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Pac-12 the good, the bad & the unknown week 11: USC spoils Washington’s Playoff party

The Trojans made a major statement in Seattle.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

USC’s defense - There isn’t a team outside of possibly Alabama that USC wouldn’t have beaten Saturday if they played defense the way they did in Seattle. The Trojans blanketed Washington’s receivers for much of the game outside of the unstoppable John Ross, they got after Jake Browning every time he dropped back and bottled up Myles Gaskin.

USC’s offensive line - USC’s huge, talented front made things very comfortable for Sam Darnold in a massive road test. They didn’t plow for a ton of rushing yards, but they opened holes when they did and picked up blitzes with a near-flawless execution.

Clay Helton and USC down the stretch - It’s crazy to think that just a couple of months ago it looked like Helton might not make it to October and half the team might not transfer, but Helton has successfully executed one of the best turnarounds you will ever see in college football as they have a chance to make, and win the Rose Bowl, and creep into the Top 10 at the end of the season.

Don’t look now, but Stanford - The Cardinal have worked things out, gotten healthy and taken advantage of the softening of their schedule. McCaffrey looked like his old self again and they almost-immediately dismissed an Oregon team on the road whose scheme has given them fits on years when they weren’t on the top of the game.

Utah’s balance and focus - The Utes avoided a classic trap game Thursday night at Arizona State and showed their improved balance by winning with offense defense, rushing and passing and kept their Pac-12 championship hopes alive.

The Williams’ - Troy Williams might have had the best game of his career and Joe Williams had just another dominating game with nearly 200 yards and two scores.

Colorado’s balance and focus - The Buffs did the same as Utah by avoiding a trap game Saturday night at Arizona by running the ball, passing with efficiency and playing good defense when they needed to.

Liufau-Lindsay-Fields - This Colorado trio did another nice Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin impression.

Luke Falk & Washington State - Just another Falk game and the Cougars taking care of business to ensure they still control their destiny in the North and to ensure they showed they are the kings of the air raid in the Pac-12.

Colorado, Utah and Washington State Playoff hopes - All these teams are still longshots, but teams like Clemson, Michigan, Auburn, Texas A&M and potentially Washington losing may have opened up the door just a crack. Though, in some scenarios, Washington losing might actually hurt more than it helps as it hurts some these teams’ potential resumes.


Washington’s offense - USC gets all of the credit in the world for an A+ performance at Washington, but the Huskies still looked woeful on offense in every facet of the game outside of John Ross who actually could have put up at 250 plus, three score game on Adoree’ Jackson if the rest of his offense was clicking.

Jake Browning - His offensive line and scheme did him no favors in allowing defenders to be in his face literally almost every time he dropped back, but there is no denying that Browning had his worst game of the year and one of the worst games of his career. He missed a lot of passes which could have powered Washington through a tough game and towards a win.

Pac-12 Playoff hopes - We can still hold out hope for the CU, UU, WSU pack and Washington isn’t dead yet because of craziness around the country, but the harsh truth is Washington running the table was far and away the Pac-12’s best chance at not missing the Playoffs two years in-a-row.

Exciting big games - It seems like this has been the year of let down big games with USC and Washington being the next in line. Hopefully the Apple Cup, Utah vs. Colorado, Colorado vs. Washington State and the Pac-12 Championship Game are better affairs.

Oregon, again - I thought the Ducks would put up more of a fight against an improving, but still-limited Stanford team, but they didn’t even come close. I never thought Oregon could become this bad, this fast.

Cal, again - Another team I thought might put up a better fight, going against a similar team, but no. The Bears are simply not a good team.

Arizona schools, again - The Territorial Cup is probably the only game either team from Arizona wins in the last month-and-a-half of the season. That says it all.

The Unknown

Washington? It is so hard to read sports sometimes. Is Washington a pretender or is USC that good when they put it together and go 100%? The Huskies can shake their first loss and show they belong as a national power if they can win every game the rest of the way.

Washington’s Playoff hopes? The rest of the Top 4 outside of Alabama and Auburn and Texas A&M taking dives against far worse opponents than the Huskies may have saved them. Do the Huskies still have a shot at the Playoffs if they can win out from here?

USC? That Trojan teams looked like a monster in the making, but I could also see it being a lot of Washington simply being a nine-win-level team that had a bad game.

Can USC win the South? USC looks like the unquestioned best team in the conference right now, but winning the South is out of their hands, even if they beat UCLA by 100 (That could really happen) next week. Can they get the help they need to win the South?

Colorado vs. Washington State? Two borderline Top 10 teams who some people just seem to refuse to take seriously get a chance to make a statement next week. Which team will emerge with some more respect and which one will still face some questions?

Mark Helfrich? I know firing coaches is overrated and Helfrich has a big buyout, but I really wonder if he can survive, especially with the sky-high bar at Oregon.

Rich Rodriguez? Does Rodriguez make it to the Territorial Cup or survive afterward? Arizona is in a really bad place right now.