So, this past weekend was a little less crazy than the previous one, but it still held plenty of exciting and nomination-worthy plays for this week's Play of the Week.

1. The Big Aristotle


Who had this week's Play of the Week?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,922)

At some point we're going to start running out of nicknames if Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson continues to keep coming up with these plays. So Husky fans, feel free to keep sending those in. But on Saturday, Thompson came up huge again for Washington as he was the Husky to find the end zone. He recovered Cal quarterback Jared Goff's fumble at the goal line (though for statistical purposes this was only a 99-yard return since Cal was at second-and-goal at the 1-yard line) and then took it to the house, giving the early lead. Shaq Attack. Shaq Daddy. The Big Aristotle. Shaqness. There's a good chance we're going to need to keep the Thompson nicknames coming for the Pac-12 Blog's Play of the Week.

2. Basketball on grass

Because running in a 23-yard touchdown would just be too easy, right? Right. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota thought he'd just make it a little harder by fumbling, recovering it by himself in stride and then making the 20-yard jaunt into the end zone -- nothing like a little football dribbling to spice things up. Mariota's touchdown gave the Ducks a three-score lead over the Bruins on the road. It was Mariota's second rushing TD of the day and he also accounted for two passing touchdowns. Tallying four touchdowns in one game is pretty insane, but for Mariota, it was his fourth game of the season in which he accounted for four-plus touchdowns. So while that performance might've been keeping to the norm, his dribbling touchdown run certainly was out of the ordinary.

3. Ross-diculous


That's right, the Huskies get two nods in this week's vote because as good as Thompson's return was, we were pretty impressed with the speed and tackle-breaking abilities of sophomore wide receiver John Ross. His 86-yard receiving touchdown had Bears breaking their ankles and by the time he got to the 40-yard line, it was smooth sailing as he glided into the end zone. It was his fourth receiving touchdown of the season and his first 100-yard receiving game of his career.

4. The Buck Stops Here (... in the end zone)

video Buck Allen's 48-yard touchdown run might not be as flashy as some of the other plays, but that's what makes it so impressive and why he gets a nod with a nomination this week. Allen makes 48-yard touchdown runs look easy. You know just a “Hey, I'm going to run through this scrum of guys, get out untouched because I'm that elusive, and then speed past you into the end zone because you can't catch me.” Yep, he makes it look easy and that's pretty darn impressive.

5. Keeping up with the (Cayleb) Jones ... es


Even in a losing effort there can be some pretty great plays made -- take Arizona's onside kick recovery against USC last Saturday. The Wildcats were trailing by two, having just failed to convert on a two-point conversion. But they had scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, putting the game within reach. The Wildcats faked the kick to the left side of the field, sent it to the right and then sophomore receiver Cayleb Jones recovered it amidst a scrum of three USC players. Jones' play gave Arizona the ball at the 48-yard line, but more importantly, his play gave the Wildcats the chance to win the game. Though they ended up falling short of that, Jones' play is no less impressive considering how tricky those kicks can be and how quickly that game would've ended if Jones would've missed that.

Pac-12 Show (4 ET)

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
Pac-12 reporters Kevin Gemmell, Chantel Jennings and Ted Miller review this past weekend's games, including USC's upset of Arizona, and look ahead to Week 8. They will also answer your questions live on screen.

We live in a world that values entertainment over excellence, so why should the Pac-12 cater to a minority who like their football magisterial and coldly dominant? We call those folks snobs. Antiquated snobs at that. The Pac-12 is of the people, where each team is as likely to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle as it is to win with dramatic and inspired verve.

Heck, the rest of college football is providing a less vivacious version of the Pac-12's entertainment over excellence, in any event. Alabama and all those five-star recruits? It lost to Ole Miss and barely survived against Arkansas. Florida State? Last year, it was Muhammad Ali -- brash, svelte and lethal. This year it's Buster Douglas, distracted and indolent and ripe for the picking, if still holding the championship belt.

