The past three weeks of the 2012 college football season began to give fans some focus on who the contenders and pretenders really are. Here’s a quick look back on the past three weeks of Pac-12 action, centered around my 12th Annual Picking the Winners Pac-12 preview, which appeared prior to the season on USCFootball.com. To recap my initial picks:
After pair of very difficult three-loss weeks – thanks mainly to the emergence of a surprise Oregon State squad and the falterings of Utah and California – my 5-0 mark in Week Six is hopefully a sign of things to come. Let’s take a look back.
Oregon over Arizona, 49-0 (picked at 54-17); USC over California, 27-9 (picked at 45-17): My only two wins of the week were eminently predictable, even though Arizona had stirred up enough interest with a 3-0 start to land near the bottom of the top 25 just in time to give the Ducks an easy win over a very questionably ranked opponent. Still, Oregon’s defense was impressive against RichRod’s redesigned (and heretofore stellar) UofA offense. USC’s bounce-back win against the Bears in the Coliseum was another clockwork win for the Trojans in their 100th meeting with Cal. USC has now won nine in a row over Jeff Tedford.
Among my three losses suffered, the Beavers’ 27-20 win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl — followed by their much publicized trip to a local In-N-Out Burger after the game — was perhaps the most surprising. Oregon State had played just a single game (an upset win over Wisconsin on Sept. 8) thanks to a postponement of its opener and an early bye. But the Beaver defense was more than up to the task of slowing the Bruins’ previously impressive offense.
The other losses — Utah’s 37-7 throttling at the hands of Arizona State in Tempe and Colorado’s shocking 35-34 comeback win at Wazzu — were wholly unpredictable in late August. Heck, the Cougars’ loss was wholly unpredictable with 10 minutes left in a game against a team that had given up 69 points to Fresno State a week before. Injuries and inconsistency have really hampered Utah in the early going. But, at the same time, this Sun Devil team looks like one to watch in the coming weeks.
Oregon over Washington State, 51-26 (picked at 48-21); UCLA over Colorado, 42-14 (picked at 30-17): Again, my two wins during the final weekend of September (while I was traveling in London), were about the most predictable of the week. The Ducks’ first foray onto the road in 2012 wasn’t even a true road game (the Cougars hosted the game at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field), while the Bruins unloaded on a Buff team that may have still been hung over from what may end up being its lone win of 2012.
On the other hand, even after Stanford’s victory at home against USC, anyone who was shocked that the Cardinal lost at Washington, 17-13, on a Thursday night in Seattle really wasn’t paying much attention. Stanford QB Josh Nunes was bottled up by the Huskies, Stepfan Taylor couldn’t get on track in the running game, and in a game very similar in style and pace to the Cardinal’s win over the Trojans, it was the Huskies who came up with the key plays late in a close and not-all-that-pretty contest.
My other two losses featured road wins for the conference’s early surprise teams: Oregon State over Arizona, 38-35, in Tucson, and Arizona State over Cal, 27-17, in Berkeley. The Beavers moved to 3-0 and up the rankings, while the Sun Devils’ win in the Bay Area got a bit of a road monkey off their backs.
USC over Utah, 38-28 (picked at 27-20); California over UCLA, 43-17 (picked at 31-19); Oregon over Washington, 52-21 (picked at 43-23); Oregon State over Washington State, 19-6 (picked at 33-30); Stanford over Arizona, 54-48 in overtime (picked at 38-24): Finally, a perfect week — though not without some moments of worry. The Trojans’ comically bad first three minutes in Salt Lake City left them in a 14-0 hole. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, that’s really not what you’re looking for when you’re in Paris at 3 a.m. on a Friday, waking up to an alarm to watch the game on your laptop. But, for the next 56 minutes, USC hammered Utah to the tune of 38-7, perhaps finding itself for the first time in 2012.
Stanford’s wild win against the Wildcats on the Farm could finally set Nunes on his way to stepping out of Andrew Luck’s shadow (and, yes, after an impressive first three weeks, the past three weeks have pointed out the deficiencies that remain on defense in Tucson). Across the bay, nothing is a better salve for a pained Cal squad than a visit from its little brother to the south. The Bears’ surprisingly impressive trouncing of the Bruins was Cal’s seventh consecutive home win against UCLA, which last won in Strawberry Canyon in 1998.
Oregon’s ninth-consecutive win over Washington was wholly unsurprising — especially after the Huskies looked so shaky as a group in falling behind 21-0. You can bet that won’t be the UW team USC sees in Seattle this Saturday. The Huskies have a truly split personality at home and on the road in 2012. Finally, though the Beavers moved to 4-0, what’s next after QB Sean Mannion went down with an injury that’s likely to keep him sidelined for the rest of October (at least)?
Record through six weeks: 33-15