Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. Oregon can win ugly, too. To be fair to the Ducks, they weren't exactly dominated in their 15-13 win in Berkeley; they outgained Cal by more than 100 yards, held the Bears to 193 yards total and a miserable 2.5 yards per-pass, and only gave up a second touchdown on a Darron Thomas fumble in the end zone.
But they also scored their only first-half touchdown on a Cliff Harris punt return, averaged a stunningly weak 2.9 yards per-carry, eked out the final two-point margin by virtue of their made two-point try and Cal's failed attempt, and could have easily lost if not for Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio short-circuiting his own 24-yard field goal with a stutter-step procedure penalty and missing the subsequent 29-yard try. Every national title contender has to win games when they're not at their best, but Oregon was so far away from their best Saturday night they'd have to send it a postcard.
In the end, it didn't matter, as behind Thomas and a hobbled LaMichael James the Ducks changed philosophies on the fly to a clock-churning, yards-chewing ground-exclusive outfit that ate up the game's final 9:25 on one drive . That kind of versatility could prove to be the difference between a national champion and a slip-up before Glendale ... even if the Ducks would prefer not to have to put it to use again until there's a crystal football awarded to the victor.
2. Washington State should keep Paul Wulff. Let's be fair: the Cougars' rehabilitation, even after their 31-14 upset-of-the-Pac-10's year against Oregon State today, is progressing verrrrry ... sloooooooowly. One FBS win in 2008, that one over winless Washington. One in 2009, over SMU in overtime. Until today, none in 2010.
But that hasn't meant it hasn't been progressing at all . After getting totally obliterated on a weekly basis two years ago, the Cougars have been substantially more competitive this season: 42-28 vs. UCLA , 43-23 vs. Oregon, 38-28 vs. Stanford , 20-13 vs. Cal. You could see the game coming where the Cougars put everything together and took down some unsuspecting favorite. And that game came today: quarterback Jeff Tuel had the game of his career, hitting 10-of-15 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while adding 79 yards in the ground; the rest of a surprisingly productive run game chipped in 142 yards and three touchdowns; and the much-maligned Cougar defense forced three turnovers, hounded Beaver quarterback Ryan Katz into a quiet 12-for-21 performance, and held the Beavers to 261 yards overall. Unexpected as Wazzu's triumph might have been, especially coming in Corvallis, it was no fluke.
So maybe progress has been slow. But it's there. Wulff has Wazzu pointed in the right direction, and after today he deserves at least one more season to see how far in that direction he can go.
(As for the Beavers, well, TCU and Boise would like a refund, please.)
3. Arizona State is the Pac-10's hard-luck team. The Sun Devils have had a couple of games in which they outgained their opponent by wide margins and lost, but today wasn't one of them; visiting Stanford enjoyed a 420-268 yardage advantage. But this is still a team that lost at Wisconsin on a late missed extra point; gave away an excellent shot at a huge upset of Oregon with a flood of turnovers; lost to Oregon State when a late drive ended in an interception; to USC on a late missed field goal. You'd think that eventually Dennis Erickson 's team could buy a break, and when the Devils went up 13-10 late in the third quarter on a Steven Threet touchdown pass, it looked like that break might finally be coming.
But it wasn't: the Cardinal took over on their 15 and went 85 yards to score an Owen Marecic touchdown with just over five minutes remaining. ASU's following drive went nowhere, and Stanford picked up three first downs to ice the game. The Sun Devils have now played the BCS's Nos. 1, 6, and 7 teams and lost by a total of 16 points. But they'll still have to sweep their final two games vs. UCLA and at Arizona just to make a bowl game.
4. This isn't Mike Stoops' breakthrough season, either. Arizona has famously never been to the Rose Bowl, but even if Oregon made clear the Wildcats aren't getting there this year relatively early, Stoops could have still hoped for his first 10-win season and top-20 final ranking -- goals his team looked well on their way to fulfilling after their early-season win over Iowa .
Since then, though, the Wildcats have gone a ho-hum 4-3 with two of those wins over the Washington schools and the latest result a dispiriting 24-21 home loss to USC. The Trojans aren't a bad team by any means, but if the Wildcats want to be taken seriously as Pac-10 contenders, winning home games against their fellow upper-end-of-the-pack rivals (not to mention avoiding getting outrushed 205-51) is a step they'll have to take. Unless Arizona pulls a shocker in Eugene next weekend, eight regular season wins will be the ceiling.
What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 13)
Posted on: November 14, 2010 1:36 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 1:37 am