There are just six unbeaten teams left -- two reside in the state of Mississippi -- and one unbeaten team will go down Saturday when Notre Dame visits Florida State, with the winner still not likely to be called "perfect" in anything but record. Last year at this point in the season, there were 14 teams without a loss. In 2012, there were 12.

And none of those six play in the Pac-12 after Arizona pulled defeat from the jaws of victory against USC, despite those jaws of victory upchucking opportunity after opportunity on the no-longer-10th-ranked Wildcats.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota and Royce Freeman
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillIt was way too early to write off Oregon, as UCLA found out Saturday.
Oregon? Remember how the Ducks were summarily dismissed last week after their home loss to the Wildcats? No? Well, it happened. Google it. Those weakling Ducks, however, welcomed back tackle Jake Fisher to their offensive line against UCLA, and the unit transformed from the "Little Rascals" to the "Super Friends." It was as though Fisher walked into the huddle and, just like Adrian provided a perfect inspirational plot segue from her hospital bed after giving birth in "Rocky II," told the other O-lineman, "There's one thing I want you to do for me... block," and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, playing the role of Mickey, erupted with,"What are we waiting for!" as the adrenaline-churning workout montage music started to play.

The "Rocky" reference is admittedly tortured, but Fisher did get socked by Bruins defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, who was unhappy Fisher had road-graded him. So, yeah, boxing.

And so the Ducks are back in the top 10, well within striking distance of the College Football Playoff. Just like everyone was saying.

Fisher's next project? Perhaps Middle East peace? Or maybe he needs to get in between Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, whose sideline spat made Twitter go all aflutter.

The Bruins are the latest team to be written off, cast off from the national rankings and dismissed as this season's cautionary tale, filed under "overrated." They have issues everywhere: Fighting coaches, struggling offensive line, underachieving defense and an inconsistent star quarterback in Brett Hundley. And, yet, we'd still probably rank the Bruins as the favorites to win the Pac-12's South Division. As good a choice as any, really. For what that's worth.

UCLA, after all, did beat Arizona State on the road. And Arizona State beat USC on the road. And USC beat Arizona on the road. Ah, but Utah beat UCLA on the road, and Washington State, owner of the conference's worst record, beat Utah on the road. Oh, whatever.

Maybe all this parity -- parody? -- is the fans' fault. Nobody can win at home. Home teams are 4-14 in Pac-12 play. Last year, they were 31-21. In 2012, the record was 29-25. Whatever happened to home cooking?

We've only hit the midseason mark and the "what-ifs" are piling up all over the Pac-12. What if Stanford were just semi-competent in the red zone? What if UCLA and/or Arizona could make a game-winning field goal? What if successful Hail Mary passes were as rare as an Asian crested ibis or a Madagascar pochard? What if Washington State could magically eliminate four plays this season? What if Utah didn't -- apologies, Cougars -- "Coug it" in the fourth against Washington State?

Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is running into this column screaming, "Hey, the Buffs are outraged, too!" And, to throw out a forward-looking "what if," what if Washington wins at Oregon next weekend, ending a 10-game losing streak?

At this point in Pac-12 play, the sports cliche "on any give day..." has become a statement of fact. No team is invincible and no team is milquetoast. This midseason realization suggests that the team that crawls out of the dust on Dec. 5 after the Pac-12 championship game is more likely to have three losses than one, more likely to be a national afterthought rather than a favorite for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

And yet it's ridiculous to believe we suddenly see things clearly, at home in the Pac-12 or abroad in the MIGHTY SEC WEST (all-caps required, per edict from SEC Dark Lord Mike Slive). Oregon might get healthy and become the contender many foresaw in the preseason. What if Stanford's offense gets out of its own way and pairs with its elite defense? And what if UCLA distills its seeming chaos into an elixir that provokes it to play to its on-paper potential?

Chances are it will be messy, though. There will be fits and starts of great football, but it won't be sustained.

What seems certain is it will be entertaining, if often painful for the emotionally invested. Pac-12 football in 2014 is likely to end up becoming something like that 1980s movie that critics hated but you feel compelled to watch until its conclusion every time you cross it while doing a late-night channel surf.

