Pac-12 morning links

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
8:00
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The exodus is here, the happy ones are near;
Let's get together before we get much older.

Leading off

The Eliminator blew through the Pac-12 this week with brimstone and hell-fire, slashing its way through a quarter of the league. You can now add Stanford, Oregon State and Washington to the teams officially out of a contention for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. After holding on by their roots, paws and teeth, the Cardinal, Huskies and Beavers all suffered losses that the Eliminator deems too significant to recover from. Her justice is swift, if not fair. Here's some thoughts on the Huskies:
Losing 11 consecutive games to Oregon is pretty bad, but losing in the manner in which they lost to the Ducks was even worse. Oregon dominated in every facet of the game, and Washington proved that Chris Petersen's first season in the Power 5 is not going to be like his first season at Boise State.

So who is left? Arizona and Oregon are the two Pac-12 teams still listed as "In Contention" while Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah continue to dangle "On the Fence."

Cardinal seeing red

As noted above, things haven't gone swimmingly for the two-time defending conference champions. Athlon Sports took a look at some of the issues facing the Cardinal. And if you're looking on the offensive side of the ball, there are more than a few. They key in specifically on the offensive line:
The most likely reason Stanford’s offense has been struggling this season may be due to the fact the Cardinal had to start an almost entirely new offensive line this season. Stanford lost four starters up front, as well as a starting tight end from 2013. Good teams tend to have experience and depth on the offensive line, and that does not appear to be the case for Stanford this season and it is showing. Stanford has allowed 15 sacks this season, which ranks 73rd nationally.

Also from Athlon, a look at some crazy Pac-12 stats, and why the Utes must be taken seriously in the South.

News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun (the pucker-up edition)

By now, you've probably seen "The Kiss", a moment of celebratory passion between ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici and his girlfriend, who also happens to be an ASU cheerleader.



Here's a little story on the lip-locking moment. The Pac-12 blog isn't quite ready to place it among history's best kisses ... like this one ... this one ... or this one. But it ain't bad. However, you must remember this ...
A slight sense of normalcy returned to the Pac-12 this past weekend, but fear not -- it's still plenty weird out West. Home teams actually posted a winning record (3-2) this past weekend, improving their season season mark to a still-dismal 6-17.

Stanford, the two-time defending champion, is staggering, so Oregon has established a grip on the Pac-12 North. Meanwhile, let's not pretend we have a bead on the minefield that is the Pac-12 South. Four teams are tied at the top in the loss column, and a fifth -- preseason favorite UCLA -- hovers right behind them with two losses. It's a mess of epic proportions.

With USC visiting Utah this weekend, we will see some moving and shaking in the South. Let the horse race continue around the second bend. Here is Week 9:

The delicious appetizer: Oregon vs. Cal (at Levi's Stadium)

A couple weeks ago, Cal enjoyed its time in sole possession of the Pac-12 North lead, but that stay was as short-lived as most expected it to be. Though Jared Goff has emerged as one of the league's elite passers (9.1 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions), the Bears are hindered by a defense that struggles to tackle in critical situations. That was the story of their 36-34 loss to UCLA, even though a trio of Bruins' turnovers kept that game close. It's also bad news entering a matchup with an Oregon team that is beginning to fire on all cylinders. The Ducks blasted Washington 45-20 behind four touchdowns from true freshman Royce Freeman. He is a six-foot, 230-pound tank -- exactly the type of player who can turn the Bears into falling dominoes.

Goff will need to deliver an epic performance in his duel with Marcus Mariota. Combined numbers for these two: 43 touchdowns, four picks.

Game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications: USC at Utah

Salt Lake City hosts a de facto College Football Playoff elimination game. The Arizona State-Washington battle in Seattle might have shared this designation had the Huskies found a way to get it done at Autzen Stadium, but they were run out of the building. So USC (5-2 overall) and Utah (5-1 overall) square off in the Pac-12's marquee Week 9 game. This one is fun on many levels: The Utes are coming into their own as a rugged defense (allowing 4.7 yards per play), while the Trojans are brimming with offensive confidence following their 56-28 win against Colorado, during which Cody Kessler threw a touchdown pass on 27 percent of his attempts (his seven touchdowns broke Matt Barkley's school record).

