Week five in the Pac-12 was filled with upsets and big wins. We are now two conference games in for most teams, and we are beginning to know which teams are for real and which are not. There is a lot more clarity in the Pac-12 North than in the Pac-12 South so far.
A New Team Leading the Pac-12
The Washington Huskies put the entire conference on notice with their 44-6 beatdown of then No. 7 Stanford on Friday night in Seattle, Wash. Stanford is the defending Pac-12 Champions and was the favorite to win the conference again this year. The Huskies however are now the favorite in the North after their huge win. UW dominated Stanford in all three phases of the game. The margin of victory in this game was certainly surprising (it was Stanford’s biggest loss since 2007 when they lost 41-3 to Arizona State), but the even more surprising thing was how Washington won, they physically dominated Stanford on both sides of the ball. Under head coach David Shaw and former head coach Jim Harbaugh, Stanford has had success being the bully, pushing other teams around, but it was the Huskies that did that to the Cardinal on Friday night. The Huskies are the frontrunners now for the Pac-12 Championship; they just have a lot of football left to play between now and then.
Pac-12 South Leading Colorado
Before the season started, who would have predicted that two weeks into conference play that Colorado would be leading the Pac-12 South. Colorado has defeated Oregon and Oregon State to start the conference season. The Buffaloes are also ranked for the first time since 2005. The Pac-12 South has proven to be even crazier than first expected. Five teams in the Pac-12 South have won at least one conference game, and five teams also have at least one loss. At current standing, none of the six teams in the South are completely out of the race, which cannot be said for the Pac-12 North at this juncture.
Signs of Life from Washington State and USC
For the second year in a row, WSU opened the season with a loss to an FCS team, and everyone counted the Cougars out. Well, they went and beat Oregon for the second consecutive season and are 1-0 in Pac-12 play. With quarterback Luke Falk and a bevy of talented wide receivers, WSU can score with anyone. Whether they are a Pac-12 contender or pretender will depend entirely on their defense, which has settled in a bit since getting shelled by Eastern Washington.
After starting 0-2 in conference play, USC went out and destroyed Arizona State at home 41-20. Sam Darnold looks like the real deal at quarterback for the Trojans. USC is loaded with highly touted players and can certainly beat most teams in the country if their players show up and play hard. The problem is that did not happen much during the first month of the season, and USC is trying to dig out of a 1-3, 0-2 hole from September. They did start October off on the right foot though, pasting previously undefeated Arizona State at home.
Time for Panic in Eugene?
Oregon has now lost three straight games are are sitting at 2-3, 0-2 Pac-12. They again have had to rely on an FCS transfer at quarterback in Dakota Prukop. Their defense ranks near the bottom of the conference in most metrics. Is Oregon’s run coming to an end? The answer to this is unclear, Oregon still has a ton of talent at the offensive skill positions. They are a bit like USC in that they can compete with most teams in the country, but they have not played at a high level this season. Oregon has a chance to right the ship when No. 5 Washington comes to town.