Can Oregon State continue to stay atop the Pac-12 without quarterback Sean Mannion?
Head coach Mike Riley announced early Monday that starting quarterback Sean Mannion will have to undergo knee surgery for an unspecified injury, and will be out indefinitely. Even if it’s just arthroscopic surgery to clean up his meniscus, Mannion will likely be out for at least six weeks.
That means the Beavers will have to turn the keys to the offense over to junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t played since 2010 when he completed just 6 of his 17 passes for 48 yards. Most of the Beavers success in 2012 has been due to a defense that allows its opponents just 67 rushing yards a game, but they have also relied on Mannion for 74 percent of their offense.
The squad will likely be making trips to BYU, Washington and Stanford without its starting quarterback and will need more than just defense to come away with wins. Until Vaz proves himself a worthy starter, Oregon State likely goes back to a middle of the road Pac-12 team.
It’s too bad, because Mannion’s injury might ruin what looked like an incredibly promising season after a 4-0 start. But if Riley is able to keep his team competitive, he can write in his own name for Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
How is Arizona winless in Pac-12 play?
The Wildcats’ have a dominant offense. The numbers speak for themselves: they rank in the top 10 nationally in total offense (551.3 yards per game) and passing yards (368.3 per game), and their 37 points a game is behind only Oregon and Arizona State in the Pac-12.
Arizona can score, plain and simple. The squad’s problem is stopping its opponents. In their three Pac-12 losses, the Wildcats gave up 49, 38 and 54 points. They rank second-to-last in the conference in points allowed per game (32.7) and dead-last in total defense (480.5 yards per game).
Granted, Arizona has played arguably three of the four best Pac-12 teams in No. 2 Oregon, No. 10 Oregon State and No. 17 Stanford. After going scoreless against the Ducks, the Wildcats were competitive in the latter two games, losing by nine points collectively. Arizona had a chance to beat the Cardinal on Saturday but squandered a 14-point fourth quarter lead to lose in overtime.
Back-to-back home games against Washington and USC won’t be any easier for the Wildcats’ defense, but the final third of their schedule is a lot easier. By then, however, it might be too late.
— Jonathan Kuperberg
Could Arizona State compete for the Pac-12 South title?
Preseason expectations for the Sun Devils were virtually nonexistent. A new coaching regime needed time to settle in and the defense projected to be among the worst in the conference.
Fast forward to today, and ASU sits at 2-0 in conference play and 4-1 overall. USC hasn’t looked like anything close to the national title contender some expected them to be, and UCLA just got blown out by an underachieving Cal team. Nobody else in the conference looks much like a contender; Colorado and Utah are horrible, and Arizona has essentially eliminated themselves from the race with a 0-3 conference record.
ASU’s defense has actually been the strength of the team, allowing just 13.6 points per game. Quarterback Taylor Kelly completes 67.6% of his passes and moves the offense with efficiency. Cameron Marshall and DJ Foster form a formidable running back tandem.
The Sun Devils’ Rose Bowl hopes essentially come down to a three week stretch from late October to early November, where they take on UCLA, Oregon State, and USC in three consecutive weeks. If they can take two of three, ASU may have a shot at Oregon for a chance to smell roses in January.
— Michael Rosen
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