Five Pac 12 hot takes set to the soundtrack of my favorite new Pacific Northwest grunge band: Larry Scott and the Night Crawlers.
1: How do you like our Washingtons?
The Huskies and Cougars are coming off a weekend in which they outscored their two Pac 12 opponents, 135-34.
The “W” this year stands for “wow.”
Washington is 9-0 after answering every question in a 59-point win at California, a team good enough at home this year to beat Texas and Utah.
It was a late-night performance that sent a pointed message to the College Football Playoff selection committee, which thought nobody in the west would care if it rated one-loss Texas A&M ahead of the Huskies in last week’s first ranking.
Texas A&M rewarded the committee’s faith by losing at Mississippi State, a team that lost to South Alabama and is the only school from the powerful SEC West to lose against the mediocre SEC East.
Washington, conversely, took care of its business against a depleted Cal defense by rolling up 704 total yards on the Bears.
Understandably, this dominant performance led to a cover story in Monday’s USA Today about…Ohio State.
Washington finally gets its due Saturday when ESPN GameDay comes to Seattle for the Pac 12 game of the year against USC.
Basically, the way it works, is Pac 12 teams have one shot to impress the judges. Texas A&M suffered its second loss, to mediocre Mississippi State, and fell only three spots, to No. 10, in the coaches’ poll. Rest assured voters won’t be as kind to Washington in defeat.
Washington receiver John Ross, an emerging superstar who had 208 yards against Cal, knows the Huskies have little margin for error.
The selection committee, as you are reading this, has probably already jumped one-loss Ohio State over Washington in this week’s ranking.
“Don’t take your foot off the gas,” Ross said. “Continue to win, it’s 0-0 and anything can happen.”
Meanwhile, cross-state neighbor Washington State has won seven straight games after starting 0-2. The Cougars are still being punished for an opening loss to Eastern Washington, but are now playing with an almost lethal efficiency. Their tear-down of Arizona last week by the score of 69-7 should have opened some eyes.
“Everything we touched worked,” Coach Mike Leach said.
The Cougars were rewarded with a two-spot jump in the polls--all the way to No. 23.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
2: Has Jim Mora lost it?
UCLA's fifth-year coach was downright petulant after Thursday night’s 20-10 loss at Colorado dropped the Bruins to 3-6. UCLA, remember, was picked to win the Pac 12 South.
Mora has always had a fork-in-socket temperament but he lost the room with his handling of Josh Rosen’s shoulder injury.
“Josh Who?” Mora sarcastically asked after the Colorado loss.
If you want to really tick off the local beat guys, who follow the team for a living every day, do exactly what Mora did.
First, he refused to acknowledge the obvious: that Rosen, his prized sophomore quarterback, was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.
Instead of being honest, Mora played games in trying to hide the extent of Rosen’s injury. Even though we all saw how hard Rosen crashed on his throwing shoulder late in the Oct. 3 loss at Arizona State. I've always said paranoid coaches can close all the practices they want on reporters but, thankfully, not the games.
Mora then made people think there was a chance Rosen could play against Washington State, Utah and Colorado. For what it's worth, I told all my friends at the gym Rosen looked O-U-T to me.
Mora then confirmed the season-ending news of Rosen, not to his beat reporters, but to a TV reporter before the Colorado kickoff.
Bad form. Mora won't lose his job this year, but his fate now seems directly tied to Rosen recovering to have a stellar junior season.
3: The rise of USC.
Who could have imagined, a month ago, that Clay Helton would be the “safe” coach in Los Angeles? Helton’s move to finally start Sam Darnold at quarterback, after a 1-2 start, seems to have saved his job and the season. The Trojans are 5-1 since Darnold took control and now have the spoiler's chance to wreck Washington’s dream season—twice.
A win over Washington this Saturday would keep USC in the Pac 12 South chase and leave open the chance the Trojans could meet the Huskies in the conference title game.
That's only if you believe one-loss Washington can recover to make the College Football playoff.
4: Are Mark Helfrich’s days numbered at Oregon?
It seems that way after reports surfaced this weekend that Nike owner Phil Knight, the school’s cash cow, may be willing to spend $10 million on a new coach.
At 78, Knight's swoosh isn't getting any younger.
At least Helfrich maintained his sense of humor after hearing the news.
“I take it wasn’t me getting the $10 million,” he said.
Clearly, though, something is wrong in Eugene and that something might be Helfrich. I’ve always admired Oregon for its patience and loyalty to coaches. The Ducks have had only four head coaches since 1976—Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Helfrich.
Heck, USC had that many on the payroll in 2012—Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Clay Helton and Steve Sarkisian.
Helfrich is a nice guy but, under him, there is no denying Oregon is 3-6 and has lost all its cutting-edge.
5: Stanford 2, Louisiana Tech 1.
That was the box score I saw this weekend. Ok, it wasn’t a score, but the number of points received in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll. The good news: it was two more points than Stanford received in the AP poll.
Has any power program, with a winning record, dropped farther and faster than the Trees? Stanford is not having a good year, by its standards, but is still 6-3 with wins over Kansas State, UCLA, USC and Notre Dame. The three losses are to three ranked schools: Washington, Washington State and Colorado.
Injury-plagued Christian McCaffrey, last year’s runner-up for the Heisman, has dropped off the face of the Earth despite being only 20 yards short of 1,000 yards rushing and ranking No. 4 nationally with an average of 190.13 per game.
Stanford's disappearance is everything you need to know about the Pac 12’s overall weak hold on the national narrative.
To give you a counter point: Mississippi of the SEC finally stopped receiving points in the coaches’ poll this week after suffering its…sixth loss.
No one is saying Stanford deserves to be ranked.
But zero points in the AP poll?[/membership]