10 Things We Learned About the Pac-12 in Week 11
After another wild week, the Pac-12 picture has become surprisingly clear.
The winner of next weekend's USC-UCLA matchup will represent the South Division in the Pac-12 championship.
Then there's the contest at Autzen, where Stanford and Oregon will duke it out. The winner will also find themselves playing for the Pac-12 title on December 1st.
But while the puzzle at the top is nearly complete, the middle of the pack remains jumbled. Some teams started off hot (Arizona State) but have since dropped off the map. Others were stuck in September mud (Washington) before finally getting their wheels going.
Here are the 10 things we learned about the Pac-12 conference in Week 11.
1. Jeff Tedford Will Be Looking for a New Job in the Offseason
This is pure speculation and not based on any substantial rumors, but with the way Cal's season has unfolded, it's hard to see head coach Jeff Tedford surviving much longer.
Nobody looks very good against Oregon, but even if you throw out Saturday's game against the Ducks, you'll see a team that has largely underperformed.
They had a returning quarterback in Zach Maynard and one of the country's best receivers in Keenan Allen. Isi Sofele was expected to be among the conference's best at running back. The trio has not lived up to expectations.
And the defense, which typically boasts an aggressive front seven and talented secondary, has been unable to carry the load.
All of this has resulted in a 3-7 record.
After grooming Joey Harrington at Oregon and Aaron Rodgers at Cal, Tedford has been unable to develop other great quarterbacks. And that, perhaps more than anything, is why it's unlikely he'll remain head coach much longer.
2. Stanford Has Found Its Quarterback
After Saturday's 27-23 victory over Oregon State, Kevin Hogan established himself as the team's best quarterback.
For one, he brings athleticism to the position and his ability to escape pressure is something Josh Nunes was unable to do.
But he's also been extremely accurate in his first two games with significant playing time.
Against Colorado, he completed 18-of-23 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He went 22-of-29 against the Beavers, who boast one of the conference's best cornerbacks in Jordan Poyer.
He'll be thrown into the Autzen fire next weekend for what is surely his biggest test to date. But it's obvious that, regardless of how he performs against the Ducks, the Cardinal are more dangerous with him under center.
3. Oregon State Must Find Its Quarterback
Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion?
That's a question that many Beaver fans will be wondering this week. The team's big-play ability has been hampered as of late, and it was more evident than ever against Stanford.
Vaz played the majority of the game, but his longest completion was a 23-yard pass to Brandin Cooks.
Between him and Markus Wheaton, they have almost 2,000 yards receiving and both have season-long catches of over 50 yards. Big-play ability is what defines the Beavs' offense.
Both quarterbacks, Mannion in particular, have been banged up recently. But the Beavers' hot start could be credited to Mannion's improvement in the offseason. Without consistency at the quarterback position, the team will continue to struggle.
4. The Huskies Will Contend for North Division in 2013
Many wondered in the offseason if this would finally be the year when the Washington Huskies put it all together.
They were coming off a tough defeat to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, but the offense was expected to be among the league's best. They also brought in defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who many hoped would improve the much-maligned unit.
Unfortunately for Steve Sarkisian's team, the schedule did not allow for a fast start. They faced Oregon, USC, Stanford and LSU in the first six weeks of the season. They lost on the road to Arizona.
But they've since responded with three straight wins, including a victory over then-undefeated Oregon State. On Saturday, they defeated a Utah squad coming off of two straight wins. If they can get by Colorado and Washington State to end the season, they'll finish with an 8-4 record.
That kind of momentum should raise expectations and have the team heading into 2013 with eyes on a conference title.
5. The Ducks Are as Dangerous as Ever but Must Get Healthy
Saturday's 59-17 victory over California taught us two things about the Ducks.
One, they need to get healthy—fast.
Two, they can throw the ball as well as anyone.
