For one weekend, the state of Arizona became the epicenter of college football.
Arizona's 42-16 rout of No. 5 Oregon was as thorough a domination of the Ducks any team has engineered since the Ducks' ascent to the Pac-12's top tier in the past half-decade. While sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota was falling behind in the Heisman Trophy race, Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey was roaring into it.
Carey reached 100 yards rushing Saturday, just as he has in every other game in the 2013 season, and eclipsed 200 yards for the second time on the campaign. He set program records for career yards, at 3,913, surpassing Trung Canidate, and touchdowns, at 49, to pass Art Luppino's benchmark that stood for almost six decades. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez spoke about Carey in his postgame press conference, via ArizonaWildcats.com:
He's going to get a lot of individual accolades, and he absolutely deserves them, but he's about the team first the way he prepares. He's a physical, hungry runner. There were some holes that weren’t there that he made. I love the way he approaches the game.
If he's headed for the NFL draft, the Tucson native had a fitting conclusion in what could be the last game played in his hometown. And while an appearance in New York City at Radio City Music Hall is close to a certainty, will Carey make another pit stop in the Big Apple five months earlier?
Running back Toby Gerhart reached New York in 2009 on an 8-4 team, but Gerhart was also coming off a nationally televised star-turn against Notre Dame. If the Heisman presentation was in two weeks, Carey might be an invitee. As it stands, he needs one more big performance to woo voters.
Carey is also competing with Boston College's Andre Williams, another head-turning running back who, on Saturday, joined the exclusive 2,000-yard club. The road to Manhattan goes through Tempe, Ariz., for Carey, because next week he faces Pac-12 South champion Arizona State.
Arizona State outlasted UCLA in the conference game of the week, 38-33, to clinch a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. Head coach Todd Graham said in his postgame press conference that his players' grit was "overwhelming," via UCLABruins.com:
I'm not much of a crier. It’s not just about winning the Pac-12 South Championship. We set out to win the Pac-12 Championship and this is an essential part. To watch these kids on that field lay it on the line with that kind of heart was overwhelming to me. I just love these kids and am really proud of them.
Graham is proud of his team, and so are the Arizona State faithful. Fans greeted the Sun Devils upon their return to Tempe.
The Sun Devils are playing for their first Rose Bowl berth since the 1996 season, a meaningful goal for that program despite the highly publicized lamentations about the Granddaddy of 'Em All coming from elsewhere in the Pac-12.
Blame the BCS, Not Oregon, for the Rose Bowl Losing Clout
Oregon junior running back De'Anthony Thomas took a lot of criticism during the Pac-12 Network's broadcast of the USC-Colorado game for comments he and wide receiver Josh Huff made about the Rose Bowl being a disappointing end result for the Ducks.
Thomas responded to his detractors Sunday on his Twitter account, @EATBLACKMOMBA6.
Disappointment may have been behind Oregon's lackluster performance at Arizona, but Thomas and Huff don't deserve criticism for their forthrightness. With its continued success since 2009, Oregon is a program that should set its sights on national championships.
Before the BCS began in 1998, the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle for Pac-12 teams. While it remains a significant milestone, it simply doesn't mean quite what it used to. Such is the case for all the traditional, marquee bowl games, and the College Football Playoff will further diminish their individual value.
More Myles Jack at Running Back and Touchdown-Scoring Linebackers
UCLA head coach Jim Mora has been adamant since freshman linebacker Myles Jack was first introduced as a running back on Nov. 9 at Arizona that Jack was a defender first and foremost. But Saturday against Arizona State, Jack appeared exclusively at running back. He rushed for a team-high 86 yards and scored a touchdown for the third consecutive week.
"We were going to play a lot of nickel in this game, which we ended up doing," Mora explained in his postgame press conference, per UCLABruins.com.
Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell came at UCLA's aggressive defense with four- and five-wide sets, trying to create mismatches, with linebackers like Eric Kendricks paired against wide receivers.
"It's not permanent. We recruited Myles to be a linebacker, Myles' heart is at linebacker, he wants to be a linebacker, but Myles will do anything for the team," Mora said.
Jack was not the only defensive Bruin to make an offensive impact. Freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes was used as a receiver on a fourth-down play, converting on an 18-yard reception.
Arizona State's defense got into the action as well, albeit in a more traditional manner. Junior linebacker Carl Bradford reached the end zone on an 18-yard interception return.
Colorado Sees Progress Under Mike MacIntyre
While Colorado's pipe dream of bowl eligibility burst Saturday against USC, the Buffaloes have positives to take away from the loss. The 29 points they scored were the most the Trojans' defense had allowed since giving up 31 to Arizona on Oct. 10—the first game after interim head coach Ed Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin.
Junior wide receiver Paul Richardson contributed to Saturday's output, with eight receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Assuming Richardson returns for 2014, Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre has a potent one-two combination on offense, with Richardson and freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau.