Well, it’s official. The Pac-12 will have a one loss conference champion, unless Colorado somehow continues to win. And, as much as I love how the Buffs are playing, I just don’t think Colorado has what it takes to beat Washington, Stanford, or Oregon from the North. Here are my quick thoughts after Week 5:
1. Dammit, Stanford: First of all, the Cardinal did not look good in their 38-17 loss in South Bend. Bryce Love was held in check – aside from a 39 yard touchdown run – and the offensive line gave up 5 sacks and multiple QB pressures, which limited what KJ Costello and JJ Arcega-Whiteside could do through the air. Stanford’s defense also looked outmatched as they gave up 550 yards and Notre Dame grossly dominated in time of possession.
Second, I finally gave the Cardinal some props after last week and then they go and get blown out by Notre Dame?!
Son of a beesting, Stanford!
Not only do I have to eat my own words, but the loss also puts tremendous pressure on Stanford to run the table. The Cardinal still have a chance to get a signature win against Washington on November 3rd, but they need a lot of help from other teams around the country in order to make the CFP.
2. Washington is the Pac-12’s best bet: With Stanford’s loss, the Huskies once again look like the conference’s best chance at making the playoffs. Washington dominated BYU 35-7, and almost pitched a shutout if it weren’t for a late 4th quarter score. The Huskies held BYU to 194 yards of total offense and Jake Browning looked great, as he dissected the defense on 23/25 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.
If Washington runs the table, their chances of making the playoffs are much better than if Stanford runs the table. Now, I understand that there is still a lot of football to be played, so there is still so much that can happen. But, you may be asking: “How is Stanford’s loss any different than Washington’s loss to Auburn?”
Both teams had to travel long distances into hostile territory, but this is the only similarity.
Washington simply played better against Auburn. In the close 21-16 loss, the Huskies dominated long stretches of the game and looked like they belonged on the big stage. Stanford, on the other hand, looked completely outmatched. And it showed as they were blown out 38-17. The committee does not like blowouts (i.e. Ohio State’s loss to Iowa from last year), so a loss like that severely hampers a team’s chance to be selected. Also, Washington’s loss came in Week 1 and not Week 4. The earlier the loss, the better.
3. USC versus Colorado is going to be the key matchup for the South: The South is still somewhat of a cluster of confusion, but it seems that Colorado and USC have risen above the rest. They meet on October 13th and the winner will be seen as the clear favorite to win the division.
Last week, USC won 24-20 against Arizona and looked really good through two and a half quarters. The Trojans had 18 penalties and stumbled through the finish line, but a win is a win. USC is underperforming well below the program’s standard and the Trojan faithful are calling for Helton’s head. He does have the team trending in the right direction – albeit slowly – and a South division title would go a long way to cool down his very, very hot seat.
The Buffs, on the other hand, have looked good through the first 5 weeks. The only problem: the teams they’ve played have a combined record of 1-16. What looked like a great win against Nebraska in Week 2 has fizzled, as the Cornhuskers are now 0-4. And Colorado’s only win in conference is against UCLA, which isn’t saying much.
On a positive note, Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault are so fun to watch and they’ll have to have a big game on October 13th if they want to win the division title. Mark this one on your calendar.