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Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

… Game Ten … Colorado 16, Stanford 13 … Game Story can be found here … Essay for the game: “Credible Evidence” can be found here

Bye Week Essays … “Taking the Next Stepcan be found here … while “Random Thoughts – Bye Week”, including mini-essays, “In Defense of the CU Defense” and “A Tale of Two Coaches: Checking in with 4-6 Scott Frost and 4-6 Mike Bobocan be found here

My Week Twelve Pac-12 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0) … Previous ranking … No. 1

This weekendNo. 6 Oregon 34, Arizona 6 ... Oregon scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass thirty seconds into its game against Arizona, and never looked back in taking out the Wildcats to secure a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Arizona managed only 240 yards of total offense against the Ducks, and struggled all night, using both Grant Gunnell and Kahlil Tate at quarterback. Justin Herbert threw for 333 yards and had four touchdown passes … and he could have gone for more if the Wildcats had ever remotely posed a threat.

Up next … at Arizona State, Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MT, ABC

2. Utah (9-1, 6-1) … Previous ranking … No. 2

This weekendNo. 7 Utah 49, UCLA 3 …  The Utes posted their largest margin of victory in a Pac-12 game in toying with the Bruins. UCLA went on a 15-play, 50-yard, field-goal producing drive to open the game … and then did nothing against the Utah defense the remainder of the night. The Utes have been dominant in Pac-12 home games, out-scoring Washington State, Arizona State, Cal, and UCLA by a combined score of 143-19 (which works out to an average score of 36-5). That doesn’t bode well for a CU team which has struggled against Utah in recent seasons … or for an Arizona team which will bring a five-game losing streak into this weekend’s game.

Up next … at Arizona, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

3. Washington (6-4, 3-4) … Previous ranking … No. 3

This weekendIdle … Glass half full, Buff fans? Washington was held to 19 points by an Oregon State defense which had been surrendering 32.4 points per game. Glass half empty? Oregon State was held to 119 total yards (with the only score coming on a pick-six). Washington running back Salvon ran for a career-high 174 yards, scoring twice. Washington is bowl-eligible, and is looking at a road game against Colorado and a home game against Washington State to close out the season. An 8-4 record would be a disappointment for the Husky faithful considering where the season started, but, with the jumble of mediocrity surrounding the rest of the conference, would probably give Washington an Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl to look forward to as a consolation.

Up next … at Colorado, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., ESPN

4. USC (7-4, 6-2) … Previous ranking … No. 4

This weekendUSC 41, Cal 17 … USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was pitted against Cal’s stingy defense … and it was no contest. Slovis passed for 406 yards and four touchdowns as the Trojans cruised past the Bears, 41-17. A 17-10 game at halftime turned into a 34-10 rout as USC out-scored Cal 17-0 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Michael Pittman had 11 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdowns as the Trojans kept their slim Rose Bowl hopes alive. USC holds the tie-breaker over Utah, but the Trojans need to defeat UCLA next weekend, then hope Utah loses to either Arizona or Colorado … not likely. Will an 8-4 record be good enough to keep Clay Helton employed? We’ll soon find out …

Up next … UCLA, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, ABC

5. Oregon State (5-5, 4-3) … Previous ranking … No. 10

This weekendOregon State 35, Arizona State 34 … Oregon State, in Year Two under Jonathan Smith, is making progress. After holding on to defeat the Sun Devils, the Beavers are 5-5, in second place in the Pac-12 North, and now have two chances to earn their first bowl bid since 2013. Jake Luton passed for 288 yards and four touchdowns as Oregon State won its first Pac-12 home game in almost three full years (the last win was the 2016 finale against Oregon). The Beavers now take to the road (where they are 3-0 in Pac-12 games this fall) to take on Washington State and Oregon. Oregon State won’t be favored in either game, but, like CU, the long term trajectory is upward.

Up next … at Washington State, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

6. Washington State (5-5, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 11

This weekendWashington State 49, Stanford 22 ... The Cougars had little trouble with the Cardinal, scoring early and often in posting a 49-22 victory. Quarterback Anthony Gordon passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns as the Cougars won for only the second time in seven games. This weekend’s game against Oregon State is shaping up as a “bowl-eligible bowl”. Both the Cougars and Beavers are 5-5, and both face daunting finales on the road (Oregon at Oregon State; Washington State at Washington). The winner of next weekend’s game will get a bowl invitation – the loser of next weekend’s game will probably be home for the holidays.

