Pac Tracks: There's no debate about this Washington; should Oregon go after Lane Kiffin?

Except for Washington, Larry's League has become like the presidential debate: a gutter fight, not suitable for daytime television, in which you know good people are going to get hurt.

The league started FOUR games at 9:30 p.m. or later in the East on Saturday and lost two signature stars to injuries, both in defeats: tailback Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. For updates on these injuries please contact "Agent X" at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As the clock approached midnight—in the WEST—the conference chugged and churned like an old Maytag washer as previously hopeless Oregon State outlasted previously respectable Cal, Arizona State handed a third-loss to UCLA, Utah rallied back against Arizona and late-riser Washington State sent Stanford football back to Buddy Teevens era.

Except for Washington, the Pac 12 is almost exactly what Rankman thought it would be when he had no conference schools ranked in his preseason top 10.

Actually, it’s worse near the top and better near the bottom, but does not significantly alter the premise that this is no way to get into the four-team playoff.

The Pac 12 is in trouble, except for Washington, which took advantage of the breeziest non-conference schedule—Rutgers, Portland State, Idaho—to hone what we knew was a talented roster.

Washington has emerged as one of the five best-looking teams this year along with Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Washington, under third-year coach Chris Petersen, has the look of a powerhouse with the most manageable schedule from start to finish.

That, folks, is how you get it done.

It also helps to make statements along the way, as Washington has done with punishing wins over Stanford and Oregon, which had owned the Pac 12 North for years.

Washington State has also defeated Oregon and Stanford, impressively, in consecutive weeks, but is still carrying the baggage of opening losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State.

At the midway point, it’s Washington, maybe Utah, or bust.

Washington plays in Salt Lake City on Oct. 29 in what will be an elimination game for Utah. The Huskies might be able to survive a close loss and still rally back to playoff contention, but the Pac 12 is definitely on a short leash.

The Pac 12 has only two teams ranked in the AP top 25, Washington (No. 5) and Utah (No. 21), which means it is running out of losses to absorb.

Watch list: Washington, Utah, Arizona State

These are the only schools left with one loss or fewer. Utah blew a huge gasket in failing to score three times on goal-to-go against Cal. Arizona State is a flimsy 5-1 with a slew of injured quarterbacks but stayed alive with a tough home win over UCLA. The Sun Devils are a playoff longshot after a wipeout loss to USC but get Utah and Washington back-to-back in November.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning for Heisman?

The national media went nuts when Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson accounted for eight opening touchdowns against Charlotte.

Browning did the same thing Saturday against Oregon, but did anyone hear it?

Once again, a brilliant Pac 12 performance might get lost in the Heisman shuffle. Browning pitched a perfect game against Oregon, with six passing touchdowns and two more rushing. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 304 yards with no interceptions. He leads the NCAA in pass efficiency (204.9) and TD passes (23).

Jake who?

Watch out for: Washington State, USC, Colorado.

If only Mike Leach had his teams ready to play from Day One. He is 0-5 in openers at Washington State and started this year 0-2 after defeats to Eastern Washington and Boise State. His Cougars, though, are 3-0 since and undefeated in the Pac 12 North, with consecutive win over Oregon and Stanford.

USC started 1-3 but is clearly a different, 2-1, team since quarterback Sam Darnold took over as starter. The Trojans should be 6-3 when they roll into Washington on Nov. 12.

Colorado (4-2) may be the most improved team in America. The Buffs’ played valiantly in both losses at Michigan and USC. Colorado can muck up Arizona State’s Rose Bowl hopes this weekend in Boulder.

Watch them wobble: UCLA, Cal, Oregon State

UCLA has lost three games by the margins of OT (Texas A&M), last-minute touchdown (Stanford) and three points (Arizona State).

Where is Jerry Neuheisel when you need him? The former UCLA coach’s backup son once led a stunning victory at Texas in relief of the starter, but backup Mike Fafaul appeared completely lost in relief of Rosen this weekend.

UCLA was only down three with a minute left when Fafaul went sack-sack-interception to end the game. Fafaul played as if he was not prepared, which is on the coaches.

Cal remains a big tease, with big wins over Texas and Utah coupled with losses to San Diego State and Oregon State.

Watch them wallow: Stanford, Oregon, Arizona

Two of these programs are in full crisis mode, with coaching changes possibly looming. David Shaw isn’t going anywhere at Stanford despite the two worst consecutive efforts of his tenure. Who would have thought Stanford would have allowed more points in two weeks, 86, than McCaffrey could garner in total yards Saturday night against Washington State (83)?

Mark Helfrich’s days may be numbered after Saturday’s 70-21 home loss to Washington.

“I apologize for that score,” Helfrich said.

Anyone in Eugene ready for Lane Kiffin? Hey, why not?

He’s tanned, rested and will be ready to move on after helping Alabama win another national title this year.

After Oregon started 2-2 with consecutive, three-point losses to Nebraska and Colorado, Helfrich boasted his team was two plays from being 4-0. His team, however, is now 2-4 after tire blowouts to Washington and Washington State. The loss to Washington was Oregon’s worse since a 71-7 defeat to Texas on Dec. 6, 1941.

The Ducks are cooked and may have already quit on their coach. They’ll have a bye week to regroup and prove that notion wrong.

Arizona is 0-3 in the Pac 12 South. It joined the league in 1978 and has never played in a Jan.1 Rose Bowl.

Some things never change.[/membership]