Power rankings: Big 12 solidly second

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13

Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesBryce Petty and kicker Chris Callahan survived TCU. The teams are part of the top-heavy Big 12.
The “hot” debate entering the season was whether the Pac-12 could surpass the SEC as the top conference in the nation. The Big 12 was rarely mentioned as a top conference, however, despite returning the majority of its starting quarterbacks and having two of the top five defenses in ESPN’s preseason defensive efficiency rankings.

Five of the Big 12’s 10 teams are in the top 15 of The Associated Press poll, tied with the SEC (which has 14 teams) for the most top-15 teams in the nation. Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State all have one or fewer losses and a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff.

All of those teams will not finish the season with one loss, but it’s worth noting that two of their losses came in close games against the teams that played for the 2014 BCS National Championship (Auburn defeated Kansas State and Florida State defeated Oklahoma State).

The bottom of the Big 12, however, is not as strong as that of the Pac-12 or SEC. The Big 12’s average FPI ranking, which is designed to measure a conference’s depth, ranks below that of those two conferences.

The SEC remains at the top of the conference power rankings. It has the top team in the AP poll (Mississippi State) and in the FPI (Auburn), the two components of these power rankings. The SEC West remains unbeaten against any team not in the SEC West as the Magnolia State has catapulted to the forefront of the college football world.

The Pac-12 will rise in the conference rankings if its top teams can continue to win. Last week, we discussed how the Pac-12 is missing an elite team. Oregon looked strong against UCLA, and the defenses of Stanford and Washington defenses looked solid against explosive offenses in Week 7. The issue is that the Pac-12 does not have a team in the top eight of the AP poll.

In other conference action, next week is a big one for the ACC as Notre Dame heads to Florida State. The Seminoles are the best team in the ACC, but if they lose to Notre Dame at home, the conference could take a big hit in perceived strength and in the College Football Playoff race.

Pac-12 morning links

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
What is this? You're wearing the shirt of the band you're going to see. Don't be that guy.

Leading off

The shakeup in the rankings continues and once again the Pac-12 has a team ranked in single digits after a one-week hiatus.

On the strength of their convincing road win at UCLA, the Ducks are back in the top 10 in both polls, while the Bruins stumbled out of the rankings for the first time since 2012. USC is back in as the L.A. schools continue to ping pong in the rankings.

Kyle Bonagura broke it down here, as he does every Sunday. Here are the Pac-12 teams in the rankings. As always, the AP rank is first, followed by the coaches poll.
  • Oregon 9-9
  • Arizona 16-17
  • Arizona State 17-18
  • Utah 20-23
  • USC 22-25
  • Stanford 23-20

UCLA and Washington are receiving votes in both polls, and the Bruins are the unofficial No. 26 for both. You can see the complete rankings here.

Here's how some folks who cover the conference voted:
And speaking of rankings, the College Football Playoff will reveal the first round of rankings later this month. Here's a quick tuneup on everything you need to know about this brave new world.

Oregon-UCLA reactions

It was billed as one of the biggest games in the Pac-12 this year, but it ended with a thud. Here's what some folks are saying about the battle of ranked teams.

The Ducks understand what a second loss could mean, writes Tyson Alger of the Oregonian.

Also from Alger, does Thomas Tyner's performance point to a more productive Oregon run game?

The Bruins find themselves at a crossroads, writes Jack Wang of the LA Daily News. Here's what Myles Jack had to say about it:
We have to change something that -- maybe the coaches will figure out, or something we’ll figure out. Something’s gotta change.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports still has the Ducks as one of his four playoff teams. His thoughts on the Ducks:
The Ducks are the first team with a loss to crack the top four, thanks to owning a pair of double-digit wins that stack up well against the competition: by 19 over Michigan State and by 12 on the road over the Bruins. If undefeated Baylor had played Oregon’s schedule so far, their record would be no better and perhaps worse.

Some thoughts from Larry Scott on the league's parity. And he said the conference will review the Eddie Vanderdoes punch.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Kyle goes all Cliff Clavin on us.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
As we turn the corner and look toward the second half of the season, the significance of each game ramps up as teams jockey for berths in the postseason and peck at the pecking order for the league’s bowl tie-ins.

