Thursday night’s UCLA-Utah game in Salt Lake City takes us into October’s Pac-12 football schedule. A look back at the best and worst after roughly the first month:
Biggest surprise — Washington (4-0), although it’s really not a huge surprise. Call it more of a breakthrough.
Biggest disappointment — USC (3-2). The Trojans missed the earliest Pac-12 firing in history by a day. Arizona’s whacking of John Mackovic came on Sept. 28, 2003, Lane Kiffin’s on Sept. 29 (but only because AD Pat Haden didn’t descend from the press box to yank the headphones off Kiffin in the third quarter of the Arizona State game).
Worst schedule — Arizona. Northern Arizona, UNLV, Texas-San Antonio. Anything to get halfway to bowl eligibility.
Biggest heist – Arizona State’s 32-30 win over Wisconsin, when officials let the clock run out on the Badgers. Here’s what’s interesting: The Pac-12 announced unspecified sanctions against Jack Folliard’s crew, but it did not include an immediate suspension. Folliard’s crew is listed as having worked the Brigham Young-Utah game Sept. 21 and the Oregon-Cal game last week. So either a suspension comes later, or it’s in another form entirely.
Best game — Oregon State-Utah, when OSU took a 17-point lead, fell behind by one, 38-37, sustained itself with a fourth-and-nine pass from deep in its own territory, and eventually won in overtime, 51-48.
Best night of TV viewing — Sept. 14. If you were watching on the East Coast, it was around 2 a.m. when OSU outlasted Utah, and ASU and Wisconsin had their controversial ending.
Biggest upset — Washington State’s ambush of USC, 10-7, at the LA Coliseum. The Cougars were a two-touchdown-plus underdog, but the challenge seemed bigger, given the gulf between the two programs as the Pete Carroll era deepened.
Most improved player – UCLA running back Jordon James has 424 yards rushing in three games and a 6.8-yard average.
Best offensive player — Sean Mannion of Oregon State is the national passing leader and he’s thrown for 21 touchdowns.
Best defensive player – No clear leader here, but UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr has forced three fumbles in three games and is second in the conference in tackles for loss with five.
Best comeback – UCLA’s climb from a 21-3 deficit late in the second quarter to a 41-21 victory at Nebraska.
Most bored program – Colorado, which because of a flood-forced cancellation against Fresno State and a bye Sept. 21, didn’t play from Sept. 7 to Sept. 28.
Most misused talent – Marqise Lee, USC. Lee had 118 catches last year and was hailed as the game’s best receiver. Today, he’s eight touchdown catches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks.
Most shocking stat – USC didn’t have a pass completion longer than eight yards against WSU.
Best stand-in effort – Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson went down a knee injury that will keep him out indefinitely, but Josh Mauro has stepped in with three sacks and a point-blank interception of an Arizona State pass that ignited a big victory.
Best song-and-dance routine — Steve Sarkisian, Washington coach, invited talk about “the elephant in the room,” the USC football opening, at Monday’s weekly press conference. Then he mentioned how the team mantra is “zero distractions,” and how firings are tough on families and how he doesn’t deal in hypotheticals. After all that soft-shoe, we have to assume he’d be interested in USC.
Best quote — “I mentioned to the team yesterday, we’re playing against young men that are willing to do things we’re not willing to do down the road. Our freedom is in their hands. We love them and appreciate them.” — Stanford coach David Shaw, in advance of his team’s trip to Army.