3 Quick Thoughts About the Pac-12 After Week 7

The Ducks run game, USC needs to fix a lot, and the Pac-12’s playoff hopes are rapidly dwindling

Posted on October 15, 2018 by: Tony Krikorian

Week 7 included some very important divisional matchups, as well as UCLA’s first win of the season! Here are my three quick thoughts after Week 7:

1. These ain’t your Chip Kelly Ducks: From Chip to Mark Helfrich to Slick Willie Taggart, the Ducks have traditionally been known for their high-tempo, spread offense that put opposing defenses’ fitness to the test. While Cristobal’s Ducks still run a high tempo offense at times, they are also focused on having a dominant, physical run game.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Against Washington’s stout defense, Oregon rushed for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns – including the game winning score in overtime. Their latest performance is just an example of the bigger culture Cristobal is trying to build in Eugene. Oregon is currently ranked 2nd in the conference in rush offense at 209.5 yards per game. The Ducks have an experienced offensive line, plus the freshman stud left tackle, Penei Sewell. Cristobal has made it a point to create a physical, run-right-at-you ground game that is paying dividends for the Ducks – and will continue to do so as they march closer to a North division title and a shot at the Pac-12 championship.

It also doesn’t hurt that Justin Herbert is their quarterback.

2. USC controls its own destiny, but needs to fix a lot: USC had a big 31-20 divisional win against the #19 Colorado Buffaloes to continue their home win streak to 19 under Clay Helton. The Trojan defense looked solid as they applied major pressure on Steven Montez, had 16 tackles for loss, and took a timely interception back for a touchdown. In addition, even though he started slow, JT Daniels and the wide receivers continue to make progress in their timing and connection.

But, USC still has so many areas that need improvement, mainly: turnover margin, their weak run game, and 3rd down conversions. The Trojans are currently ranked 11th in the conference in turnover margin, 10th in rush offense, and 9th in 3rd down conversion. USC doesn’t consistently create take-aways or limit unnecessary turnovers, run the ball to help Daniels and the wide receivers, or keep the opposing defenses on the field by converting on 3rd down. All of these things will need to be improved if they want to beat Utah this weekend – and furthermore, compete for the Pac-12 title.

The good news for the Trojans: they still have the most talented roster in the entire conference. They just need to use that talent to generate wins.

3. The Pac-12 is in the worst College Football Playoff position: Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State are the only one-loss teams left in the Pac-12. No two-loss team has ever made the CFP. At some point this may happen, but even when it does, the lucky recipient will probably come from the SEC or Big 10.

All three of these teams had astonishingly easy pre-season schedules, so realistically their chances are very slim, as this will be used as arguments against them. Add in the fact that Washington State plays both Oregon and Colorado in the upcoming weeks, and it appears there may only be one one-loss team in the Pac-12 at the end of the year – if any.

At this time, all we can hope for is complete pandemonium around the country to increase our odds. All undefeated teams must lose and lose in devastating fashion. So, here’s wishing for chaos!

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