Washington in the Apple Cup – The Huskies squashed WSU’s Pac-12 title hopes again with a crushing victory in their rivalry game. This was the third-straight season the Cougars came in with high expectations, but were utterly dominated by Washington.
Washington’s run game – The Huskies racked up more than 300 yards on the ground and controlled the game up front. Myles Gaskin was unstoppable for much of the night, scoring four touchdowns.
Stanford’s non-conference statement – The game in Seattle was actually more important for the Cardinal than their own game, but that didn’t stop them from getting a convincing win over a highly-ranked Notre Dame team that embarrassed USC a month ago. The Cardinal also did it in traditional fashion by grinding out rushing yards, throwing TDs to tight ends and playing tough defense.
Chip’s back – Love him or hate him Chip Kelly returning to the Pac-12 at UCLA couldn’t be more interesting. The conference and college football is a lot different than it was when Chip engineered Oregon’s epic run, and he’s been fired twice since (albeit in the NFL), but either way, The Chipper landing in Westwood has the Bruins the talk of the conference in November, even though they are only 6-6.
USC’s week off – The Trojans got to enjoy Thanksgiving and now get a Stanford team off six days rest in the Pac-12 championship game.
Arizona State’s offense – The Sun Devils outdueled Khalil Tate and Wildcats to get the edge in their state and probably play themselves up into the Sun Bowl. The Sun Devils showed that they were actually a pretty good team this year that was probably closer to a very good season than it seems.
UCLA not giving up – The Bruins looked lost for most of the middle of the season and I honestly thought they would pack it up the last couple of weeks, but they continued to fight and now will get a shot at a bowl as long as they want it. This program is still super talented and it’s a great sign for Kelly coming in that the roster didn’t lay down when not much was left to play for.
Utah turning it around – Like UCLA, Utah easily could have called it a season the past two weeks, but fought through a heartbreaking loss at Washington and easily downed Colorado in a battle for a bowl. Tough season, but a bowl win and 7-6 is are still on the table.
Again, Oregon with Justin Herbert – The Ducks looked scary good again with Justin Herbert back as they throttled an improved Beaver team. Herbert’s mastery of their offense coupled with a much-improved defense make the Ducks a scary bowl opponent and a major concern for the rest of the conference heading into 2018.
Washington State in the Apple Cup – Once again, the Cougars came into their biggest game of the year, with a lot to play for, and were essentially dead in the water in the first half. What Mike Leach has done in Pullman to get the Cougars to test 10 wins every year is incredible, but their performances against their hated rival has to make things rather uncomfortable for him in Pullman.
Pac-12 Championship Game scheduling – The USC/Stanford rematch has major intrigue with how the weeks of rest puts them in a very tough spot, even if they are playing down the road from home. Let’s hope we don’t get a sloppy/one-sided slog in Santa Clara Friday night.
Arizona’s finish – The Wildcats looked like the team no one wanted to play in the Pac-12 for a few weeks there, but those glory days are long gone as they finished with an embarrassing loss to Oregon and a loss to their bitter rival who struggled so much in 2017 they fired their coach. Most-concerning is the limitations of Khalil Tate in both games, as opponents figuring out how to slow the star quarterback really puts a wrench in Arizona’s expectations for 2018.
Todd Graham & Jim Mora failing – Graham and Mora looked like they were going to be capable of getting the conference’s two most-underachieving programs to fulfill their potentials for a couple of years though, but it didn’t hold up and now both schools are going with new coaches. The conference would be in a better place if one of these South programs with endless potential could put it together, but neither could make it happen.
Cal missing a bowl – The Bears were good in Justin Wilcox’ first season (Ask WSU), definitely good enough to make a bowl, but they weren’t able to make it happen. Missing out is especially tough given how close they came to winning their final two games and how good more practices would be for the program right now.
Colorado – The Buffs had to replace a lot from their 2016 South champion team, but I don’t think that justifies not being able to make a bowl. The Buffs didn’t challenge Utah much in their final game and actually were less challenging for opponents week-to-week than they were in 2014 and 2015. Worries of the Buffs peaking and falling quickly seem legitimate right now.
Can Stanford take down USC? The Trojans have looked like the best team in the Pac-12 down the stretch, but the Cardinal are rallying and the Trojans aren’t the same team that controlled Stanford in LA in September. Can Stanford pull off a minor surprise and win the conference after a slow September start and major late-season scares?
What will Chip Kelly’s system look like at UCLA? No one really runs the hurry-up with the speed and ferocity that Kelly’s Oregon teams do anymore so I doubt we will see that again. Is system also looked much different in the NFL and he will have different personnel at UCLA, so I am very curious to see what kind of attack Kelly will install with the Bruins.
Bowl slots? The top of the conference’s bowl slots are about as unexciting as I can remember in a long time. Whoever wins the Pac-12 Championship Game likely goes to the Fiesta or Cotton Bowl with the loser in the Alamo or Holiday with Washington filling in one of those bowls depending on how much bowl committees value number of losses and traveling fanbases. However, there are still some more-interesting combos out there depending on bowl committees and a non-division winner like Washington who only has two losses.
Mike Leach? Leach just got smacked by Chris Petersen, but his name is still hot on the coaching market. Have we seen the last of Leach in Pullman, or is the pirate there to stay for at least another year?
Beau Baldwin? A new coach is always exciting. No question about that, but a program like Oregon State that has fallen as hard as they have needs a very dynamic coach to turn things around. Is Baldwin going to be that guy? He was great at Eastern Washington and was due to get a major job, but that doesn’t always equal success.
Should Arizona State have fired Graham? Graham no doubt had his struggles in Tempe and there are definitely coaches out there who I know could do a better job, but the initial list of potential Arizona State hires sure isn’t exciting. Did the Sun Devils jump the gun in getting rid of their above average-performing close, or are they setting the table for someone truly better to come in?
Will UCLA & Utah make/accept bowls – The Bruins and Utes fought for bowl eligibility, but will have to be at-large bids. Will they be selected for random bowls, and will they accept them?
Has Khalil Tate been solved – Tate was stifled by an average at best defense for the second-straight week after shredding team after team. Have Pac-12 coaches started to figure out how to stop the once-unstoppable young quarterback?
Is Oregon back? Beating Arizona and Oregon State at home isn’t national news, but it was big for the Ducks as they looked electric on offense with Justin Herbert and tough on defense after a full season of Willie Taggart and Jim Leavit. Will the Ducks keep looking more and more like the pre-2016 Ducks in their bowl game and are they a dark horse candidate to win the Pac-12 in 2018?