This game also features the Pac-12's two most productive running backs: USC's Buck Allen (130 yards per game) and Utah's Devontae Booker (124 yards per game). Buckle up, Rice-Eccles Stadium will be shaking.

The proving grounds game/redemption opportunity: Oregon State at Stanford

Week 8 was bitterly disappointing for these teams. The Beavers lost 29-23 at home in double overtime to a Utah team that managed only 62 passing yards, and Stanford managed less offensive production against Arizona State than Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado. Talk about a reversal of fortune: The Cardinal's 26-10 loss to the Sun Devils came on the very same field where they dominated offensively and won the Pac-12 championship last season. Judging by margin of victory, that was their worst setback since falling 53-30 to Oregon in 2011.

Unless Stanford figures it out offensively, points will likely be scarce in this game. The Cardinal's defense still leads the nation allowing only 3.8 yards per play, and it has proven to be a rough matchup for the Beavers' offense. Meanwhile, Oregon State's defense has been surprisingly efficient, surrendering 4.9 yards per play (third in the Pac-12), so it's unclear if 13.5 is the spread or the over/under in this one.

Opposing directions bowl: Arizona State at Washington

The Sun Devils delivered a fantastic all-around performance in their 26-10 pounding of Stanford, and the Huskies were on the receiving end of a 45-20 whipping in Eugene. So both clubs are trending in opposite directions here, but they are still a combined 10-3. Washington is desperate to right the ship at home, where its havoc-wreaking defense (nation-best five touchdowns) thrives. Meanwhile, Arizona State has another chance to solidify legitimacy after two straight energizing wins. A week after facing Stanford's anemic attack, the Sun Devils face a Washington offense that is ranked dead last in the Pac-12. That is medicine for a once-struggling ASU defense.

Where great offensive minds meet: Arizona at Washington State

Time to change gears: With Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach squaring off, there should be no shortage of total offense on the Palouse. The Cougars are desperate; they need to win four of their last five just to make a bowl game. Connor Halliday is already on pace to shatter the FBS single season-passing yards record, and Anu Solomon brings less gaudy numbers but a better 5-1 record into this game. Both teams are coming off bye weeks, so both offensive game plans should be beyond polished Saturday afternoon.

The afterthought: UCLA at Colorado

The Bruins overcame severe sloppiness in their 36-34 win at Cal, and Colorado never had a chance in the 56-28 loss at the Coliseum. At 0-4 in conference play, the Buffs are desperate, and it's tough to spot a win on their remaining schedule. The Bruins must iron out their galling turnover issue (quarterback Brett Hundley has been responsible for eight giveaways -- opponents have scored touchdowns off seven of them) and frequent trouble with defensive breakdowns. Folsom Field might be a good place to start that process, because a home showdown with Arizona waits UCLA after this one.
video

Danny Kanell and Adam Rittenberg look back on Texas A&M and South Carolina from week 1. Did the first big game of the season point us in the wrong direction?
Good times can sure escape quickly in this volatile college football world.

Last December, David Shaw beamed as he walked alongside Kevin Hogan down the Sun Devil Stadium tunnel, bouquet of roses in hand. His Stanford team had just delivered a virtuoso offensive performance, beating Arizona State 38-14 to secure the Pac-12 championship. Pasadena would be the Cardinal's next stop.

