Football's back in Washington
Five years ago, major college football was a joke in the state of Washington. Entering the annual Apple Cup game in 2008, the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars stood a combined 1-20.
A total of three coaching changes later, the programs are respectable especially in the case of the No. 16 Huskies (3-0). Mix in the Seattle Seahawks' 3-0 record and Eastern Washington's No. 3 ranking in the FCS, and you get a much brighter football outlook in the Northwest.
"There's no question we're improving," said WSU coach Mike Leach, whose team won three games last season.
The Cougars' rise creates a nice convergence Saturday. Seattle will stage an unusual Pac-12 doubleheader, as Arizona visits Husky Stadium on the UW campus and WSU (3-1) hosts Stanford in its annual game at CenturyLink Field downtown.
But as evidence of how coaches live in their own world, UW coach Steve Sarkisian responded to a question about Saturday's events in town by asking, "What doubleheader?"
Targeting rule hits home for Stanford
The NCAA's new rule about targeting by defensive players is affecting Stanford in two games. Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds was ejected in the second half of a win over Arizona State, so he must sit out the first half Saturday vs. WSU.
Stanford coach David Shaw fully endorses the rule, which he labels "the ultimate deterrent." The Cardinal regularly practice proper tackling, so Shaw was "honestly shocked" when Reynolds lowered his head in delivering a hit.
The rule "is what we need at all levels of football," Shaw said.
Pac-12 play begins in earnest
Through four weeks of the season, only three Pac-12 games have been staged: Washington State over USC, Oregon State over Utah and Stanford over Arizona State. The league schedule heats up with five games Saturday. A minimum of four games will be played every week through November, with four six-game weeks.
Utah and UCLA are off this weekend, awaiting their Oct. 3 contest. One of their rivals in the South ASU or USC will have two conference defeats after those teams meet Saturday at Tempe, Ariz.
Utes get an interception, at last
Utah became the last Pac-12 school and the 117th of 123 FBS teams to intercept a pass this season when safety Michael Walker picked off Taysom Hill on BYU's next-to-last possession Saturday. The irony is that Walker cost his team 21 yards of field position by making a diving catch instead of deflecting the ball on the fourth-down play from the Utah 38-yard line in the final two minutes. But he obviously succeeded in preventing a completion, basically securing the 20-13 victory.
Walker's interception came on the 154th pass attempted against Utah. Yet partly because of Hill's inaccuracy, the Utes rank 10th in the Pac-12 in pass-efficiency defense, ahead of Oregon State even though the Beavers have six interceptions. No 1 Stanford (3-0)
Cardinal led Arizona State 39-7 before relaxing
No. 2 Oregon (3-0)
Ducks No. 2 nationally in total offense (672.0)
No. 3 UCLA (3-0)
Bruins No. 4 nationally in total offense (614.3)
No. 4 Washington (3-0)
Huskies No. 3 nationally in total offense (629.0)
No. 5 Arizona State (2-1)
Sun Devils get credit for averting total disaster at Stanford
No. 6 Washington State (3-1)
So it was just Idaho (again), but Cougs post first shutout in 10 years
No. 7 Arizona (3-0)
Wildcats' season truly begins in Seattle
No. 8 USC (3-1)
Punter Kris Albarado made difference vs. Utah State
No. 9 Oregon State (3-1)
Steven Nelson: Three interceptions in last two games
No. 10 Utah (3-1)
State champions have a lot to prove in Pac-12 play
No. 11 Colorado (2-0)
Buffaloes finally get to play a game Saturday after two weeks off
No. 12 California (1-2)
Bears go from facing Ohio State to Oregon