Here's what we learned this week in Pac-10 football...
Overall, we learned that Oregon is now firmly in the driver's seat for the league championship. Win two of the final three and the Ducks are in the Rose Bowl again. Win all three and they are in the National Championship Game. We also have learned that after Stanford, the rest of the league is bunch up of similar squads...save WSU who continue to struggle and have lost all but one of their games this season.
Oregon (9-0 overall, 6-0 in Pac-10 play) defeated Washington (3-6, 2-4) by the score of 53-16 in Eugene. First, we learned that the Ducks continue to OWN the Huskies - winning their seventh in a row against the Dawgs and once again doing it by a lot of points (37). We also learned that even when Oregon is playing a bad game (fumbles, slips, bad reads, dropped passes, dumb penalties, etc.) they can still overtake and pull away from an opponent. We also learned that Oregon commits a lot of turnovers that, despite their ability to overcome them, give opponents undue opportunities to score...and at some point that will come back to haunt them big time. But, not this week. We learned that QB Darron Thomas has more and perhaps faster wheels than originally imagined. And, we learned once again that Oregon's speed in all three phases of the game (O, D and special teams) is a killer. And, unfortunately, we learned that valuable backup QB Nate Costa may be lost due to a knee injury, so by extension we learned that the Ducks just lost one insurance policy for continuing their winning ways if Thomas goes down.
On the Washington side we learned that backup QB Price may be very good in the future with his elusive moves and decent passing. But, at the same time, we learned the UW running game is quite limited and their defense - while certainly throwing down in the first quarter - is not sufficiently stocked with athletes who can compete at a high level for more that about a half. And, very painfully for Husky fans, we learned that UW kick coverage is horrible. And finally, we learned that now the Dawgs have to win all three of their remaining games to be considered for a bowl. This may be possible with opponents like UCLA, WSU and Cal still on the slate, but it is no guarantee.
Stanford (8-1, 5-1) defeated Arizona 7-2, 4-2) by the score of 42-17 in Palo Alto. We learned that Arizona now does not pose a serious threat for the Pac-10 crown as they now have two losses in conference. It's not likely that Oregon or Stanford are going to lose two games to change that situation. We learned that Stanford may not lose again this season now that they have played their stiffest competition (Oregon, Arizona, USC). We learned that Arizona, despite losing, will still be a challenge for anyone on their remaining schedule - including Oregon - but now we wonder aloud as the team that Oregon beat badly (Stanford) just beat Arizona badly. Hmmm.
Cal (5-4, 3-3) defeated WSU (1-8, 0-6) by the score of 20-13 in Pullman. Once again we learned that Cougs played with heart and made a game of it, only to fall short. This has been a pattern now for several weeks. Meanwhile, with Cal...we learned that they can win on the road as they have not thus far pulled that up this season. Meanwhile, we learned that their backup QB is decent.
USC (6-3, 3-3) defeated Arizona State (4-5, 2-4) by the score of 34-33 in L.A. Not sure what we learned here. That USC can bounce back after a big loss? That ASU can play well against a good USC team? I guess. Perhaps what we learned here is that, as mentioned before, once you get past Oregon and Stanford (and excluding WSU at the bottom of the league) the remaining seven teams are about the same - mediocre to decently good teams that can beat each other on any given weekend.
UCLA (4-5, 2-4) defeated Oregon State (4-4, 3-2) by the score of 17-14 in L.A. We learned that, assuming Oregon enters the Civil War game with a Rose Bowl berth on the line, OSU now cannot knock Oregon out of that game even if they beat the Ducks as the Beavers now have two league losses. We learned that UCLA is somehow fighting back to try and piece together a six or seven win season and make a bowl after some pretty bad play earlier in the season. And we learned that the Bruins have a very good field goal kicker who, in this instance, won the game for UCLA on the last play of the game.