Handing out report cards at the midway point of the college season, but will any Pac-12 football teams get an A and how many get an F?
We’re at the halfway point of the college football season and to no one’s surprise, the Washington Huskies look like the class of the Pac-12. Chris Petersen’s team lost their opener to Auburn, but have rallied with five straight wins and represent the conference’s best chance of being represented in the College Football Playoff.
With the ongoing injury concerns to Stanford running back, Bryce Love, the Cardinal no longer pose a threat as a playoff contender and their defense isn’t as strong as year’s past due to a number of losses to graduation and the NFL Draft. That’s opened the door a tad for Oregon and Washington State to make some noise in the North as the leading contenders to knock off the Huskies.
The South, meanwhile, has been led by an undefeated Colorado squad that looks like a mirror image of what Washington has done, only with much less attention from the media. Behind Colorado is a jumbled mess of teams who don’t look like contenders, although, if anyone is going to do it, it could be USC who gets Colorado next week.
Since it is the halfway point, let’s whip around the league and hand out mid-season grades for every Pac-12 football team where three teams got an A and two got an F.
Washington (5-1): A-
Chris Petersen’s team lost their toughest test in the opener against Auburn, but have rattled off five straight wins since. The offense hasn’t been as good as I thought it would with Jake Browning at quarterback, but the defense has been elite, ranking first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense. Five of the next six games will determine if the Huskies can make noise as a playoff contender. They are the Pac-12’s only hope.
Washington State (5-1): A-
Scoring has never been an issue for Mike Leach’s teams and sure enough, the Cougars rank second in scoring offense and third in yards behind the strength of transfer quarterback, Gardner Minshew who has been better than they hoped. They’re getting a bit more help defensively as this has been a much-improved unit in the last two years. They rank third in yards allowed and that could keep them alive when they face the gauntlet that is Oregon, Stanford, Colorado and Washington in four of their last six games.
Stanford (4-2): C
The Cardinal ranked as high as No. 7 only two weeks ago before losing to Notre Dame and Utah. The injury to Bryce Love has crushed the offense that ranks tenth in scoring in the Pac-12 and only UCLA is gaining fewer yards. The passing game has had some fleeting moments, including receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside who is one of the best receivers in the nation. However, the defense hasn’t been as dominant as it has been and another loss or two could be forthcoming unless Love returns to the Heisman-caliber performer he was last year. I’m skeptical though.
Oregon (4-1): B
The Ducks are one play away vs. Stanford from being undefeated and ranked somewhere in the teens. If not for a fumble in the waning moments that led to the game-tying touchdown to force overtime where the Ducks eventually lost, this team would get an A. Despite the gaffe from Mario Cristobal, quarterback Justin Herbert has played lights-out and is looking like a potential top pick in next April’s NFL Draft. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in both scoring and total offense.
California (3-2): B-
I like Justin Wilcox and think he’s going to win a lot of games at Cal. How many they ultimately win will hinge on the defense that ranks fourth in the conference in yards allowed. The offense will get better when more talent arrives in Berkely, but the arrow is pointing up for this program. The second half of the schedule is daunting, but if the Bears can get wins against Oregon State and UCLA in the next two games, which they should since they are a combined 1-10, they’ll just need to pull off one upset in their final five to get to a bowl game.
Oregon State (1-5): F
The good news is Oregon State won’t be going winless this year thanks to their win over powerhouse Southern Utah. The bad news is they might go winless in the Pac-12. The offense has been pretty good for the Beavers, but the big problem is a defense that allows 47 points and 541 yards per game, far and away the worst in the Pac-12. This is one of the worst Power 5 teams in the nation.