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Looking back & looking ahead weeks six & seven: Ugly weekend in the Pac-12

Pac-12 teams beat each other up in a limited week of conference play.

NCAA Football: California at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back

Oregon does what they need to do - It wasn’t pretty, but Oregon squeezed out another tough win in the North, downing Cal 17-7. The Ducks struggled on offense again and their defense got the win, like an ace pitcher making up for his floundering offense. This was a tough as nails game and could basically be the win that seals up the North for the Ducks already.

Oregon’s defense is the conference’s star - Most of the Pac-12’s preseason offensive stars have disappointed, including Oregon’s Justin Herbert and the Duck defense has stepped up as the best unit in the conference.

Cal’s luck - It was hard watching the Bears play in Autzen without Chase Garbers and some key offensive linemen. Obviously injuries are just part of football, but it was pretty clear the Bears easily could have gotten their second massive road win in the North and a huge leg up in the division. I don’t have anything else to say, just pouring one out for the Bears, and their fans.

Stanford gets off the mat - I’ve been pointing out for weeks that Stanford always seems to have a 2-4-week rough patch in every season before they bounce back under David Shaw. Well, they may have put thing together after barely getting a win at Oregon State and then powering through their injuries and powering through Washington Saturday night. It’s a tough road for them to win the North given they’ve already lost twice, with one of those to division leader Oregon, but don’t write them off yet.

Washington is off - The loss at home to Cal to open conference play seemed like it might be a fluke given the strange weather delay situation, but Washington looked disinterested against their other Bay Area rival and took their second loss of the season. It’s not just that the Huskies are breaking in a lot of new starters, they look sloppy and uninspired quite frequently in the past few years and regularly melt down on offense.

Husky fans were chattering that the Huskies were headed towards becoming Clemson under Chris Petersen, but it seems pretty clear they’re closer to becoming Michigan State or Wisconsin or maybe Michigan.

Arizona & Khalil Tate are lurking - The Wildcats went up to Boulder and got a very strong win at Colorado to put them right in the thick of things in the South. The Wildcats look to be getting better each week and get USC in Tucson in November.

Oregon State continues the progression - The Beavers finally broke through with a Pac-12 win and not just a win, their first conference win in regulation since 2016. and by 17 points. I don’t think the Beavers are a North contender, or a bowl team, but this is exactly the kind of progress I expected to see in Jonathan Smith’s second season and I think they should win another game or two down the line.

Looking Ahead

The table is set Oregon - Oregon’s win over Cal combined with Stanford’s win over Washington put the Ducks in a great place. They already have wins stashed over both Bay Area schools and Washington already has two division losses. They can lose to the Huskies and still easily win the division, especially since I doubt the Huskies would win out even if they beat the Ducks. It’s there Ducks. Just don’t fumble.

Keep an eye on USC - The Trojans get a two-week break of Pac-12 play and can use it to recover and make their run in the South. They get Oregon at home, already have a win over Utah stashed, and still have the best talent in the conference.

Don’t forget about Stanford either - I know we all buried the Cardinal again, but they showed against Washington that they’re still dangerous. It will be hard for them to win the North with two losses already and one of them to Oregon, but they are not dead and probably have the easiest conference schedule of anyone from here.