Pac-12: Arizona Wildcats

Pac-12 morning links

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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I like it. What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good.

Leading off

The biggest news is that Stanford dropped out of the rankings after its 72-week run in the top-25. Sorry, Cardinal. But maybe a sweep of the state of Oregon over the next two weekends will get you back in. Kyle Bonagura went a bit deeper on the subject, which you can read here.

Here are the Pac-12 teams in the rankings. As always, the AP rank is first, followed by the coaches poll.
  • Oregon 6-7
  • Arizona State 14-14
  • Arizona 15-15
  • Utah 19-19
  • USC 20-21
  • UCLA 25-NR

Stanford was the only conference team to pick up any votes in the AP poll and in the USA Today coaches' poll. Washington and Stanford both received votes. Check out the complete rankings right here.

Curious how people who cover the conference teams voted? Glad you asked.
And per usual, Heather Dinich gives you a rundown of the playoff picture following last week's football action. She has interesting thoughts on Stanford. Sorry Cardinal, but Dinich says that a three-loss team -- even if it wins the Pac-12 title -- won't make the playoff. Read on here.

Some streaks extended, others stopped right in their tracks

The Oregon Ducks continued their streak over Washington, winning their 11th consecutive game in the series. This kind of dominance in the series reminded The Oregonian's Andrew Greif of the Ducks of yesteryear as it produced a strong run game, solid QB play and, again, a win over the Huskies.
But in their play, a 45-20 victory against the Huskies at Autzen Stadium, the present-day Ducks instead resembled something closer to the grind-'em-up machine of the last decade that brought this program to prominence.

So, the 1994 throwback uniforms made quite a bit of sense, Greif explains. And speaking of those Oregon uniforms, The Huffington Post decided to go through 50 Oregon uniforms that "changed the way we see college football."

And while the Ducks were having usual success in Eugene, the Bruins had unusual success in Berkeley. UCLA hadn't won there since 1998 and it squeaked out a win over the Bears, breaking that streak.

But despite a win, UCLA isn't exactly looking like the top team many expected it to be coming into this season. Everett Cook of The Los Angeles Times writes that -- among a few other things learned in the Bruins' win over the Bears -- that UCLA continues to play down to the level of its competition.

And can we speak of streaks without at least addressing the ongoing Pac-12 road team streak? Utah and UCLA won on the road but USC, Oregon and ASU got work done at home. Does this mean that the magic of the road is gone? Probably not. With some interesting matchups this weekend (Oregon at Cal, UCLA at Colorado, Arizona at Washington State, Arizona State at Washington ... just to name a few), it wouldn't be too surprising to see some road teams walk out of opposing stadiums with a win.

And some shout outs

Let's give props where props deserve to be given. There were quite a few guys who had career days over the weekend in the Pac-12. News/notes/team reports

Revisiting Pac-12's 'fearless predictions'

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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Anu Solomon, Marcus Mariota, Kevin HoganGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsThe Pac-12 blog revisits some of its preseason "fearless predictions" to see how they stand at the midway point of the season.
At the midway point of the season, the Pac-12 bloggers decided it was a good time to revisit some of the blog's fearless predictions for 2014. How'd we do?

1. A Pac-12 team will win the national championship: We wrote that Oregon, UCLA, Stanford or USC would win the national championship, and we'd like to celebrate the fearlessness of that prediction because at this point that is its strongest quality. Each member of that foursome already has at least one loss, with Stanford, UCLA and USC having gone down twice. At No. 9, the Ducks seem like the most likely team to work its way back into College Football Playoff consideration, but that might require going undefeated the rest of the way. No easy task. The Pac-12 has proved even deeper than it appeared in the preseason, while the top doesn't appear as unassailable as it did in August. We may have swung for the fences and missed with this one. -- Ted Miller

