No wonder Jim Mora said after the 27-24 Stanford victory over his UCLA football team Friday night that “we need to mourn a little bit.”
The Bruins did a sharp about-face from their 35-17 loss to Stanford just six days earlier. They ran the ball to the tune of 284 yards. They dropped Stepfan Taylor’s yardage from 142 to only 78, about half. They cut their penalties from 12 to seven. They allowed Brett Hundley to be sacked only three times, after he was dumped seven times the week before.
Essentially, a killer interception, the only turnover of the game, made the difference. It came in the second quarter, and a would-be scoring drive for UCLA in Stanford territory became a long return by Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, putting the Cardinal at the Bruins’ 1-yard line and setting them up for the tying touchdown.
So what now?
Stanford heads off to its first Rose Bowl since 1999, when Tyrone Willingham was its coach. Oregon is presumed for the Fiesta Bowl.
The Alamo Bowl picks next, and while there’s lots of speculation it takes Oregon State, I’m hearing it may not be a slam-dunk. As the theory goes, the Alamo wasn’t enamored of Washington’s fan representation last year (somebody needs to tell them that’s halfway across the country) and has doubts about whether Oregon State would do much better than the Huskies. If it’s lukewarm at all, it might opt for the Bruins and the LA TV market, especially if it likes the fight UCLA put up against Stanford.
That would drop the Beavers to the Holiday Bowl, which would love to have them. It’s a win-win either way for OSU, which hasn’t been to either game. And in fact, in terms of distance, the Holiday might be a better option.
USC is seen as probable for the Sun Bowl, which leaves Washington, Arizona State and Arizona scrapping for the final three games — the Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Mexico.
While there’s indication Arizona is getting increasingly serious consideration for Vegas, there are others saying the Huskies have privately been given the thumbs-up for the game. ‘Zona and Washington are both 7-5, while the Wildcats were 4-5 in league play and Washington 5-4, but Arizona thumped the Huskies head-to-head.
Some of this is apparently being driven by some relative apathy among Pac-12 teams for the New Mexico Bowl. If Washington gets to Vegas, that leaves the Arizona schools left for the remaining two games, and ASU finished a game higher than ‘Zona in the Pac-12 South, and won the head-to-head meeting. If the Wildcats bump Washington out of the Vegas game, the Huskies presumably end up at the Kraft Fight Hunger.
We’ll know tomorrow, after the Oregon destination is known.