Pac-12 rewind: Oregon schools lead the North, London thrives, UW survives, Colorado flounders
The North division dominated Week Eight action, sweeping teams from the South. Oregon and Oregon State led the way with key victories.
Recapping the best and worst from Week Eight in the Pac-12 …
Theme of the week: North dominance
Teams from the North division won all four matchups against the South: Washington over Arizona on Friday, followed by Oregon’s escape at UCLA, Cal’s demolition of Colorado and Oregon State’s impressive victory over Utah. We have maintained from the start that the South is the better division, and that position hasn’t changed. But the difference isn’t as stark as we expected because of OSU’s ascent.
Team of the week: Oregon State
As opposed to other teams — hello, Washington! — the Beavers made expert use of their bye week and were immaculately prepared to attack Utah’s defense. Frankly, OSU’s outlier result since the quarterback switch to Chance Nolan is the loss at Washington State, where the defense was sliced and diced by WSU’s aerial game.
Game of the week: Oregon 34, UCLA 31
With four one-score games, there were several options. We selected the Rose Bowl showdown because UCLA had the ball with a chance to tie/win in the final minute and because of the playoff ramifications if Oregon had lost. The Bruins scored the first 14 points and the last 14 points, but Oregon dominated in between.
Welcome of the week: UCLA
The first-ever ‘College GameDay’ broadcast from UCLA’s campus drew an impressive crowd considering the 6 a.m. start time. No, it wasn’t a Pullman-size turnout — nothing will ever top that epic ‘GameDay’ appearance in 2018 — but perhaps the support in Westwood was enough to convince ‘GameDay’ decision-makers that the Pac-12 is worth a visit more frequently than every three years.
Offensive player of the week: USC’s Drake London
The most dominant offensive force in the Pac-12 took his talents outside the conference and punished Notre Dame with 15 catches for 171 yards. London leads all Power Five receivers in catches and yards per game, and it isn’t close.
Defensive players of the week: Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Oregon State’s Avery Roberts
Thibodeaux, the edge-rusher extraordinaire, was a dominant force against UCLA with 4.5 tackles for loss and pressure at key points in the game. But we cannot overlook Roberts’ 16-tackle performance in the victory over Utah. The linebacker was here, there and everywhere and now ranks No. 6 in the country in tackles per game with 11.1.
Coaches of the week: Cal’s Justin Wilcox and Washington State’s Jake Dickert
After weeks of narrow losses and mounting criticism, Wilcox collected his first conference (and first FBS) victory of the season. That the opponent was Colorado makes little difference — the Bears needed a win and a complete performance, and they got both. Dickert deserves mention for guiding WSU’s players through midseason tumult thrust upon them by their former coach. We don’t usually honor two coaches but thought the circumstances this week justified a special exemption.
Survival of the week: Washington
The Huskies came perilously close to the ultimate ignominy: Becoming the first team in more than two calendar years to lose to Arizona. Down 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, they rallied with two touchdown drives to seal a narrow victory and prevent fan frustration from boiling over. Now 2-2 in conference, UW is one game out of first place in the loss column.
Stat of the week: Arizona
Thanks to a longtime Hotline reader, we might have found the answer to a question posed recently: When was the last time a team lost its top-two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries? The answer (until proven otherwise): In 2008, UCLA lost starter Ben Olsen and backup Pat Cowan before the season and played the entire fall with third-stringer Kevin Craft as the starter. So the Wildcats are in rare air, indeed … in addition to all their other challenges.
Stat of the season: Colorado
The Buffaloes gained just 104 total yards against Cal, yet that isn’t their lowest output of the season: They had 63 yards against Minnesota. We might be looking at the worst offense since Pac-12 expansion a decade ago, folks. The Buffaloes are unfathomably bad on that side of the ball.
Stat of the past 16 years: Utah’s special teams
The Utes have excelled on special teams under Kyle Whittingham, until this season. They have allowed three punt or kickoff returns for touchdowns, had a punt blocked (by Oregon State), missed a slew of field goals and generally struggled on coverage (No. 116 nationally in kickoff returns). It’s a precarious existence for a team chasing a division title.
Game of next week: UCLA at Utah
A choice matchup that features high stakes and similar styles: Both teams will attempt to control the game on the ground, behind two of the best offensive lines in the conference. If the Utes win, they would have a three-game lead over the Bruins (because of the tiebreaker component). Essentially, this is make-or-break for UCLA’s division hopes. Of note: The Utes will be without their top defensive player, linebacker Devin Lloyd, for the first half (targeting ejection). Utah is favored by 3.5 points.
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