Posted on October 17, 2018 by: Tony Krikorian and Kyle Risko
Six down. Six more to go. We’ve reached the midpoint of the 2018 college football season and per usual, the Pac-12’s College Football Playoff hopes are becoming slimmer and slimmer.
While the national scene looks bleak for the conference, the North and South divisions are still wildly up for grabs – and the remaining six weeks are sure to be entertaining. The first 6 games have provided us with some memorable moments, breakout performances, big surprises, and even bigger disappointments. Here is our midyear review:
1. Most Memorable Moment:
Kyle: Jay Tufele’s field goal block against Washington State.
With approximately 1:40 left to play, Tufele split the line and got his big paws up in the air to block the potential game tying field goal. USC went on to win 39-36 against what has turned out to be a pretty good Wazzu team. This was hands down (well actually hands up) the biggest play so far for the Trojans. They trailed by as many as 13 and the USC fanbase would have fired Helton in the middle of the third quarter if they had the chance. Instead, USC pulled off the comeback and this was the start of their three game win streak. Not only that, the Trojans have played much better since this moment. USC still controls its own destiny to win the South and get themselves to the title game – thanks in large part to this particular moment.
Tony: CJ Verdell’s fumble.
Memorable may not be the right term. Heart-wrenching may be more appropriate. But the most impactful moment has got to be CJ Verdell’s fumble against Stanford. Late in the 4th quarter with about a minute and a half left, the Ducks were up by 3 and just needed to run the clock out. Verdell took a handoff to the left, tried to extend to make the first down and ice the game. Instead, Stanford stripped the ball, recovered, went down and made a game tying field goal, and then went on to win in overtime. Looking back now after the Ducks just beat Washington, this play will haunt Oregon forever. If Verdell just hangs onto the ball, the Ducks are undefeated and have a legit shot at making the CFP. Unfortunately that’s not how the cookie crumbled. And I have not stopped crying yet.
But, I was happy to see Verdell get some redemption by scoring the game winning TD against Washington in overtime. And the Ducks still have a good chance to win the North division with Stanford and Washington both behind them.
2. Biggest Surprise (Team)
The Buffs were projected to finish towards the bottom of the South and the Pac-12 overall. Instead, Colorado is 5-1 and has a dynamic offense in Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault. Despite the recent loss to my Trojans, the Buffs are still in contention for a South title and have definitely created some great story lines through the first half of the season.
Tony: Washington State.
The Cougs sit at 5-1, are currently ranked #25 in the nation, and College Gameday comes to Pullman as the Ducks roll into town for an epic Top 25 matchup this Saturday. I don’t think anyone saw this coming as this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Wazzu. You just never know with Mike Leach. He found a special player in Gardner Minshew and has him dissecting up defenses through the air, as Minshew currently leads the nation in passing yards. The Cougs have played way above their expectations and are still in the mix for the North division title.
3. Biggest Surprise (Individual)
Kyle: Laviska Shenault.
The guy is in the Heisman talk and continues to have dominant performances game in and game out. His dreads have also become a major storyline throughout the country as he started growing them out after his father passed away. Great story. Great player. He’s definitely a major bright spot for the entire conference.
Tony: Laviska Shenault.
I hate when this happens, but I agree with Kyle. He leads the conference in receptions and yards, and with 60 catches on the years so far, has almost double that of the next closest receiver in the conference (Dillon Mitchell-35). He’s proven to beat teams from the outside, the slot and even lines up as the quarterback in the Wildcat. He’s a game changer and has helped Colorado get to where they are now.
4. Biggest Disappointment (Team):
With Kevin Sumlin pairing up with Khalil Tate, I thought this was going to be a Johnny Manziel re-run. Instead, the Wildcats are 3-4 overall and have looked sloppy in all but maybe one game – against Oregon State. And with how bad the Beavs are, I’m not sure you can consider that a good performance. Maybe it’s the scheme, maybe it’s because Tate has been hobbling around on a bum ankle, or maybe it’s a combination of the two. Whatever the reason, Arizona is far from where college football pundits and experts (including myself) projected them to be.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know the love-hate relationship I have with The Farm. I was expecting so much more from the Cardinal. When Bryce Love decided to return, I knew he may not be able to replicate his performance from last year, but I definitely thought he would be better than he has been. But the run game isn’t their only problem. Stanford has not put together a complete game all year. They started slow, got lucky against Oregon, were blown out by Notre Dame (which crushed their CFP hopes), and then lost at home to Utah the following week. Inconsistent performance and bad back-to-back losses is why Stanford is my biggest disappointment so far.
5. Biggest Disappointment (Individual)
Kyle: Bryce Love.
I know his stats are a little skewed because of sitting out two games, but Love is still vastly underperforming from last year. He currently has only rushed for 327 yards and 3 TDs. Last year he rushed for over 100 yards in 12 of the 13 games, with huge performances of 263 yards and 301 yards in two of those games. This year he has only eclipsed 100 yards once. With all the Heisman hype surrounding him coming into the year, he has fallen far short of that mark.
Tony: Bryce Love.
Dammit, Kyle. I agree. Not much more to be said other than what Kyle stated. Hopefully Love can get healthy and bounce back the second half of the season.
6. Bold Prediction for the Second Half of the Season:
Kyle: Washington will finish 4th in the North.
Trust me, I know. I can read a chart. I see that the Huskies are currently in 1st place in the North. But here’s the thing: they are beatable, Jake Browning is only a game manager, and their defense has shown to have some flaws. Although Cal and Oregon State are guaranteed wins, the Huskies still have to face Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State – none of which will be easy. I think they lose two of their remaining games and fall way down the ladder. Book it!
Tony: UCLA will not finish at the bottom of the South division.
My prediction of Washington versus USC in the Pac-12 championship game is still a possibility, so I am going to stick with it. However, I feel like the discussion of who is the worst in the South has become equally as interesting as who is the best. UCLA looked like a team that had a legitimate chance of going 0-12, but recently they have made some improvement on both sides of the ball. I think Chip Kelly’s schemes are slowly starting to come together. With the development of Dorian Thompson-Robinson at QB and the surprisingly potent run game, I think the Bruins will win 2 more games – one of which will come this week against Arizona.