Arizona had a chance to become the league’s first bowl-eligible team. But the Cardiac Cats finally keeled in the fourth quarter, leaving Arizona and Oregon one win shy of eligibility.

Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, Cal, USC, Arizona State, Utah and UCLA all need two wins to be bowl eligible. We tossed out this notion last week: Could the league send 10 teams to the postseason? The math is out there. But it’s unlikely.

Last week we slotted Arizona for a spot in the College Football Playoff. And at the time, it was justified, since the Wildcats were undefeated and had one of the best wins in the country by beating the No. 2 team on the road. Now that they’ve lost at home to an unranked team, that changes things. Such is life in the Pac-12.

Oregon once again represents the league’s best shot at the playoff. If the Ducks can win out, there’s no way the committee leaves out a one-loss Pac-12 champion with wins over Michigan State, UCLA and Stanford. But we’ve learned through the first seven weeks of the season that “ifs” are essentially meaningless. We’re just throwing darts until we actually see how the committee reacts.

And with that in mind, here is this week’s comedic attempt to make sense of this league. As always, salt heavily.

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Arizona
Valero Alamo Bowl: Stanford
National University Holiday Bowl: UCLA
San Francisco Bowl: Arizona State
Hyundai Sun Bowl: USC
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Washington
Cactus Bowl: Cal
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Utah

* at large

Oregon moves back into AP top 10

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
Another week, another shakeup in the Pac-12 and Oregon is again the conference's top-ranked team in the AP poll.

Thanks to their 42-30 win against previous-No. 18 UCLA, the Ducks come in at No. 9, one spot behind Michigan State, which they beat 46-27 on Sept. 6.

After becoming the poll's first-ever team to rise from unranked into the top 10 last week, Arizona fell six spots to No. 16 following its 28-26 loss to USC. The game vaulted the previously unranked Trojans to No. 22.

Neither played this week, but Arizona State moved up three spots to No. 17 and Utah four to No. 20.

Stanford, at No. 23, extended its school record of consecutive weeks in the poll to 72 following its 34-17 win over Washington State.

UCLA was the top vote-getter outside the Top 25 and Washington also received votes.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
The Pac-12's three Saturday home games featured several significant visitors, and even though home teams went 0-3 -- hardly a surprise in the conference this season -- favorable impressions were made.

Big turnout at the Rose Bowl

It was the marquee game in the conference thus far, as Oregon met UCLA at the Rose Bowl, and the visitor list matched the hype of the game. It's always newsworthy when five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the nation's No. 8 overall recruit, makes it out to a game, and he was in attendance Saturday.

Marshall was joined by another huge UCLA target in ESPN 300 wide receiver Cordell Broadus, who made the trip out from Las Vegas.

Like Marshall, Broadus has been fairly tight-lipped about his recruitment thus far, so for the Bruins to get him out on an unofficial visit represents a big recruiting win. It wouldn't be surprising to see Broadus make a return trip to Westwood for an official visit at some point.

UCLA hosted a few official visitors for the game, but none was more important than ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo, the No. 32 overall prospect. While Jamabo had to have been impressed by the Bruins rushing for 328 yards against the Ducks, there was something else that caught his eye during his visit.

Arizona wins early, loses late

Arizona might have lost its game against USC when it missed a last-second field goal, but the Wildcats won on the recruiting trail before the game even started, as they added a commitment from three-star cornerback Shun Brown.

There were also a number of Arizona verbal commitments in attendance, including ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker.

With Brown's commitment, all three official visitors for Arizona this weekend are now Wildcat commitments. Defensive end Kendal Franklin provided Arizona fans with a number of videos of his trip that he posted via twitter, including a quick look at pregame and a shot of the three committed visitors, including Franklin, Brown and Brown's teammate, Orlando Bradford.

Big visitor for Bears

Cal couldn't keep its forward momentum going on the field, but the Golden Bears coaches are hopeful they can do enough to make a favorable impression on defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg, who was in town on an official visit. From the looks of what Carlberg had to say Sunday morning, Cal -- which is in Carlberg's top six schools -- might be able to keep itself in the mix until the end.

