Stanford and Oregon are the Pac-12’s only options for a team in the national championship game, and with both programs avoiding an upset loss in Week 9, the stage is set for a huge showdown on Nov. 7.
The Ducks were tied with UCLA at halftime but used a strong second half from running back Byron Marshall to pull away from the Bruins. Even with a struggling offense, Stanford was able to keep Oregon State’s high-powered offense out of the endzone until the final minute of the third quarter.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12, USC’s depleted roster had just enough talent remaining to beat Utah 19-3. Arizona knocked off Colorado 44-20, and Washington beat California 41-17.
Oregon (8-0, 5-0): With the score tied at 14 at halftime, Saturday’s game against UCLA was the biggest test of the Mark Helfrich era. If there were any doubts about Helfrich’s leadership for the Ducks, they should have been answered in the second half. Oregon outscored the Bruins 28-0 in the final two quarters, cruising to a 42-14 win. The final yardage (555) wasn’t as eye-popping as some of the Ducks’ previous totals, but it was more than enough. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was steady, while running back Byron Marshall led the way on offense with 133 yards and three touchdowns. The Ducks’ defense held UCLA to 64 passing yards and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley three times. Next Week: Bye Week
Stanford (7-1, 5-1): With the offense struggling, Stanford’s defense delivered. The Cardinal held Oregon State to just 288 yards of offense (3.6 yards per play), and the Beavers scored only one touchdown in a 20-12 Stanford victory. The connection of quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks is one of the best in the nation, but the Cardinal held Cooks to just nine receptions for 80 yards, while Mannion was sacked eight times. Stanford’s performance on offense left a lot to be desired, but the bye week should allow coach David Shaw and his staff an opportunity to regroup. Next Week: Bye Week
Arizona State (5-2, 3-1): The Sun Devils were off on Saturday and a trip to Pullman for a Thursday night matchup against Washington State is on tap this week. Arizona State is in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 South title, but three of its final five games are on the road, including a Nov. 23 date at UCLA. The Sun Devils lost 37-27 in their last trip to Washington State in 2011. Next Week: at Washington State (Thursday)
UCLA (5-2, 2-2): For a half, the Bruins gave Oregon its toughest test of the season. But the final two quarters were a different story. UCLA did not score a point in the second half, losing to the Ducks 42-14. The Bruins’ passing attack was stuck in neutral against Oregon, and no UCLA drive in the second half amassed more than 37 yards. Quarterback Brett Hundley threw for just 64 yards, which was the lowest total in his career. One bright spot for UCLA was the play of senior linebacker Anthony Barr, who recorded two sacks and one forced fumble. Next Week: Colorado
Oregon State (6-2, 4-1): Despite losing to Stanford, the Beavers maintain their No. 5 spot in the power rankings. Oregon State’s high-powered offense was held in check by the Cardinal, as quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 271 yards, and receiver Brandin Cooks was held under 100 yards (80). The Beavers have struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack this year and managed only 17 yards against Stanford. But the biggest concern for coach Mike Riley has to be a line that allowed eight sacks. Oregon State doesn’t have a ton of time to regroup with a date against USC on Friday night. Next Week: USC (Friday)
Washington (5-3, 2-3): After three consecutive losses, the Huskies needed a rebound performance before the bye week. Mission accomplished. Washington jumped to a 17-0 lead over California in the first quarter and pulled away for a 41-17 victory. Quarterback Keith Price showed no ill-effects from a thumb injury, completing 20 of 32 passes for 376 yards. Running back Bishop Sankey was held in check by Arizona State, but the junior gashed the Golden Bears for 241 yards and two scores. The Huskies should be favored to beat Colorado and Washington in November. However, can Washington beat UCLA or Oregon State to get over seven wins for the first time under coach Steve Sarkisian? Next Week: Bye Week
USC (5-3, 2-2): Despite a shorthanded roster, the Trojans managed to do just enough to beat Utah 19-3. USC had only 40-50 players available for this game due to NCAA sanctions and injuries, but the patchwork roster held together. The Trojans’ defense limited Utah to just 201 yards and forced four turnovers. USC quarterback Cody Kessler was sacked five teams but completed 21 of 32 throws for 230 yards. The Trojans have combined for just 29 points in their last two games, and this unit has a quick turnaround with a date next Friday at Oregon State. However, USC is just one win away from bowl eligibility, and with a week to heal, the Trojans could get some of their injured players back for Week 10. Next Week: at Oregon State (Friday)
Arizona (5-2, 2-2): The Wildcats started 0-2 in Pac-12 play but have rebounded with back-to-back wins. Colorado battled Arizona, but the Wildcats simply had too much on offense and pulled away in the second half for a 44-20 victory. Arizona took advantage of a struggling Colorado rush defense, gashing the Buffaloes for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Ka’Deem Carey recorded 119 yards on 23 attempts, and the junior now has nine consecutive 100-yard efforts. The Wildcats’ defense was a trouble spot last season but has held five of their seven opponents under 25 points this year. Next Week: at California
