Now the plot thickens in the Pac-12. No more directional schools on the schedule, as the league revs up with five conference matchups this week.
Saturday’s epicenter is Seattle, where possibly 130,000 will see the best college “doubleheader” ever in the city, with Arizona at Washington at 4 p.m. and Washington State and Stanford dueling at 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.
What we learned
Football is thriving in the state — at least in September. Operative Husky stat: 629 yards of total offense per game. Operative Cougar stat: In the first third of the season, WSU hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the second half.
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Arizona State still can’t stop the big boys. It would be wrong to dismiss the strides ASU has made in two seasons of the Todd Graham regime, especially in curbing penalties. But the Sun Devils, in falling behind 39-7 to Stanford on Saturday, revisited a pattern of 2012 — the inability to hang with elite teams.
ASU, in its 8-5 season last year, didn’t beat an FBS team with a winning record until the season finale against Arizona. And in a four-game losing streak to top-shelf teams, it surrendered 162 points.
One concern in 2013: The Sun Devils, second in the nation in sacks last year, have only three.
Utah needs Brigham Young to join the Pac-12. The Utes have no trouble beating the Cougars; they’ve done it four consecutive times. It’s Pac-12 squads that give them trouble.
Wrote Brad Rock in the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, “Kyle Whittingham, who agonized to the 11th hour deciding which of the two schools to coach, is now 6-3 against (BYU’s) Bronco Mendenhall, who against his nemesis looks increasingly like someone’s second choice. In the era of BYU’s independence, the game means more to BYU than Utah . So how come the Utes play like it’s the only game on their schedule?”
Oregon State might have saved its season. OSU was on the brink of losing a second nonleague game, trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter at winless San Diego State. Then it survived on Steven Nelson’s interception return for a score in the final three minutes. It’s a lot easier to get to bowl eligibility from 3-1 than 2-2.
“There’s a lot to be concerned about,” said Mike Riley, the OSU coach, summarizing aptly, “but frankly, I’m going to be concerned tomorrow.”
USC needs to get back to league play. True, the conference opener was a thudding loss to Washington State two weeks ago. But the nonleague schedule, including Utah State, has induced yawns in Los Angeles.
“At kickoff,” wrote Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times, “the Coliseum was about half-full with a crowd that was barely awake. During the game, there were scattered boos, a few strong cheers and mostly shrugs.”
On the field, Marqise Lee has a solitary touchdown catch. He had six at this time a year ago.
The good stuff’s in our town, although USC has a key date in Tempe that will pin a second league defeat on the loser before the calendar turns to October.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org