a different football game.” – Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin after a loss to Washington dropped the Wildcats to 0-2, but we’re still trying to figure out exactly what he means with this line, which brings to mind the classic coaching response, "It is what it is."
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