After the win over USC, Washington State collected massive praise, including Heisman talk for quarterback Luke Falk.
Two weeks later, the Cougars were taking a beating against a Cal team that was, until Friday night, winless in conference play.
Fourth-ranked Washington was enjoying an undefeated season, until a 2-3 Arizona State team pulled to .500 with a victory over the Huskies.
The Pac-12 football season is about as unpredictable as they come. Sure there were other upsets in college football, but, in the Pac-12, it’s a weekly event. The parity in the league has meant no undefeated champion since 2010.
The beauty of parity is that competition is exciting. Every fan base can enjoy the possibilities of each new campaign.
The downside is that it caused the league to be excluded from the playoffs two years ago, and unless other leagues deal with similar competition, it could mean missing out on the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Some of the Pac-12 coaches discussed the parity in the league and why the Pac-12 seems to be the most competitive, week in and week out, year after year.
“Obviously, you look at the West Coast and the talent, the recruiting base that’s out here,” said Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, whose Sun Devils upset fourth-ranked Washington last weekend. “Great talent, that’s what makes our league so good.” He said the West has solid programs form high school to junior colleges to Division I and II. And the, of course, there are those teaching that talent.
“I think the other side of it is coaching,” he said. “I’ve coached all over the country, and I’ve not been in a league with better football coaches that develop and teach.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t offer explanations, but said it is the reality they embrace.
“It’s a very balanced league,” he said. ”There are a lot of good football teams in the Pac-12, and that leads to a lot of competitive finishes in the games, and a lot of close games.”
Washington head coach Chris Petersen said he’s not sure why the league is so competitive.
“On any given weekend, and I’ve said this numerous times, if you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat,” Peterson said. “It’s a fun conference for people to pay attention to because you can’t take anything for granted.”
LOBBYING FOR LOVE
Nationally, Stanford running back Bryce Love has been getting a lot of attention when it comes to Heisman talk. After last weekend’s games, the chatter focused on Love and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
Stanford head coach David Shaw said that the school will do what it can to bolster his chances, and this week, the athletic department will launch the #HeismanLove hashtag to remind the world of everything the running back accomplishes.
“There are things we will do,” Shaw said. “I will be involved and I’m not running any campaigns, necessarily, but I will be involved in the process and make sure that what we do befits Stanford and befits Bryce.” He said the Heisman focus has moved from quarterbacks to running backs as quarterbacks across the country have struggled.
“Quarterback play has been good, but hasn’t been stellar across the nation,” Shaw said. “I think the running backs have been as dynamic and as consistent.”
UTES OFFENSIVE LINE DRAWING PRAISE
Utah assistant coach Jim Harding’s ability to rebuild Utah’s offensive line after four big men were drafted last spring is drawing praise from opposing coaches.
“I can’t say enough about them,” said Graham, whose Sun Devils will visit Rice-Eccles Saturday afternoon. “Their offensive line coach, I don’t even know his name, but he does one heck of a job because they’re as good an offensive line as we’ve played to this point, as far as discipline and technique.”