The Golden Bears also hosted a number of local unofficial visitors. One to keep an eye on for the 2016 class is quarterback Kevin Davidson. Though he has yet to receive his first offer, a number of Pac-12 programs are keeping in regular contact with him, and it could be just a matter of time until he grabs that first one.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
The creatures once referred to as unbeaten teams in the Pac-12 are extinct. The South is messier than ever before, and while the situation in the North seems like it might have earned some clarity, it probably didn't. Heck, we'll probably need an eight-team playoff after all -- to determine the Pac-12's champion. All kidding aside, the action in this conference is simultaneously thrilling, exasperating, confusing, and amazing. And it's always fun to award helmet stickers when the dust settles.

David Parry, DT, Stanford: The Cardinal's defense is leading the nation in several key categories, and Parry is its centerpiece. As the big fire hydrant in the middle, he's usually too busy drawing double teams to light up the box score, but he was able to do both in Stanford's 34-17 win over Washington State. Parry tallied five hits on quarterback Connor Halliday, who staggered into his postgame press conference as a result.

Zach Hoffpauir, DB, Stanford: Halliday entered Palo Alto fresh off an FBS-record 734-yard passing performance. The Stanford defense challenged him by playing press coverage on the outside and trusting its supplementary defensive backs to make tackles in the middle of the field. That left plenty of responsibility for safety/nickelback Hoffpauir, who delivered 15 tackles, the most in a game by any active Cardinal player.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Saturday's 42-30 win over UCLA might be the first of two trips to the Rose Bowl for the Ducks this season. If that ends up being the case, Mariota's explosive potential will be a huge driving factor. The Ducks' dual threat set an early tone with his blazing 13-yard touchdown following UCLA's early fumble, and he ultimately doomed the Bruins' defense with 75 rushing yards on only seven carries and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon: The Ducks have a bruising bell cow in this physical true freshman. Freeman's 18 carries for 121 yards punished UCLA, and his two touchdowns put icing on the cake for Oregon, opening a 42-10 lead to put this contest well out of reach.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington: California moved the ball at will during their 60-point effort at Washington State last week (over 10 yards per play). The Huskies' defense stepped up Saturday, silencing the Bears to the tune of only 4.4 yards per play in a 31-7 rout. Thompson led the way with 11 tackles, and he was also the star when Jared Goff fumbled trying to sneak into the end zone. Thompson, once a Golden Bears' verbal commit, returned the fumble 100 yards in spectacular fashion to set the tone.

Cyler Miles, QB, Washington: The Huskies' defense was dominant, so they didn't need much from the other side of the ball. After only mustering 98 passing yards his last time out, Miles gave Washington plenty. He finished 22-for-29 for 273 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. That accurate and efficient performance allowed Chris Petersen's club to cruise.

Leonard Williams, DE, USC: It's easy to lose sight of fantastic USC individual contributions in the missed field goal mayhem of their 28-26 win over Arizona, but we won't let that happen. Williams played like the first-round pick that he's projected to be, racking up eight tackles and forcing a big fumble. The Trojans defense held the Wildcats to only 4.7 yards per play.

Javorius Allen, RB, USC: USC built its fourth-quarter lead behind behind fantastic running from Allen, who turned in a 26-carry, 205-yard performance (7.9 yards per carry) filled with impressive acceleration, eye-opening power, and three touchdowns. The Trojans ended up needing every single one of their scores when Arizona mounted another furious fourth-quarter rally.
A few things we learned about the Pac-12 this week:

Stanford will only be as good as its offense: No arguments here -- Stanford's defense is nasty; one of the best in the country. But the inconsistencies on the offensive side of the ball continued despite the Cardinal's 34-17 win over Washington State. After missing two more red zone opportunities Friday night (5-of-7), the Cardinal are scoring on just 68 percent (19-of-28) of all red zone appearances and have only scored touchdowns 46 percent of the time. The field goal game continues to be an adventure as well. But that defense will keep the Cardinal in games. After throwing for an FBS record 734 yards the previous week on 49-of-70 passing, Connor Halliday needed 69 attempts to reach 292 yards.

