Two Pac-12 coaches on fragile footing are scheduled to duel Saturday afternoon, but the terrain isn’t nearly the same for Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin as it is for UCLA’s Chip Kelly.
Kelly’s Bruins are 1-2 but coming off an encouraging performance at Oregon. Squint, and you might spot reasons for optimism.
Sumlin’s Wildcats are fresh off an atrocious showing – it was more like a no-showing – at Washington. They have dropped nine in a row, the longest losing streak in school history, and are careening toward nowhere.
(If you’ve reached depths that even John Mackovic never plumbed, the situation is dire.)
From here, the Week 4 affair in the Rose Bowl stands as a defining moment for the Sumlin era.
As we noted in our season preview of the Wildcats – a preview in which we projected a winless season – players inevitably sense trouble for the head coach.
They know when the seat heat rises and the clouds of doubt gather and the end appears on the horizon. Once that feeling seeps into the locker room, it’s hard to vanquish.
Sumlin took over a program that was 7-6 the season before his arrival.
He won five games, then four games and is sitting on 0-2 after the all-systems failure at Washington.
What do the Wildcats have left?
We know the talent is limited – recruiting is high on the list of problems – but how much internal resolve exists?
How much fight do the Wildcats have left?
Another loss, especially another bad loss – another no-show loss – and the season could unravel quickly.
To the power ratings …
1. USC (3-0)
Last week: 1
Result: Won at Utah 33-17
Next up: vs. Colorado
Comment: The Trojans announced Tuesday morning that one player has tested positive for COVID-19. If everyone else remains negative – the infected player traveled with the team last weekend – then the duel with CU will hinge on contact tracing and the number of players placed in quarantine, per L.A. County requirements.
2. Oregon (3-0)
Last week: 2
Result: Beat UCLA 38-35
Next up: at Oregon State (Friday)
Comment: The first College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday. The Ducks’ placement (15th) is important, but so are the profiles of the teams above them. How many one-loss teams? How many non-Power Fives? How many from the Big 12?
3. Washington (2-0)
Last week: 5
Result: Beat Arizona 44-27
Next up: vs. Utah
Comment: Now that the Huskies are hosting Utah, after Arizona State and Washington State were unable to play, do the teams split the travel expenses to Seattle as they were both replacing a roadie?
4. Colorado (2-0)
Last week: 4
Result: No contest vs. ASU
Next up: at USC
Comment: After allowing 42 and 32 points, respectively, to UCLA and Stanford, the Buffaloes face an opponent with next-level playmakers. They’ll need 35, at least, to have a chance.
5. Arizona State (0-1)
Last week: 3
Result: No contest vs. Colorado
Next up: No contest vs. Utah
Comment: The isolation and quarantine periods (10 and 14 days, respectively) are ending this week, but ASU’s outbreak was bad enough that its availability for Saturday remains uncertain. Players need a brief ramp-up window once they’re cleared to return.
6. UCLA (1-2)
Last week: 7
Result: Lost at Oregon 38-35
Next up: vs. Arizona
Comment: The play on the lines of scrimmage in Eugene was the best we’ve seen from the Bruins in several years. There’s a prime opportunity to build on the performance this week.
7. WSU (1-1)
Last week: 6
Result: No contest vs. Stanford
Next up: No contest against Washington
Comment: The Cougars were depleted before COVID issues surfaced. If more players test positive this week, their Dec. 4 game at USC could be in jeopardy.
8. Oregon State (1-2)
Last week: 11
Result: Beat Cal 31-27
Next up: vs. Oregon
Comment: Based on the events of last weekend, the Beavers seemingly stand a good chance of toppling Oregon. Based on the events prior to last weekend – and spanning the previous three years – they seemingly stand little chance.
9. Utah (0-1)
Last week: 12
Result: Lost to USC 33-17
Next up: at Washington
Comment: Funny how the coaches can analyze thousands of passes thrown by the quarterbacks in practice and come to one conclusion, then go-time arrives and you’re left wondering: What were they thinking?
10. Cal (0-2)
Last week: 8
Result: Lost at Oregon State 31-27
Next up: vs. Stanford
Comment: At least against the run, the Justin Wilcox defense has shown a faint resemblance to the Sonny Dykes defense. We expect a great leap forward from the Bears this week, as long as the core group is available.
11. Stanford (0-2)
Last week: 10
Result: No contest vs. WSU
Next up: at Cal
Comment: With the trip to Seattle upcoming and a .500 record required by the conference for bowl bids, Big Game is essentially a Must Win for the Cardinal.
12. Arizona (0-2)
Last week: 9
Result: Lost at Washington 44-27
Next up: at UCLA
Comment: Adding to the darkening skies: The Week 5 home date against Colorado looks much more challenging than it originally appeared.
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