Some things we learned this week in the Pac-12:
Oregon solved its Stanford problem: If folks want to say that Oregon made a statement, or that Marcus Mariota made a Heisman statement ... that’s fine. The simple fact is Oregon was just the better team in its 45-16 win. The offense was fearless, going right at the heart of Stanford’s vaunted defense by rushing for 267 yards and four touchdowns. Mariota finished 19-of-30 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 85 yards and two scores. For the record, Oregon is 16-0 when Mariota rushes for a touchdown.
Stanford’s reign is over: It was a good run, but with three conference losses, the Cardinal will not be playing in the Pac-12 championship game. For your consideration: Stanford had held opponents to fewer than 30 points in 31 straight games, going back to its 54-48 OT win over Arizona in 2012. In this era of Pac-12 football, that’s an awfully impressive stat -- and a reminder of how well Oregon played.
Can’t count out the Bruins: Oh, those penalties (11 for 118 yards). Baffling, at times, how a team with so much talent can unload like a Gatling gun all over its feet. And yet it was the feet of quarterback Brett Hundley -- who rushed for 131 yards -- that helped carry the Bruins to a 17-7 win over No. 12 Arizona. With Washington, USC and Stanford still on the docket, the Bruins need some help, but aren’t out of the South picture yet -- especially if the defense can play like it did Saturday.
Cats have to get in sync: Arizona has now lost two of three and is in danger of slipping completely out of the conversation in the South. Anu Solomon was just 18-of-48 for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Credit the UCLA defense, which was outstanding. But 255 yards of offense and one touchdown aren’t going to cut it for Arizona in a stretch run which includes three of its last four against South Division teams. Arizona’s two worst performances under Rich Rodriguez (in terms of total yards) have come against UCLA, including a 257-yard effort in 2012.
In praise of Connor Halliday: Few quarterbacks took more hits or played through more pain over the last few years. Whether it was fighting through a lacerated liver or the countless bumps and bruises he’s endured over his career, Halliday always stood in the pocket, took his licks, and bounced back up. His WSU career is over after suffering a broken leg in the Cougars' 44-17 loss to USC. The Pac-12 blog wishes him the best in his recovery.
USC can salvage its season: The Trojans are bowl eligible. That was expected, so good for Troy. And while USC is still looking up at a few teams in the South Division after losses to Utah and Arizona State, there is still noise to be made with games against Notre Dame and UCLA. Its victory, while dampened by the unfortunate, aforementioned injury to Halliday, was still complete and dominating in all three phases.
ASU is for real: Time to start taking this team seriously on both sides of the ball. For all the guff the defense took for having to replace all of those starters, it has allowed only 36 points in its last three games. The 19-16 overtime win over Utah is quality. The Sun Devils have won four straight since the UCLA debacle and are peaking with Notre Dame coming to town. Win that one, and why can’t we start talking about ASU for the playoff?
Utah has to rebound: Of all the scenarios for how the game against ASU could have gone, Andy Phillips missing an OT field goal -- twice -- had to be low on the list. The Utes don’t have time to lick their wounds with Oregon, Stanford, Arizona and Colorado still looming. They are bowl eligible, and that’s great. But a five-game losing skid to close out the year seems just as plausible as a 4-1 finish if they can't leave this one in the past.
California rising: The Golden Bears aren’t going bowling yet, but they got a heck of a lot closer with a critical 45-31 road win over Oregon State. Lost in all the Bear Raid stuff is that this is a pretty good running team, and Daniel Lasco is quietly having one of the better seasons from a Pac-12 running back. The proof was his 30-carry, 188-yard, three-touchdown performance Saturday. Cal has to find one more win among USC, Stanford and BYU. This sliver of the Pac-12 blog thinks it will.
Passing champ: Hats off to OSU’s Sean Mannion, who passed former USC quarterback Matt Barkley to become the league’s all-time leading passer. He now has 12,454 career passing yards. For as frustrating a season as it’s been for the Beavers -- whose postseason hopes are dwindling each week -- it’s an amazing accomplishment that should not go unmarked.
Washington can be efficient offensively: Nothing wrong with your quarterback going 13-of-19 for 206 yards with a couple of scores and no interceptions in a 38-23 win. Nothing wrong with your star linebacker rushing for 174 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown. (By the way, it’s a pity Shaq Thompson is not getting more recognition nationally for being an amazing all-around player.) The fumbles are a concern. But the Huskies keep finding creative ways to score -- be it offense, special teams or defense. A big test looms against a surging UCLA team next week. Let the Shaq-Myles Jack storylines begin ...
Colorado is its own worst enemy: Buffaloes fans don’t want to hear “at least they are playing better.” Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Colorado looked pretty good the first 25 minutes or so against Washington. But four turnovers, including a pick-six, were costly as the Buffs blew three different 10-point leads. It’s one thing to say Colorado is going to shock someone. Now it’s time to actually do it. The postseason is officially out of the picture, but three ranked teams in Arizona, Oregon and Utah remain. The Buffs can’t dance, but they can certainly trip someone up. Or so we keep saying ...