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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

October 15, 2014 at 8:55 AM

Pac-12 at the halfway point: The good, bad, sublime, ridiculous

You don’t need me to tell you it’s been a wacked-out, almost incomprehensible first half to the Pac-12 football season — exemplified no better than by the fact road teams are 14-4 in league games. For comparison, road teams were 22-32 last year. Herewith, a look at a zany six weeks:

Team of the first half  — 1, Arizona. Picked fourth in the South, the ‘Cats won as a 23-point underdog at Oregon and rose to No. 10 in the country. 2, Utah. 3, California.

Disappointment of the first half — 1, UCLA. Bruins, thought to be a contender for the first college playoff, have lost two straight and rarely played to their billing (perhaps a 25-7 deficit in sacks allowed and recorded helps explain it). 2, Washington State. Nobody expected big things from WSU, but the bowl season of 2013 at least augured better than a 2-5 start.

Offensive player of the first half — When in doubt, fall back on Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Hard to argue with a 17-0 touchdown-interception ratio.

Defensive player of the first half Shaq Thompson of Washington, who gets into the end zone more than a lot of backs and receivers.

The game of the first half — 1, Arizona 49, Cal 45. 2, Cal 60, WSU 59. 3, ASU 38, USC 34.

The quarter of the first half — Arizona trailed Cal 31-13 after three quarters, allowed two touchdowns in the fourth, and still won, 49-45, scoring 36 points in the period.

Worst call of the first half — Too many to name.

Fortnight of the first half — In a mere 14 days, Cal played three times and the games featured 328 points.

Comeback of the first half — WSU fell behind Utah 21-0, in the first 10 minutes. Then it came back to win, 28-27.

The instructional video that every defensive coordinator needs — How to stop a Hail Mary. Three times they’ve connected, two to win games, and the catches have been far too easy.

Worst defense of the first half, one-game category — Arizona State’s lousy tackling allowed UCLA to have three plays from scrimmage of 80 yards or longer. Last year, Eastern Michigan had the most such plays in the nation, with four. In a year.

The difference-maker of the first half — Without tackle Jake Fisher, Oregon allowed 12 sacks to WSU and Arizona. With him back in the lineup at UCLA, the Ducks piled up 42 points and surrendered no sacks.

Block of the first half — When Connor Halliday threw a slant to Vince Mayle, right slot Robert Lewis of WSU turned around and de-cleated a would-be Utah tackler to spring Mayle for the 81-yard score that beat the Utes.

The consistency-in-offense awardMike Leach’s WSU team scored 17 points against Stanford, the same number it’s had in all three seasons of his Cougar tenure.

The can-I-have-a-do-over citation — Washington’s Chris Petersen dialed up a fourth-and-nine fake punt against Stanford that gained nothing in the second half.

The versatility-on-defense presentation — USC allowed Boston College 452 yards rushing. Then it allowed ASU’s Mike Bercovici 510 yards passing. Voila, two losses.

The Days-of-Our-Lives Award — USC defensive back Josh Shaw jumped off a balcony and suffered two ankle sprains, after lying and saying he had hurt himself leaping into a swimming pool to save his nephew. Frustrated by officials in the Stanford game, Trojan head coach Steve Sarkisian texted athletic director Pat Haden, who came trotting down from the press box to plead Sarkisian’s case for him. On the field, in consecutive games, USC allowed a winning desperation pass by Arizona State, and then almost blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead but survived on a missed field goal by Arizona.

The don’t-blame-me award — WSU’s Halliday threw for an NCAA-record 734 yards, but his team lost to Cal, 60-59, missing a 19-yard field goal with seconds left.

The nothing-is-automatic award — A year ago, the league was blessed with superior kicking — from Zane Gonzalez, Jordan Williamson, Will Oliver, Vincenzo D’Amato, Travis Coons, Andrew Furney, et. al. This year, six teams — Arizona, WSU, Stanford, Cal, Colorado and UCLA — have combined to miss 25 field goals.

And more intriguing stats:

— Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, considered a top-three-round NFL draft prospect, has five touchdown passes in five games, and isn’t in the top 10 of the league in pass efficiency.

— Stanford is No. 2 in the nation in total defense, allowing 238 yards a game, and no Pac-12 team is within 100 yards.

— Colorado, which plays at USC this week, has 55 players from the state of California, and USC has none from Colorado. In fact, the Trojans have just 11 lettermen in history from Colorado — four from Boulder’s Fairview High.








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