I’ve been saying this all season and I’ll repeat it again: the 2019 Pac-12 season will be defined by chaos. If Week 2 was a preview with Cal beating #13 Washington, then Week 4 is our entry into silly season as USC beat #10 Utah with their third-string QB and UCLA pulled off an insane comeback over #19 Washington State.
I’m just going to change something up this week and highlight a standout player (or two) from each team, instead of talking about whatever happened in that week.
12. Oregon State Beavers (1-2)
Oregon State fortunately didn’t play in Week 4, which means they didn’t lose. But with all their losing, there is the positive of Isaiah Hodgins putting up wild empty stats. In case you blocked it from your memory, Hodgins is the receiver who gashed CU in the Beavers’ comeback win. In just three games, he has 23 catches for 347 yards and 5 TDs. Hodgins would be in the conversational for All-Pac-12, but he has a ton of competition in Laviska Shenault, USC’s freaks and Brandon Aiyuk.
11. UCLA Bruins (2-2)
LW: W, 67-63 at Washington State
UCLA just pulled off one of the wackiest wins in college football history, and that’s not a hyperbole. Washington State collapsed spectacularly — they allowed multiple 90+ yard touchdowns and fumbled four times in final 15 minutes — but the Bruins should be commended for making plays. The best of UCLA was Demetric Felton, who had a 100-yard kickoff return, a 94-yard reception and the game-winning 15-yard touchdown. I still don’t know how UCLA’s broken offense scored 67 points, but obviously they needed wacky big plays.
10. Arizona Wildcats (2-1)
Arizona didn’t play on Saturday and they’re playing UCLA on Saturday, so that’s basically two bye weeks (assuming UCLA is still bad). The Wildcats main star has obviously been Khalil Tate, who has been good, but quite his old self. He’s made huge plays both passing and running — he beat Texas Tech with his legs, mostly — but he’s been inconsistent and mistake prone against poor defenses. Colorado’s next game is against Tate, so Mel Tucker will have two weeks to find a solution that Mike MacIntyre never did.
9. Stanford Cardinal (1-3)
LW: L, 21-6 vs. Oregon
Stanford was a preseason Top 25 team that has been a massive disappointment. Part of that is their schedule — @ USC, @ UCF and vs. Oregon is not easy — and part of that is QB K.J. Costello getting injured. But Stanford has been mostly bad at football, straight up, and they have looked bad in each of their games, even their 17-7 win over Northwestern. If there’s been a star, it’s Paulson Adebo, their star cornerback who looks like a first round pick. Unfortunately, Stanford is trailing in most of their games, so even Adebo isn’t making much of a difference.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils
LW: L, 34-31 vs. Colorado
Despite Arizona State’s 3-0 start, their offense was horrendous all year. So it’s a bit ironic that in the first game where the offense clicked, they finally lost. Credit is due to Steven Montez and Tony Brown for the Buffs’ win, but Brandon Aiyuk of the Sun Devils should get some attention. He’s a speed demon who continually gashed the Buffs’ woeful secondary. If freshman QB Jaden Daniels continues his improvement, Aiyuk could lead the Pac-12 in receiving yards.
7. Colorado Buffaloes
LW: W, 34-31 at Colorado
After a disappointing home loss to Air Force, the Buffs got a huge bounce back win on the road. Obviously there are concerns about CU’s defense, the injuries they sustained and their penchant for dramatic finishes. But a win is a win and this team has demonstrated all kinds of toughness. The Buffs’ standout has to be Tony Brown, who had 3 touchdown catches in their win over ASU. He’s a deep ball aficionado who should demand more attention moving forward, which should help free up Laviska Shenault if and when he returns from an undisclosed injury.
6. USC Trojans (3-1)
LW: W, 30-23 vs. Utah
It’s a wonderful college tradition to see USC collapse in-season and fire their head coach, but this year has offered a different kind of entertainment. USC will be the Pac-12’s Chaos Team (unless it’s Cal). Just when you think they’re good, they will lose spectacularly. Just when you think they’re done, they will out-talent whomever they face. In their upset over #10 Utah, USC looked down after Kedon Slovis left with a concussion, but third-string QB Matt Fink saved them. It seemed as though USC remembered they have freak receivers and realized their entire strategy should be lobbing it to Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
5. Washington State Cougars
LW: L, 67-63 vs. UCLA
Anthony Gordon threw for 9 touchdowns and 570 yards and lost to UCLA. He threw two interceptions, sure, but of those passes was a ball his receiver just dropped. And Wazzu collapsed not because their offense stalled out, but because the Cougars fumbled four times in the final 15 minutes. The first three fumbles were on simple receptions where the receiver just got stripped. Only the last of the four was Gordon’s fault, when he was strip-sacked in the final minute. Fortunately for Wazzu, one in a lifetime collapses don’t reoccur throughout a season. (Additional shoutout to Max Borghi, the speedy Coloradan who got away.)
4. Utah Utes
LW: L, 30-23 at USC
If there’s any one concern for Utah, it’s that injuries to Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss might doom their offense. Utah barely scrapes by on offense anyway, so they cannot afford any drop in talent if they wish to stay in the Pac-12 title race. Moss might be the best running back in the Pac-12 and it’s obvious Utah can’t replace him, no matter how good their offensive line is.
3. California Golden Bears
LW: W, 28-20 at Ole Miss
Despite Pac-12 refs almost ruining everything (the call was correct, ironically), the Bears went to the SEC and picked up a win. They now sit 4-0 with road wins over Washington and Ole Miss. Thanks to their elite defense, led by omnipresent playmakers Evan Weaver and Ashtyn Davis, Cal is a legitimate dark horse to win the Pac-12. They still have a difficult schedule ahead — they have roda games at Oregon and Utah, as well as home games against Washington State and USC — but they have proven themselves to be tough as nails. (When Cal finishes 7-5, this article will have been deleted.)
2. Oregon Ducks
LW: W, 21-6 at Stanford
I regret to say that Oregon is really good. They should be undefeated and ranked in the top 10, but Auburn had to bullshit that Week 1 win. These Ducks aren’t quite the same offensively as they were with Marcus Mariota, let alone with Vernon Adams or Jeremiah Masoli, but they’re still quite good. Justin Herbert is clinical and has a lot of options in the passing game. Then there’s linebacker Troy Dye doing everything for a defense that been surprisingly stout. (Watch for Colorado to challenge Oregon on the road, btw. The Buffs’ are sandwiched by a physical game against Cal and a road game against archival Washington, so this could be a trap game for the Ducks.)
1. Washington Huskies
LW: W, 45-19 at BYU
Washington should be the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 North, and ipso facto the Pac-12. Other than a weird game against Cal, Jacob Eason has led a balanced Huskies offense that has had no trouble scoring. The defense is great as always, as Chris Petersen had elite talent ready to replace elite talent. Washington’s schedule is set up quite nicely as well, as all their difficult games — USC, Oregon, Utah and Washington State — will be at home, while their road schedule — Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State and Colorado — is something of a joke. I’m guessing chaos will strike and they lose a game they shouldn’t, but the Huskies should be feared.