2. A Pac-12 player will win the Heisman Trophy: The Pac-12 blog is still confident. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota presents the best candidate from the league. He's yet to throw an interception, his dual-threat numbers more than qualify him and the Ducks are still in the hunt for a conference title and College Football Playoff berth. Although he's the nation's most accurate quarterback, the window for UCLA's Brett Hundley is shrinking quickly. But with names like Buck Allen and Shaq Thompson starting to emerge, the league still has a phenomenal shot at a stiff-arm trophy. -- Kevin Gemmell

3. No Pac-12 coach will be fired at season's end: The two coaches whose seats were moderately warm going into the year, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Cal's Sonny Dykes, both have their programs headed in the right direction. That leaves absolutely no coaches in the Pac-12 in jeopardy of losing their jobs. -- Kyle Bonagura

4. Cal and Colorado will be good enough to deliver a major upset this fall: I think we can consider Cal's win at Washington State as major enough considering the kind of offensive numbers (and special-teams touchdowns) that Jared Goff and his teammates had to put up in Pullman. To win on the road against a team whose QB threw for the FBS passing record is pretty major. However, at the midpoint of the season, we're still waiting on Colorado. The Buffs came pretty close against Cal and Oregon State, which we could've considered in this category, especially with how well Cal was playing at the time. But we're keeping this prediction with Colorado. The Buffs have six regular-season games left and four of those teams are currently in the top 25. We're not counting out a top-25 takedown by Ralphie & Co. -- Chantel Jennings

5. The USC-UCLA game will be a battle of top-10 teams: OK, maybe we shot for the moon a bit with that one. But what about top-25 teams? That's still likely. The Trojans are at No. 22 and UCLA is the first team out of the rankings at the unofficial No. 26 spot. USC has only one ranked team in its next four games leading up to the UCLA showdown. Good chance it will still be ranked. Same for UCLA, which has only No. 16 Arizona as a ranked opponent on the docket before hosting the Trojans on Nov. 22. Win out and the Bruins will be back in the top 20. -- Kevin Gemmell

6. Oregon will cover the spread against Michigan State in Week 2: Annnnnd, we got one. Boom shaka laka. -- Chantel Jennings

7. The Pac-12 will go 3-0 against Notre Dame: Well, after Stanford yanked defeat from the jaws of victory -- hey, let's rush three and not cover anybody on fourth-and-11 from our 23-yard line with time running out! -- this prediction is already doomed. The question now, with Notre Dame ranked No. 5 as it heads to No. 2 Florida State on Saturday, is whether Arizona State (Nov. 8) and USC can beat the Irish (Nov. 29). We're going to stay optimistic -- I know; so strange! -- and say yes. Biggest reason why? Stanford played Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, but the Irish have to come west to play the Sun Devils and Trojans. And now's not the time to note that home-field advantage hasn't been worth squat in the Pac-12 this season. -- Ted Miller

8. Whoever starts at quarterback for Arizona will pass for more than 3,000 yards: Freshman Anu Solomon has cemented himself as the Wildcats' starting quarterback, and our initial assessment of 3,000 yards actually looks conservative now. Through six games, Solomon has demonstrated remarkable poise in the pocket, even leading Arizona to a shocking 31-24 upset over Oregon at Autzen Stadium. He has already racked up 2,136 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Since the Wildcats are on target to play in a bowl game, Solomon is actually on pace to shatter that three-grand figure while throwing for 4,628 yards and 33 touchdowns. Rich Rodriguez is developing a potent attack in Tucson, and it should only improve as Solomon accrues more experience with his talented receiving corps. -- David Lombardi

9. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will be the Pac-12's most improved player: This prediction has not come to fruition. Through the first half of the season, Hogan has actually regressed in a key statistical area, and Stanford has struggled mightily in the red zone, a place where great quarterbacks shine. Averaging 7.7 yards per attempt, Hogan's no longer as efficient as he was in 2013 (8.9 yards per attempt) despite enjoying a much more complete aerial arsenal (Stanford's tight end position is back this year). The Cardinal's running game is not as strong this year, and that's forced Hogan to shoulder a heavier load. He averaged 15 throws per game in 2012. That number bumped up to 21 in 2013, and it has shot up to 29 here in 2014. It's become clear that this larger burden has pushed Hogan further from his comfort zone.

