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The good, the bad and the unknown week nine: USC’s back with a vengeance

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The Trojans snatched South momentum away from the Sun Devils.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

USC’s rebound - The table was set for the Trojans to fade and for the Sun Devils to steal the South, but the Trojans took their talent and pushed the Sun Devils out of the way to keep their top seat in the South. The key was the Trojans’ ground game which tore up the Sun Devils run defense and controlled the game with Ronald Jones racking up 200 plus and two scores on less than 20 carries.

USC’s run defense - The Trojans got some health on defense and turned around their previously-questionable run defense. They held the Sun Devils to less than three yards per-carry, sacked Manny Wilkins six times and forced the Sun Devils to try and beat them through the air.

Arizona - The Wildcats passed a major test - bashing a ranked team at home. They are a real threat to knock the Trojans off in LA next Saturday and take control of the South.

Khalil Tate - I didn’t know if it was possible for someone to test Bryce Love for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, but Tate is making a serious case. He ran for 146 and a score, but even more impressive, he threw for 275 and two scores on just 10 completions. He has turned the Wildcats into the conference’s scariest offensive team.

Harrison Phillips - The Cardinal were nearly cooked in Corvallis on Thursday night when Phillips broke through and made a play on Ryan Nall that gave the Cardinal the ball back with a chance to win. That was just the highlight of a huge night for a player who is one of the best defensive players in the conference.

Oregon State’s fight - The Beavers aren’t packing it in even though they could. They damn near beat a ranked team and were fun to watch under their interim head coach.

Steven Montez - Many thought Montez would quickly become an upgrade from Sefo Liufau, that hadn’t been the case most of the year, but Montez may have had his breakout game in the Buffs’ win over Cal. He was 20-26 for 300 plus with three TD passing and another rushing in a game the Buffs absolutely needed to win.

Colorado showing life - The Buffs appeared to be in full meltdown mode coming into Saturday, but then they came alive against a decent Cal team. They now have to win just one more game to get to a bowl. Not a bad goal for the program considering where they were two years ago and how much they lost from their 2016 squad.

Washington’s run game - The Huskies didn’t mess around running it down the throat of UCLA’s beat up defense. They racked up 333 yards on the ground and five touchdowns and were in control from very early on to keep their Playoff hopes alive and to stay tied for first in the North.

Oregon’s improvement - The Ducks looked much better against Utah than they did against UCLA. Their offense which looked painful with Braxton Burmeister against a horrible UCLA defense had a good game against Utah’s tough D and their defense continued to look better and better.

The Bad

Arizona State’s momentum - Just when it looked like the Sun Devils were becoming something again, USC brought them back to the ground in Tempe. Their goal now is to simply get to a bowl.

Defense in Tucson - The Cougars and Wildcats combined to put up more than 1,200 yards and nearly 100 points Saturday night in the desert.

Washington’s passing game - The Huskies and Jake Browning look scary limited in the passing game. They threw for less than 100 yards, at home, against a bad defense. Browning hasn’t looked the same since end of 2016.

Stanford without Love - We all knew Stanford’s offense would take a big step back without Bryce Love, but I didn’t think they would become basically non-existent without him. The Cardinal could barely do anything on offense without Love against one of the nation’s most-struggling defenses.

Utah - Two weeks ago it looked like the Utes might be undefeated and leading the conference had Tyler Huntley not gotten hurt. Two weeks later they have Huntley back and look like a team that might not win a game the rest of the season.

UCLA - The Bruins looked like a team that simply was ready for the season to be over in Seattle. Mora may have lost a group that doesn’t have much more to play for anymore than bowl eligibility and his days are probably numbered in Westwood.

Cal on the road - The Bears have been tough as nails at home, but still seem to be a very big work in progress on the road. They struggled against a Colorado team that came into the game in major trouble.

The Unknown

Can Arizona stun USC? The Wildcats are the hottest team in the Pac-12, but they will have to go into The Coliseum and win to have a chance to win the South. Can Tate and the Wildcats keep the momentum going and shock the Pac-12 by taking outright first place in the South?

Does the Pac-12 have a Playoff hope? The Huskies have only one loss, but there are a lot of undefeated and one-loss teams with better resumes than them, and maybe even some two-loss teams. Is there a sliver of a hope that a two-loss team like Stanford could get a shot maybe if they can blow out a one-loss Notre Dame and then take down a two-loss USC in the Pac-12 Championship?

Is USC back? The Trojans are getting healthier and look to have worked out a lot of kinks. The Fiesta or Cotton Bowl and a Pac-12 Championship is still very attainable. Do they have what it takes to basically sew up the South Saturday and then take down either Stanford or Washington?

How injured is Love? I get the feeling the Cardinal rested a banged-up, but not seriously-injured Love against the Beavers, but we will never get a real statement about his health. Is Love injured enough to worry about his status in the coming weeks against the Washington schools? Or was Thursday’s non-contact just a rest?

Has Oregon turned a corner, or is Utah just that bad? The Ducks looked very good Saturday against Utah, but then again they looked horrible two weeks before against a struggling UCLA team and Utah looks like a dumpster fire out of nowhere. Have the Ducks truly turned it around a bit and are they ready to challenge Washington on Saturday?

Is Washington State faltering? The Cougars have had a very rough time in their past two road games and look to be falling out of the race for the North. They have a bizarre quarterback situation and now get the hottest team in their division in Pullman Saturday. Do they have what it takes to beat Stanford and keep their Pac-12 championship hopes alive, or are they an average team that got breaks early that is stumbling as things get tougher?