After 10 short months, the Cardinal returned to the spot of their greatest 2013 glory on Saturday. But their power rushing game had disappeared, and offensive stability had vanished with it. So, at the very place where exhilarating victory once smiled, crushing defeat waited instead. The Sun Devils' 26-10 win administered payback, and the same Tempe location that had seen Stanford Rose Bowl dreams realized less than a year prior saw them extinguished Saturday.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesStanford, led by QB Kevin Hogan, is in unfamiliar territory after a tough loss against Arizona State.
At 4-3 overall, the Cardinal have been eliminated from contention for the inaugural College Football Playoff. The autopsy of those hopes begins now: I'll revisit the pregame questions of emphasis below.

Does Stanford still have offensive ownership over ASU?

No, it appears as if Stanford no longer has offensive ownership over anybody. The Cardinal's attack, which has sputtered on-and-off ever since quarterback Andrew Luck's departure after 2011, has fallen from grace. One wonders if this is rock bottom for the unit, or if matters can get worse. Arizona State, after all, was ranked in the bottom tier of Pac-12 defenses entering Saturday's game. But during the loss, the Cardinal managed only 10 points, 288 yards of total offense, and 4.7 yards per play.

All of those numbers paled in comparison to what Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado accomplished against ASU this season. The Sun Devils had given up more than 200 rushing yards in four consecutive contests, but Stanford -- a program very recently known for a vaunted power running game -- managed only 76 yards on the ground.

ASU played fearless, aggressive defense. The Cardinal were missing wide receiver Devon Cajuste, so ASU coach Todd Graham challenged Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan to beat his team through the air. Again, Stanford's inability to create any sort of leverage on the ground meant Hogan was never able to find his playmaking comfort zone. In fact, he didn't see a designed run -- one of his primary strengths -- until the second half. At that point, it was too late: Hogan was already well on his way to a shaky 19-for-39 performance. ASU sensed a vulnerable, discombobulated Stanford offense, and it pounced.

Can ASU move the ball against the Cardinal?

It was still a grind for the Sun Devils, but they did find cracks in Stanford's excellent defensive armor -- though a critical Cardinal turnover and injuries along the defensive front certainly helped ASU's effort.

This was a brutal week for Stanford. Days before departing to Tempe, versatile defensive lineman Aziz Shittu was likely lost for the season because of a non-contact injury suffered in practice. That loss thinned out the defensive line. Then, David Parry -- the unit's anchor -- didn't play at all in the second half of Saturday's game because of an undisclosed issue. The Cardinal resorted to reserve Nate Lohn along the front, and they were also forced to burn the redshirt of true freshman Harrison Phillips.

The situation was eerily reminiscent of 2013, when injuries decimated Stanford's defensive line and rocked the foundation of the team's 3-4 scheme.

The Cardinal's defense still clawed to keep Saturday's game respectable, but the lack of offensive support doomed that cause. ASU's excellent, balanced offensive game plan utilized D.J. Foster and powerful receiver Jaelen Strong to ball-control perfection: The Sun Devils ate up more than 35 minutes of possession against Stanford, a team that usually likes to hog the clock for itself.

Will the special teams difference come into play?

Yes, but in the opposite way of how the Cardinal expected it to come into play.

Stanford entered the game leading the conference with more than 21 yards per punt return, while ASU was last averaging 0.9 yards per return. Advantage, Ty Montgomery, right?

Note so fast. Perhaps feeling extra pressure to make something happen since Stanford's offense was so stagnant, Montgomery made one of the worst decisions of his career in the second quarter. He tried to catch a punt that was sailing over his head, only to muff it. The Sun Devils recovered deep in Cardinal territory, and they punched in what proved to be the winning touchdown.

Moving forward

There is no way to beat around the bush: Saturday's loss was a devastating gut punch in all facets of the game for Stanford. With plenty more difficult games looming (hello, Autzen Stadium in two weeks), the Cardinal will have to scratch and claw beyond this disappointment to salvage 2014. I'll further examine those efforts later this week.

Pac-12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
8:00
AM ET
I like it. What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good.

