10 Things We Learned About the Pac-12 in Week 6
In what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting years ever in the Pac-12 Conference, this week did not disappoint.
From the continued emergence of Oregon State, to the clawing-back-one-game-at-a-time USC Trojans, the week on the gridiron was packed with thrills and chills.
What's the takeaway from Week 6?
Primarily, that it's still early and anything can happen. Case in point: Cal actually won a game. We also should have learned that you don't write off players like Matt Barkley because they have one, or even a couple, bad games.
Read on for the 10 things we learned in the exciting Pac-12 Conference this week.
1. Matt Barkley Is Still in the Heisman Conversation
Yes, Matt Barkley stunk in the Stanford game and had his issues against Cal.
Going into Thursday night's game with Utah, Barkley was the fifth-ranked QB in the Pac-12 Conference and the No. 46 QB nationally.
But Barkley showed the nation why it might be too soon to write off the Trojan senior. He was nothing short of spectacular in this game at Salt Lake City.
Barkley was 23-of-30 for 303 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a stunning display of poise and accuracy. But beyond his performance, Barkley showed his leadership skills in rallying his distressed teammates after their abysmal start.
The Trojans aren't finished, and most certainly, neither is Matt Barkley.
2. Jeff Tedford May Live for Another Week
Jeff Tedford had a tough week.
When pundits are discussing how much it would cost to buy out your remaining contract, it must be difficult to waltz into practice every day and act normal.
Tedford must have showed some fortitude to the Bears this week; they had to find it somewhere. Their huge win (43-17) over formerly ranked No. 25 UCLA was the biggest surprise of the week.
If I was Zach Maynard, I would insist that Tedford take the entire team out for a steak dinner in Berkeley's most expensive restaurant...or, is that an NCAA violation?
Maynard had a miracle day for the Golden Bears: 25 of 30 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns. Where the heck did that come from?
If Tedford and the Bears go up to the Palouse next Saturday and stink it up, the hot seat will fire up again. But, for now, he lives on.
3. Arizona State Might Be for Real
While we're on the subject of stinky Cal games, it needs to be said (even though, technically, we learned it last week, not this week), that Arizona State and its quarterback, Taylor Kelly, might just be the real deal.
The Sun Devils are a young team with a young QB—Kelly is a sophomore. Winning on the road in the Pac-12 Conference is never easy, and going on the road to Cal's Memorial Stadium is no picnic.
However, Kelly, the Pac-12's leading quarterback and the nation's 10th-ranked QB, according to ESPN.com, did not blink. Kelly was 26-of-45 passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns. By the time Cal realized what this kid was doing, it was too late.
New head coach Todd Graham seems to have instilled a belief in his young team that it can win. Taking it to Cal on its home turf was impressive, especially when you consider that no ASU team had won anywhere in the state of California for years.
The Sun Devils for real?
Yep, maybe so.
4. David Shaw Has Nice Arms
Stanford head coach David Shaw's playful muscle-man pose and smirk following the end of his team's exciting overtime win over Arizona may have been my favorite moment of the season so far.
Shaw's reaction was honest and spontaneous, and typifies what college football should be about—competition and fun.
Other than Shaw's muscles, we also learned that this Cardinal team is not quite finished yet either. Quarterback Josh Nunes went from schmuck to hero in nine short days.
The center of fans' ire since the upset at Washington, Nunes shrugged it off and went out and nailed 21 of 34 passes for 360 yards, and he ran the ball with amazing confidence. He brought his team back from sure defeat in the last nine minutes of the game, and it was fun to watch.
Stanford's defense? Not so fun to watch.
Maybe they need to hit the gym with their coach.
5. Go Figure Washington
The Huskies knock off then-No. 8 Stanford in a powerful display of lock-down defense. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is clearly a genius.
Washington climbs into the AP poll. Husky fans everywhere start dreaming of making it back to a bowl to prove that they are not the same team as last year.
They come strutting and woofing into Autzen Stadium and...allow the Ducks 52 points.
I admit that I am confused by this team. How do you completely shut down a marvelous running back like Stepfan Taylor one week and then let the Ducks gain 315 yards rushing nine days later?
Do you imagine that there will be a great deal of film watching and hand-wringing going on in Seattle this week?
6. Arizona Is This Close
The Arizona Wildcats and new head coach Rich Rodriguez may or may not make it to a bowl game this season.
But if they don't, Arizona fans still have to be happy with the progress of this team. And they have to absolutely, positively love quarterback Matt Scott. Scott's amazing performance against Stanford provided enough material for five highlight reels.
Sooner or later these close-call-but-no-cigar games will turn in the 'Cats' favor.
Especially if they could get a stop or two on their opponent occasionally.
7. Nick Saban Is Annoying
What does this fact have to do with the Pac-12 Conference?
You may have missed it, but Saban insulted y'all this week, or, at the very least, your conference champion.
In essence, Saban said, as first reported by the Birmingham News, that he does not like the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, and he doesn't think it's fair to his precious defense. He went on to ask if this kind of offense is really what we want college football to become.
Puh-leeze. Watching Saban's offense is like watching grass grow, only not nearly as exciting.
What you should find really offensive about his comments are that he appears to be telling the rest of us how the game should be played. Even worse, he seems to be suggesting that there should be some rule changes because, well, these teams just don't play the game the way he likes to play it.
Are you kidding me, Nick?
Methinks you doth protest too much.
8. Washington State Not Quite There Yet
Mike Leach was a great hire at Washington State. This once-proud program had fallen on hard times and needed an injection of spirit and spunk.
The Cougs got that, and more, with Leach. It is, however, going to take a bit longer than six games to turn this pirate ship around.
Wazzu had chances against Oregon State this weekend, and they showed occasional flashes of brilliance. But, clearly, there is still much work to do in the Palouse, and it must start with recruiting.
9. Oregon State Deserves to Be Ranked
So, the Beavers win over Washington State in Corvallis on Saturday was not the most graceful athletic performance we've seen this year. There were times it was downright awkward and clumsy.
But that's not the point. The point is that the Beavers have found a way to win in each of their four starts this season. That's what good teams do.
Pac-12 prince Sean Mannion was, to be charitable, inconsistent against Wazzu. He's young and he's going to have the occasional off-series or even off-day.
What was impressive was that in light of Mannion's struggles on the day, the Beavers defense took over. That's another sign of a good team: one unit struggles, the other decides they have to be "The Man." That concept has been in play this season at another team 40 miles down the road from Corvallis.
Bottom line is that Oregon's Willamette Valley is suddenly the center of the Pac-12 universe. After Week 6, there are only two undefeated teams in the conference.
And you could ride your bike between them.
10. Oregon Is Still the King
The No. 1 thing we learned about the Pac-12 this week is that the Oregon Ducks are not going quietly into the night.
Raise your hand if you still think—as many of us did prior to the start of the season—that USC will win the conference title this year.
The Ducks are clearly in the driver's seat to four-peat as conference champion. After Saturday, it appears that the distance between Oregon and the other 11 teams is growing, not shrinking.
We're only halfway there and anything can happen, but as of Week 6, Oregon is still the undisputed king of the Pac-12 Conference.