Everyone expected Stanford and Oregon to clash for the Pac North championship. Not everyone expected Oregon to be so dominant and push around Stanford the way they did. Oregon's victory came down to three things. First was QB play. Darron Thomas out played Andrew Luck for the second straight year. It is clear to me that Thomas really comes to play in big games. Thomas was poised under pressure, went through his progressions, made the right reads and got the ball to guys who could make plays in space. Thomas also made some lights out throws. That bullet to Tuinei in the corner of the endzone was a hell of a pass. Paulson should have come up with another awesome throw in the endzone, but he dropped it.
Andrew Luck wasn't as good. From the first interception that Dewitt Stuckey got, you could see that Luck wasn't comfortable with Oregon's pressure. Oregon used so many different line schemes, Luck didn't know if 8 guys were coming or 8 guys were dropping. Luck has thrown more than 40 passes only 3 times in his career and 2 of them have now been against Oregon. He's also only thrown 2 interceptions in 3 games, and Oregon has been a part of 2 of those as well.
The second factor was the defense. Oregon used multiple blitz schemes and different packages to keep the Stanford offense off balanced. The front 7 for Oregon had probably their best game of the year. Oregon held a Stanford team that was 53% on 3rd conversions to 5 for 14. Oregon put Stanford into an uncomfortable position of being forced to pass, so that their play action game was negated. Here's another nice stat for you; Oregon still has only allowed 1 player all year to rush for 100 yards against them. This defense struggled at times early this year, but it looks like they are peaking at the right time and really putting all the pieces together.
The final factor that determined this game was physicality. Oregon was the more physical team. For all the hype that Stanford got for being a smash mouth football program, Oregon came out and punched them right on the chin, went for strips on ever tackle, ball hawked every pass and never gave up an inch on either side of the line. Oregon wore the Stanford defense down, so that they looked tired near the end of the second quarter. Out of the 35 plays that Oregon ran in the second half, 6 of them were passes, and not a single one was thrown in the fourth quarter. Oregon's defense created 5 turnovers and Boseko Lokombo got his second touchdown of the season on a pick six. Stanford's offense had to work for everything they got. It was obvious that Oregon was more talented and deeper, but they also used that talent to go right after Stanford and push them around.
On to the Pac 12 Review.
1. Oregon 53 at Stanford 30 – We've been saying for a while that Oregon was the deepest team in the conference, and it showed last night. Oregon used their rotation of the front 7 to keep fresh legs in against Stanford's tough offensive line and eventually Stanford was put into 3rd and long where Oregon had the advantage. That depth showed on the offensive side too. LaMicahel James wore Stanford's defense out in the first half and Kenjon Barner came in and finished them off in the second.
2. Stanford – It will be interesting to see how far Stanford drops in the polls. With only 1 loss this season they are still set up well to get the Pac a 2nd BCS berth, especially considering some of the other losses in the top 10 yesterday (HAHAHAHAHAHA... Boise). Another big shake up will be the Hesiman race that is truly a mess late in the year. Kellen Moore's stock had to have taken a huge hit with his showing against TCU. Luck looked mortal once again against the Ducks, and LaMichael James is surging again after being banged up early in the year.
3. washington 17 at USC 40 – I'm sure sitting at 5-1 and ranked earlier this year, being 6-4 isn't what a lot of husky fans expected. Uw has a lot of problems right now. After being anointed the best back in the conference by Root, Chris Polk has rushed 33 times for 116 yards and 1 TD, in two games. Their lines are getting beat on both sides of the ball and their defense misses an insane amount of tackles. Keith Price is really beat up right now, and is looking jittery on almost every passing down. It will be interesting to see how they finish the season going up against 2 teams they really should beat.
4. Cal 23 vs Oregon State 6 – Cal came out and played like they had something to play for; bowl eligibility. Cal has finally found a recipe for their success, don't rely on Maynard to win games for you, hand the ball off to Sofele and Anderson. The RB duo gashed the Beaver defense for 286 yards. Obviously, Cal is the underdog going to Stanford next week, but if they can keep this type of running game going, expect that game to be closer than a lot of people expect.
5. Washington State 37 vs ASU 27 – Just when I think I can count WSU out, they go and do something like this and pull me right back in! Connor Freaking Halliday, ladies and gentlemen, Connor Freaking Halliday. The redshirt freshman came in the second quarter and picked apart ASU defense for 494 yards passing and 4 TDs. 494 yards passing in 3 quarters. Where the hell has this guy been all year? Great win for the Cougs, who still are not out of the bowl race.
6. Oregon State – Raise your hand if you feel bad for James Rodgers. I do. That guy was one of the best WRs in the conference, had his team one game away from the Rose Bowl while playing alongside his brother. Now, he's not even the 3rd option on a team destined to have 2 wins as he limps around on a not 100% healthy knee that was shredded at Arizona last year. I guess OSU and Oregon have something else in common now.
1. USC – It's clear that USC is the best team in the South. Too bad that doesn't help anyone. The Trojans are also peaking at the right time (if they had something to actually play for). Their defense is getting better, they've finally found their running game, and their WRs are still the mostly deadly combination in the Pac, if not the country. We'll see if they can keep it going as they have to take it on the road to a hostile Autzen crowd that I'm sure will love to read every Matt Barkley tweet between now and Saturday evening.
2. Ucla 6 at Utah 31 – How do you follow up our biggest win and taking control of the Pac South for the first time? By going to Utah and laying an egg. Nothing like a Rick Nueheisel coached team. It's amazing that at 5-5 Ucla, still controls their own destiny. What a joke the Pac 12 South is.
3. ASU – If Oregon and USC are peaking at the right time, ASU is the direct opposite of that. Since coming into Autzen ranked #18, ASU has lost 3 out of 4 and 2 straight to Ucla and WSU. For a team that looked like they had control on the Pac 12 South and could ease into the Pac 12 Championship, ASU now has to worry about not losing 4 straight with their rivalry game this week and an improving Cal team the week after.
4. Utah – I'll bet Utah would give anything to be able to go back and play Uw, ASU and Cal again right after they suffered a series of injuries. Their defense has continued to improve and their offense is finally catching on. Either way, good to see Utah become bowl eligible in its first year in the Pac, and with everything they've had to endure, they still might end with an 8 win record.
5. Colorado 48 vs Arizona 29 – The Buffs have had a miserable year with injuries and suspensions. It must have felt good for them to get their first conference win yesterday against the Wildcats. Rodney Stewart blasted the Arizona defense for 181 yards and 3 TDs. There are better days ahead Buff fans, but enjoy this win.
6. Arizona – There seems to be reports out of Arizona that Mike Bellotti is a major target for their head coaching job. How do you guys feel about MB possibly coaching in the Pac 12 South? I'll tell you this, if he comes after Gary Campbell, John Neal or Don Pellum, I'm going to be pissed. It wouldn't surprise me though to see him offer Frost a promotion. Things could get really interesting if he decides to take this job for an Oregon staff that has been as consistent as they come.
Next Week's Games:
washington at OSU
Utah at WSU
Colorado at Ucla
USC at Oregon
Arizona at ASU
Cal at Stanford