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Pac-12 the good, the bad, & the unknown week 10: Washington schools pass tough tests

The Cougars and Huskies stayed on track for another Apple Cup with the North on the line.

California v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

The Good

Cougars in the clutch - The Cougars took round after round of blows from Cal’s tough defense and were notched up late in the fourth. Gardner Minshew and company put together what could be a season-defining drive to get a touchdown in the final seconds and grab a huge win that keeps WSU alone in the driver’s seat for the conference and maybe even the CFP.

Fun in Pullman - I’m sure the Cougars and Cougars fans would have rather beaten Cal by 50 than pulled one out late, but it was an exciting affair and Pullman got to explode again after another exciting victory. It’s been an electric year on the Palouse as the Cougars keep pushing forward as a legitimate CFP candidate.

Cal’s defense - Justin Wilcox has built up a unit that suddenly can challenge Washington for best defense in the Conference. Holding the Huskies to 10 in Berkeley like they did last week is one thing, but holding WSU to just 19 points in Pullman is another. The Bears are a team that you don’t want to have to play down the stretch.

Washington’s first half against Stanford - The Huskies put together a 21-0 first half against Stanford that looked a lot like the one they had a couple years ago when they blew Stanford out of the water. For 30 minutes, Washington looked like the team we thought they would be going into the season.

Arizona State takes control - The Sun Devils took hold of the crazy saga that is the Pac-12 South by running the ball with Eno Benjamin, utilizing N’Keal Harry and playing tough defense, which included (unintentionally) knocking out Tyler Huntley. The Herm Edwards era is a solid success thus far.

N’Keal Harry - The talented receiver is looking like the conference’s best weapon or maybe player at any position.

The Return of Khalil Tate - Tate continues to look healthy again and it allowed him to torch Colorado for 350 yards and five TDs through the air, showing that he’s much more than just a running QB. A dangerous Tate makes Arizona just as scary as anyone in the conference right now.

The Return of Oregon - The Ducks looked like they could fade into the ether of 2018 after getting blasted at Arizona and then possibly losing Justin Herbert and Dillon Mitchell for at least a game, but Herbert and Mitchell played and the Ducks handled Chip Kelly in Eugene.

The Bad

Cal’s QB strategy - The Bears were just a handful of yards or a kick away from taking the lead late in Pullman Saturday night when they put in QB Brandon McIlwain and he threw an interception into the end zone. I in no way understand Cal’s insistence on inserting McIlwain when Chase Garbers is playing well and letting turnovers ravage their season.

No one wants to win the South - I love the intrigue of trying to unravel who wins the South and how it keeps a lot of fanbases engaged late in the season, but it sure doesn’t look good for the conference that a team could win the division with 4-5 losses.

Tyler Huntley’s injury - Utah’s QB going down with what looks like a season-ending injury was heartbreaking. The junior was just putting things together and had Utah in a good place to possibly come back and win the game they were in and stay in control in the South. Now things are very up in the air in Salt Lake City.

Washington’s second half - And just like that the Huskies looked like the team they have been at their worst at points in 2018. They couldn’t protect Jake Browning and he held onto the ball too long, they couldn’t get yards on the ground when they needed it, they’re defense was a nightmare on third down and special teams was an issue. The Huskies were lucky to overcome a horrible second half.

The Unknown

Who can win the South? The Arizona schools really seem to be piecing it together in a division that’s really struggling, but it seems once you feel safe about a school, that’s when they stumble. Does anyone want to win this division?

Can Washington State hang on? The Cougars passed a major test against a surging Cal team Saturday night and should be favored in the rest of their games (except maybe the Apple Cup), but winning any game in November is tough and the Cougars have let the division slip through their grasp the past few seasons at the hands of the Huskies. Do Mike Leach, Gardner Minshew and the Cougars have what it takes to seal the deal this time and maybe even sneak into the College Football Playoff?

Can Washington put it back together? The Huskies held on for an ugly win over Stanford and kept their ultimate destiny in their hands. The talented and experienced Huskies now get a bye week and then Oregon State in Seattle before they play the Apple Cup in Pullman. Can the Huskies get healthy, work out some more kinks, and play spoilers/fulfill their North Division dreams in the next few weeks?