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Pac-12 Confidential

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

November 15, 2014 at 11:44 PM

ASU bows out of the playoff, and did Mariota just lose the Heisman?

The big news in the Pac-12 came late Saturday night — gee, that’s a surprise — as Arizona State fell to an inspired Oregon State team, 35-27, in Corvallis. By my watch, the game got over about 11:30 p.m. Nice.

It’s a huge disappointment for Arizona State, which was No. 6 in the college playoff rankings, and now drops out of contention after a cold, upper-20s night in the Willamette Valley. It dumps the Sun Devils into a four-way tie in the loss column with USC, UCLA and Arizona in the Pac-12 South, a major knot to be sorted out in the next two weeks.

It also sustains Oregon State’s bowl hopes. So one team — either the Huskies or Beavers — is going to get bowl-eligible next Saturday in Seattle and the other will remain in suspense for another week. Meanwhile, Washington State will have to deal with a rankled ASU team in Tempe.

You could probably also make the case that the ASU loss is not good for Oregon, inasmuch as whoever the Ducks play in the Pac-12 title game won’t have as gaudy a ranking as Arizona State did. But the Ducks still figure as a solid bet to make the playoff if they survive Colorado, Oregon State and the South winner.

As well as the Beavers performed, Arizona State mostly played as if it didn’t want to be there, falling behind 14-3 in giving up two long runs to an OSU team that doesn’t run it all that well. Then, after taking a 24-14 halftime lead, the Sun Devils seemed to exhale, allowing OSU to regain the momentum in the third quarter. ASU scored only three second-half points.

It ended for ASU when, on fourth-and-two at its 33, quarterback Taylor Kelly, who gave up a pick-six to Michael Doctor earlier in the fourth quarter, succumbed to a sack by D.J. Alexander, seemingly without much of a fight.

Early in the day, in Madison, there may have also been some damage done to Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy chances by one Melvin Gordon. While Oregon had the weekend off, Gordon, the Wisconsin running back, ran wild for an FBS-record 408 yards against Nebraska.

The crazy day gives Gordon some stunningly good numbers: 1,909 yards rushing in 10 games and 8.6 yards per carry. That could be an obstacle for Mariota, who had been regarded as the Heisman leader entering the weekend. I don’t have a Heisman vote anymore, but my tendency would usually be to lean to the quarterback spot, just because it’s so much harder to play than any other position. But there’s no doubt Gordon’s performance will open some eyes.

Wisconsin ran up 59 points on Nebraska, one more strange defensive effort in the Bo Pelini regime in Lincoln. Last year, Nebraska twice gave up 41 points. In 2012, it gave up 63 to Ohio State and 70 to Wisconsin. In 2011, it allowed 48 to Wisconsin and another 45 to Michigan.

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