I’m not sure there was a stranger scheduling lineup in the nation than what was offered by the Pac-12 last Saturday. We had contenders facing cupcakes. Reeling teams taking on upset-minded teams. You had two rivalry games: One was a Holy War and bitterly fierce. The other was more geographical and comically one-sided – more of “rivalry” than rivalry, if you know what I’m saying. Finally you had a conference showdown that was ballyhooed all day, but over by halftime. Lastly a whopping four teams had the week off, adding even more to the odd feel of Week 4 out west.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time checking out our stock report, but if it is, the above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Arizona – Idle
Oregon – Idle
Stanford – After a whole week of people complaining that they didn’t take Army to the woodshed, Stanford saved that effort for a bigger prize: Arizona State. Sure a fourth quarter rally made it look better, but make no mistake: the Tree owned this thing throughout, having built a 29-0 halftime lead and pushing it to 39-7 heading into the fourth. Kevin Hogan personified the type of consistency you pray to see your quarterback get into and, as a team, the ground game racked up 240 yards. To clarify Hogan’s game, you see the Manning and Brady-like zones where all the passes are amazing and the team just gets shredded. Then there are the annoying zones where you feel like you can’t get him off the field even though (at the time) it seems like he is having a bad day. Then later when you look at the stats you have the “oh yeah” moment. Hogan enjoyed the second type of “zone.” He was an efficient – but not flashy – 11-of-17 but had some nice long plays develop and tossed two TD passes. Week four grade: A
UCLA – They took on a horrid New Mexico State team and rolled. The only thing of note was the 10-man play to honor fallen teammate Nick Pasquale to open the ball game. Week four grade: A
Washington – They took on FCS Idaho State and also rolled. The only thing of note was Keith Price’s continued artistry. Through three games, he is passing at a 77-percent clip for 293 yards a game and has seven TDs to just one INT. If he keeps anything close to that up in Pac-12 play, we could be looking at a very surprising Heisman candidate in NYC this winter. Price has had a nice career but he is on pace for 3,500-plus yards, 28 TDs, four INTs. Week four grade: A
Washington State – The Cougars took on a god-awful Idaho team and they too rolled. The craziest thing about the 42-0 beatdown was WSU turned the ball over four times but still racked up that rout. So why buy them now? At a 3-1 mark they need to find just three more wins to go bowling. It will be tough but I think with Cal on the slate and manageable dates with Oregon State, Arizona State and Utah all up in Pullman there are more wins out there. Of course an X factor could be the Apple Cup. Don’t forget, a mismatch on paper turned into a Wazzu win a season ago. Week four grade: A-
Arizona State – ASU is a hold for me now because sleepers don’t lose like that. Dropping a game in Stanford is understandable but not in the way Sparky did it. More concerning is the schedule. A talented, if not always polished, USC team is up next. Then Notre Dame (played at a neutral site), Colorado, Washington, at WSU, at Utah, OSU, at UCLA, Arizona. The dates with the Irish, Huskies and the rival ‘Cats will be tough. The road trip to UCLA looks like a nightmare and the other two roadies aren’t cakewalks. Even Oregon State isn’t a gimme. Week four grade: D
Oregon State – Another exciting, tight win for the Beavers as they improved to 3-1 after that opening day flop against FCS Eastern Washington. Sean Mannion and the passing game continue to do work but until the ground game shows any signs of life (20 carries for 10 yards in Week 4 and currently ranked No. 121 in the nation) they will continue to be uneven. Worse, the defense is a sieve sitting at 108th right now. They will either improve running the rock and defensively and will rip off more wins or will fall apart. Something has to give but the current formula is not sustainable. Fortunately the next three are all winnable and USC/Washington have to come to rowdy Reser Stadium. Week four grade: D+
USC – I’m too broken up about my upset pick not coming through. Curse you Chuckie Keeton! Actually, he played pretty well – which is another reason to praise this Trojans defense even more. The offense is still progressing(?)/developing(?)/or something on a week-to-week basis but that defense is a rock. We still have to hold our USC stock a little bit longer. As good as the defense is, holding a UCLA or a Stanford (or if they meet in the title game, Oregon) may just be a reality. Problem is, can USC score 21 points? Week four grade: B
Utah – They knocked off their arch rival to improve to 3-1 but I still don’t know the identity of this team. The offense is top 25 and fairly balanced but I don’t think of them among the Pac-12 elite. The defense is middle-of-the-road 61st nationally but was obliterated in their lone conference game so far. The two things I do know about this club is Travis Wilson is putting together a brilliant sophomore season but the schedule is about to take a step up. The remainder of the season is brutal and it all kicks off with Stanford on the 12th. Week four grade: A-
Cal – Idle
Colorado – Idle
Buy That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it):
Jordon James (RB, UCLA) – You know me, I am a meat and potatoes football fan so of course loved the day the Bruins back had. 19 Carries, 164 Yards, 8.6 avg, two TD, long of 23. Problem is New Mexico State is rubbish. I’m excited to see how he performs in Pac-12 play.
Sean Mannion (QB, Oregon State) - The Beavers baller was great yet again. 38/55, 367 yards, 6.7 avg, three TD, zero INT.
Darryl Monroe (LB, Washington State) – The amazing freshman season Monroe had has carried over into a nice start to his sophomore season. Against Idaho he was a man possessed out there, racking up 12 tackles (8 solo), 2.5 TFL and a sack.
Kris Albarado (P, USC) – Seven punts for 248 yards (35.4) avg, zero touchbacks and an amazing five inside the 20 – with a few of those inside the five. Big reason Utah State had horrible field position all day.
Dunce of the week:
Pac-12 common sense. BYU threw trash at the refs after a series of questionable calls went against them. Normally I would wag my finger and say that few blown calls don’t make or break a game. But this is a rare exception. The crew that officiated that game was the same crew from the Arizona State/Wisconsin fiasco.
I’m not here to make the conspiracy theory claim that the Pac-12 refs guided their teams to non-conference wins. What I am going to say though is the league put those refs in that situation. A high-profile rivalry game a week after a massive screw up?
All the pieces were there for BYU fans to go ballistic.
A smart decision would have been to have that crew officiate the Washington or UCLA games that appeared like ready-made routs. Better yet, have them take a week off and let some things die down. Better still is what I stress: Hold these guys accountable and hurt them where it matters – the paycheck. Suspend the crew for a period of time (depending on the gaffe, I am fine with an entire season) without pay. Anything is better than throwing them out there in a game so on-edge the very name ominous: the Holy War.
Good job, league offices, good effort. Put refs and fans in a position to get pelted by garbage. That’s always what these leagues hope for on football Saturdays.