Taking stock of Week 7 in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: Media sorts -- who us? -- wondered how Oregon would react if it got tested. Well, it went to Washington and, for a 10th consecutive time, whipped the Huskies 45-24, showing resilience and poise in the fourth quarter. As noted, the Ducks passed their first big test with flying colors.
Best game: Stanford, the nation's fifth-ranked team, had two shots from Utah's 6-yard line to tie the score in the final minute, but QB Kevin Hogan fired two errant throws, and the inspired Utes, who had masterful game plans on both sides of the ball, recorded a 27-21 victory, their biggest Pac-12 win.
Biggest play: No question, it was those final two Stanford plays. If the Cardinal convert, they are a PAT away from still being unbeaten and a national title contender. After a brilliant drive to put them in position to sneak away with a win, neither play came even close to working.
Offensive standout: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota turned in a Heisman-worthy performance in the Ducks' win at Washington. He completed 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 13 times for 88 yards and a score. And he did some of his best work in the fourth quarter -- accounting for a rushing and passing touchdown -- which he has, as frequently noted, rarely had to do.
Defensive standout: Oregon State CB Rashaad Reynolds had six tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in the 52-24 win over Washington State.
Defensive standout(s) II: Not to spread things too thin, but the Pac-12 blog feels the need to recognize two from Utah: LB Nate Orchard and OLB/DE Trevor Reilly. Orchard had two sacks and two forced fumbles in the Utes' win over Stanoford. He finished with five tackles. Reilly had seven tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Special teams standout: Stanford's Ty Montgomery returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the second time in two weeks he has gone yard on a kickoff return.
Smiley face: USC, Oregon and Utah each made positive statements about their prospects this season. USC showed it still had some fire burning following the termination of Lane Kiffin with a Thursday win over Arizona. Oregon made a major statement as a national title contender. And Utah recorded its best win as a Pac-12 member.
Frowny face: While Utah gets a tip of the cap, the Utes did ruin what might have been an epic Thursday night matchup Nov. 7 against the Ducks in Palo Alto. (A number of national college writers, who enjoy their Bay Area trips, were grousing about this at the UW-Oregon game.) In the preseason, it seemed like a good bet to match unbeaten, top-five Pac-12 teams on a huge national stage. The lesson here is not to get too charmed in the preseason with potentially epic matchups. Recall the speculation about the Oregon-USC game in 2012. Things have a funny way of not going as predicted.
Thought of the week: There are three key separation games this week: UCLA at Stanford (a battle of ranked teams); Washington at Arizona State (a battle of teams aspiring for the Pac-12's "second tier"); and Utah at Arizona (a battle for bowl position in the Pac-12 South). The winners of these games are going to feel pretty good about their chances to achieve reasonable preseason goals. The losers might need to re-evaluate.
Questions for the week: Where's the next major upset coming? So far the Pac-12 has given the nation two shockers in conference play: Washington State over USC and Utah over Stanford. It's almost certain that, at some point, one of the Pac-12's four ranked teams is going to fall hard when we don't see it coming. The biggest issue there, at least from a national perspective, is whether that might be the second-ranked Ducks, a team that hasn't in recent years fallen prey to a major upset by an unranked team. The Ducks play host to Mike Leach and Washington State on Saturday. Just saying.