Leading off

The biggest news is that Stanford dropped out of the rankings after its 72-week run in the top-25. Sorry, Cardinal. But maybe a sweep of the state of Oregon over the next two weekends will get you back in. Kyle Bonagura went a bit deeper on the subject, which you can read here.

Here are the Pac-12 teams in the rankings. As always, the AP rank is first, followed by the coaches poll.
  • Oregon 6-7
  • Arizona State 14-14
  • Arizona 15-15
  • Utah 19-19
  • USC 20-21
  • UCLA 25-NR

Stanford was the only conference team to pick up any votes in the AP poll and in the USA Today coaches' poll. Washington and Stanford both received votes. Check out the complete rankings right here.

Curious how people who cover the conference teams voted? Glad you asked.
And per usual, Heather Dinich gives you a rundown of the playoff picture following last week's football action. She has interesting thoughts on Stanford. Sorry Cardinal, but Dinich says that a three-loss team -- even if it wins the Pac-12 title -- won't make the playoff. Read on here.

Some streaks extended, others stopped right in their tracks

The Oregon Ducks continued their streak over Washington, winning their 11th consecutive game in the series. This kind of dominance in the series reminded The Oregonian's Andrew Greif of the Ducks of yesteryear as it produced a strong run game, solid QB play and, again, a win over the Huskies.
But in their play, a 45-20 victory against the Huskies at Autzen Stadium, the present-day Ducks instead resembled something closer to the grind-'em-up machine of the last decade that brought this program to prominence.

So, the 1994 throwback uniforms made quite a bit of sense, Greif explains. And speaking of those Oregon uniforms, The Huffington Post decided to go through 50 Oregon uniforms that "changed the way we see college football."

And while the Ducks were having usual success in Eugene, the Bruins had unusual success in Berkeley. UCLA hadn't won there since 1998 and it squeaked out a win over the Bears, breaking that streak.

But despite a win, UCLA isn't exactly looking like the top team many expected it to be coming into this season. Everett Cook of The Los Angeles Times writes that -- among a few other things learned in the Bruins' win over the Bears -- that UCLA continues to play down to the level of its competition.

And can we speak of streaks without at least addressing the ongoing Pac-12 road team streak? Utah and UCLA won on the road but USC, Oregon and ASU got work done at home. Does this mean that the magic of the road is gone? Probably not. With some interesting matchups this weekend (Oregon at Cal, UCLA at Colorado, Arizona at Washington State, Arizona State at Washington ... just to name a few), it wouldn't be too surprising to see some road teams walk out of opposing stadiums with a win.

And some shout outs

Let's give props where props deserve to be given. There were quite a few guys who had career days over the weekend in the Pac-12. News/notes/team reports

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
8:00
PM ET
Just a few weeks ago, it was popular to write off the Pac-12's chances of having a team in the initial College Football Playoff. What was then an overreaction is now just silly.

It's clear Oregon, as the top-ranked one-loss team outside the SEC, controls its own destiny as far as the playoff is concerned. In no way does that guarantee anything, but based on how the Ducks have played since losing at Arizona and what has happened elsewhere in college football, Oregon should feel good about where it is.

The Ducks became the Pac-12's first bowl-eligible team after beating Washington 45-20 on Saturday, but after them the conference remains a jumbled mess. Six others have at least five wins, including five teams in the South Division.

There's no sound way to logically project how this will end up -- too much parity -- but here's our weekly attempt:

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

Stanford's AP poll streak ends

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
2:52
PM ET
Welcome back, UCLA. Goodbye, Stanford.

Oregon headlines the list of six Pac-12 teams ranked in this week's AP poll, which does not include the Cardinal for the first time since the second week of the 2010 season. The Cardinal's school-record, 72-week run ended following a 26-10 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, which also propelled the Sun Devils to No. 14.

Oregon jumped Baylor, Michigan State and Notre Dame to No. 6 and is the nation's No. 3-ranked one-loss team behind No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Auburn.

Arizona, which was idle this week, is a spot behind its in-state rival at No. 15.

