Fellow faithful college football fans - it is that time of year again. For the past 233 days we have been patiently waiting for this weekend to arrive. Patiently waiting to see how Leach will fare his second year in the Palouse, if no conference Notre Dame falls 0-3 against the PAC this season, if a Pac 12 team will win the national championship, and if Steve and Chris made the right decision (an $18 million dollar offer would make the transition from Boise to Seattle pretty easy for me).
Work production all over the US slowly decreased the past 4 weeks as we checked stats on team recruits, injuries, opponents, and spreads. As we overanalyze our Pac12 stats and put together the playoff brackets in our head, we all collectively hope that the SEC doesn't return to claim their eighth consecutive title game.
Here are my recommendations of the top Pac 12 games to watch this weekend:
Rutgers vs. the Cougs: Leach returns for his third season with the Cougs as they take on this Big East contender Thursday night in the Palouse. Unlike Oregon or OSU, the Cougs face a tough opponent in their season opener. The Cougs could struggle on the defensive side of the ball as only 6 returning starters try to fill the holes of the two top tackles they lost last season. Washington State averaged 368 yards in the air last season, so expect the same from Halliday in this season opener. I think this will be a high scoring game with the Cougs capitalizing in the air, and the Scarlet Knights focusing on their rushing game.
Fresno State vs. USC: The Bulldogs travel to the Coliseum to take on SC without star QB Carr and WR Davante Adams; standout Adams finished his college career racking up 24 of the teams 50 total TD's last season. Coach DeRuyter has yet to decide if Burrell or Connette will be starting Saturday, but whoever is chosen will face Leonard Williams, one of the top defensive lineman in the country. When you throw the recent SC headlines into the mix, Sarkisian has his hands full as he starts his career as the new head coach of the Trojans.
Recommendations to watch for entertainment value or because you're a fan:
South Dakota vs. Oregon: We can only hope the weather is pleasant for the Duck mascot because he should be closing in on 200 plus pushups by the end of the day. This is a game for Oregon to pad their stats for the rest of the year and fine tune things before they face the Spartans.
Portland State vs. Oregon State: I wouldn't waste any DVR space on this one, but you never know what can happen when the Beavs face a Big Sky opponent….Eastern Washington stunned the Beavers 49-46 season so anything could happen, but I would put money on the Pac 12 if someone wanted to throw some money on it.
Enjoy your first weekend of the best part of the year!
Mystery still surrounds Collin Klein injury and status Saturday against TCU. Reports had surfaced that he suffered a concussion last weekend, but Coach Snyder still hasn’t confirmed the nature of Klein’s injury….
The Ducks outlast the Trojans in a back and forth battle at the Coliseum….
Last Saturday night the Ducks came to the Coliseum prepared for battle against the Trojans and to seek revenge for that loss last season (35-38 at Autzen) that ultimately knocked Oregon (9-0; 6-0 Pac12) off as a national championship contender. Four quarters and 113 points later, they accomplished that feat outscoring USC 62-51 in an offensive battle that put up over 1300 yards of total offensive. Ducks TB Kenjon Barner (Heisman candidate, yes?) rushed for a school record 321 yards and five TD’s, contributing to the No. 2 Ducks 730 total yards of offense – the most yards ever allowed by SC. And SC (6-3; 4-3 Pac12) has been playing football since 1888…
AP Photo - Kenjon Barner
If you were pouring yourself a drink during the opening drive, you missed the first TD put on the board by the Ducks as freshman QB Mariota marched down the field and connected with De’Anthony Thomas on a 16 pass that put the Ducks up 6-0. Oregon’s explosive offense continued to score the next five consecutive possessions and headed into the half up 34-24.
SC pulled within 3 five minutes into the second half when junior RB Silas Red converted a first and goal on the Oregon 2 yard line. 34-31 Ducks. Oregon responded five minutes later with a 75 yard drive that was capped off by Barner’s 9 yard run to put the Ducks back up by 10 with five minutes left in the third. 41-31 Ducks. SC answered back and QB Matt Barkley connected with Marqise Lee on an 11 yard pass that set SC up first and goal on the Oregon 3 yard line. Silas Red finished the drive with a 3 yard run to put the Trojans within 3 once again. 41-38 Ducks. Four plays later, Marcus Mariota found Huff in the end zone on 36 yard pass to put Oregon back on top 48-38.
The Ducks outlasted No.18 USC in this back-and-forth second half battle; defeating the Trojans with a final score of 62-51 – the third highest scoring game involving ranked teams in the 76 year history of the AP poll.
AP Photo- Kenjon Barner
Mariota finished the night 20 of 23 for 304 yards, 4 TD’s; no interceptions - and rushed for 96 yards. Huff added another 125 on 6 receptions - but the night belonged to Kenjon Barner. Barner averaged 8.4 yards every time he touched the ball. Barner’s 321 total yards came against what was the nation’s No. 29 rush defense – a defense that had allowed only six rushing TD’s in its previous eight games.
Matt Barkley passed for 484 yards and 4 TD’s, 157 of those coming from 12 passes to Marqise Lee.
