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Pac-12 the good, the bad & the unknown: Washington’s abilities no longer an unknown

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The Huskies made a statement of epic proportions against Stanford.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Washington arrives - Washington finally had the game the program has been waiting for more than 10 years now. The questionable pre-season hype is no longer questionable as the Huskies dismantled a Stanford team, which looked like the class of the Pac-12 coming in, as if they were an FCS opponent. It looks like Washington may very well be for real and be the conference’s best and only Playoff contender right now.

Washington in the trenches - The most incredible aspect of Washington’s 44-6 destruction of Stanford was they way they did. Washington’s front five on offense controlled the line of scrimmage immediately against a Stanford front which had been one of the nation’s stingiest thus far and the Husky defensive line made Husky Stadium a nightmare for the Stanford offense throughout the game. Essentially, the Huskies out-Stanforded, Stanford.

Cal’s defense - The Bears did the unthinkable and had their defense win a game for them. They didn’t shut out Utah, but holding the Utes to just 23 and just around three per-carry on the ground was something I don’t think most people thought the Bears had in them.

Cal’s defense in the clutch - That Bears defense stood up at the most-important time and sealed the win with their backs against the wall in what could be a major growth moment for the Bear D.

USC’s alive - The Trojans were flatlining before Saturday, but did what they needed to do to avoid falling into utter disarray for the rest of the season. Keep in mind, the Trojans have a very friendly schedule until the last two weeks of Pac-12 play and the South is completely wide open. They aren’t dead yet. Plus, it looks like Sam Darnold is the quarterback for the future in LA.

Josh Rosen - The sophomore had the game he needed to have to get past his early-season struggles.

UCLA’s defense - Keep an eye on these guys. They stuffed an Arizona offense that gave Washington’s steely D fits last week and have been strong all season long.

Washington State’s run game - That’s not a misprint, the Cougars ran for 280 yards and six touchdowns. Mike Leach and the Cougars did a great job of switching up their style and running past the Ducks for a win that helps keep them in the running in the North.

Colorado, Steven Montez & Shay Fields - The Buffs avoided the big win hangover and showed they are for real by destroying Oregon State. Hats off to true freshman Montez for stepping for Sefo Liufau and keeping the surging Buff train going and to Shay Fields for being the big play receiver Colorado has sorely lacked for years.

The Bad

Stanford offense outside of Christian McCaffrey - Washington’s clown stomping of Stanford maybe shouldn’t have been as big of a surprise as it was as the Cardinal simply are incredibly pedestrian everywhere on offense except for running back. The Cardinal are going to put immense pressure on their defense to win them every game if they can’t find a way to force teams to not just completely sell out to their Heisman candidate.

Stanford quarterback immobility - A big part of Stanford’s offensive problems stem from a lack of a mobility threat at quarterback. It’s far too easy for defenses to stop Stanford’s traditional scheme when they don’t have to worry about the quarterback burning them with his legs the way Andrew Luck or Kevin Hogan could.

Helfrich’s hot mess - The Ducks are simply struggling everywhere right now. Their unstoppable offense is now middle-of-the-Pac, they are starting a senior at QB who doesn’t look Pac-12-level, their injured across the board, they can’t stop the run (even against Washington State) or the pass, and they are 0-2 in Pac-12 play. Things couldn’t be much worse at the moment in Eugene.

Oregon’s QB situation - It doesn’t look like the Ducks hit the Big Sky lottery two years in-a-row. Dakota Prukop doesn’t look like the answer against Pac-12 competition and it may be time for the Ducks to finally hit the reset button at quarterback and start developing a younger quarterback who can help them in the long run.

Arizona schools in LA - The desert schools hit the 10 freeway out to LA and both lost by 21 in games that weren’t even really that close. Can’t say it was too unexpected, but it probably confirmed that the Arizona schools probably aren’t going to be true contenders in the South this year.

Playoff contenders - The problem with Washington’s destruction of Stanford for the conference as a whole is that it makes the chances of the Pac-12 missing out on the Playoffs for a second consecutive year pretty high. Due to their lack of CURRENT national cache and their putrid non-conference schedule, the Huskies will likely have a hard time getting into the Playoffs with even just one loss and it will be quite a feat if a still young Husky team can run the table. Barring craziness, that probably leaves Stanford as the Pac-12’s only other team with a shot at rebounding and being in the Playoff hunt and they already have a 44-6 black eye on their record.

So...Washington running the table might be the Pac-12’s only realistic shot at a Playoff berth this year now.

The Unknown

Changing of the guard? It looks like the fading of Oregon and Stanford all of us armchair prophets have foreseen for years now might finally be happening and the old school power of Washington under Chris Petersen could finally truly be challenging the throne? Is the Pac-12 power balance (particularly in the North) finally truly changing, or will it even itself out a little more the rest of the way?

Can Stanford stay in it? So let’s forget about the score for a minute. Basically, Stanford lost on the road against their biggest competitor this year who was gunning for them and laying in wait. Not good, but also not end of the world. Can the Cardinal figure some things out and remain in the Playoff and Pac-12 race, or is this truly them descending the ladder?

Can Oregon avert disaster? The other modern North power is in a much more dire situation. The Ducks are already 2-3 and 0-2 in-conference with almost nothing going for them. The Ducks are more in panic mode than Stanford because they are at risk of maybe not even making a bowl and Mark Helfrich getting fired. Can the Ducks pick themselves off the ground? They have a golden opportunity with a pumped-up Washington team coming to Autzen on Saturday. Win and all might be forgiven. Lose and things get even more bleak.

Oregon/Stanford QBs - Already touched on this, but the most-important position on the field for both of these teams are still huge question marks and we are in October. How long will both of these marquee quarterback spots be rather uncertain?

Is Colorado a real contender? Washington and Colorado are alone atop the Pac-12 divisions? What is this? 1990? But back to the point, are the Buffs a true contender in the South, or have they just made massive strides and made the most of games against ailing Oregon schools?

Is UCLA the clear South favorite? The Bruins have their flaws, but they certainly look like the best, most complete team in the South right now. However, almost no program in the Pac-12 is as unreliable of maintaining potential than the Bruins. Okay...actually that’s USC, but still.

Can USC rally - The Trojans are still a mess, but let’s not all forget that they started the season basically at Alabama, at Stanford, and at Utah. A lot of programs would have started 1-3 (0-2) with that schedule and not even taken Utah to the final second. The Trojans can still easily rally in a wide open South. They did it last year, can they do it again?

Cal & Utah - These two teams that I didn’t quite know what to make of, had a game that I didn’t quite know what to make of. Utah still seems like the second-best team in the South, but only scoring 23 against Cal’s defense makes me question if they will have the offense to compete for the South crown. Cal, seems to be a little bit more of a contender than I thought they were, but they are still the same team that lost to Arizona State last week, so I’m not really sure.