The Cougars probably aren't bowling: Washington State hasn't been officially eliminated, but at 2-5, it would have to win four of its final five games to reach bowl eligibility. Of the Cougars' remaining five opponents, four are either ranked or have been ranked, and Oregon State is 4-1. WSU has had plenty of bummer moments this year. But ask yourself this: Is the 2014 Washington State team better than the 2013 group? The Pac-12 blog thinks so. (At least this sliver of the blog does.) Of course, that brings up all sorts of metaphysical conundrums of Coug-on-Coug Couging. Still, this team is going to spoil someone's season.

[+] EnlargeRoyce Freeman
Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressThe return of Jake Fisher at left tackle helped Royce Freeman run for over 100 yards against UCLA.
Jake Fisher for Heisman? Too much? It's pretty obvious what happens to the Ducks when at least one of their tackles is healthy. The result was a 42-30 thumping of UCLA in Pasadena that was much more of a blowout than the score would indicate. His presence made an impact to the tune of zero sacks allowed and the Ducks' first 100-yard rusher of the season, with Royce Freeman going for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Since 2007 (Chip Kelly's first year as OC), the Ducks are 57-0 in games in which they run for at least 240 yards. Marcus Mariota also looked a lot more Mariota-esque, throwing for two scores and running for two. It's a very, very solid bounce-back for the Ducks to be able to win on the road against a ranked team.

UCLA couldn't match the hype: The Ducks did exactly what they needed to do this week -- which is play like the team people thought they were. The Bruins didn't do that (or maybe they did?). Penalties (seven for 81) and turnovers (a fumble and an interception) doomed the Bruins. The Ducks were able to turn both turnovers into points -- and that ended up being the difference. Here's a troubling stat: Opposing teams have converted all six of Brett Hundley's turnovers into points this season -- five touchdowns and one field goal. Jim Mora has done some wonderful things reviving the Bruins, but his teams are 0-5 against Stanford and Oregon. The road to the conference title still goes through them.

Shaq Thompson is the first-half defensive MVP: He added his fourth defensive touchdown of the season when he returned Jared Goff's fumble 100 yards for the first points of the game. Thompson and the rest of the Washington front seven simply dominated California up front, limiting the league's No. 1 scoring offense (50 PPG) to just a touchdown in their 31-7 win. They sacked Goff three times and forced a trio of Cal turnovers. Oh yeah, and John Ross is really, really fun to watch, too.

Playing at home stinks: Pac-12 home teams are now just 4-14 in conference games. Not much more to say about that one.

Cal comes back to earth: Sonny Dykes called his team's performance "the worst offensive performance I've been a part of in a long time." After the fumble, the Golden Bears never looked like they got into a comfortable rhythm. Part of that is the aforementioned Washington front seven. The Bears had scored 119 points in the previous two weeks, but looked out of sorts. Dykes said his players didn't respond well to adversity, another part of the growing process.

Javorius Allen should never not be running the football: Saturday was another monster performance from the back who was grossly underused by the previous administration. The Pac-12's rushing leader became the first USC back in four years to break the 200-yard mark when he carried 26 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans' 28-26 win over Arizona. In a league dominated by quarterbacks, he's making a strong argument for offensive MVP halfway through the season.

No perfection: There will not be an undefeated team in the Pac-12 this season. Arizona was the only one left. The Wildcats had been playing with second-half fire all year, and this time they finally got burned. The stage was set for yet another thrilling fourth-quarter finish, right up until Casey Skowron missed a game-winning 36-yard field goal. Of course, that came after Arizona scored late, missed a two-point conversion (twice) and recovered an onside kick. Because, ya know, it's the Pac-12.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona's stay in the top 10 ended after just over a week as USC rolled into Tucson and slipped the cardiac Wildcats 28-26.

How the game was won: Arizona missed three field goals, including a potential game-winner from 36 yards in the waning moments. USC controlled most of the game on both sides of the ball, thwarting the Arizona offense in the red zone and getting the big scoring plays that eluded the Wildcats, at least until the fourth quarter when Arizona made a run and things got wild. The Wildcats scored a late TD but missed the game-tying 2-point conversion. They then recovered the ensuing on-side kick, but Casey Skowron missed his third kick.

Gameball goes to: USC running back Javorius Allen rushed for 205 yards on 26 carries -- 7.9 yards per carry -- with three touchdowns. He will extend his lead as the Pac-12's leading rusher and is getting close to a lock as a first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

What it means: Arizona going down means there are no longer any undefeated teams in the Pac-12. Every team has at least one conference loss, too. USC puts itself back squarely in the South Division race, while Arizona yields the advantage it held after winning at Oregon.

Playoff implication: The best way to get to the playoff is to win all your games. Now no Pac-12 team can do that. And it's going to take a heck of a run for any conference team to emerge with just one conference loss. While few considered Arizona a true threat for the playoff, their loss to the Trojans at home is a hit to the conference's national perception. USC's horribly embarrassing loss at Boston College means the dreaded transitive property can be applied to their Pac-12 wins.

Best play: Allen's big day started early, as he rolled to two long first-half touchdown runs. The first, a 34-yarder, got USC on the board midway through the first quarter, but this 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Trojans up 14-6 was really something to behold.

video What's next: Arizona is off until it visits Washington State on Oct. 25. USC will try win back-to-back games when Colorado comes to town.

Washington 31, California 7

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11
video Cyler Miles threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns in the Huskies’ 31-7 win over the Golden Bears.
Marcus MariotaKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThe return of left tackle Jake Fisher (75) was "huge for us," said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. The NFL smart guys talk about him as a first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Both of those dreams may come true. But if you saw the No. 12 Ducks on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, it's pretty obvious that Mariota is not the most valuable player wearing Uncle Phil's designer unis.

It may be deductive reasoning to say that honorific should apply to Oregon left offensive tackle Jake Fisher. But the facts are clear: (a) When Fisher played the first three games of the season, the Ducks went 3-0, averaged 52 points and Mariota was sacked four times; (b) when he missed the next two games with a left leg injury, the Ducks went 1-1, averaged 31 points and Mariota was sacked 12 times; (c) when Fisher returned to the lineup, the Ducks defeated No. 18 UCLA 42-30, Mariota accounted for four touchdowns and he never got sacked.

"He really had an awesome game," Mariota said of Fisher. "He anchored those guys. To have that guy back is huge for us."

Pardon the expression, but this was vintage Chip Kelly football. Through three quarters, the Ducks had scored five touchdowns and gained 404 yards while possessing the ball all of 17:12. It always sounds like alchemy, but it looks like pure gold. Three plays into the fourth quarter, Oregon scored again to lead 42-10.

The rest -- UCLA scoring three touchdowns in seven minutes -- really was bookkeeping, although it may have provided a smattering of sustenance to the naysayers who have chirped about Kelly's successor, Mark Helfrich.

His record of 16-3 is tied for fourth best in Pac-12 coaching history through 19 games. Helfrich is tied with Kelly and Stanford coach David Shaw. But after the 31-24 loss to Arizona on Thursday, Oct. 2, a lot of Oregon fans applied deductive reasoning to Helfrich: (a) Chip Kelly was a great coach; (b) Mark Helfrich is not Chip Kelly; (c) Mark Helfrich is not a great coach.

The loss had less to do with Helfrich being Helfrich than with what Fisher's absence did to an offensive line already thinned out by injury. Fisher should be playing right tackle as he did the past two seasons. But he moved to left tackle in August when the bodies began to pile up. Once Fisher got hurt, Oregon had to resort to true freshman Tyrell Crosby, whose play reflected both his potential and his level of experience.

"He's a little bit of a calming factor over there on the left side," offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said of Fisher. "… Jake gives us some leadership back there that I think was missing the last couple of games."