If Stanford can re-establish its running game and return Hogan to the play-action happy spot that gives him more opportunities to make plays with his legs, we may be able to revisit this prediction at season's end. -- David Lombardi

10. Six teams will be ranked in the final top 25 at the end of the season: Six looks like a stretch at this point and it's not because the Pac-12 might have six of the country's 25 best teams. With the level of parity the conference has shown over the first half of the season, it'll be tough to differentiate from, say, the conference's No. 5 team and its No. 8 team. That dynamic will make it significantly more difficult to have more teams in the top 25 than if there were a clear divide between the haves and the have-nots. -- Kyle Bonagura

Pac-12 South recruiting roundup 

October, 16, 2014
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At the halfway point of college football's regular season, there is still plenty to be decided both on the field and on the recruiting trail. The Pac-12 placed six programs among the top 40 recruiting classes in Wednesday's updated class rankings Insider and conference recruiting classes contain as many as 24 -- Arizona -- and as few as nine -- Stanford -- commitments. This update offers a look at where each Pac-12 South program stands with its 2015 recruiting class, including its top prospect and position of strength, as well as a look at where things are going well for each class.

Arizona

Total number of commitments: 24

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
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Pac-12 home teams are 4-14 this season, but the coaches in the conference continue to find recruiting success despite being forced to pitch their programs to prospects following home defeats. This past Saturday, Pac-12 home teams went 0-3 yet came out victorious on the recruiting trail, landing commitments and making positive impressions.


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Pac-12 Show (4 ET)

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
11:53
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Pac-12 reporters Kevin Gemmell, Chantel Jennings and Ted Miller review this past weekend's games, including USC's upset of Arizona, and look ahead to Week 8. They will also answer your questions live on screen.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 12, 2014
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The Pac-12's three Saturday home games featured several significant visitors, and even though home teams went 0-3 -- hardly a surprise in the conference this season -- favorable impressions were made.

Big turnout at the Rose Bowl

It was the marquee game in the conference thus far, as Oregon met UCLA at the Rose Bowl, and the visitor list matched the hype of the game. It's always newsworthy when five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the nation's No. 8 overall recruit, makes it out to a game, and he was in attendance Saturday.


Marshall was joined by another huge UCLA target in ESPN 300 wide receiver Cordell Broadus, who made the trip out from Las Vegas.


Like Marshall, Broadus has been fairly tight-lipped about his recruitment thus far, so for the Bruins to get him out on an unofficial visit represents a big recruiting win. It wouldn't be surprising to see Broadus make a return trip to Westwood for an official visit at some point.

UCLA hosted a few official visitors for the game, but none was more important than ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo, the No. 32 overall prospect. While Jamabo had to have been impressed by the Bruins rushing for 328 yards against the Ducks, there was something else that caught his eye during his visit.

Arizona wins early, loses late

Arizona might have lost its game against USC when it missed a last-second field goal, but the Wildcats won on the recruiting trail before the game even started, as they added a commitment from three-star cornerback Shun Brown.


There were also a number of Arizona verbal commitments in attendance, including ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker.


With Brown's commitment, all three official visitors for Arizona this weekend are now Wildcat commitments. Defensive end Kendal Franklin provided Arizona fans with a number of videos of his trip that he posted via twitter, including a quick look at pregame and a shot of the three committed visitors, including Franklin, Brown and Brown's teammate, Orlando Bradford.

Big visitor for Bears

Cal couldn't keep its forward momentum going on the field, but the Golden Bears coaches are hopeful they can do enough to make a favorable impression on defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg, who was in town on an official visit. From the looks of what Carlberg had to say Sunday morning, Cal -- which is in Carlberg's top six schools -- might be able to keep itself in the mix until the end.


The Golden Bears also hosted a number of local unofficial visitors. One to keep an eye on for the 2016 class is quarterback Kevin Davidson. Though he has yet to receive his first offer, a number of Pac-12 programs are keeping in regular contact with him, and it could be just a matter of time until he grabs that first one.

