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Pac-12 rewind: Washington wins in the rain, Arizona slays again and Nix shines in blowout

Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Recapping the Week 12 action across the Pac-12 …

Theme of the week: No. 1 seed set

Washington clinched a berth in the conference championship game, and will be the home team in Las Vegas, with a 22-20 victory at Oregon State that was exactly as arduous as expected. The Huskies will face either Oregon or Arizona. The Ducks clinch with a victory over Oregon State or an Arizona loss at ASU; the Wildcats must beat ASU and need the Ducks to lose. Oregon is favored by 13.5 points over the Beavers, according to FanDuel.

Theme of the week II: This is goodbye

USC finished its regular season Saturday with a dreadful showing against UCLA in what seemingly was quarterback Caleb Williams’ final college game. (We expect him to skip USC’s bowl and enter the NFL draft.) While some of his actions were hardly commendable – for example, the four-letter words on his fingernails – there is no denying that he is a phenomenal, otherworldly, generational talent.

Game of the week: Washington 22, Oregon State 20

Week 12 brought five lopsided affairs and one riveting matchup. The showdown in Corvallis was as advertised, with a steady rain adding to the festivities. UW led 22-10 at halftime and didn’t score in the second half. But the defense stood tall when needed and, despite a substandard evening (largely due to the rain), quarterback Michael Penix Jr. delivered when his team needed it most.

Team of the week: Washington State

The Cougars snapped a six-game losing streak and moved within one win of a bowl berth as they walloped Colorado 56-14 on Friday night. In the process, they scored two touchdowns on defense and one on special teams. And if you have a tough time believing what transpired, just ask the Cougars. They probably have receipts.

Team of the season: Arizona

Picked to finish eighth in the conference in the media poll, the Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) are alone in third place and have a reasonable path to a nine-win season and the conference championship game. Every year features an upside surprise and a downside disappointment. The Wildcats are the former (with USC as the latter). And Jedd Fisch is one of two candidates, along with Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, for Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Team of the era: Washington

The Huskies are one victory away from becoming the first team in the Pac-12 era to produce an undefeated record in conference play. Since the conference expanded early last decade, 14 teams have gone 8-1 in league play. With a win over Washington State on Saturday (at home), UW would be the first to go 9-0.

Salt (in the wound) of the week: Arizona

The Wildcats opted against taking a knee in the final seconds of their 42-18 victory over Utah and instead took to the air – for a 51-yard yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jayden de Laura to receiver Tetairoa McMillan. Unnecessary? Of course. Their prerogative? Absolutely. As Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted: “That’s the play they want to run, we’ve got to defend it. It’s plain and simple.” That said, the Utes won’t forget.

Offensive player of the week I: Oregon QB Bo Nix

We prefer to avoid honoring players involved in blowouts because individual performances don’t carry the same impact as in close games. But Nix warrants an exception after throwing six touchdown passes in the first half of Oregon’s 49-13 victory at Arizona State. In all, he completed 24 of 29 passes for 404 yards against his friend and former playcaller, ASU coach Kenny Dillingham.

Offensive player of the week II: Arizona WR Tetairoa McMillan

The 6-foot-5 sophomore averaged 14.5 yards on eight catches and produced touchdowns with his hands and arm in the victory over Utah. McMillan caught a 51-yard touchdown at the end of the game but, more importantly, threw a 21-yard scoring strike on a trick play that opened the scoring.

Offensive player of the week III: Cal TB Jaydn Ott

The underrated sophomore rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries as the Bears beat Stanford 27-15 for the third consecutive Big Game win and moved within one victory of a bowl berth. Ott now has 1,180 yards and 11 touchdowns in a season worthy of Cal’s rich tailback history. He’s averaging 118 yards per game, fourth in the nation.

Defensive player of the week I: Washington CB Jabbar Muhammad

The transfer from Oklahoma State has played at a high level all season but was at his best Saturday night with two interceptions and four pass breakups in the victory over Oregon State. For good measure, Muhammad also recovered a fumble. Remove any of his plays from the proceedings and the outcome could have tilted in OSU’s favor.

Defensive player of the week II: WSU DE Brennan Jackson

The senior made his final home game count with two scoop-and-score touchdowns, of 48 and 78 yards, in the Cougars’ blowout victory. Jackson added four tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss for good measure. He is the second player in conference history with two scoop-and-scores in the same game, according to the Pac-12.

Defensive player of the week III: UCLA DL Laiatu Latu

The future first-round pick was dominant in the victory over USC with two sacks of Caleb Williams and seven total tackles. Latu leads all Power Five players with 13 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss – not bad for a player who thought his career was over two years ago because of a neck injury.

Collapse of the month: USC

It wasn’t long ago that the Trojans were 6-0 and smack in the middle of the playoff race. But they have lost five of their past six games and are winless in November, losing consecutive duels against Washington, Oregon and UCLA by an average of 12.3 points. After an 11-3 debut season for Lincoln Riley, USC is 7-5 with a bowl game remaining.

Collapse of the season: Colorado

After a sizzling start that made them the talk of the sport, the Buffaloes have cratered with seven losses in their past eight games, just one conference victory and another last-place finish. Rarely has one game generated such a flawed narrative as CU’s season-opening victory over TCU. Coach Deion Sanders’ team was never as good as the attention suggested.

Stat of the year I: Washington

The Huskies have won 18 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in the country behind Georgia and the second-longest post-World War II streak in school history. (They won 22 in a row from 1990-92, a stretch that included the 1991 national championship.) Penix and Co. have not lost since Oct. 8, 2022, at Arizona State.

Stat of the year II: USC

Following the loss to UCLA, the Trojans are 6-8 against teams with winning records under Lincoln Riley. They were 5-3 last season and are 1-5 this year. Against top-tier competition, defense matters. At some point, perhaps Riley will make the trenches a priority.

Stat of the century: Arizona

The victory over Utah stands as Arizona’s fourth takedown of a ranked opponent this season – a feat not accomplished in Tucson since 1989. The Wildcats have beaten Oregon State, UCLA, WSU and Utah, with three of the four coming at home. And they were a few plays away from beating USC and Washington.

Game of next week: Oregon State at Oregon (Friday)

The rivalry formerly known as the Civil War (and still without a new name) has massive implications for the Ducks and matters greatly to the Beavers, as well. The logistics favor the home team, which had an easy afternoon at ASU, whereas the Beavers endured a slugfest with Washington and now have a short week of recovery and preparation. Also notable: OSU hasn’t won in Eugene since 2007.