BIGGEST CONCERN: Is the Pac-12 North superior over the Pac-12 South… Again?
Since the Pac-12 began its annual championship game in 2011, it has been won by either Oregon or Stanford every time. The North has only sent two teams to the title game and they have won all of them, while the South has sent four: Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC and still has none.
At the end of every season for the past five years, the North have owned the highest ranked team and currently the North have two teams in the top ten (#9 Washington and #7 Stanford). The South have just one team who barely scraped the Top 25 in #24 Utah.
USC vs. Stanford, not too long ago, was the best of the North and and South squaring it off to make a name for their territory. If USC is the best the South could present to Stanford this season, then it looks like the North will be in the Rose Bowl for a sixth year straight. The Cardinal dominated the game from the first snap to the last.
They ran the ball from the get go as junior Christian McCaffrey had 30 carries for 165 yards. The Cardinal defense allowed just one touchdown, which came in the beginning of the third quarter. Trojan star junior receiver JuJu Smith had only three catches for 34 yards.
Utah, at 24th in the nation has proven to be the new best in the South. Its defense has been phenomenal as the Utes haven’t given up more than 19 points all season and had 10 sacks last game against San Jose State.
The offense, though, has had a turnover in every game this season including eight in its last two contests. Utah is good, but not Pac-12 North good.
MONUMENTAL UPSET: California 50, Texas 43
Not only was this the first California win over a ranked opponent since 2012, but the Golden Bears defeated a top-15 team in their home opener. This game took some clutch performances, a lot of effort, and character to win.
Cal went down early as they trailed by 10 at the start of the second quarter, but kept scoring and answered back to a Texas score six straight times. Junior wide receiver Chad Hansen was senior quarterback Davis Webb’s favorite option as he totaled 12 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
One of those touchdowns, was a key 12-yard TD pass with about four minutes remaining that put the Bears up 50-43. Though Cal was up by a touchdown, it didn’t seal the deal.
Driving down the field with 1:29 left in the game junior Vic Enwere of Cal ran the ball 54 yards and into the end zone, but dropped the ball between the 1-yard line and the goal line. After a few seconds of standing around, Texas picked up the ball and the referees did not rule a fumble because the ball was not “immediately” recovered. Rather than the Longhorns having the ball with 1:21 left and a chance at a potential game tying touchdown drive, the Bears maintained possession and won with a little controversy: 50-43.
The Bears now look like a team that can compete against the top teams in the Pac-12. It should be another high-scoring offensive shootout next week when they take on (3-0) Arizona State.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Oregon comes up short, 35-32
After this close one in Lincoln, neither team is ranked, and Oregon had to play most of it without star running back Royce Freeman who suffered a knee injury and left the game in the first quarter.
The Ducks went up early 20-7, but Nebraska fought back with three unanswered scores to take a 28-20 lead with six minutes left in the third quarter. Even without Freeman, Oregon stuck to the run game as they scored two more rushing TD’s and went up by four points (32-28) in the fourth quarter.
Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was spent. Cramping in both legs by the end of the game, he continuously drank different fluids including Gatorade, water, and pickle juice to get his legs back. He showed some true fight as he led the Cornhuskers 65 yards down the field with five minutes in the game.
At fourth and nine on his own 48 yard line, Armstrong converted a clutch 14 yard pass. Then, with 2:49 left, a worked and worn Armstrong majestically ran 34 yards into the end zone to put the Huskers up and then eventually win in a close 35-32 victory.
MOST TROUBLESOME WIN: Arizona State 32 UTSA 28
In the Sun Devils’ first road game, they showed a few weaknesses. Arizona State had trouble stopping the Roadrunners offense in this game, and it looked like a repeat of their slow start against Northern Arizona (10-3 at halftime). The biggest difference though, was that the Devils were losing by more than two touchdowns (28-12) midway through the third quarter.
UTSA gave the Sun Devils a shock for the first three quarters. Junior quarterback Dalton Strum impressively beat the Devils with his feet and his arm throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 81 yards and TD. Strum was unstoppable on the field scoring all four of the Roadrunner touchdowns and led an offense that did not commit a turnover the entire game.
Arizona State won the game, which improved its record to 3-0, but the maroon and gold totaled three turnovers. Senior kick and punt returner Tim White sat out the first half of the game, and it hurt the Sun Devils badly. At the end of the first quarter, junior Kalen Ballage fumbled and it led to a Roadrunner touchdown. Then, ASU put out senior De’Chavon Hayes to return a punt and he fumbled the ball as well. It led to another seven points for UTSA.
If the Sun Devils want a win at home next week against a confident California team, they need to take care of the ball and figure out the formula to stopping Cal’s air raid offense.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Chad Hansen
Not only did the junior lead the Golden Bears with 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns in their upset win over No. 11 Texas, but Hansen leads the nation in receiving yards with 546 on the season. This is his third straight game with a touchdown or more and at least 160 yards.
He has five touchdowns already this season, and in the one game California lost he only had one score, but still gained 190 yards receiving. Cal’s quarterback, Webb, has shown that Hansen is his favorite and will use him in big situations against the Sun Devils next week in Tempe.