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona's stay in the top 10 ended after just over a week as USC rolled into Tucson and slipped the cardiac Wildcats 28-26.

How the game was won: Arizona missed three field goals, including a potential game-winner from 36 yards in the waning moments. USC controlled most of the game on both sides of the ball, thwarting the Arizona offense in the red zone and getting the big scoring plays that eluded the Wildcats, at least until the fourth quarter when Arizona made a run and things got wild. The Wildcats scored a late TD but missed the game-tying 2-point conversion. They then recovered the ensuing on-side kick, but Casey Skowron missed his third kick.

Gameball goes to: USC running back Javorius Allen rushed for 205 yards on 26 carries -- 7.9 yards per carry -- with three touchdowns. He will extend his lead as the Pac-12's leading rusher and is getting close to a lock as a first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

What it means: Arizona going down means there are no longer any undefeated teams in the Pac-12. Every team has at least one conference loss, too. USC puts itself back squarely in the South Division race, while Arizona yields the advantage it held after winning at Oregon.

Playoff implication: The best way to get to the playoff is to win all your games. Now no Pac-12 team can do that. And it's going to take a heck of a run for any conference team to emerge with just one conference loss. While few considered Arizona a true threat for the playoff, their loss to the Trojans at home is a hit to the conference's national perception. USC's horribly embarrassing loss at Boston College means the dreaded transitive property can be applied to their Pac-12 wins.

Best play: Allen's big day started early, as he rolled to two long first-half touchdown runs. The first, a 34-yarder, got USC on the board midway through the first quarter, but this 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Trojans up 14-6 was really something to behold.

video What's next: Arizona is off until it visits Washington State on Oct. 25. USC will try win back-to-back games when Colorado comes to town.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
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This week provided easy selections for the top three visit weekends in the Pac-12, as there are only three conference games on Saturday. All eyes in the conference will be focused on Oregon's visit to UCLA, and recruits are no different, as there will be an impressive group at the Rose Bowl. Elsewhere, Arizona and Cal host statement games against USC and Washington, respectively. Tucson will be home to a huge recruiting weekend, while Cal will have a key recruit in attendance as well.

1. UCLA

[+] EnlargeSoso Jamabo
Tom Hauck for Student SportsOne of UCLA's top prospects, Soso Jamabo, will be in Los Angeles to watch the Bruins take on Oregon.
ESPN 300 running back Soso Jamabo will be on an official visit to Westwood this weekend, as the No. 32 overall prospect likely ranks as the most important official visitor the Bruins have hosted this season. Though Jamabo has several Texas schools hot on his trail, he is taking a long look at Pac-12 programs such as Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. The Bruins will have the first opportunity among conference teams to make an impression on Jamabo, and the 6-foot-2, 206-pound versatile back would be one of the biggest recruiting wins during Jim Mora's UCLA tenure.

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Pac-12 Week 7 predictions

October, 9, 2014
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Why Oregon will win: The Ducks haven't lost consecutive games during a season since 2007, so despite how shaky the offensive line has looked there's not much precedent to expect another loss. Brett Hundley versus Marcus Mariota is intriguing, but look for Mariota to keep his Heisman campaign alive. And playing on the road apparently isn't a tough thing to overcome anymore either -- in Pac-12 games the road team is 11-3 so far this season. -- Kyle Bonagura

Why UCLA will win: Both offensive lines have dealt with injuries -- and thus both quarterbacks have taken the brunt of that issue. But I like UCLA's defensive line against Oregon's offensive line better than Oregon's D-line against UCLA's O-line, especially if Arik Armstead is limited. This is a coin-flip game, but with both teams coming off of emotional losses, I like the team that doesn't have to rebound on the road. -- Kevin Gemmell

Why Washington will win: Cal's only conference game against a team with a winning record this season came against Arizona, and that foray into the desert didn't end well for the Bears because they couldn't put together four quarters of consistent defense (the Wildcats scored 36 points in the final frame). Though Jared Goff (22 touchdowns, three interceptions) has been spectacular and there's every reason to believe he'll be good again Saturday, an athletic Husky front seven will pressure him, and this will likely be a game in which Cal will need at least some help from the defense to win. Washington's Cyler Miles struggled mightily his last time out against Stanford's vaunted defense, but the Bears haven't demonstrated the same ability to slow an opponent down (they're surrendering more than 40 points per game). -- David Lombardi

