clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pac-12 The Good, The Bad & The Unknown week 11: Ducks and Sun Devils keep rolling

Oregon and Arizona State appear headed towards a potentially epic Pac-12 Championship Game.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Arizona State & Todd Graham banishing the luck of the Irish - I will admit that I was surprised by how well the Sun Devils dominated the Irish for the most part Saturday. After watching the Sun Devils run out ahead of Notre Dame and then put them away again after letting them back in, I am a full on believer that they have a great shot not only beating Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but making noise in the Playoff if they get there. Graham gets my vote for the best coach in the conference.

Two Pac-12 national contenders - The Pac-12 desperately needed someone to answer the call and join Oregon as a nationally relevant team and thankfully the Sun Devils look like they are doing that. The gap left by Stanford regressing and the LA schools underachieving was huge and a program that hasn't been rammed down everyone's throats for half a decade now competing in the Top 10 is a breath of fresh air.

Oregon's closer - The Mariano Rivera of college football has it going again as the Ducks stepped on the gas in the second half with fervor for the second-straight week to bury a solid team that was hanging around to win with a lopsided score. They are starting to look more and more like the old Ducks that could stretch out a small lead into a blowout in a tiny amount of time.

Marcus Mariota - He has had better statistical games, but Saturday was, in my valuable opinion, Mariota's best performance of the year. He made some impressive passes to covered receivers and killed Utah with his legs. Most importantly, he showed yet again that he can take hits and keep on ticking without a sign of breaking down. Coming into the season, if you would have told me he was going to get hit as much as he has in 2014 I would have thought there would be no way that he wouldn't miss some time or be perpetually banged up.

UCLA's pulse - This Bruin team still isn't what it was expected to be going into the season (especially up front on defense), but it is a lot closer than it looked a month ago and looked focused in going up to Seattle and taking care of a struggling Husky team. The Bruins still have a decent shot at winning the South and if they can keep playing the way they have the past two weeks, could be a worthy competitor in the Pac-12 Championship Game should Arizona State slip up.

Luke Falk - Everyone pretty much declared the Cougars dead in the water when they lost Connor Halliday, but walk-on Falk was damn near-perfect for the Cougars against Oregon State. Winning at Corvallis right now isn't exactly like going into Autzen and getting a win, but for a Cougar team with only two wins, that had not beaten the Beavers in ages, it was big. Hell, I think Washington and Utah might trade their QBs straight-up for Falk right now.

The Bad

The Clay Play - Bad, because you cannot help but kind of feel bad for the kid, but even "badder" because I hate to see a game swing so much by a play that isn't really a football play. Not saying by any stretch that Utah wins that game if Kaelin Clay holds onto the ball for a few more yards, but it at least would have been a little more exciting down the stretch.

On the other hand. That play is exactly why Oregon has dominated the conference in recent history. They focus, pay attention to every detail, play with opportunism, don't make mistakes and kill you for yours. I have a feeling most of the teams in the conference would have let the ball just lay in the conference and at best just gotten a touchback.

The North - The Pac-12 North is downright bad right now outside of Oregon. The division is far and away the worse that it has been since its formation and it's best team outside of the Ducks is a Stanford team that has an offense that can make even the worst defenses look solid. The rest of the division is a mish mash of injured, boring, struggling teams. The North will be lucky to get more than two teams to a bowl game this season.

Injuries - I don't know if I can remember a year with more injuries in the conference. It seems like every team has players dropping like flies. The team who wins the conference might simply be who can get the healthiest at the end of the season.

Pac-12 defenses - Maybe it is just the conference leading the way with how college football is played, but the conference's defenses might as well not even be there. I hope that the other side of the ball is not doomed to become a forgotten art.

The Unknown

Can Oregon stay elite through injuries? It appears that the wad that is the Oregon offensive line lost their All-American and senior leader at center Hroniss Grasu against Utah, adding to their mounting injuries up front. The Ducks have been able to survive behind Marcus Mariota and their deep backfield and they have the easiest route the rest of the regular season, but you have to wonder if they are going to be able to compete on an elite level with some a patchwork offensive line?

Who are you UCLA? It hasn't been pretty, but the Bruins have run off four-straight since their seemingly season-crushing two-game losing streak in October, with the last two being in impressive fashion. Are the Bruins on their way to become the team we thought they could be, or are they simply getting past struggling teams that they should actually be beating by more points?

Can Arizona State avoid an upset? The Sun Devils have their destiny in their hands but as we all know in college football, hanging onto that destiny is so hard to do. Arizona State doesn't have the toughest road yet ahead of them, but it does have some potholes, none more potentially perilous than heading Tucson in the final week of the regular season.