The Pac-12 has, rightfully so, taken its fair share of lumps for underwhelming. However, few games from Week 8 will match the entertainment value of No. 12 Oregon coming from behind to beat No. 25 Washington 35-31 on Saturday in Seattle. These are two of the conference's best teams and, at the very least, the favorites to come away with the North division crown. The game lived up to the hype, with the Ducks scoring a fourth quarter, go-ahead touchdown and winning on a defensive stop.
This is a particularly huge moment for the Ducks, who, despite whatever dismissals they may get elsewhere, are still on the periphery of achieving some big things this season. They became a bit of a forgotten team after the opening-week loss to Auburn but have re-emerged after rattling off six straight wins. What else did we learn from today's game? Here are three takeaways.
Oregon has practically clinched the Pac-12 North. Yes, there's still plenty of football to be played, but Oregon has to like its chances to make the Pac-12 Championship Game after today. The Ducks are 6-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play, and three of those wins have already come against North opponents. The next-closest team in the North standings right now is ... Oregon State. The Beavers are 3-4, but 2-2 in conference play after beating Cal 21-17. Every other team, including Washington, has at least three conference losses. You figure Oregon will be favored in each of its five remaining games, and at this point it would take a catastrophic collapse, including a loss to the Beavers at the end of the season, for this team to not make it to Santa Clara in December. As for Oregon's playoff hopes, they're not dead. However, the very thing that might help Oregon win the Pac-12 -- a manageable schedule -- might hurt it in the playoff race. With its loss to Auburn, there isn't a marquee win anywhere on the schedule, nor will there be.
The Ducks' offense came alive at the most impressive time. Oregon has been a bit of an enigma for much of this season. Justin Herbert is a likely first-round draft pick and the offensive line is. And, yet, the Ducks were averaging 27.7 points per game in conference play -- tied for seventh in the Pac-12. Not that 35 points is a lot more, but this was the best Oregon offensive attack this season when you adjust for opponents -- and when you consider the loss of leading pass-catcher Jake Breeland. At the very least, Oregon made good second-half adjustments. In the third quarter, this offense averaged 7.7 yards per play including 6.9 yards per rush and had eight first downs. In all, Oregon outscored Washington 21-10 in the final 30 minutes. Herbert came up with some big-time throws and ended with four touchdowns to no picks. He also wasn't sacked a single time or hurried. After scoring 38 points in its first two Pac-12 games, the Ducks are averaging 40 in the last two games. Combine that with their defense, and this is a Rose Bowl caliber team.
This is the Washington offense we hoped to see all year ... for the most part. Washington's regular-season losses under coach Chris Petersen have typically been defined by offensive ineptitude. Not today. Washington unleashed a fun downfield passing attack and an effective ground game against one of the better defenses in the country. Quarterback Jacob Eason was solid with 289 yards passing and three touchdowns to zero picks. His deep ball touchdowns showed why so many NFL scouts are coveting his physical abilities. When he's on, no one throws a prettier deep ball than Eason. The ground game worked, too, with Salvon Ahmed leading all rushers with 140 yards and a touchdown. The only complaint was Washington's stubborn use of the Wildcat on third downs rather than letting Eason make a play. Still, despite the loss, Washington has to feel good about how its offense played today.