Why Cal will win: I'm a big fan of Washington's defense. But I'm not sure the offense can go blow-for-blow with the Bears right now. Cal is running the ball effectively enough to keep teams off balance and they are winning in the “explosive play” department. This is by far the toughest front-seven Cal has seen this season. And Washington will get its stops and probably a few sacks. But they are going to need at least 35-42 points on the road to win. That's a tough sell. -- Kevin Gemmell

Why USC will win: The reason I picked USC is because Arizona is undefeated and that's not allowed in the Pac-12 this season. Yes, I love the way the Wildcats have played thus far: opportunistic and mentally tough. That's two things you can't say about USC. But there you have it. What seems like it should happen, won't. The Trojans are going to win this game because the college football gods will not allow any sustained happiness within a Pac-12 fan base this season. -- Ted Miller

Why Arizona will win: Bowl eligibility and a perfect 6-0 start is on the line at home for Arizona. You can guarantee Arizona Stadium will be bumping. I'm expecting a big Wildcats offensive output because, let's be serious, USC has some major defensive deficiencies. They've proven you can throw against them after giving up 510 passing yards to Mike Bercovici. They've proven you can run against them, after giving up 452 rushing yards to Boston College. And guess what, Arizona can both run and throw the ball. If it's the struggling run defense that shows up against the Wildcats, then you can expect Anu Solomon, Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby to show out. If it's the struggling pass defense that shows up, you can expect Solomon to connect with Cayleb Jones, Austin Hill and Nate Phillips. Arizona's offense is going to be stellar and its defense, a week after holding Oregon to just 144 rushing yards, is going to do enough to get the win. -- Chantel Jennings

Unanimous decision

Why Stanford will win: Washington State hasn't seen anything like Stanford's defense this year and while the same could also be said about Stanford facing WSU's offense, recent history says this is the Cardinal's game to lose. The real story will be what happens when Stanford's offense is on the field.
If you ever needed an example of recruiting living at the forefront of every college coach's brain, look no further than this past Thursday, when Arizona went into Autzen Stadium and came away with a 31-24 victory over Oregon.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez was hardly off the field before his attention shifted toward recruiting.

Matt Dudek, Arizona's Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Player Personnel, said he and Rodriguez met on the way up the tunnel following the game.

"He put his arm around me and was screaming, 'Recruiting will be fun tomorrow,'" Dudek said. "That was what, 10 minutes after the game?"

Thanks to Rodriguez on the field and Dudek off it, Arizona recruiting has entered a new era, as the Wildcats have taken to social media as well as any staff in the country. Dudek and the Arizona digital media gurus knew what kind of jump start a win at Oregon could give the Wildcats, and they were ready.

"I think that's really every game," Dudek said of being prepped with recruiting material, win or lose. "But the Oregon game is certainly a big one and could be a jump starter, whether it's for a week, a season or forever."

Referencing everything from Duck Hunt to Duck Dynasty and the Ducks' "Win The Day" motto, Arizona flooded twitter in the immediate aftermath of the game.



"Early in the week we say, 'When we win this game, I want to put something out," Dudek said. "They were loaded on my phone ready to go as soon as the clock hit double zeroes. It would have been quickly deleted if we didn't win, but every now and then we want to take advantage of the national stage."

As for a tangible recruiting effect, Dudek said the win against Oregon definitely provided one, and USC coming to town this weekend provides another national spotlight game against a nationally recognized opponent.

After Thursday's win, Arizona coaches threw a small wrinkle in their recruiting plans, hitting a few additional prospects on the way home in order to take advantage of their on-field momentum. Additionally, a win like that means more attention from recruits as well. Dudek said that several recruits they have on their board but weren't sure if the interest was mutual reached out with congratulatory messages on Friday, and the number of recruits looking to attend this weekend's game increased dramatically. Usually hovering somewhere between 60 and 80 recruits per game, Arizona is scheduled to host more than 125 prospects for its USC game.

