It’s amazing what one week can do to a team. Two weeks ago, UCLA, Cal and USC were handed heart-breaking losses by teams that they clearly outplayed for the majority of the contest. This past Saturday, each team captured huge victories at home, delivering heart-wrenching blows of their own to the likes of Arizona, Utah and Arizona State, the latter two suffering their first losses of the season. Outside of Berkeley, the rout was on as the Huskies, Cougars, Buffaloes, Trojans and Bruins showed up to dominate their opponents, a sharp contrast to the week before when 10 Pac-12 teams were featured in games decided by 10 points or fewer.
After five weeks of exciting games, most power conferences have a general idea regarding where each team stands. The ACC showcases Clemson and Louisville followed by everyone else. The same can be said about Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten. The SEC is pretty much stacking up as it should. Outside of Washington, the Pac-12 is a free-for-all. No one really knows where they’ll stand at the end of the year in the standings and in the overall rankings. What everyone does know is this: The Pac-12 is struggling big-time.
Widespread preseason belief: Stanford and Washington, but probably just Stanford, will challenge Alabama and the ACC/Big Ten’s best for a college football playoff bid. USC, Oregon and Utah will challenge power conference teams for competitive at-large bowl selections.
Facts from the past few weeks:
- Stanford lost a football game by 38 points.
- Oregon is in line to finish next-to-last in the conference.
- Colorado is ranked. For the first time in 11 years, no less.
- Utah beat USC. Cal beat Utah. Arizona State beat Cal. USC beat Arizona State. Correction: USC, who already has three losses, blew out Arizona State.
Exactly. Any team (outside of the mighty Huskies) has shown they can win big (or lose in dramatic fashion) on any given Saturday, regardless of how their opponent fared last week or the week that followed. In a way, this is why so many of us love college football. Upsets are supposed to happen from time to time, but to many who have watched what has been unfolding so far, it is clear that this season has been shocking in more ways than one. The biggest disappointments, however, are with the Ducks and the Cardinal.
Just a few weeks ago, a ranked Oregon team headed to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers and suffered a tough 35-32 loss, one that just got away from them after they were unable to convert on four of their five two-point conversions. Royce Freeman hurt his knee in the game but has been forced to essentially carry the team on his back over the past few weeks. The defense gave up 41 points to Colorado’s backup quarterback Steven Montez and surrendered 51 to Washington State last week, a team that lost to Eastern Washington at home during the opening week. Today, the Ducks are searching for their identity, stuck in a three-game losing streak, and are beginning to have huge questions at the quarterback position. True freshman Justin Herbert reportedly will take over duties from the struggling Dakota Prukop this weekend against Washington, who has not beaten the Ducks since 2004. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty, but I don’t think this is how coach Mark Helfrich saw this season unfolding.
You know it’s gotten bad when Christian McCaffrey, arguably college football’s most productive player, has gone two weeks without scoring. Last week against the Huskies, he was held to just 49 yards rushing, his longest run being only 14 yards. Cardinal quarterback Ryan Burns looked as uncomfortable as Santiago Casilla trying to save games for the Giants this season. And while many felt that the Huskies held the advantage heading into the matchup, nobody saw the 2016 Stanford Cardinal losing by 38 points — to anybody. They have the top playmaker in college football and only put up six points. That’s all without mentioning that the defense couldn’t slow the rise of Jake Browning to the talk of viewers around the nation. Unless the Huskies can find a way to lose their own consistency, the Cardinal will have to settle for something less than a playoff berth.
Outside of a game that features Washington, a flip of a coin could easily predict the winner of many Pac-12 matchups from here on out. Injuries and defenses will undoubtedly be huge factors in determining which teams will find their consistency. Don’t be surprised if a team comes out of nowhere and sneaks its way into the Pac-12 Championship Game this December. In the meantime, here are some predictions for week six’s slate:
No. 21 Colorado vs. USC: USC 34, Colorado 27
No. 5 Washington vs. Oregon: Washington 45, Oregon 28
California vs. Oregon State: California 52, Oregon State 31
Arizona vs. No. 24 Utah: Utah 24, Arizona 20
UCLA vs. Arizona State: UCLA 31, Arizona State 30
Washington State vs. No. 15 Stanford: Stanford 37, Washington State 35
Contact Josh Yuen at