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Pac-12 the good, the bad and the unknown week nine: Utah and WSU pulling away

The Utes and Cougars appear to be the only title contenders not falling apart right now.

Washington State v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Good

Washington State - The Cougars are now officially a Top 10 team and the conference’s most-proven team. The Cougars pulled off an impressive road win against another contender in a year where that’s been nearly impossible in the conference. This looks to be the year they get over the hump at least in the North with Washington self destructing and wins over Oregon and Stanford in their pocket.

Gardner Minshew - The conference’s only potential Heisman candidate was lights out again, on the road this time and is looking much better than Luke Falk ever looked. He might be the scariest QB to ever run Mike Leach’s offense.

Ute wagon rolls on - Friday night was the kind of trap game that takes down so many teams, but the Utes showed they’re not just a team that turned the corner, but a national contender by dominating a road test at UCLA. The Utes look like the best overall team in the conference right now.

Zack Moss - Minshew’s the conference’s scariest QB and Moss is the conference’s scariest running back. He’s big AND fast and destroyed UCLA for 211 yards and three TDs. He looks like he could carry the Utah offense on his back the rest of the way.

Pac-12 teams coming alive and staying alive - It was a huge week for teams that really need a win to keep up hope and something to play for. Arizona, Cal and Oregon State all pulled off shockers and kept the shrunken goals for their seasons much more attainable by beating heavy favorites. The bottom of the conference appears to be very strong, again.

Herm Edwards - Those laughing about Edwards being hired have to be quiet now. Yes, USC is a disaster, but I still don’t think anyone say ASU getting a win in the Coliseum, and it’s clear that Edwards has the Sun Devils heading in a direction that was better than the one they were under Todd Graham.

Benjamin and Wilkins on the ground - ASU got past the Trojans with the legs of their quarterback and running back. The two of them averaged more than seven yards per-carry and scored three huge touchdowns, including Wilkins’ dash that sealed the game.

Arizona’s defense - Didn’t think we’d ever see Arizona’s defense on this list, but they were lights out against Oregon. They held Justin Herbert to a 35 QBR, held the Ducks to just 84 yards rushing and caused three turnovers. They may have saved Arizona’s season.

J.J. Taylor - He’s becoming the star we thought he could be. He tore up Oregon’s defense for 212 yards and two scores and was basically unstoppable all game.

Cal’s defense - This was the Justin Wilcox defense we thought we would see going into the season. They strangled Washington’s offense after their first drive, holding them to just 250 yards and 10 points while picking off two passes (including a game-winning pick six - Cal’s only TD) and causing a QB controversy for the Huskies. A bowl game is still in play for the Bears.

Beaver rally - The Beavers were dead and buried in Boulder, staged one of the best comebacks in Pac-12 history and just kept swinging until they got the win over the Buffs. Just getting that one Pac-12 win was a success for them this year so their in a good spot the rest of the season in regards to being able to play loose and energetic.

The Bad

Preseason favorites - The conference’s four top-ranked teams going into the season are all disasters in regards to where they were expected to be. Washington, Oregon and Stanford are just trying to hang onto hope they can win the North and USC is probably looking for a new coach. A nightmare season for the Pac-12’s flagship programs.

Washington’s offense - Let’s start with the first of those preseason favorites. Washington’s defense is still stingy, but their offense is so bad, they just lost a game where the opponent didn’t score an offensive touchdown. The Huskies aren’t just bad on offense, they’re inept and getting worse and worse at the quarterback position.

Washington’s QB situation - The Huskies have clearly been struggling with Jake Browning for a long time, bu they were ahead of Cal with the ball when Chris Petersen inserted freshman Jake Haener who quickly threw the pick six that lost them the game. The fallout from this situation beyond just the loss should be interesting at Washington.

Stanford & Bryce Love - This season is all about making sure you win your home games against other contenders and the Cardinal failed to do that against WSU Saturday night, putting themselves in a tough spot. I think Shaw is still playing a bit of strategy with Love and playing odds, saving him the Washington game, but just six carries against the Cougars was rather confusing as he averaged 11.8 yards per-carry on those carries.

Oregon - The Ducks look like they took their shots against Stanford and Washington, have nothing left, and have been properly scouted by the rest of the conference. Already with three loses in conference (two against division foes), a tough schedule the rest of the way and no bye week, it officially looks like the Ducks’ breakout is a no go and now just trying to get to eight or nine wins is the goal.

Justin Herbert - I’ve been leaning towards not being impressed with Herbert the past few weeks, but I’m officially wondering if he he just an above-average college QB at best and I’d be interested to see what his stats are on passes not to Dillon Mitchell. He still has great NFL tools, but he really looks more and more like that QB who struggled last year in the Las Vegas bowl than the one that has looked dangerous against really bad defenses.

USC & Clay Helton - The dam has broken in LA. It’s already time again for the Trojans to restart. There’s no way a team with this kind of prestige and talent should be losing as many games as they have in recent seasons in the way they have.

Colorado’s collapse - The schedule did the Buffs a favor, give them the perfect “get right game” on Saturday, and they were able to for a while, building a 31-3, but then it all fell apart and the Buffs lost their easiest game on the schedule. They went from being still in a great spot in the South race and ready to confirm a bowl game to hoping they can grab a win the rest of the way and save face by falling apart.

The Unknown

Can any of the Pac-12 powers bounce back? Utah and Washington State are on the fast track to the Pac-12 Championship Game, but there’s a lot of football left to play. The aforementioned Oregon, Stanford, USC, and Washington are lost now, but you have to think at least one of them (especially in the North), pieces it back together. The winner of Stanford at Washington this Saturday could be a good bet.

Clay Helton? It officially seems not like if, but when for Helton now. How long till the Trojans officially have a head coach opening?

How many bowl teams? This weekend set it up to seem like we are going to get maybe 10 bowl teams. Ugh. How many of the teams like Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, and Colorado will be able to grind it out and go to a small bowl game?