Utah (4-4, 1-4): Since the upset victory over Stanford on Oct. 12, things have been trending in the wrong direction for the Utes. Utah lost 35-24 to Arizona last week and suffered a 19-3 defeat at USC on Saturday. The loss to the Trojans is puzzling considering the injury issues for USC. Utah’s offense never got on track, averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Travis Wilson has showed flashes of promise, but the sophomore has tossed 12 interceptions in five Pac-12 games. Wilson hasn’t been 100 percent, and the bye next Saturday should help this offense regroup before the final stretch of the season. Next Week: Bye Week
Washington State (4-4, 2-3): The Cougars had a bye in Week 9 and return to action on Thursday night against Arizona State. Washington State has made strides in coach Mike Leach’s second season in Pullman, but the Cougars still need two wins to get bowl eligible. With Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Washington on the schedule, Washington State may need an upset or two in order to reach the postseason. Next Week: Arizona State (Thursday)
Colorado (3-4, 0-4): A 24-point loss is never a good thing, but the Buffaloes managed to hang around for three quarters against Arizona. That last statement may not seem like much, but under new coach Mike MacIntyre, it’s clear Colorado is improving. Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau threw for 212 yards and one touchdown on 17 completions, while receiver Paul Richardson grabbed seven passes for 132 yards and one score. The Buffaloes’ biggest issue is their defense, which was gashed for 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Wildcats. Colorado’s schedule won’t get any easier in the next few weeks, as road trips to UCLA and Washington are up next. Next Week: at UCLA
California (1-7, 0-5): The Golden Bears continued to struggle in Pac-12 play with a 41-17 loss against Washington. California’s offense recorded 483 yards against the Huskies, as quarterback Jared Goff completed 32 of 54 passes for 336 yards and one touchdown. But the Golden Bears’ biggest trouble spot is the defense, which allowed the Huskies to average 8.2 yards per play. Injuries and inexperience have been a driving force behind California’s struggles, and the schedule isn’t going to get any easier in the final month of the season. Next Week: Arizona
Pac-12 Week 9 Recap and Awards
by Braden Gall
Offensive Player of the Week: Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
After a monster performance against UCLA at home, Gaffney backed it up with another stellar showing against a team that had yet to lose in Pac-12 play. On the road against Oregon State, Gaffney carried 22 times for 145 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He accounted for all of Stanford's scoring in Corvallis and is now third in the Pac-12 in rushing (894 yards, 111.8 ypg). His 12 touchdowns are tied for the lead in the conference.
Defensive Player of the Week: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Murphy, much like the rest of the Cardinal defense, was all over the field against Oregon State. Murphy posted eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks against the nation's leading passer. He leads the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss after back-to-back stellar showings against UCLA and Oregon State. The Cardinal's defensive performance — holding the Beavers to a season-low 288 yards — on the road was a championship-style performance.
Team of the Week: Oregon
Just like it did against Washington, Oregon played a relatively tight game against UCLA for the better part of three quarters. And just like it did against the Huskies, the Ducks put their foot on the gas pedal for the final quarter and pulled away from a ranked team in impressive fashion. Oregon scored 28 unanswered points to make a 14-14 game a blowout. Oregon has scored at least 42 points in every game and produced another 555 yards of total offense. The win for the Ducks and Stanford's subsequent victory over Oregon State has set up the Thursday night battle in Palo Alto between the last two Pac-12 champs.
Coordinator of the Week: Derek Mason, Stanford
After dominating at home last week against UCLA by holding the Bruins to a season-low in yards and points, Mason's bunch was at it again. Against yet another elite offensive attack, this time on the road, Stanford dominated the Oregon State front line. The Cardinal registered eight sacks against the nation's leading passer in Sean Mannion and held the nation's most productive wide receiver to a season-low 90 yards. The Cardinal defense appears to be well past its early season "slump" and has produced two of the most impressive showings in the nation the last two weekends.
Freshman of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Arizona moved to within a game of bowl eligibility and got its second conference win with a victory over Colorado on the road. Wright posted nine total tackles and helped the Wildcats hold the Buffs to just 349 yards of offense and only 3.3 yards per carry. He is Arizona's leading tackler and is third among Pac-12 freshmen in tackles for the season.
• Washington's Bishop Sankey got back on track against Cal by rushing for a career-high 241 yards on 27 carries for a sturdy 8.9 yards per carry.
• Arizona's B.J. Denker and Ka'Deem Carey combined for 311 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Colorado. Carey scored all four touchdowns, and Denker averaged 12.8 yards per carry (192 yards).
• With less than 50 scholarship players, USC defeated Utah 19-3. The Trojans allowed 201 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers.
• Byron Marshall rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns for Oregon in the win over UCLA. He also caught a pass for 23 yards.
• Sean Mannion was averaging more than 400 yards passing per game. He attempted 57 passes in the loss to Stanford and managed just 271 yards for a 4.8-yard per attempt average.