Up next … Oregon State, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

7. Colorado (4-6, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 7

This weekendIdle … The Buffs had the lead entering the fourth quarter against USC, at home … and lost. The Buffs had the lead entering the fourth quarter against Stanford, at home … and lost it. The Cardinal had only six points through three quarters, but scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter to take a 13-10 lead. This time, though, the Buffs didn’t blink. The Buff offense put together two long field goal drives to tie the game and then win the game on the final play. Will there be carry over for the Buffs as they take on preseason Pac-12 favorites Washington and Utah? Perhaps not, but the groundwork for future is being laid by this young Buff team.

Up next … Washington, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, ESPN

8. UCLA (4-6, 4-3) … Previous ranking … No. 5

This weekendNo. 7 Utah 49, UCLA 3 …  Well, at least the Bruins had a lead. After posting a field goal to conclude a 15-play, game-opening drive to take a 3-0 lead against the Utes, the Bruins … went nowhere. The drive chart for the remainder of the game went as follows: interception; missed field goal; fumble return touchdown; punt; end of half; punt; punt; fumble; fumble; interception; punt. The three-game winning streak is over, and the Bruins must now win out to gain bowl-eligibility in Year Two under Chip Kelly. The home finale is against Cal, which is winnable, but first the Bruins must defeat USC in the Coliseum. After the effort posted against the Utes, it’s hard to see that happening.

Up next … at USC, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, ABC

9. Arizona State (5-5, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 6

This weekend Oregon State 35, Arizona State 34 … “You play to win the game!” … Okay, Arizona State coach Herm Edwards didn’t exactly quote himself in the post-game press conference after failing to convert a two-point conversion with 1:40 remaining. What Edwards said was, “We’re playing to win” … so he was pretty close to quoting himself. Once upon a time, Arizona State was 5-1 and ranked No. 17 in the nation … but that was a month ago. Now, the Sun Devils return home on a four-game losing streak, which is likely to be five after the game against Oregon on Saturday. Arizona State will likely need a win in the Territorial Cup to earn a bowl bid … and not finish the season on a six-game losing skid.

Up next … Oregon, Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MT, ABC

10. California (5-5, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 8

This weekendUSC 44, Cal 17 … Cal, like many of the teams at the bottom of the Pac-12 pecking order, has seen a good season gone south in the last month or so. Once the No. 15 team in the nation, the Bears have lost five of their last six, and did not look particularly competitive against the Trojans. The Bears were hoping to get a boost from the return of quarterback Chase Garbers, who missed the past four games with a right shoulder injury. Garbers led a touchdown drive to start the game but then left the game in the second quarter after appearing to hurt his left shoulder on a keeper. His replacement, Devon Modster, was not effective. Despite the disappointment of the past month, however, Cal has a decent shot at a bowl game, needing a road win over either Stanford or UCLA.

Up next … at Stanford, Saturday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

11. Stanford (4-6, 3-5) … Previous ranking … No. 9

This weekendWashington State 49, Stanford 22 … The good news? Stanford started Davis Mills at quarterback, with the junior completing 33-of-50 passes for 504 yards and three touchdowns. The bad news is that those numbers paled in comparison to WSU’s quarterback, Anthony Gordon, who had 520 yards and five touchdowns. A week after losing 16-13 to Colorado, the Cardinal got the offense back on track, but this week the defense fell apart. The Cardinal needed this one if there was to be any hope of bowl-eligibility. Stanford can get to six wins by winning its final two games, but, after a winnable game against Cal on Saturday, Stanford hosts Notre Dame in the regular season finale.

Up next … Cal, Saturday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

12. Arizona (4-6, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 12

This weekendNo. 6 Oregon 34, Arizona 6 … This one had the feel of the Oregon/Colorado game a month ago, with the home team just toying with its opponent like a cat with a ball of string. Oregon scored less than a minute into the game, and Arizona failed to match that total the remainder of the night. The Wildcats did get two second quarter field goals to make it a 21-6 game at halftime, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Arizona played both of its quarterbacks, with Grant Gunnell getting the start. Kahlil Tate, the one-time Heisman hopeful, is limping to the end of his career as a part-time player, going 7-for-16 for 50 yards passing, with nine carries for 19 yards. The Wildcats are still technically alive for a bowl bid, but it will take a home win over Utah this weekend, then a road win over Arizona State in the regular season finale. The more likely scenario: A 4-8 final record … with a seven-game losing streak to carry into the 2020 season.

Up next … Utah, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

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2 Replies to “Sunday Afternoon Quarterback”

  1. Ugh, an 8:00 kickoff. Come on, can’t we ever think of the fans. I know TV money is important to the conference, but this is too much.

    1. Agreed. I’m burned out on these late night games. Ridiculous. On a cold night, fans will be tempted to leave early. And how many people will be watching on TV? 2 time zones will have little to no interest. Mountain zone maybe an hour or two. I would like to see a rule imposed that hosting teams cannot have kickoff times later than 7pm in their time zone. But I know that won’t happen given TV clout. Just venting.

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