Your humble #4Pac welcomes you to another installment of what will be a regular feature on the Pac-12 blog. Here's how it works: We take one question or one topic, or maybe it's some other really cool format that we haven't even thought of yet, and all contribute our thoughts.
Have a suggestion for something we should address in a future #4Pac roundtable? Go ahead and send it to our mailbag.
Today, we're diving into some of the crazy finishes in the league this season and asking the question: Which team has produced the most fourth-quarter excitement?
When it comes to keeping its fans on edge, Utah has succeeded in four consecutive weeks, and it's completely possible the Utes will continue with that against Arizona State.
Heck, the Utes are good at making the fourth quarter captivating even when it's a blowout. Before becoming the cardiac kids, they played the conclusion of their Michigan rout in an empty Big House featuring only a smattering of Utah faithful.
Oh, the joys of lightning delays.
That was surreal.
And so is the Utes' propensity to play in nail-biter after nail-biter this season. The trend started with their blown lead at home and eventual loss to Washington State. Matters escalated when Utah survived two last-second field-goal attempts at UCLA. A double-overtime win over Oregon State cemented Utah's prowess in late-game situations, and that set the table for Travis Wilson's last-minute heroics to push the Utes past USC last Saturday.
Anyway, it's tough to beat that Utah resume. So far, they've been masters of the dramatic.
How do you go with any team other than Cal?
In the span of three weeks, the Bears lost to Arizona on a Hail Mary, beat Colorado in double overtime and a engineered a fourth-quarter comeback in an epic victory over Washington State that featured 119 points and 1,401 yards. Most teams won't even give you that kind of excitement in an entire season.
Since, Cal has suffered three consecutive losses. But even in a loss to UCLA, the Bears kept things interesting with a failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter which would have forced the Bruins to go for the end zone instead of an eventual game-winning field goal.
Cal is just two games away from bowl eligibility with four games to play. I don't know if this is a team you'd want to bet against reaching the postseason, especially as it matures and learns to close out games.
Sandwiched between blowout wins over UNLV in the opener and Washington State last weekend, Arizona has gone 4-1 through a stretch of five games that were won by seven or fewer points, each of which wasn't decided until the waning moments. How's that for drama?
The most dramatic win was the 47-yard Hail Mary from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill to beat California 49-45. The most important win was a 31-24 victory at then-No. 2 Oregon, when LB Scooby Wright clinched the win with a sack and strip of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota late in the fourth quarter.
Even the only loss was a thriller, when a last-ditch comeback from the Wildcats against USC only fell short when, after recovering an onside kick, a last-second 36-yard field goal went wide right. If not for that loss, Arizona would have been a legitimate national title contender and probably would have been ranked in the top four when the College Football Selection committee voted Tuesday.
Of course, some of the close calls weren't so impressive, namely eking out victories over UTSA and Nevada. Still, there's no doubt the Wildcats know what a tight fourth quarter feels like and know how to find a way to win. That could be invaluable down the stretch in a South Division race that is certain to be tightly contested and involve plenty of fantastic finishes.
One of the best things about watching Washington State is there's always a chance you get to see something that's never happened before.
In the past two years, quarterback Connor Halliday has attempted 89 passes in a game and thrown for 734 yards in another. And the next time coach Mike Leach takes his foot off the gas in the fourth quarter might be the first.
When Arizona took a 52-16 lead into the fourth quarter against the Cougars on Saturday, it was clear the outcome was determined. Most coaches in that situation would probably have gone to the backup quarterback, seeing it as a chance to develop him for the future. Not Leach. He kept Halliday in there and kept chucking it up until the end.
Whether you agree with that strategy is beside the point. What we're acknowledging here is that if you flip away from a WSU game in the fourth quarter, there's a good chance you'll miss something you might not normally see. In half of the Cougars' games this year, the deciding score came with less than six minutes left in the game.