Instant reaction to Pac-12 on-the-field developments …

1. Seven stellar hours

The Pac-12 couldn’t have asked for much more on the third and final weekend of the non-conference season.

We’ll get to the collective performance momentarily, but let’s start with the marquee, back-to-back victories by the bitter rivals along I-5: Oregon thumped No. 12 Brigham Young 41-20, then Washington hammered No. 11 Michigan State 39-28.

The show of force by the Pacific Northwest powers marked the first time the Pac-12 has recorded two wins over ranked teams on the same Saturday since Sept. 14, 2013, when ASU took down Wisconsin and UCLA beat Nebraska.

With first-year coaches seeking signature wins, transfer quarterbacks playing at a high level and swarming defenses, the Ducks and Huskies were equally dominant in benchmark games.

It’s far too early for grand pronouncements, but it appears both positioned for successful years.

Care to guess the last time Washington and Oregon were good … really good … in the same season? Back in 2000, when they finished in a three-way tie (with Oregon State) for the conference title.

That’s good for the Pac-12. The conference is best when its top brands are winning, and as of this moment, it sure looks like the top-three football programs (USC, Oregon and Washington) are relevant regionally and nationally.

They aren’t the only ones. We won’t ignore Utah, the defending champions, or the undefeated trio of Oregon State, Washington State and UCLA.

But just like the Big Ten is best when Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are elite, the Pac-12’s image shines brightest when its traditional powers are good.

The conference needed Washington and Oregon to show well today, in back-to-back games against ranked opponents on network television. And both delivered.

It was a reminder, too, that if the Ducks and Huskies stick around, Pac-12 football isn’t destined for the wilderness once USC and UCLA leave for the Big Ten.

2. Playoff talk

Yes, we’re going there. Why? Because for now, the math demands it.

Let’s address Washington’s situation first. Even though the Huskies were unranked to start the season, their College Football Playoff formula is no different than Utah’s formula or USC’s formula (or Washington State or Oregon State’s, for that matter).

Any team that wins the Pac-12 title and finishes the season with a 13-0 or 12-1 record must be considered a playoff candidate. And if that team’s resume includes a victory over a ranked non-conference opponent, its prospects are even better.

Of course, the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Saturday Night Five: Oregon and Washington rise, ASU and Colorado slide, the playoff outlook and across-the-board improvement

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