Up next: Oregon at California: 7:30 PM Saturday night on ESPN
Remember all that buzz around the Pac 12 conference last summer? The Triple Threat with Woods, Lee, and Barkley. USC predicted to play in the national championship game. Kiffin is legit. Sanctions have been lifted and they’re back… Last summer was a great time to be a Trojan. But when fall came, the leaves started falling off the trees - and USC followed.
This Saturday marks the first game for the Oregon Ducks (8-0; 5-0 Pac12) this season to be up against a ranked opponent on gameday. SC is coming off a disappointing 39-36 loss to No. 22 Arizona (5-3; 2-3 Pac12), a team that Oregon railroaded 49-0 in front of crowd of 58,000 fans at Autzen Stadium in late September.
AP Photo - Oregon
The only advantage USC (6-2; 4-2 Pac12) has in this much anticipated battle is home field advantage. SC is 10 for 11 at home; their most recent loss last season when Stanford defeated the Trojans 56-48 in triple OT. But the wounds are still fresh between Oregon and USC. The only loss that Oregon has chalked up the last 20 of 21 games was to the Trojans – a devastating 38-35 loss at Autzen Stadium that bumped them off the BCS national championship radar.
Last week the Ducks thumped the Bufffaloes 70-14, pulling their starting lineup midway through the second quarter. Oregon scored 4 TD’s the first 15 minutes of play, averaging less than 2 minutes per offensive possession. Oregon finished the day with 30 first downs resulting in over 600 yards of total offense, 425 of those coming on the ground.
SC also put up over 600 yards of total offense last week against Arizona, but only 125 on the ground. Early season Heisman hopefully Barkley was 31 of 49 for 493 yards in the air; connecting with Sophomore Marqise Lee for 345 of those on 16 passes. SC looked strong the final minutes of the fourth with four consecutive first down conversions, but ran out of time as they drove down the field hoping to force it into OT.
AP Photo - Southern Cal
This weekend expect more in the air with Barkley (25 TD passes for 2266 yards on the season) looking to connect with Woods and Lee (76 receptions for 1129 yards). The other area where SC may rack up some yards is with penalties. SC leads the FBS in penalties, averaging 20% more than any other team in the country. SC players tell you it’s a ‘pride thing’ when questioned about racking up 18 personal fouls this season. Call it what you want, but in close matchup that ‘pride’ may cost you the W in the end.
I expect Chip to push the quick snap and get points on the board as quickly as possible. If Oregon can defend SC’s passing game they should exit the Coliseum with healed wounds and continue their quest to the national title.
Oregon and Oregon State remain in the AP Top 10 heading into week nine….
No one could have told me with a straight face and serious conversation that the Beavers (6-0; 4-0 Pac-12) and the Ducks (7-0; 4-0 Pac-12) would be in the AP Top 10 heading into week nine. But here we are – our two Oregon teams with two perfect records, the highest ranked duo in a single state, holding onto the No. 2 and the No.7 spot. What an exciting season it has been whether you’re a black and orange Beaver believer or a die-hard Duck.
Sophomore Sean Mannion had a lot to prove heading into this year, with the Beavs coming off a dismal 3-9 season; the worst since 1997. Oregon State was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 northern division and the thought that they would miss out on post season play for the third consecutive year cross our minds. When Mannion suffered a knee injury the same week Oregon State made the top 10, many thought it was a great ride, but that was the season for the Beavers. It was reported that Mannion would be out 3-4 weeks, and whether it was prayer or rehab, he was back in pads on the sidelines in Provo to take on BYU just 8 days after surgery. As it turned out, the Beavs didn’t need him as backup Cody Vaz stepped in and completed 20 of 32 for 332 yards and 3 TD passes; pretty impressive for his first QB start since high school. Equally impressive is the fact that BYU had only given up six touchdowns in their previous six games, but gave up six against the Beavs in Corvallis.
AP Photo - Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State followed that W with another the following week, defeating the Utes 21-7 at home in front of a crowd of over 45,000; the 5th largest ever at Reser Stadium. Next up: Washington Huskies (3-4; 1-3 Pac-12) Gametime: 7:15 PM – Pac 12 Network
And how about those Ducks? How about these stats? Fourth in the nation in rushing yards with 317; second in the nation with points scored at 51; Freshman QB Marcus Mariota has a 68.3% completion rate with 16 TD passes and 1347 yards; and if you watched the game last week against the Sun Devils, you witnessed the Ducks put 43 points on the board – and all 43 of those points were on the board just three and half minutes into the second.
No. 2 Oregon is having the season many expected. Maybe not to the degree of outscoring opponents 357 – 141, but not at all surprised they are undefeated as the head into week 9 of what may be shaping up to be the perfect season. I know the BCS doesn’t agree with me right now, but maybe it’ll come around.
AP Photo - Oregon Ducks
If I was Colorado coach Embree, I think I may have called Chip this week and asked for a forfeit. The Buffaloes have been outscored by an average of 37 points per game the past three times they have taken the field. You can expect more of that tomorrow afternoon as they head to one of the loudest stadiums in NCAA football. Oregon is raising eyebrows with what some call the most dynamic offense in college ball today. Couple that with the fact that opponents have converted just 9 of 28 red zone visits into TD’s, you can expect an old fashioned blowout.