"It certainly opened up the communication lines with certain guys, which is nice," Dudek said of the big win. "All of the sudden, they want to come to Tucson and check out a game, and getting them here on campus is always big for us."

Dudek believes this game will likely rank among the top five during the Rodriguez tenure in terms of the number of recruits in attendance, and a win could have the digital staff working overtime, as the Arizona coaches would be able to hit a bye week -- and the recruiting trail -- with plenty of momentum and, thanks to Dudek and company, plenty of digital ammunition.

"We have to be different," Dudek said. "We don't have the tradition of USC or the uniforms of Oregon. We need to bring that and grab national attention. Social media is the most powerful tool for sales, advertising and for recruiting right now."

Help is on the way: Pac-12 

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
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Through six weeks of the 2014 season, every program has flashed at least one weakness or one position where depth is needed in a hurry. While the incoming batch of 2015 recruits won't help the prospects of the 2014 team, some will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact the following year, as they'll provide depth -- or perhaps jump into starting roles -- at positions of need. Here is a look through the Pac-12 at the biggest areas of need for each program, and the 2015 recruits on the way to provide help.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
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The wild weekend in the Pac-12 wasn't limited to the field, as the recruiting trail saw some significant action as well. Three impact commitments landed in the conference, while three more ESPN 300 prospects took official visits and several big wins by certain programs made an impact with recruits.


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Ty MontgomeryJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStanford couldn't really get its ground game rolling on Saturday, and lost 17-14 to Notre Dame.
It’s Oct. 5, and there’s one remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12: the Arizona Wildcats.

Cal, which didn’t beat a single Power 5 team a year ago, is leading the Pac-12 North, despite giving up more than 100 combined points in its past two wins.

These are strange, unpredictable times in college football, and there’s no place wilder than the West. It hasn’t been merely odd; it’s been damaging. No conference was hurt more by a historically volatile college football weekend: Oregon went down. UCLA went down. Stanford went down again.

The result: The Pac-12 isn’t going to have a representative in the College Football Playoff. It wasn’t the league we projected to be shut out, but that’s where we’re heading.

That’s where the Week 6 takeaways begin. Also included: Mississippi State is the most complete team in America; the day’s biggest coaching winners; why North Carolina is suddenly broken; TCU and its vastly improved QB come through; and Ohio State’s quiet move.

Next Week now



Taking stock of the Pac-12

There’s undoubtedly an impressive level of depth in the Pac-12, but that depth is devouring a shrinking group of contenders that appear more flawed and less viable by the week. After seeing Arizona need a late stop to win at UTSA and a Hail Mary to beat Cal, there isn’t great momentum for the Wildcats to continue their undefeated run. They’re young and fun to watch, but not yet a contender.

Next week’s game between Oregon and UCLA, a prime choice for “College GameDay” before both teams lost in Week 6, has been taken down from the marquee. It’s now a playoff eliminator, though both teams have flaws -- most notably their offensive lines -- that will lead to additional losses.

In surviving Washington State and losing to Arizona, Oregon looked closer to an 8-4 team than a title threat.

“They’ve got problems,” a Power 5 head coach said Friday.

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videoSome things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 6:

Expect the unexpected*: OK, so you didn't even have to have your TV on a Pac-12 game to experience the unexpected this weekend because insanity happened everywhere. It was the first time since the inception of the Associated Press Poll that five of the top eight teams lost on the same weekend. No. 12 Mississippi State upset No. 6 Texas A&M. No. 11 Ole Miss upset No. 3 Alabama. No. 25 TCU upset No. 4 Oklahoma. Northwestern upset No. 17 Wisconsin. Utah State upset No. 18 BYU. And the Pac-12 wasn't going to be left out of all the fun. Arizona State upset No. 16 USC, Utah upset No. 8 UCLA and Arizona upset No. 2 Oregon. It was bonkers. Everything. Was. Bonkers. We knew that this was going to be a crazy season, but I don't think anyone saw this kind of a shakeup -- in the conference or across the country -- coming so soon. But it's here. Holy moly, college football craziness is here.

