In the Pac-12, it’s the state of Oregon’s world, and the rest of us are just hanging out, wondering (a) who can beat the Ducks, and (b) how Mike Riley can be so successful, letting anybody who wants come to practice?
This week, Oregon maintained its No. 2 national ranking after beating Washington State, 51-26. The Beavers (3-0), the only team in the nation to have beaten only ranked or previously ranked opponents after its rousing 38-35 win at Arizona, are now ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll.
What we learned
If the season ended today, Sean Mannion is your all-league quarterback. Yes, that Sean Mannion, the OSU sophomore who threw 18 interceptions last season. All he’s done is complete 64.6 percent of his passes for 363 yards a game, with six touchdowns and one interception. (USC’s Matt Barkley has thrown five interceptions.)
Before September was out, OSU had finished half its Pac-12 road schedule undefeated. The other two are at Washington and Stanford. And yes, that means the Civil War is in Corvallis.
The Bay Area has quarterback problems. In that region there is a lot of history at the position, but not this year.
After Washington limited Stanford’s Josh Nunes to 18-of-37 passing, Cardinal coach David Shaw conceded, “It wasn’t his best effort." When 1-4 Cal’s Zach Maynard went completed just nine of 28 passes for 126 yards in the Bears’ 27-17 loss to Arizona State, coach Jeff Tedford said, “He didn’t play his best game today."
Of course, Maynard has been sacked 19 times in three games behind a beat-up offensive line, a pretty remarkable number for a mobile quarterback.
Free Brendan Bigelow: The next big cause in Berkeley. The Bears’ sophomore tailback mega-talent, who carried four times for 160 yards and two long touchdowns at Ohio State, had not a single rush against Arizona State.
A move certain to draw speculation: Justin Wilcox to California. I don’t know whether Sandy Barbour, the athletic director at Cal, is as steadfast behind Tedford as she says, but he is now 21-26 in league games over the past six seasons, and there is growing dissent about his regime. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins quoted a prominent Cal alum at a Saturday tailgate as saying, “I’m predicting that if we finish under .500, he’s gone."
Meanwhile, Washington’s Wilcox might be the hottest assistant in the conference, and not just because of the job the Huskies’ defense did against Stanford. He has also been at Cal three years under Tedford before solid runs at Boise State and Tennessee.
Quoting Jenkins: “As someone who has followed the Bears for 50 non-Rose Bowl years, including a memorable undergraduate experience in the turbulent late ’60s, I have a simple motto for Cal football: It never ends well."
Arizona State is a title threat in the South. The victory over Cal proved that the Sun Devils are not doing it with mirrors. Entering that game, due to injuries, they had faced only 14 opposition snaps — of a potential 277 — against No. 1 quarterbacks. But they often overwhelmed Maynard, further validating the notion that Todd Graham has done a yeoman job, and what Utah’s Kyle Whittingham said last week: “The cupboard (at ASU) was not bare. He obviously had a bunch of talent to work with."
Among Graham’s wizardry: ASU (4-1) has committed only 22 penalties. It had 10 fewer than Cal for 99 fewer yards.
USC is at Utah on Thursday night and Washington is at Oregon on Saturday night. A once-promising matchup between Arizona and Stanford now looks pedestrian.