What we learned in Pac-12 football

By Bud Withers, The Seattle TimesOctober 8, 2012 

Some things, like the California-UCLA game Saturday night, defy explanation other than: it's college football.

The Bruins had rushed for 243 yards a game, and Cal was the most forgiving run defense in the league. But Saturday, UCLA didn't come within a hundred yards of its average.

Bears quarterback Zach Maynard had been a human pinata, sacked a nation-leading 25 times, and UCLA had been second-best in the Pac-12 at getting to the quarterback. But Saturday, Maynard completed 25 of 30 passes, and Cal won easily.

It's college football. Don't try to understand it, just enjoy.

What We Learned

The Oregon-Washington rivalry still resonates with some (important) people.

While the coaches downplay the old series publicly, Nike czar Phil Knight was in a postgame interview room Saturday night, The Oregonian reported, recalling some old battles and talking about how it was still important to him.

UW fans have to be thinking: Next year is the year. Keith Price will be a senior, the injuries should relent, and fruition will come to the program.

Either that, or the Oregon streak reaches double-digits. There's been nothing like it in the rivalry's history, one side alfalfa and the other a field mower. The average margin in the nine-game streak is 26, the smallest spread 17. To compare, Washington has four strings of six wins against the Ducks, and even when the 1974-79 run averaged 24.5 points in margin, that was tilted by two massive blowouts, and there were three single-digit victories.

The trajectory of quarterbacks changed course.

Some young guns struggled, some veterans bit back. Oregon State's Sean Mannion was intercepted three times by Washington State, and Cal picked off UCLA's Brett Hundley four times. But Maynard got off the deck, USC's Matt Barkley (five interceptions in 2012) strafed Utah for 303 yards passing, and Stanford's Josh Nunes shook off the criticism from his outing against Washington, accounting for five touchdowns against Arizona.

Arizona needs a bye (and a hug wouldn't hurt, either).

First, the Wildcats lost a three-point gut-twister to Oregon State, with the last six scores changing the lead. Then came the 54-48 overtime killer to Stanford, after it held a two-touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats (3-3) will be an unexpectedly tall order when they return Oct. 20 to host Washington. They ran 103 plays against Stanford for 38 first downs, and they're averaging 32 first downs.

These are heady times at Oregon State.

The Beavers jumped four spots to No. 10 in the AP poll Sunday, their highest ranking in 11 years. They try to reach 5-0 at BYU this week, a record they haven't seen since 1939.

Oregon is OK at safety, thank you.

When all-league John Boyett went down with knee problems earlier, it should have been a meaningful hit. But Avery Patterson has done fine in his absence, picking off WSU's Connor Halliday and Price for touchdowns the past two weeks.

This week

USC makes a trip to CenturyLink Field to play Washington. There's intrigue outside the league, with OSU-BYU and Stanford visiting an undefeated No. 7 Notre Dame team that has allowed only 39 points in five games.

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