*Except when it comes to Stanford -- then, expect the expected: Meaning, expect a championship-caliber defense and a struggling offense -- that's exactly what we saw in the Cardinal's loss to Notre Dame. Stanford's front seven were stout and made Everett Golson's job very, very hard. They have a reputation and they protected it in South Bend. Stanford's offense, on the other hand, was held to 47 rushing yards (the first time in more than two years the Cardinal haven't accounted for 100 rushing yards in a game) and senior Kevin Hogan completed just 50 percent of his passes while throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns in the 17-14 last-minute loss.

[+] EnlargeJaelen Strong
Ric Tapia/Icon SportswireArizona State's Jaelen Strong catches a 46-yard Hail Mary as time expires to beat USC, 38-34.
Rich Rod gon' Rich Rod: And yes, that means knocking off a highly ranked Oregon team. His Wildcats advanced to 5-0 on the season with a 31-24 win over the Ducks on the road. Rodriguez got huge offensive contributions from some of his freshman, too, which should send some warning signals throughout the conference regarding this team's future. Redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon completed 20 of 31 passes for 287 yards (1 TD, 1 INT), while freshman running back Nick Wilson toted the ball 13 times, accounting for 92 rushing yards and two touchdowns (he also added a 34-yard receiving touchdown).

The state of Arizona owns the state of California in Hail Mary's: Week 4 saw Arizona take down Cal with a Hail Mary, and on Saturday night, Arizona State took down USC 38-34 with a Hail Mary. There must be something in the water (this is a joke, I know both states are in historical droughts) in the state of Arizona that's allowing its receivers to get up through piles of defensive backs and make these improbable plays.

This really is the year of the QB in the Pac-12, and yes, that includes backups: We've given a ton of coverage to the Marcus Mariotas and Brett Hundleys of the Pac-12, and they certainly deserve it. However, Week 6 saw some huge performances from some backup QBs, which just speaks to the depth at the position in the conference. Taylor Kelly's backup, junior Mike Bercovici, led his unranked Arizona State squad to an upset over No. 16 USC. Bercovici threw for five touchdowns and 510 yards (would've had more if not for a few key drops), including the 46-yard Hail Mary pass to win the game. Travis Wilson's backup, junior Kendal Thompson, led Utah to a 30-28 upset of No. 8 UCLA on the road. Thompson completed 10 of 13 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown, but where he really attacked the Bruins was on the ground. He took off 19 times for 83 yards and forced the UCLA defense to play a bit more honest.

Connor Halliday has cemented his name in the record books: In an Air Raid-versus-Air Raid matchup, Halliday broke the FBS passing record with 734 yards -- and the Cougars still lost to Cal 60-59. So, the Pac-12 Blog's verdict is still out on which is more ridiculous: the fact that Halliday still has an arm after throwing six touchdowns and 734 yards or the fact that he did that and his team still lost. But one thing is for sure: Halliday has cemented his legacy in college football with that performance. He did everything he could to get the Cougars the win.

The league's two best teams have two of the worst-performing offensive lines: For as much as we've talked about Mariota and Hundley, this weekend gave us plenty of reasons to be talking about the five players in front of those guys. In Week 4, Mariota was sacked seven times against Washington State, so I suppose the five sacks against Arizona were an improvement. But Mariota was injured in that Wazzu game. The Ducks are in a tough spot with Mariota. His offensive line isn't playing well so he needs to be more mobile, but he can't be more mobile because he's hurt. But if Mariota wants to get some empathy, he can just go to Hundley, who was sacked 10 times in the Bruins' loss to Utah. These offensive lines need to pull it together going forward.

