Posted by Jerry Hinnen
All the real fireworks in the current Pac-10 and future Pac-12 came midweek with the announcement of the conference's divisional split midweek. Two teams -- USC and Oregon State -- enjoyed a bye week, and none of the four conference games were closer than 16 points at halftime. But there were still some important lessons to learn, starting with ...
1. Cal is the most Jekyll-and-Hyde team in the country. The last time we checked in with the Bears, they were getting annihilated by USC in the L.A. Coliseum, giving up six first-half touchdowns and trailing 42-0 at the break. That was a week after they'd throttled UCLA and the Bruins's pistol attack 35-7 . That result came two dates on the schedule after they'd been shredded by Nevada 's pistol attack 52-31 .
So even though Arizona State had been an excellent road team entering their visit to Berkeley, losing to Wisconsin by a point and downing Washington in Seattle, you could see this coming: 40 straight Cal points after a game-opening Sun Devil field goal, zero offensive touchdowns allowed, a 137-yard advantage in total offense, and a 50-17 rout to move the Bears to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-10. Beleaguered quarterback Kevin Riley -- whose ups and downs mirror the team's closely enough that he ought to be named the team mascot -- went 19-of-29 for 240 yards and no interceptions.
Cal has played one close game, their 10-9 loss at Arizona . The average margin of victory in the other six, for either Cal or their opponent? 32 points.
2. No one's touching Oregon at Autzen Stadium. What this observer took away first and foremost from the Ducks' 60-13 evisceration of UCLA on Thursday night was just how comfortable Chip Kelly 's team appeared. Even playing at the fastest tempo seen in college football today (and maybe ever?), the Oregon offense never seemed confused, never seemed out-of-control, never even seemed to break a sweat. They churned up and down the field with the ease of a swimmer doing laps at the Y. The Bruins never stood a chance.
So does anyone remaining on Oregon's schedule? Most certainly, but only the teams that get the advantage of hosting the Ducks, where the travel and unfamiliar stadium and hostile crowd can at least start to bump the Ducks out of the lethal comfort zone we saw Thursday. Remember: Oregon's only played one team that is not Washington State on the road thus far, Arizona State, and that team held the Ducks to 405 yards and outgained them by nearly 200.
3. If anything happens to that Cam Newton guy, LaMichael James will make for a highly worthy Heisman Trophy winner. James's stats against UCLA don't jump off the page by Heisman standards -- 20 carries, 123 yards, 2 touchdowns -- but those watching the game saw James show off his usual breathtaking combination of speed, power, agility, and mad receiving skills. No tailback in the country is playing better.
4. Nick Foles doesn't have to rush back. The Arizona starting quarterback missed the Wildcats' 44-14 beatdown of Washington with a dislocated kneecap and his return date is still TBA. But the performance of Matt Scott -- the same returning starter who Foles usurped for the job in 2009 -- suggests that there's no need for Foles to rush his timetable. Scott hit 18 of his 22 passes for 233 yards, collecting two touchdowns and going without an interception. He even showed off the legs that made him a starter in the first place, running for 64 yards on 8 carries.
Given that the schedule offers Arizona a date at reeling UCLA this week, if Foles can just get healthy by the Nov. 6 trip to Stanford , that ought to be good enough.
5. Washington State is making progress, however incremental. No, the Cougars' 38-28 loss to Stanford wasn't as close as the final score indicated; Wazzu trailed 38-14 in the final quarter and scored two late touchdowns to make things a bit more cosmetic. But facts are facts: the 10-point final margin is the closest Paul Wulff has come to a Pac-10 opponent in his three seasons, and that he managed it on the road against the No. 12 team in the country is all the more encouraging.