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Originally published November 17, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Page modified November 17, 2013 at 11:40 PM

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Cardinal, Cougars at opposite extremes on Pac-12 roller-coaster ride

Stanford gets bushwhacked at USC on heels of its big win over Oregon


Times college football reporter

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Tough league, this Pac-12.

Stanford gets done upsetting Oregon, the fleetest team outside of Jamaica, and for its trouble, it gets a road game in a packed L.A. Coliseum against the squad with the most decorated roster of athletes in the conference. And the Cardinal loses to USC, 20-17.

Given up for dead, Washington State goes to Tucson and upends a team that, a week ago, still had aspirations of competing for the Pac-12 South title.

Where are all the breathers? Oh, they were in Boulder.

What we learned

Stanford’s lack of balance caught up to it. The old-school Cardinal has Oregon’s number, and its pounding, physical style and disciplined defense has put the rest of the league on its heels.

But Stanford’s passing game has been straight out of the Woody Hayes 1950s playbook. These are Kevin Hogan’s last three passing-yardage totals: 127, 103 and 88. Against Washington, it was an even 100.

Tough to win that way at the highest level, and it deserves mention that in the two Stanford losses, against Utah and USC, it was the failure of the Cardinal passing game inside the 10 that cost both games.

Now Stanford, which fell to 10th in the AP rankings, must deal with a flock of one-loss teams like Auburn, Missouri, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Michigan State as it tries to return to a BCS bowl.

Sean Mannion has come full-circle. A year ago against Washington, coming off a knee injury, a rusty Mannion was intercepted four times by the Huskies, who upset the Beavers.

Now he faces Washington again, coming off another four-pick game in a 30-17 loss at Arizona State that left Oregon State coach Mike Riley uncharacteristically cryptic.

“Right from the beginning, we didn’t sustain anything at all,” Riley told reporters. “And when we found out we could move the ball, we’d mess it up in some fashion.”

The Huskies can’t seem to get over the hump. If it seemed that last week’s game at UCLA was important, how pivotal is Saturday night’s game at OSU for the perception of the program? As it is, the ceiling for the Huskies in league play is 5-4 — which would be the fourth year in a row.

They’re getting restless in Salt Lake City. Columnists at both major papers Sunday questioned whether Utah, now 8-17 in conference play since it joined the Pac-12, might be in over its head. Wrote Brad Rock of the Deseret News after Utah’s 44-21 loss at Oregon, “This raises the question of whether Utah will ever do better in its ritzy new conference.”

Still, the Utes are better than their 1-6 league record, and a wounded but prideful team doesn’t figure to be an easy mark Saturday in Pullman as the Cougars try to get bowl-eligible. Utah may again be going with backup quarterback Adam Schulz after leaving Travis Wilson at home with some sort of head injury.

They’re searching souls in Berkeley. Somebody had to win the Cal-Colorado game, but few guessed it would be as one-sided as the Buffs’ 41-24 victory. It left first-year coach Sonny Dykes singing a different tune than his usual, positive face presented on the Pac-12 Networks’ “The Drive,” a series chronicling the Bears’ season.

“We need to change our mentality about stuff, the way we practice,” Dykes said. “We’re going to need to change a bunch of stuff if we want to be successful this year.”

This week

The big game is at the Rose Bowl, where Arizona State can wrap up the Pac-12 South with a win against UCLA. WSU hosts Utah, the Huskies and Beavers try to salve their respective wounds in Corvallis, and in the first rivalry game of the year, Cal visits Stanford.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com




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