Colorado is the worst team in the conference but not by much: Had the ball bounced the Buffs' way a bit more last weekend, maybe they would've come up with the win over Cal. And against Oregon State, the win was within reach. Colorado is making strides, and with Sefo Liufau commanding that offense the next two years, who knows what happens? Right now this is a team that's going to compete in the Pac-12, but it just isn't good enough to finish games quite yet. Until the Buffs get there, they'll be at the bottom of the pack.
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EUGENE, Ore. -- Around the time Oregon ran its "Exceptional Play" promo on the JumboTron with just less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Arizona was taking a knee for its 31-24 win over the No. 2 Ducks in Autzen Stadium.

It was a rather unexceptional play on the field for an exceptional upset on the road for Rich Rodriguez and his now 5-0 team. The situation is different, but it's the same result the Wildcats served the Ducks a year ago this month.

And as the video screen highlighted a second-quarter touchdown pass from Oregon running back Royce Freeman to quarterback Marcus Mariota, the field highlighted the other team's quarterback and running backs -- Anu Solomon, Terris Grigsby-Jones and Nick Wilson.

And throw away the questionable calls -- they happened on both sides, and no matter which team came out on top of this, the other team was going to feel cheated by the referees -- because the game was Oregon's to win.

It was Oregon's to win with three minutes left when Mariota hit Dwayne Stanford with back-to-back passes that led to first downs. It was Oregon's to win when Rodriguez called the timeout with 2:20 remaining. It was Oregon's to win when Mariota took the snap, at first-and-10 on the 34-yard line.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesArizona managed to upset Marcus Mariota and the Ducks for the second year in a row.
This was supposed to be Mariota's Heisman moment and the gut-check evaluation for a team that everyone had as a probable lock in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But then Mariota was sacked and the ball was stripped by Arizona's Scooby Wright.

Suddenly, it was no longer Oregon's game to win. It was Arizona's game to lose.

Though they had displayed lapses in discipline throughout the game, in those final six plays, the Wildcats held on and gave the country the biggest upset in college football so far this season.

Last October, the Wildcats put the nail in Oregon's coffin. But Thursday, they put the first strike to the Ducks' name.

When Mariota walked into the news conference after the game, it was clear he knew this was a big loss. A single hash in the loss column now could be reason enough to be on the wrong side of the group of four.

"It doesn't feel good," he said of the game. "We left a lot of points on the board, a lot of plays on the board. It's football."

Yes, it was football. But it was supposed to be different football this year for the Ducks, right?

It was supposed to be a stronger defense, a more consistent offense. It was supposed to be Mariota who led the Ducks to the college football glory land. They've never won a national title and -- for everything they have to claim to their name -- this was the year. It was supposed to be a more mature team that learned from this loss a year ago and learned from the Stanford loss, too.

Now, it seems all the same.

"In the locker room, it's positive," Mariota said in a monotone voice. He had a blank stare on his face and a furrowed brow, and he bit his lip from time to time.

Mariota has been in this position before.

Last year, after the Ducks lost 42-16 in Tucson, Mariota sat at a different podium but felt the same way.

"It hurts," he said then. "I haven't been blown out like this in my life."

It took the Ducks out of the national title hunt and would eventually eclipse them from a BCS bowl game. For Arizona, it was its first ranked win of the season. It was its high point -- even though the Wildcats would go on to play in a bowl game. That win was everything.

On Thursday night? It was their fifth win of the season. It was the perfect record. You know, the one Oregon was supposed to have Friday morning.

It was a shot of energy in a team that is showing it can, in fact, contend in the Pac-12. It was the pride in knowing the team outgained the conference's Chosen One in rushing yards (208-144), first downs (29-25) and third-down conversions (53 percent-29 percent). And that the Wildcats did it on the road, where not even Michigan State -- the hope of the Big Ten -- could finish.

There are 13 teams left in the Top 25 with perfect records. The committee will notice that. How much? It's hard to say.

How will this Oregon team rebound from this loss as it prepares to play at UCLA next weekend? It's hard to say. How will this finish for Oregon? It's hard to say.

There are a lot of questions swirling around the Oregon football program right now.

But one thing is for sure.

Oregon's play Thursday night? It was far from exceptional.

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