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Pac-12 the good, the bad, and the unknown week four: Stanford tears Oregon’s heart out in Eugene

The Ducks appeared on the verge of a breakout until the Cardinal stole momentum in the North right back.

Stanford v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Good

Stanford’s clutch & consistency - The Cardinal put themselves in a hole when Oregon came out swinging in Autzen and came through just when they needed to whenever Oregon got them on the ropes. The Cardinal made every play they needed to right when they needed it and most-importantly, didn’t panic and just kept playing their game all the way through.

Stanford’s luck - For all the credit the Cardinal deserve for their clutch & consistency, the simple fact is the Ducks simply fumbled away a game they easily could have won.

K.J. Costello - Costello has been slowly turning into the answer at QB in Palo Alto and Saturday night was his peak. He was deadly, especially when Stanford needed it, and threw for over 300 and three scores with just seven incompletions.

Stanford’s first four weeks - The Cardinal have put together an early-season resume that can compete with just about any team in the country. Convincing wins at home against San Diego State and USC topped with a win at Oregon...the Cardinal look like a legit Playoff contender.

Oregon’s burst - The start of the Oregon/Stanford game actually reminded me a lot of the 2016 Stanford/Washington game at first. The Huskies were a preseason hype trained poised to take out a Top 10 Stanford team at home and came out the gate ready to blow the Cardinal away. The Ducks just weren’t able to keep their foot on the gas in the second half.

Justin Herbert - The hype appears to be real with Herbert after his first test of 2018. He was near perfect for much of the game and looked every bit as scary as Marcus Mariota.

Dillon Mitchell - It’s been the year of the unexpected WR explosion in the Pac-12 and Oregon’s talented junior was the next to it. He torched Stanford’s D for 239 on 14 receptions and put the rest of the Pac-12 on notice. He’s going to be tough to stop this year.

Washington’s efficiency - The Huskies quietly took care of a tough Pac-12 South opponent for the second-straight week, pushing past Arizona State. It wasn’t spectacular, but the Huskies looked good in a win that wasn’t as close as the final score suggested.

Washington State and USC’s passing games - J.T. Daniels and Gardner Minshew light up the L.A. sky and made things very interesting on a Friday night. The Trojans ultimately got the win they really, really needed, but WSU’s Mike Leach air raid didn’t make it easy.

J.J. Taylor - Taylor looked like Arizona’s Heisman candidate over Khalil Tate. The speedster put up video game numbers (284 yards on just 27 carries and two TDs) against the Beavers in what was a must-win for the Wildcats.

The Bad

Stanford’s start - The Cardinal simply looked slow and soft to start the game in Autzen. Their offense struggled to get a push against Oregon’s front and they didn’t appear to be attacking the line of scrimmage at all against a fired up Oregon offense. The Cardinal actually didn’t seem to snap out of their slumber until their miraculous scoop and score late in the third quarter.

Oregon’s collapse - The Ducks were so close to closing out Stanford so many times, but just couldn’t do it. Giving up a comeback is one thing, but doing it because of mostly unforced or unnecessary errors is heartbreaking. The Ducks had a shot to move into the Top 10 and grabs the national spotlight, but fumbled it away.

The Oregon fumble - Oregon’s fumble when they simply could have just taken a knee has to be one of the most-frustrating blunders in the history of Pac-12 football in big games. Effort mistakes are generally forgivable, but this might be the toughest one to swallow in program history.

Defense in L.A. - The Trojan and Cougar defenses made things exciting for Pac-12 fans, but their performances certainly don’t bode well for how their teams will perform overall as the season progresses. USC and Washington State simply could not stop each other from putting up yards and points through the air.

Oregon State’s defense - I thought Saturday was a great chance for Jonathan Smith’s squad to get a conference win in his first season, but their defense made sure that wasn’t possible. The Beavers were out of the game rather quickly and had no answer for Arizona’s ground attack all day.

The Unknown

Can Stanford make it official? The Cardinal have put together a great first four games, but their chance to truly plant their flag as a Playoff contender comes Saturday in South Bend. Can the Cardinal pull off back-to-back road tests and officially start being talked about as one of the best teams in the country?

Is Bryce Love regressing? Love had a clutch run for the Cardinal and ended up with solid stats against a fired-up Oregon defense, but he once again was far from the terrifying playmaker he was last year. Did defenses catch up with Love? Is he banged up? Or is he just waiting to break out for 200 plus yard multi score games again?

Can Oregon recover? The Ducks looked deadly against Stanford, even in losing. Justin Herbert is scary, C.J. Verdell could be their next great small back, Dillon Mitchell looks like a star and the interior of their offensive line was dominant. They were also tough on defense. However, the kind of loss the Ducks suffered is the kind that can create a hangover. Will they be ready to go on the road and beat a pretty good Cal team?

Are the Ducks the scariest team in the conference? The Ducks lost to the Cardinal at home, yes, but the Cardinal needed numerous massive breaks to do that and the Ducks get the Huskies at home as well after their bye week in a few weeks. The eye test showed the Ducks might have the conference’s best QB, a veteran OL, emerging playmakers and an improved defense that could carry them the rest of the way.

Are we forgetting about Washington? The excitement of Oregon vs. Stanford and the methodical way the Huskies took down Utah and Arizona State following their close lost at Auburn has the Huskies kind of on the backburner right now. However, the Huskies still have as much, if not more talent and experience than the Cardinal and Ducks with Chris Petersen at head coach. Are we sleeping on the Huskies early in the season?

Can Clay Helton survive? The Trojans pulled out a nail biter at home against a solid Washington State squad, but it certainly felt like Helton might not survive the night if the Trojans lost in a half-filled Coliseum. Can the Trojans turn things around enough to where Helton makes it out of 2018 as the Trojan head coach?