These are significant developments. If Oregon is forced to play without Dion Jordan and his fellow D-line starters against Stanford, its run defense will suffer. True freshman Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner played admirably, but Stanford is a different animal in the ground game.
But while Cal sold out to stop the run on defense, Marcus Mariota lit them up through the air by throwing for six touchdowns and nearly 400 yards.
Everyone knew the Ducks could run the ball, but here's a scary thought: What if they can throw it just as well?
6. Marqise Lee Is the Most Dangerous Player in College Football
After a third straight week with more than 150 yards receiving, Marqise Lee has established himself as the most dynamic player in College Football.
He has 98 catches on the year for 1,447 yards. He had a 16-catch, 345-yard performance at Arizona.
He takes a short pass and turns it into a long gain seemingly every week, and he rarely gets tackled by the first defender to get his hands on him.
He probably won't win the Heisman being on a team with three losses, but his speed and playmaking ability set him apart from everyone else in the game.
And unfortunately for the rest of the Pac-12, they'll have to deal with him again next year.
7. The Arizona Wildcats Are Not Ready to Contend for Pac-12 Titles
The Arizona Wildcats had an easy, 56-31 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes. Ka'Deem Carey ran for 366 yards, and the game was never really in question.
The problem is that the defense gave up 31 points to hapless Colorado. This performance came on the heels of a 66-10 defeat at the hands of the UCLA Bruins.
During halftime of their game against Oregon, the Wildcats trailed 13-0. It looked like they had a chance to not only steal a game in Autzen but stake their claim as a legitimate conference threat.
They failed to beat the Ducks, but there were similar feelings after Arizona's victory over USC.
The last two weeks, however, have shown us that Arizona is not quite ready to join the ranks of college football's elite.
8. Marcus Mariota Is Making a Case for First-Team All-Pac-12 Quarterback
Marcus Mariota entered the year having never played a down of college football. Heading into the third week of November, he's playing better than nearly every other quarterback in the game.
Against Cal, the redshirt freshman took it upon himself to lead the team down the field, passing for 377 yards and six touchdowns. He's completing over 70 percent of his passes and has thrown just five interceptions compared to his 28 touchdowns.
Did I mention that he's also rushed for over 500 yards?
The preseason favorite to take home All-Conference honors was Matt Barkley, and that may still be what happens. But Barkley is completing less than 65 percent of his throws and has 13 interceptions on the year. He also has the benefit of throwing to Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
What Marcus Mariota did against California proved that he's not just a freshman having a great first season. He's among the best in the nation already.
9. UCLA Is a Serious Contender to Win the Conference
UCLA's 44-36 win over Washington State means that everything is on the line when USC comes to town next weekend.
The margin of victory is unimpressive, but the Bruins led 37-7 at one point before allowing the Cougars back into the game. It's a safe bet that they'll be ready to go next Saturday.
Should they beat USC, they'll likely be playing Oregon for the second year in a row in the Pac-12 championship game.
The difference is that nobody thought the Bruins could win last year. This year, the team is full of confidence and has the talent to challenge anybody.
USC comes first, but the Bruins are more dangerous than they were last year, and it's possible that they'll be the team standing alone in the Pac-12 after December 1st.
10. Arizona State, Despite Its Hot Start, Still Has a Ways to Go
After winning five out of their first six games, the Arizona State Sun Devils have now lost four straight.
Saturday's 38-17 loss showed that the Sun Devils still have a gap to close in both talent level and production when compared with teams like USC.
At one point this season, Taylor Kelly had the offense humming along and he led the league in passing efficiency.
But he's thrown seven interceptions in the past four games after throwing just two in the first six games. The defense, which had allowed 20 points just once before the Oregon game, has now given up 35 or more in four straight.
We saw the same thing occur last season, but that was due in large part to stupid penalties and bad mistakes. This team doesn't have that feel, so it'll be interesting to see if they can end the year on a high note.
As of right now, though, they aren't ready for the spotlight.