Increasingly, the 2013 college football season looks to be about the question of who can beat Oregon — Washington? Somebody on the back half of the schedule? The Denver Broncos?
“We haven’t played remotely to what we can in any phase of any game,” insisted Ducks coach Mark Helfrich to reporters, after Oregon put up 50-plus for the fifth straight time Saturday against Colorado.
To that, we can only say: OK.
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Washington exposed some things about Stanford. Running its snappy offense, the Huskies got playmakers in space and stressed the stout Cardinal defense. Suppose that would be a problem for the Cardinal against Oregon?
Meanwhile, Cardinal coach David Shaw must have been slipped an old Woody Hayes playbook by assistant and former Buckeye Randy Hart. The conservative play-calling almost cost the Cardinal, which threw one fourth-quarter pass and ultimately left its fate to a replay official.
Been a tough year for the league’s premier tight ends. Sunday, Oregon’s Colt Lyerla, who had been in and out of the doghouse all season, left the Ducks.
Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins had his offseason DUI and a one-game suspension in the UW opener, and he hasn’t seemed the same ASJ and certainly not the All-American variety. Saturday night, he had four catches for 58 yards — giving him a modest 14 receptions in 2013 — and he failed to grab a key attempt on UW’s final drive.
The Cougars have come out of the dark ages. Saturday, they won a second Pac-12 road game for the first time since 2006, and some other superlatives stretch back to the 10-win 2003 season. They’ve got to get better defensively on the back end and keep Connor Halliday clean, but at 4-2, they can see the end of a nine-year bowl drought.
“Their guys play with an edge,” said Cal coach Sonny Dykes. “I like the way they play.”
Arizona State can’t exhale just yet. The Sun Devils (3-2) finished their deathly stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame with a 2-2 record and some defensive issues.
They didn’t sack the Irish once in a 37-34 loss. A year ago, ASU had 53 sacks; five games in, it has a mere seven. Linemen Carl Bradford and Will Sutton, who combined for 24½ in 2012, have three between them.
Brendan Bigelow: The league’s biggest enigma. Anybody who saw Bigelow’s dynamic game for Cal at Ohio State last year — four carries, 160 yards, two long touchdowns — knows he can be a hold-your-breath talent. But he played only spotty minutes as the 2012 season progressed, and the party line was he needed to become more familiar with the offense.
Against WSU, Bigelow ran tentatively, 12 times for 43 yards, and fumbled twice, once at the Cougar 1-yard line.
“Poor kid just doesn’t have a lot of confidence right now,” Dykes told the Oakland Tribune. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get him some. It’s tough to play him right now, honestly.”
Meanwhile, it’s also tough to play the Bears in Nevada right now. They’re 0-9 over two seasons against the point spread.
It could be a Redd October at USC. As the Trojans get ready for their first game Thursday night in the post-Lane Kiffin era against Arizona, they should get back Silas Redd, who has looked good in practice after a rehab from a spring knee procedure.
The spotlight is on Oregon and Washington at Husky Stadium. Stanford is at Utah, and the Saturday nightcap, Oregon State at WSU, is a good one.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org