Pac-12 Conference Football: What We Learned in Week 11

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Pac-12 Conference Football: What We Learned in Week 11
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez was already well aware of UCLA freshman linebacker Myles Jack’s ability to punish defenses as much as he punishes opposing ball-carriers.

"The guy is a great athlete, a great player," Rodriguez said in his postgame press conference, per ArizonaWildcats.com. "We recruited him as a running back." 

Still, Jack may not want to quit his day job just yet. As Rodriguez said, he's likely be a future first-round selection as a linebacker in the NFL draft. But his collegiate running back debut was spectacular, as Jack led the team with 120 rushing yards on six carries.  

More importantly, he was the Bruins' salvation. With Arizona threatening in the fourth quarter, Jack broke off a 66-yard touchdown run that proved to be the difference in a 31-26 win. 

"We all saw what he can do with the ball," quarterback Brett Hundley said in the postgame press conference. "That big run at the end really helped us gain control of the game and sort of put things away.”

By putting away the Wildcats, the Bruins remain on pace to defend their Pac-12 South crown. UCLA controls its destiny—win out, and it's headed to the conference championship game—but the Bruins remain one game behind division-leading Arizona State in the loss column after another furious finish Saturday. 

 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way for Arizona State

Utah continued to prove its defensive chops, as well as how much better it is at Rice-Eccles Stadium than away from it, Saturday against No. 22 Arizona State.

The Utes grounded the Sun Devils' 46.6-point-per-game offense, holding it to a season-low 20 points—a total Arizona State only reached after quarterback Taylor Kelly found Richard Smith on a touchdown pass with just 2:37 remaining.

Utah learned that despite its stellar effort, when facing Arizona State, where there's a Will, there's a way: Specifically, defensive tackle Will Sutton.

The NFL-bound star made a play that could go down in Sun Devils lore when he intercepted Utah quarterback Travis Wilson with 1:01 left. 

"Will Sutton, he was the player of the year last year and a consensus All-American, but since I’ve been here, that’s the biggest play that I think he’s made," Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said in his postgame press conference, per TheSunDevils.com.  

Indeed, Sutton's play keeps Arizona State atop the Pac-12 South and in position to play its way into the Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils have not appeared in the conference's marquee postseason game since January 1997. 

 

Utah's Bowl Window is Narrowing

In giving up 13 fourth-quarter points to Arizona State, Utah finds itself needing two wins in its final three outings to return to the postseason. Last year's 5-7 Utes team was the first under head coach Kyle Whittingham to not reach a bowl game. 

The bad news? Utah travels to Oregon for the first time as a Pac-12 member. The good news? The Utes' other two games are against Washington State and Colorado, both of which are also sporting sub-.500 records. 

It might not be the most impressive way to gain eligibility, after letting a second Top-25 win slip away. But beating the Cougars and Buffaloes might be Utah's only way back to the postseason. 

 

Allen and Agholor Keep USC on Pace as Pac's Most Improved Team 

ESPN Recruiting's assessment of USC sophomore wide receiver Nelson Agholor coming out of Tampa's Berkeley Prep two years ago went like this: speed, versatility, ball skills, playmaker. 

Agholor demonstrated all of those traits in one of the best individual performances in any conference this season, running two punts back for touchdowns in USC's 62-28 win Saturday over Cal.

Agholor's dynamite afternoon kept the Trojans rolling under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.   

Yes, it was just 1-9 Cal that the Trojans blasted Saturday, but USC’s fourth straight win in Pac-12 play since Lane Kiffin was fired on Sept. 29 further demonstrated the remarkable turnaround this team has undergone in only a month.

The Trojans, once listless offensively, have been among the conference’s most explosive scoring teams since offensive coordinator Clay Helton assumed the play-calling reins in Kiffin’s absence. In the four Pac-12 games since then, USC has averaged 37.5 points per game.

Perhaps the most notable imprint this staff is leaving is the emergence of running back Buck Allen. He was the Trojans' rushing leader for the second time in as many games, this time averaging an incredible 22.5 yards per carry against Cal's woeful defense. 

Allen also caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Kessler, who was scarily efficient: 14-of-17 passing, 170 yards and two scores. 

USC may be playing with house money, but the Trojans could come up Roses as a result. 

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