The Pac-12 season slogs along with disruptions occurring on all fronts, but we will carry on as if things are semi-normal.
Top five questions after Week 3
What’s wrong with Oregon?
Maybe the Ducks were just overrated. They have only four returning starters on offense and four on defense. There was an assumption that Oregon’s outstanding recruiting would just replenish the lineups with stars, like Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson do. Maybe Oregon has not reached that level yet. Quarterback Tyler Slough is doing a decent job, but he is replacing Justin Herbert, a starting quarterback in the NFL as a rookie.
The bigger issue is on defense. The Ducks were second in the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense last year, but they are ninth and eighth in those two categories, respectively, this year. They lost their three best defensive players from last season – linebacker Troy Dye, who now is on the Minnesota Vikings roster, and defensive backs Thomas Graham Jr. and Jevon Holland, who both opted out of this season. But let’s get some perspective. Oregon is still 3-1 and will play in the Pac-12 title game if it wins its final two games against Cal and Washington.
Can redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris lead Washington to a Pac-12 title?
His ability to lead the Huskies’ second-half comeback against Utah was impressive, especially his work in the game-winning drive. But his first-half performance was poor, and he ranks only sixth in the Pac-12 in passer rating. You look at the quarterbacks for the last eight Pac-12 champions – Justin Herbert, Jake Browning, Sam Darnold, Kevin Hogan, Marcus Mariota – and Morris does not seem to fit in that category. However, Hogan won a conference title in 2012 as a redshirt freshman, and did not even become a starter until midway through that season..
Will any Pac-12 team be in the final AP top 15? Or even the final AP top-25?
USC is the highest-ranked Pac-12 team in this week’s AP poll at No. 17, and it’s been 21 years since no team in the Pac-12 or Pac-10 failed to finish in the top 15.
With USC’s shaky status and the shortcomings of the conference’s two other ranked teams, Washington and Oregon, it’s possible that no team from the conference will be ranked at all in the final AP poll for the first time since 1961, when only 10 teams were ranked in the AP poll and only five teams were in the conference – Washington, USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal. UCLA would have been ranked 16th that season based on the number of voting points it received. No team from the nine-team conference, then known as the Pacific Coast Conference, was ranked in the final 1957 AP poll, which ranked 20 teams.
Is it possible that no Pac-12 games will be canceled this week?
At least two games have been canceled in each of the first four weeks of Pac-12 play, and more could be canceled this week. But there is hope.
USC’s home game against Washington State has been moved back two days from this Friday to Sunday night at 6 p.m. to try to get that game played, although that game is still in jeopardy since both teams had to cancel games this past weekend for virus-related reasons. And what if the game goes past California’s 10 p.m. curfew?
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said he is “absolutely” confident the Sun Devils will play their second game of the season this week against UCLA. The other four games – Cal-Oregon, Washington-Stanford, Colorado-Arizona and Oregon State-Utah – seem to have a reasonable chance of being played. But hold the applause, the unexpected should be expected.
How will the Pac-12 determine a South Division representative in the conference championship game if both Colorado and USC finish unbeaten?
Don’t ask. It has to do with the average number of games played by all the conference teams, then considers winning percentage, head-to-head matchup, etc. It could come down to the winning percentage of the teams' conference opponents.
Suffice to say, we should not worry about it until all the results are in before the Dec. 18 title game. Of course, this assumes there will even be a Pac-12 title game.
This Week’s Conundrum
Bowl games and winning record for Colorado.
Colorado claimed it assured itself its first bowl berth since 2016 and just its second since 2007 by beating San Diego State. That win gave the Buffaloes a 3-0 record and assured them of at least a .500 record in a season that is now scheduled to include six games. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said earlier this month that Pac-12 teams must have at least a .500 record to accept a bowl bid, so Colorado has satisfied that. The problem is, we don’t know if there will be a postseason, or which bowls will be available to Pac-12 teams. The Buffaloes have finished .500 or better just once since 2005, so presumably they can get their second this season.
Top Five Pac-12 Teams (at the Moment):
1. Washington (3-0) – The Huskies looked awful in the first half against Utah and great in the second half.
2. USC (3-0) – The Trojans are the highest ranked Pac-12 team, and they moved up because they didn’t play.
3. Colorado (3-0) – The Buffaloes may have delayed their decline by a week, and they were not particularly impressive against San Diego State. But they are unbeaten.
4. Oregon (3-1) – The Ducks are still ranked ahead of Washington in the AP poll for some reason, but their last two performances suggest they shouldn’t be.
5. Oregon State (2-2) -- Beating Oregon counts heavily.
Player of the Year Standings:
1. Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State running back – The Beavers’ rise in recent weeks makes Jefferson a candidate for player of the year. He is second in the nation in yards per game (168.8) and sixth in yards per carry (7.42).
2. Tyler Shough, Oregon quarterback – He still leads the conference in passer rating by a sizable margin, and the Ducks are still very much in the running for the Pac-12 title.
3. Kedon Slovis, USC quarterback – His team is 3-0, and he has engineered two late-game winning drives. That defines a quarterback’s worth.
4. Jarek Broussard, Colorado running back – Broussard is second in the Pac-12 in rushing for a team that’s 3-0, and he has run for more than 120 yards in each game.
5. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington outside linebacker – The Huskies need someone on this list and their defense has been the key, leading the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense. Tutuola-Fetui leads the conference by a wide margin in sacks with 7.0 and has also forced three fumbles.
Offensive player of the week
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State – His 226 yards rushing in the Beavers’ big upset of Oregon cannot be topped.
Defensive player of the week
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Washington – Three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery he returned 29 yards in the win over Utah, plus several plays when he disrupted things.
Numbers that matter:
0 – Number of snaps played against Utah by Washington running back Richard Newton, a presumed NFL-caliber talent who was on the Doak Walker Award watch list. Coach Jimmy Lake said on Monday that Newton did not practice well last week. Three other running backs (plus a wide receiver) had carries against the Utes.
206 – Rushing yards by UCLA’s Demetric Felton against Arizona, a number that got lost amid Jermar Jefferson’s 226-yard effort in the upset of Oregon.
2.33 – Number of sacks per game by Washington’s Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who leads the nation in that category.
1 – Number of Pac-12 quarterbacks ranked among the nation’s top 40 in passer rating. (Oregon’s Tyler Shough is 14th.)
1 – Number of votes Oregon State got in this week’s AP poll, the first time in six years the Beavers got a vote.
75.0 – Penalty yards per game by Stanford, which typically is among the nation’s leaders in fewest penalty yards but is now 115th of 127 FBS teams in that category.
3 – Number of games Cal has been favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers in its three games.
3 – Number of games Cal has lost in its three games.
9 – Number of Pac-12 games that have been canceled this season – with more to come.
1 – Number of games Arizona State has played this season.
9 – Number of turnovers Utah has committed this season.
Minus-2.0 – Utah’s turnover margin per game, worst in the nation, after having a 0.64 turnover margin per game last year, 17th-best in the country.
9.0 – Jermar Jefferson’s average gain per rush over this past two games. (It’s actually 8.98 if you carry it out another digit as the NCAA does.)
6 – Number of special teams plays that have ruined Cal in the past two games (Muffed punt, blocked field-goal attempt, blocked extra point vs. Stanford; blocked punt, two long returns – one for a touchdown, one to the 3-yard line – negated by penalties vs. Oregon State.
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