Right up until kickoff on Thursday night, the Oregon Duck hype train was full-steam-ahead. Rich Rod’s Arizona Wildcats played the Wile E Coyote role. Remember how he used to paint the tunnel opening over a dead end for the Roadrunner to smash into? Well the Ducks (aided by overzealous Pac-12 officials) ended up pancaked against the side of a cartoon mountainside last night, struck dumb and watching the little birds float around their collective heads after losing to the Wildcats in front of a raucous Autzen crowd. Mariota may very well be the best individual player in the country, but he doesn’t have the athletes around him -and more specifically in FRONT of him, to support a playoff/championship run. The injury-plagued Oregon offensive line would certainly not hold up for the rest of the year, even if they did escape Scooby Wright and company last night. I said it on the air, but I truly will not be shocked by any upset that happens in the Pac-12 this year. Mild suprise is all that registers when I consider the prospect of an unranked AZ team, led by a redshirt freshman QB and a wildman of a coach, knocking off the odds-on favorite to win what we all believe to be the second best conference in the country. The Pac-12 is deep this year, to say the least. So deep that I couldn’t tell you 2 games into conference play who the best three teams in the league are. More importantly, I couldn’t tell you who the WORST 3 teams in the league are. The Utes have equal chances to fall into either category at this point. Kyle Whittingham and Co. will head into Pasadena tomorrow to take on the heir-apparent, the logical next-best team in the conference. The Utes have hung tough against UCLA in defeat, and that was before the edge speed was on a more even playing field. I can’t confidently pick a winner in the ASUvsUSC matchup, or tell you with a straight face that Oregon State will beat the Colorado Buffaloes. Parity in the conference is only good if the teams at the top look really damn good and everybody else is playing up to that level to make things competitive. The Pac-12 needs an undefeated or one-loss champ to be able to claim a strong spot in the 4 team playoff. That is looking increasingly unlikely from where I sit. Last night’s win was good for Rich Rod and the also-rans in the Pac-12, because it showed a chink in the armor of a juggernaut program. It may also have been disastrous for the Pac-12 on the national stage. I tend to believe that there will be enough upsets and upheavals nationwide to show that the Pac-12 is not alone in its supremacy-confusion. Oklahoma appears to be the only team that stands far above their conference peers out of all the big 5. Then again, the Sooners play TCU this week…..
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