Been a rough 48 hours for the Pac-12’s contenders for the first college playoff. First, Oregon went down with a thud Thursday night to Arizona, and in the wet and cold in South Bend Saturday afternoon, Stanford gave up a late touchdown to the Irish and fell 17-14.
That’s a second loss for the 14th-ranked Cardinal, and it would take something extraordinary for them to worm their way into the playoff.
Something extraordinary, perhaps, like what’s taking place this weekend. The Associated Press’ Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams all went down — Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma — and all we can say with any certainty is that there are still a lot of shots to be fired in the last two months of the season.
If Stanford has a remaining hope, it might rest, ironically, in the rugged road schedule it must play. The Cardinal still have to go to Oregon and UCLA, and if they can surmount all that and win the Pac-12 North, they’d have a chance to pocket another valuable victory in the league title game, which would have to impress the selection committee.
But they clearly have offensive issues, weather conditions or not. They were outgained, 370-205 by the Irish.
Yet they took a 14-10 lead with three minutes left on a gutty, perfectly executed third-and-long call resulting in an 11-yard touchdown by Remound Wright, who, from Fort Wayne, Ind., was going to be a hero returning home.
But Stanford played a prevent defense that allowed the Irish to drive the length of the field and cornerback Wayne Lyons appeared to get lost in coverage twice. The Cardinal seemed to bust a coverage on fourth-and-11 for the Irish touchdown — after a timeout, yet.
All in all, a very rough two days for the Pac-12, which hasn’t done anything remarkable in non-league action and lost a golden opportunity with the Stanford defeat. Now the mantle seems to fall to UCLA, unless surprising Arizona can continue its 5-0 start.