Remember all those wacky late-night Pac-10/12 games under the lights that you have come to love? Eh, not Saturday night. It was more like Pac-12 in the Dark Alley, with beatdowns so savage that you’d have no need to watch the second half.
In the three high-profile late games involving ranked Pac-12 teams, the final spread was 96 points – an average of 32 points per game. Utah, UCLA and USC all had their way with their hosts, jumping ahead early and never letting up. As a result, the rankings continue to shake up with unbeaten UCLA (No. 7) and Utah (No. 10) in the top 10 of the AP poll. No. 24 Cal is ranked for the first time since November 2009, joining No. 17 USC and No. 18 Stanford.
With Oregon’s sudden and dramatic fall (more later), Pac-12 races are now wide open in both divisions. Utah has to be considered a frontrunner in the South with the two L.A. schools lurking while both Bay Area schools have a shot to end the Duck dynasty in the North.
In fact, Pac-12 teams are still looking for their first home win in a conference game. Road teams have won every single one of the six conference games having been played this season. Who will break this jinx? Cal, Stanford, UCLA and Colorado are home next week.
Pac-12 in the Dark
Take a look at this commercial starring former Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour, who gleefully removed DirecTV and replaced it with Comcast in order to get the fledgling Pac-12 Network.
Well, three years later, the joke’s not on her but her old employer, since Barbour has moved on to Penn State.
With a chance to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2007, Cal is one of only three unbeaten Pac-12 teams. Quarterback Jared Goff is putting together a campaign that might be borderline Heisman worthy. Yet for the first five weeks of the season, all anybody knows about the Bears is the botched PAT by Texas a week ago.
Blame that on the Pac-12 Network, which will have carried all but one of the Bears’ first five games (except against Texas, which was on FOX). Fewer than half of the viewers within the Pac-12 footprint get the conference-owned network while even fewer elsewhere in the country can see it.
When Barbour’s new school – Penn State – hosted San Diego State on Saturday, more people out West were able to access the game via BTN than when the Aztecs visited Barbour’s old school two weeks ago when that game was carried by the Pac-12 Network.
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Don’t blink or you missed it
LSU and its merry band of fans made their way to Syracuse and had quite the party. They drank the town dry and showed off their Heisman frontrunner Leonard Fournette. A good time was had by all.
But that was it. LSU’s 34-24 victory over Syracuse will be the only appearance by an SEC team outside of the conference’s footprint in 2015. The SEC plays only six true road games this season (with bottom feeder Vanderbilt accounting for a third of them), and only the Tigers dared to venture outside of their comfort zone.
The SEC endlessly tooted its own horn after winning four nonconference matchups in the opening week, but keep in mind that those were all played in SEC-friendly “neutral sites.” And look at those wins now – they were all against laughably overrated teams: Louisville (1-3), Arizona State (2-2), North Carolina (3-1), Wisconsin (3-1), with one win over a Power 5 opponent (UNC over Illinois) among them.
Game of the Week
TCU 55, Texas Tech 52: There were 11 lead changes, 189 plays, 70 first downs and 1,357 combined yards gained. The game was decided on a fourth-down tipped pass that was caught on a ricochet by TCU running back Aaron Green but it wasn’t truly over until Texas Tech’s last-gasp “The Play” imitation fell 10 yards short. Are you not entertained?
Player of the Week
Travis Wilson, Utah: While TCU and Texas Tech players piled up a ton of stats, the honor here goes to the Utes quarterback who masterfully directed the 62-20 vivisection of the Ducks in Eugene. Wilson was 18-of-30 for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the air and added 100 rushing yards and another TD on the ground. The 62 points were the most ever surrendered by Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
Unlike the polls, we don’t just slide teams up and down every week like those mindless voters. Preseason rankings have no meaning to us. We evaluate teams every week based on their resumes and their opponents’ accomplishments. We’re comfortable ranking Utah No. 1 this week.
1. Utah, 2. Michigan State, 3. LSU 4. UCLA, 5. Ole Miss, 6. TCU, 7. Notre Dame, 8. Ohio State, 9. Georgia, 9. 10. Clemson, 11. Florida State, 12. Alabama, 13. Michigan, 14. Oklahoma, 15. Northwestern.