The most anticipated game in the Pac-12 this week will be No. 20 USC's trip to No. 19 Utah, which is one of just two games in the country that will feature a pair of ranked teams.

After a 36-34 win against Cal, UCLA re-enters the poll at No. 25. The preseason No. 7 team was unranked last week after consecutive losses to Utah and Oregon.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
2:00
PM ET

Playoff picture: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
10:07
AM ET
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It’s time to assess the damage.

Every week, upset darts continue to fly, popping playoff hopes left and right -- or at least leaving them with a slow leak. Any team that doesn’t limp across the finish line (most likely Florida State) will be the anomaly this season. There are 18 one-loss teams remaining -- quite a fine mess for the College Football Playoff’s selection committee to sort out by the time its initial rankings are released Oct. 28.

With Week 8 losses by Notre Dame and Baylor, there are only four unbeaten teams remaining: Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss and Marshall. Somebody from the state of Mississippi is going down in what should be an epic Egg Bowl on Nov. 29 in Oxford -- that is, if they both can stay unscathed until then -- leaving a maximum of two undefeated teams from the Power 5 conferences.

That’s an optimistic view, considering the November lineups and how many teams are picking up the pieces after Week 8. Here’s a look at which losses caused the most damage Saturday, ranked from the least to the most damaging:

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesEverett Golson and Notre Dame lost to FSU Saturday, but the Irish's playoff hopes are not done if they can win out.
Florida State 31, Notre Dame 27: The Irish redefined “good loss” in Tallahassee. They were on the road, against the defending national champs, and they put on a terrific show in what was arguably the best game of the weekend. Here’s the problem: Stanford also lost Saturday, and so far, Notre Dame’s win over the three-loss Cardinal is the highlight of its playoff résumé. The good news for Notre Dame is that it still has road trips to Arizona State and USC on the schedule, so if the Irish win out -- and look as good as they did Saturday in the process -- they should still be considered for the playoff. The margin for error, though, is gone.

West Virginia 41, Baylor 27: The Bears were an unconvincing playoff contender to begin with because of their weak nonconference schedule and friendly defense. While no one-loss team should be written off just yet, Baylor’s mistakes and sloppy, undisciplined performance are going to be difficult to overcome. The Bears racked up an absurd 18 penalties for a school-record 215 yards -- just 8 yards fewer than Bryce Petty threw for. The offensive line allowed 10 tackles in the backfield, and the offense was stagnant against a defense that was missing its starting cornerbacks. Baylor still has to play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but with both of those teams losing Saturday, it won’t do much to boost the Bears’ strength of schedule.

Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 30: The Sooners’ stock had been dropping in recent weeks, and this was the final dagger. OU couldn’t convert when it had to in the fourth quarter, couldn’t overcome its two turnovers and lost the special teams battle. With Baylor and Oklahoma State both losing, there aren’t any chances left on the schedule to impress the selection committee with a statement win and get back into the conversation. Oklahoma has now lost two of its past three games, and its best win was at West Virginia. That’s not going to be enough to get back into the top four.

Arizona State 26, Stanford 10: A three-loss team is not going to be in the inaugural College Football Playoff -- even if it wins the Pac-12 title. Just a hunch. Forget top four, Stanford doesn’t even look Top 25. With only two league losses, Stanford could run the table and play in the conference title game, but that’s now the ceiling, and odds are it won’t reach it if it continues to struggle offensively like it did Saturday. The Cardinal ran for just 76 yards and lost the turnover battle 2-0. Three of Stanford’s final four games of the regular season are on the road, including at Oregon. Stanford has lost the most meaningful games it has played, and in turn lost its shot at the playoff.
Some things we learned in Week 8 of the Pac-12.

