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Pac-12 the good, the bad and the unknown week seven: Oregon pulls ahead in the North race

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Oregon came out on top in one of the hardest-fought Pac-12 games ever.

Washington v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Good

Oregon vs. Washington - It’s been a long time since there has been that tight and hard-fought of a Pac-12 game with that much on the line. The Ducks and Huskies fought evenly in Eugene with almost every stat line adding up (including missed field goals and key targeting penalties that really felt like no fault of the player). It was basically just a few yards in overtime that ended up making the difference and I’m sure this game could have went many overtimes deep has just a few plays gone slightly different in OT.

Oregon in the clutch - The Ducks may have learned their lesson from the Stanford game. Instead of roaring ahead in the game and dominating, but then dropping the ball at almost every clutch/momentum point in the game, the Ducks played steady and made just about every play when they really needed to - getting a TD just before the end of the half, converting every fourth down attempt while stopping Washington’s, converting almost every crucial third down, stopping Washington on the goal line in OT and converting their third down in OT at the goal line.

Dillon Mitchell - Mitchell was the lone star in a game where each team was able to keep individual standouts in-check. Almost any praise heaped on Justin Herbert for the win should go to Mitchell, who none of Washington’s lauded DBs were ever able to stop.

USC doing what they should - The Trojans did exactly what they needed to do to get past a surging Colorado team and keep themselves in the driver’s seat in the South. The Trojans should win the division and give themselves a shot at the entire conference with the talent that they have and they showed that against Colorado.

Utah’s offense - Well don’t hand the South to USC just yet. Utah’s offense come ALIVE as they flew past Arizona on Friday night. The Utes are a team no one wants to play right now with how tough their defense is and an offense that’s starting to find its groove mid-season.

UCLA coming alive - The Bruins taking Washington down the wire in Pasadena two weeks ago was not a fluke. They’re turning a corner under Chip Kelly and will be a tough out the rest of the way. They might only pull out a couple more wins, but they’re going to keep getting better and better and could upset someone like Oregon, Stanford, or USC near the end of the season.

The Bad

The conference elite (or lack thereof) - Oregon and Washington trading blows was entertaining, but it also showed the conference officially has no team that is even close to being elite. The conference’s best teams might be in the bottom half of the SEC West (or East) for Christ sake’s. Oregon was set up perfectly to blow the doors off the Huskies and show they truly are a darkhorse Playoff candidate with a Heisman candidate QB, but needed a missed less-than 40-yard field goal to get a win and Herbert was probably outplayed by the much-derided Jake Browning in Autzen. Washington would have comfortably taken care of business against an Oregon team that put together a good effort, but in no way looked like a national elite if they were truly a Playoff contender. The conference is a disaster up top nationally, again.

The top of the conference on an administrative level - The Yahoo! Sports article that came out last week confirmed what most Pac-12 fans already...the conference is struggling on an administrative level, changes need to be made, and officiating has long been a disaster. It’s time to clean things up with the Pac-12.

Scheduling - Speaking of administration, they need to stop sabotaging their own teams with scheduling. As Jon Wilner pointed out, scheduling Washington at Oregon coming off a bye week with Oregon coming off a road game is exactly the kind of thing you can’t do. Then having Oregon going to Pullman against WSU with the Cougars coming off a bye week next week is pretty brutal as well. Do your conference favors with scheduling Pac-12 instead of putting teams in tougher situations than they need to be.

Washington’s kicking game - The Huskies have struggled with kicking for two seasons now and it’s likely cost them at least two of their past three losses in-conference. For a program that’s fighting to regularly included among the nation’s top programs, having such a glaring weakness is a major problem.

Cal’s downfall - I thought the Bears were ready to turn the corner early in the season after a solid non-conference run, but they look to be a team on the verge of disaster after getting blown out at home by previously-winless UCLA. Justin Wilcox needs to figure out his offense quick, or the Bears could stay locked into the bottom of the conference.

The Unknown

The chess match in the North? The Ducks appear in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North, but their loss to Stanford means the Cardinal and Washington State are the only teams up there that actually control their own destiny. Can the Ducks win out and get the help they need (most likely from Washington)? Can Washington win out and get the help they need from a team like Washington State or Utah? Can Stanford win out and sneak up on the Huskies for the second-straight year and grab the division? Can Washington State make themselves a factor again this weekend?

Is Stanford playing chicken again? The Cardinal were declared dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame and Utah in back-to-back weeks, but we’ve seen this before from the Cardinal - start fast, struggle mid-season with injuries, but get healthy and steal the conference in November? Are we setting up for that again?

Can Washington ever win big games? The Huskies have an enviable record under Chris Petersen since 2016, but they are woeful in big games, having really only one big win over Stanford in 2016. Will the Huskies forever be a team that wins just about every game they should win, but never wins their headline games?

Has Utah arrived? The Utes were the trendy pick to win the South going into the season, but opened up conference play with loses to the Washington schools and almost no offense. They’ve turned things up on offense the past couple of weeks and embarrassed opponents. Are they now ready for that run at the South title? We’ll find out when they host USC.