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Looking back & looking ahead weeks four and five: USC lands a big punch in the South battle

Looking back and looking forward at the Pac-12 in mid-September.

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back

USC shows they can still be USC (Even with a third-string QB) - Things looked almost impossible for USC when freshman sensation Kedon Slovis went down, but then Matt Fink came in, and the Trojans kept rolling, taking down Utah in The Coliseum. The South is now firmly in USC’s grasp and they’ve shown to be able to not miss a step with their air raid offense, no matter who is at QB, with how good their receivers are.

The Trojans are back and forth - It’s been a wild four weeks for the Trojans. They’ve lost two quarterbacks, almost lost at home to a Mountain West team, blown out Stanford, lost in overtime at BYU, and now beaten the South preseason favorite. Now the Trojans head up to Seattle to take on what could be the best team in the conference and a win there could firmly plant the Trojans as the overall favorite in the conference.

Utah takes a punch - We all wondered how Utah would handle sky high preseason expectations and if they could win at USC, where they haven’t been able to win in 100 years. The answer is the Utes probably handle expectations just fine, but they’re still a flawed team, and winning at USC is very hard. They’re now behind the eight ball in the South race and are very questionable on offense without Zack Moss, whose return is unknown.

Pure chaos - What percentage of non-diehard UCLA and Washington State fans went to sleep when WSU was ahead 49-17 halfway through the third quarter? It has to be pretty high. I don’t need to put anymore descriptors about the wild game in Pullman into the world. It was simply the most insane game I think we’ve ever seen in the Pac-12 and keeps UCLA and Chip Kelly alive while putting Washington State in an early hole.

Oregon’s defense is the real star - The Ducks opened Pac-12 play by grinding out a win at Stanford and not allowing a touchdown for the third-straight week. Justin Herbert and Oregon’s offense was supposed to be the star going into the season, but the unit has actually struggled a in most of their games, and the defense has been lights out. With a defense this strong, Oregon could be the most-complete team in the Pac-12.

Stanford might be dead - We’ve all been waiting for the day that Stanford slinks back to what they should probably be as a program since Jim Harbaugh left. Well, we might be there. The Cardinal lost their third-straight game for the first time in more than 10 years and they haven’t looked good doing it. Stanford is a straight up mess, four weeks into the season.

Colorado scores a huge win - Arizona State and Colorado sure looked dead even in Tempe, trading blows down to the final minute. It certainly felt like these teams were battling for a legit shot at being a player in the South, and the Buffs got the big win on the road.

Non-conference road wins - Cal and Washington wrapped up the true non-conference slate with impressive road wins. Cal holding on at an SEC school and Washington devastating a BYU team that had just beaten USC in Provo. The conference actually was decent overall in non-conference this year in my opinion.

Looking Forward

Prove it in Seattle - USC and Washington have both made cases to be the favorites in their divisions, but also shown massive flaws and each lost a game. Now they get a chance for an early-season showdown to try and prove that they are what they each can be. This is also nearly a must-win for Washington if they want to win the North as they can’t start out in an 0-2 hole and 0-1 in-division(especially with both losses at home).

Keep an eye on Cal - Everyone seems to be focusing on Oregon and Washington in the North, but the Pac-12’s lone unbeaten team in Berkeley is a super-interesting force that already has a road win over Washington in their back pocket. Each week will be interesting as Cal still doesn’t feel like an elite team, but if they can win in Eugene in two weeks, they will be sitting in an incredible spot in the North.

Clay Helton - I think we already had it scripted. USC would start slow and Helton would be out the door by mid-October, but the Trojans are fighting and in the captain’s seat for the South. Now, the Trojans have knocked off Utah and look like the favorite to win the South and have a nice matchup on the road against Washington, and the other North favorite Oregon, having to come to The Coliseum, in November. What does USC do if Clay Helton keeps winning?