The streak continues: The Ducks beat Washington. Again. It was by more than 17 points. Again. Make it 11 in a row for Oregon over the Huskies. For obvious reasons, you tip your cap to Ducks running back Royce Freeman for his 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the 45-20 Oregon victory. But a little credit also goes to Marcus Mariota's wide receivers. From Darren Carrington's tip-toe catch inside the 5 to Dwayne Stanford's phenomenal touchdown, the receivers came up big for their quarterback. Oh yeah, still no interceptions. The Ducks look every bit the part of a playoff team.

[+] EnlargeRoyce Freeman
AP Photo/Ryan KangOregon's Royce Freeman had 29 carries for 169 yards and four touchdowns against Washington.
Huskies have to pick up the pieces: Washington isn't that bad. It just seems like whenever it plays Oregon, whatever can go wrong will. Whether it's a quarterback throwing his first interception of the season, a shotgun snap when said quarterback isn't ready or the opposing quarterback getting a lucky bounce off a fumble, the wheels seem to come off for the Huskies when these teams meet, and the breaks never go their way. No need to panic yet about bowl eligibility. The defense is good enough that there are at least two wins out there, and probably three or four. But having dropped two of three, the last thing the Huskies need to do is hit the panic button. They got whooped. It happens. Move on. It'll be interesting to see how Chris Petersen's team looks with ASU coming to town. Speaking of which ...

... ASU inching toward elite status: What was the big knock on Todd Graham? He still hadn't won the big one. Despite Stanford's offensive inefficiencies (add special teams to those inefficiencies after Saturday night), the Cardinal were still the two-time defending conference champs. Their 26-10 win over the Cardinal brings ASU up a notch, as it knocked off one of the league's top-tier teams. They did it convincingly and by dictating the game. Graham has already said Taylor Kelly is his guy when he's ready to play. But you can't overlook the 2-1 record Mike Bercovici has put up in relief.

Stanford loses its elite status: Elite teams don't look like Stanford did Saturday night. They don't fumble on kickoff returns and muff punts. They don't lose the turnover battle and rush for 76 yards when rushing is what they do. With two conference losses, the Cardinal aren't out of it yet. They could still run the table and get to the Pac-12 championship game. But a three-loss team, no matter how good the other three opponents or how close the losses, isn't getting into the playoffs.

Utah has their back, just not their quarterback: Devontae Booker is certainly making his case for newcomer of the year. He was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Utes, as he rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns in their 29-23 double-overtime win at Oregon State. Now, the quarterback is once again a question, with USC coming to town next week. Travis Wilson was 5-of-10 for 45 yards. Kendal Thompson, who started and played the first half, was 4-of-8 for 17 yards and an interception. There are some decisions to make (again) this week for Kyle Whittingham and Co.

Bears down: You can make plenty of arguments about whether UCLA's Marcus Rios possessed the ball on that game-changing interception in the Bruins' 36-34 win at Cal. But you first have to question the play call on first down, and you also have to go back through the game and look at Cal's tackling, which was not good. There were plenty of other places where Cal lost that game. The questionable replay, because it came at such a critical juncture in the game, will be highly debated. But Cal knows there was a lot more to that game than just that call.

The Bruins continue to defy logic: UCLA was on the road. UCLA hadn't won in Berkeley since 1998. UCLA lost the turnover battle. Cal scored 21 points off turnovers. I'm not sure what the exact metric is, but logic says that's a game UCLA should not have won. Yet the Bruins overcame themselves and managed their first win at Cal after seven previous losses. The Bruins totaled 567 yards of offense, so moving the ball wasn't an issue. If they can cut the turnovers, there's no reason to think they still couldn't win the South.

Beavers bowl window is shrinking: We talked in the past about the Week 8 showdown with Utah being a swing game for Oregon State. At 4-2, the Beavers have six opportunities left to find two wins. None of those opportunities are particularly appealing. Cal and Washington State can put up crazy points. They are at Stanford and at Washington while getting ASU and Oregon at home. Their only saving grace is that four of the six are at Reser … but given the way the league has shaped up, that probably doesn't mean much.

