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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pac-12 rewind: Washington and Utah escape while Oregon and UCLA roll

Tribune News service
By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Recapping the best and worst of the Pac-12 in Week 8 …

Theme of the week I: CFP scenarios

No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff, so the Pac-12 was guaranteed to lose a contender with the USC-Utah duel matching one-loss teams. The result? It’s Oct. 22, and the Trojans (6-2) are out of the playoff race, but the Pac-12 is not: Four teams have fewer than two defeats. How does that compare? The SEC also has four, while the Big Ten and ACC have three and the Big 12 has two.

Theme of the week II: Quiet quartet

Four teams were idle in Week 8, creating a relatively light lineup of four games. But we can say bye-bye to the byes: Every team is in action for the next four weeks. The only remaining week off belongs to USC on Thanksgiving weekend.

News of the week: Utah

After the victory at USC, coach Kyle Whittingham went public with the worst-kept secret in the conference: Quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe have been shut down for the rest of the season. They will take medical redshirts, allowing for the possibility that both could play for Utah next season. We won’t begin to guess their intentions, but the circle would come full for Rising, whose career began in the Big 12 (with Texas) and could conclude there.

Game of the week: Utah 34, USC 32

Another thriller between the former South division rivals was also their last scheduled meeting. And we suspect the Trojans won’t agree to a nonconference matchup so long as Whittingham’s in charge in Salt Lake City. The Utes led 28-14, but USC rallied for a 32-31 advantage with help from a Pick Six (by Calen Bullock). The Utes had the ball last and made the most of it as Cole Becker kicked the game-winning field goal with no time remaining.

Team of the week: Utah

The two-time defending champs sent a message that, despite their early loss to Oregon State and long list of injuries, they cannot be counted out in the race for a berth in the conference title game. The victory at USC was all about the pillars of Whittingham’s program: resilience, resolve, accountability and mental and physical toughness, . The schedule offers a golden opportunity to impact the race: Utah has a home date with Oregon and visits Washington.

Coach of the week: Arizona State’s Kenny Dillingham

The first-year boss convinced his players they had a chance to beat Washington, and the Sun Devils nearly pulled off what would have been the upset of the year in college football. ASU held the Huskies’ high-octane offense without a touchdown in a 15-7 loss. Despite the bowl ban, the Devils are playing with maximum effort every week.

Coach of the Year: Utah’s Kyle Whittingham

He just beat USC for the third time in 13 months and did it with a backup quarterback, Bryson Barnes, who wasn’t even on scholarship until this summer and a tailback, Sione Vaki, who usually plays safety. After the game, Whittingham announced another major injury: Star linebacker Lander Barton is out for the rest of the season. Anyone else think that only makes the Utes more dangerous?

Offensive player of the week: Utah QB Bryson Barnes

The former walk-on was not intimidated by the environment in the L.A. Coliseum or going head-to-head with Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. Barnes completed 14-of-23 passes for three touchdowns and one interception (a Pick Six in the fourth quarter). He also made the play of the game, a 26-yard run with 16 seconds left that put Utah in field goal range.

Defensive player of the week: Washington CB Mishael Powell

The junior from Seattle helped save his hometown team from a major upset with an 89-yard Pick Six that propelled UW to a 15-7 victory over Arizona State. Powell stepped in front of a fourth-down pass by Trenton Bourguet midway through the fourth quarter and dashed down the left sideline for the score that gave UW the lead.

Hangover of the year: Washington

By our count, UW’s post-Oregon hangover lasted 7 days, 6 hours and about 15 minutes. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter of the surprisingly tight matchup against Arizona State that the Huskies mustered enough urgency and efficiency to put away the Sun Devils and preserve their undefeated record. Had that sloppy performance (four turnovers) come against any other opponent, UW would have suffered its first loss.

Switch of the week: UCLA

The Bruins benched freshman quarterback Dante Moore, who had struggled on the road, and went back to Ethan Garbers, their Week 1 starter. He responded well against a porous Stanford defense, completing 20 of 28 passes. Next up for Garbers: Colorado’s turnstile defense.

Stat of the week: Stanford

The Cardinal converted 1 of 11 third downs and whiffed on all four conversion attempts on fourth down for a total of … wait for it … 1 of 15 conversions. It was just one negative nugget in the 42-7 loss to UCLA.

Stat of the month: Washington State

The Cougars have scored four offensive touchdowns in three October games. Their ongoing issues and mounting losses have conspired to narrow WSU’s path into the postseason. That said, the schedule is favorable with ASU, Stanford, Cal and Colorado before the finale against Washington.

Stat of the century: Washington

The Huskies had scored at least 31 points in their first six games but managed just 15 against ASU – and their only touchdown came on a pick-six by the defense. It marked the first time since 2001 that Washington won a regular-season game without scoring an offensive touchdown.

Stat of forever: Oregon QB Bo Nix

The former Auburn transfer set an NCAA record by recording his 54th career start, exceeding by one the previous record held jointly by Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Texas’ Colt McCoy. Fittingly, Nix was highly efficient in the victory over Washington State, completing 64% of his passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns (and rushing for a third score).

Game of next week: Oregon at Utah

The showdowns just keep coming. One week after the Utes’ 34-32 victory at USC and two weeks after the Ducks’ 36-33 defeat at Washington, the one-loss teams collide in a playoff elimination game. The winner will have the crucial head-to-head advantage in any Pac-12 tiebreaker scenario. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. on FOX, and ESPN ‘College GameDay’ will broadcast live from Salt Lake City – its third trip to Pac-12 country this season.