Fisher, a 6-6, 300-pound senior, is a prime example of how Kelly transformed the Ducks from a Pac-12 contender into a national power. Fisher is from Traverse City, Michigan, 2,400 miles and three time zones from Autzen Stadium. That he is not wearing maize and blue is a prime example of why Michigan has signed a long-term lease in the college football wilderness.

At the end of the 2010 season, the Wolverines fired head coach Rich Rodriguez, who had gotten a commitment from Fisher months earlier. Fisher decommitted from his state university, and Kelly pounced. Four days later, on the day that Oregon played Auburn for the BCS championship, Kelly and Greatwood called Fisher to invite him to visit Oregon.

"After everything happened with Coach RichRod," Fisher said of Oregon, "it was definitely a blessing. I couldn't have wanted anywhere else."

Fisher wanted to play against Arizona. Had the game been on Saturday, offensive coordinator Scott Frost said, he might have been ready. Maybe the College Football Playoff Committee will chew on that variable come December.

"I tried to do everything I could on the sidelines from a leadership standpoint," Fisher said. "But I wasn't able to play. I had to take the loss and move on."

Fisher began practicing with the starters on Monday. His presence helped, and so did the set of the line's jaw after the beating Mariota had taken in the past two games. Frost said his unit returned to what it has always done well. The zone-read running game worked well, which moved the chains, which provided a rhythm, which kicked in the up-tempo pace.

"Having Jake back is huge. I think he's one of the best offensive linemen in the league," Frost said. "He played like it today."

Fisher even gained 15 yards for the offense. He put sophomore defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes on his back in the second quarter, so infuriating Vanderdoes that he punched Fisher right in front of an official. The personal foul penalty moved Oregon to the UCLA 32. Four plays later, Mariota threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Tyner to move Oregon ahead 15-3.

Mariota will continue to be the face of the Oregon program, not to mention the arm. But with the return of Fisher to the field, the Ducks returned to the playoff race. They look like Oregon again.

After its devastating home loss to Arizona last week, Oregon responded by knocking off UCLA 42-30 in Pasadena, California. Here's how it happened:

How the game was won: Oregon's offensive line dominated. Jake Fisher, who has been out since the beginning of the Wyoming game, finally returned. And his return marked a bit of a return to the way the offensive line would like to actually be playing. After two consecutive lackluster performances (which included 12 total sacks), Oregon's O-line really played impressively as the Ducks had their first 100-yard rusher this season and didn't allow a single sack.

Game ball goes to: There were plenty of great offensive performances for the Ducks, but none of them would have happened without Oregon’s offensive line. So, a tip of the hat to quarterback Marcus Mariota (passing: 210 yards, two TDs, zero interceptions; rushing: seven carries, 75 yards, two TDs), running back Royce Freeman (18 carries, 121 yards, two TDs) and tight end Pharaoh Brown (five receptions, 84 yards, one TD). But the game ball belongs to the group that made that all possible and has gone from terrible to trustworthy in just one week.

What it means: UCLA is out of the playoff discussion. A one-loss Pac-12 team making the playoff? Plausible. A two-loss team? It doesn’t happen unless the SEC self-cannibalizes, Oregon drops another game and then UCLA comes away with the conference championship. So, a lot of dominoes would have to fall.

Playoff implication for the winner: The Ducks are in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12. With how improved Oregon’s O-line looked with just the return of Fisher, the committee will need to look at the Arizona game with an asterisk of sorts as the Ducks were down three O-linemen at that time. If this is the offensive line and defensive pressure that Oregon can play with moving forward, it’ll be hard to keep the Ducks out of the playoff conversation.

Best play: Mariota has a way of turning nothing into something, even when it's his own fault. With an 11-point lead on second-and-10, Mariota fumbled, managed to recover his own fumble in stride, and then made his way into the end zone to give the Ducks a much more comfortable cushion.

What's next: Oregon welcomes Washington to Autzen Stadium. The Ducks have won the past 10 meetings between the teams. And UCLA travels to Cal next weekend and will look to avoid a three-game losing skid, which hasn’t happened since it closed out the 2012 season with two losses to Stanford and a bowl loss to Baylor.



Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25