There were only four games this week, but still plenty of drama. With the first week of conference play in the books, here are three quick thoughts about the Pac-12 after Week 4:
1. Everyone needs to get to know Gardner Minshew II: After being down 13 points in the second half, USC rallied to beat the Cougars 39-36. Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai provided a much needed rushing attack that had been lacking over the last two weeks. JT Daniels passed for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. And the Trojans’ special teams looked better, including Jay Tufele blocking a game tying field goal to seal the victory.
But more importantly, he is a very good quarterback.
Minshew led the FBS with 401 passing yards-per-game going into the match-up against USC. And against the Trojans, he did not disappoint. The graduate transfer from East Carolina threw for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns, connecting on 71% of his passes. Minshew picked apart the USC defense, demonstrating that he can make every throw, audible to exploit a defense, and that he has the athletic ability to make plays outside of the pocket. Pair him with the hyper-offensive-minded Mike Leach, and the Cougars are a very fun team to watch. Keep your eyes on Minshew, as he will help Washington State stay competitive in Pac-12 play.
2. Stanford is a College Football Playoff team: I know. I’ve been down on the Cardinal the past two weeks. But, in my defense, Stanford did and still has one of the toughest schedules in the country. And it shows. Compared to the rest of the Pac-12, Stanford has middle-of-the-road offensive and defensive statistics.
But, the Cardinal just continue to win in every way possible. They’ve won despite the run game not working. They’ve won despite the pass game lacking. They’ve won after slow starts. They’ve won when they’re ahead. And most recently, they beat Oregon when they were down big- and with a little luck.
Stanford has figured out the perfect recipe to make it to the final four: a dynamic, well balanced offense; a tough defense that capitalizes on game changing opportunities; and the perfect winning mentality from coaching staff down. Notre Dame will put this recipe to the test this upcoming Saturday, but Stanford is more than ready.
I’m sorry I’ve been down on you so long, Stanford. My sincere apologies. Now, please make it through the rest of your brutal schedule to give yourselves and the entire Pac-12 a shot at a playoff birth!
3. Justin Herbert is the crown jewel of the Pac-12: Stanford’s incredible comeback may have been the main story from the crucial collision of ranked Pac-12 North opponents. But, Justin Herbert surely did not go unnoticed.
On the national stage, against a great opponent, Oregon’s homegrown hero proved why he is considered a top pick in this year’s upcoming NFL draft. Herbert went 26/33 for 346 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Even crazier, he was 25/27 for 331 yards and a touchdown at the end of regulation!
Herbert demonstrated high level pocket presence, patience, and arm talent. He pushed the ball deep down the field, hitting receivers in tight windows, and made smart check-down throws when he had gone through his progression or faced pressure. Add in his ability to run the ball and the nation saw why NFL scouts are drooling over this guy.
If Oregon’s running back just doesn’t fumble or if they take a couple knees and punt the ball away with little time left, the Ducks pull off the upset over Stanford- and the Heisman frenzy around Herbert would reckon back to that of Joey Harrington.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the cookie crumbled.