Colorado regressed: Maybe it's a one-week deal. Maybe not. Either way, the 56-28 loss to USC was ugly and worthy of the Pac-12 blog's “Dude?” status. The Buffs surrendered 56 points (all from the USC offense -- no special teams or defensive touchdowns) and yielded 532 yards. That wasn't the Colorado team we've seen in previous weeks. Which leads us to …

… USC has explosive potential: Steve Sarkisian has said the past couple weeks that he wants to see his offense be more explosive. Remember Nelson Agholor? Hadn't heard his name in a while. Sure, he had 42 catches coming into this week, but he had only four receiving touchdowns and just 67.5 yards per game. He had a fairly monstrous day and caught six balls for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, someone has to throw them. Agholor's day was made possible by Cody Kessler, who set a school record with seven touchdown passes.
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Arizona State beat Stanford 26-10 on Saturday night in a game that was never really close. Here's the rundown:

How the game was won: ASU had struggled defensively entering this game, but they preyed on another dismal Stanford offensive performance to register their best outing of the season. The Cardinal did not find the end zone until 50 minutes into the game and managed only 76 rushing yards against the Sun Devils' stifling run defense and a large chunk of their offensive production didn't come until desperation time. A year after being unable to stop Stanford's offense in two separate meetings, ASU did that and more Saturday.

Game ball goes to: ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici. Stanford entered this game sporting what was statistically the nation's best defense (8.8 points per game). The Sun Devils knew they would have to execute an intricate, precise game plan to scratch out yards and points. They'd also have to work the clock to exhaust Stanford's beaten up defensive line. Bercovici orchestrated all these necessary tasks. He finished 23-for-33 for 245 yards and also moved the chains with his legs in a couple critical situations. The Sun Devils took advantage of aptly named receiver Jaelen Strong (8 catches, 75 yards) and made sure to capitalize on Stanford's offensive ineptitude, as they ate up nearly 35 minutes of possession despite averaging only 4.5 yards per play. Credit Bercovici for managing a smart game and powering ASU to victory.

What it means: Stanford, the only team in the nation to play in BCS bowls in each of the previous four seasons, is out of College Football Playoff contention with three losses. Mathematically, they still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 (two conference losses and a matchup with one-loss Oregon), but today's anemic offensive performance does not inspire much confidence in that regard. The Cardinal will also drop out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 72 weeks (2010 preseason) when Sunday's poll is released.

ASU, meanwhile, must be thrilled that its defense posted its best effort of the season by far. The Sun Devils have only one conference loss, and that means they're in solid position to win the Pac-12 South. It'll be interesting to see if Bercovici maintains a role in the offense once Taylor Kelly returns from injury.

Key play: Bercovici’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Strong in the second quarter put ASU up 14-0 and turned out to be the game-winning score.

video What's next: The Sun Devils move on to Seattle, where they will face a wounded Washington team looking to recover from another deflating loss to Oregon. Stanford returns home to face Oregon State, which lost in overtime to Utah. It's probably fair to say the Cardinal's season will be on the line in that game against the Beavers.

Arizona State rolls past Stanford, 26-10

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
1:45
AM ET
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Bercovici threw for 242 yards and a touchdown, Zane Gonzalez kicked four second-half field goals and No. 17 Arizona State cleared a big hurdle by running past No. 23 Stanford, 26-10 on Saturday night.

The Cardinal had become a nemesis of sorts for Arizona State, powering past the Sun Devils in two games last season, including a dominating win in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Arizona State (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) turned the tables against Stanford with an efficient performance on both sides of the ball.

The Sun Devils scored the most points allowed by the nation's top-rated defense behind a nice mix of run and pass, while its defense refused to get pushed around by bigger Cardinal up front.

Stanford (4-3, 2-2) labored offensively again and nearly tripled its nation-leading average of 10 points allowed per game on defense.


(Read full post)


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Kevin Hogan pass incomplete to Ty Montgomery

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