Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group rounds up the week's Pac-12 action, including his game of the week, themes of the week and biggest surprises.
So much for that September non-conference perfection …
Theme of the week I: Contagion warning.
The bottom tier of the conference took on losses — at home to Group of Five opponents and to a mid-level Big Ten foe — that could eventually cause problems at the top.
With one more week of heavy non-conference action, the Pac-12 had best avoid further infection.
There are 10 non-conference games in Week 3: One against the FCS, five against the Group of Five and four against the Power Five.
From a perception standpoint, it’s treacherous: The Pac-12 is favored in eight of the 10.
Theme of the week II: Night terrors.
The Pac-12 had a 16-game non-conference winning streak when Saturday’s night session arrived, then dropped three of five under the lights:
Oregon State was blown out at home by Minnesota, Arizona lost at home to Houston and Arizona State was manhandled at home by San Diego State.
If not for a miracle in the Palouse, the loss count would have been higher.
Game of the week: Washington State 47, Boise State 44 (3 OT)
The Cougars trailed by three touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter and had their backup quarterback in the game. Their only path to victory required help from the Broncos, and it came in spades.
The football gods …. or maybe it was aliens …. or Bigfoot … were looking down on the Cougs.
Offensive player of the week: Washington State’s Tyler Hilinski.
Plenty of worthy candidates, including (but not limited to) Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Cal RB Patrick Laird, USC QB Sam Darnold and UCLA QB Josh Rosen.
The pick here is Hilinski. It’s not often a backup quarterback throws for 240 yards and three touchdowns and helps orchestrate a stunning comeback.
Defensive player of the week: USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.
The senior had five pass break-ups and a sack and was, for my money, the best player on the field (for either team) when Stanford had possession.
Special teams player of the week: Utah kicker Matt Gay.
Gay made all four of his field goals. Yes, all were inside 40 yards, but in the Holy War, every kick is a pressure kick — especially when your offense is struggling to score touchdowns.
Unexpected chills of the week: Oregon.
The Ducks led 42-14 at halftime but went scoreless in the second half — what kind of odds could you have gotten on that — and were forced to send their defense out to protect a seven-point margin in the final minutes.
Deep sleep of the month: Washington.
The Huskies’ September snooze continued with a blowout of Montana … or was it Billings State … or Red Lodge Central? (No disrespect intended, Grizzlies. I just love Red Lodge.)
Doubled over: Arizona State.
To lose at home to San Diego State is one thing — one very bad thing — but the Sun Devils were flattened at the line of scrimmage. SDSU rushed for 279 yards, ASU for 44.
Seeing double: L.A. quarterbacks.
This whole Darnold-Rosen duel reminds me more than a tad of the Troy Aikman-Rodney Peete showcase from ’88. Peete finished second in the Heisman race, Aikman third.
The winner played tailback at Oklahoma State.
Buckling at the knees: Stanford.
It’s not often the Cardinal gets pushed backward on both lines of scrimmage. It allowed 307 rushing yards and gained a slightly-deceptive 170. Remove Bryce Love’s 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Stanford’s tailbacks had 99 yards on 22 carries.
Withering critique: Arizona State.
This from SDSU coach Rocky Long: “They were going to air it out anyway because they can’t run it. It is not because they don’t have players, it is the style of offense they run. It is very difficult for a spread offense to consistently run the ball.”
Painful truth (Hotline version): UCLA.
What I wrote last week: “If ever a team was vulnerable to a letdown, it’s the Bruins this week in post-A&M mode. And Hawaii isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is. Close into the second half.”
Plain truth (Hotline version): USC.
What I wrote last week: “The key for USC on Saturday is the running game: The Trojans must use Ronald Jones (and Stephen Carr) extensively … USC needs 35 carries and 175 yards from its tailbacks; hit that, and the Trojans win.”
Harsh reality: Cal.
The performance against Weber State — it was in doubt until the final minute — was as alarming as the victory over North Carolina was encouraging.
holywar2Seventh heaven: Utah.
It was neither easy nor pretty — and is supposed to be neither — but the Utes won their seventh in a row over Brigham Young, their longest Holy War winning streak since the 1950s. One touchdown and four field goals > two touchdowns.
Five for nine: Rosen.
Tossed five touchdowns against Hawaii and now has nine in two games, which is actually nine in the past five quarters.
The Buffaloes have yet to allow a touchdown in eight quarters of play. Only one other team in major college football can say the same: Clemson.
One ugly stat: Cal.
It’s not often an FCS team does as it pleases against a Pac-12 defense, but Weber State gained 571 yards against the Bears. Over/under for USC in two weeks: 650.
One-man gang: Utah’s Tyler Huntley.
The lil’ Lamar (Jackson) accounted for 389 of Utah’s 430 yards. He’s dynamic, he’s fun to watch, he’s a true difference-maker … and he’s 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. At this rate, he won’t be upright at the mid-October turn.
Capable first mate: Hilinski.
We don’t know how much time Falk will miss — it sure looked like head trauma — but Hilinski should be good enough to get the Cougars past Oregon State and Nevada to set up a showdown, at 4-0, with USC.
Sitting at the dock: Colorado.
We have no idea how good the Buffaloes are because of the lack of competition. That won’t change this week: Hello, Northern Colorado.
Rudderless ship: Arizona.
Brandon Dawkins spent the offseason working on his reads and delivery. Through two games, there is little evidence that he has progressed to the level necessary to lead Arizona out of the South cellar.
Lost at sea: Arizona State.
Can’t run, can’t stop the run, can’t beat San Diego State, can’t dominate New Mexico State … this can’t continue, or it won’t continue for coach Todd Graham.
North Atlantic, 1912, iceberg ahead: Oregon State.
The Beavers have played three games, so it’s no longer early. In fact, it’s over, at least unofficially. And with five more losses, it will be official.
Their next five: Washington State, Washington, USC, Colorado and Stanford.