Big Game comes a month early
Folks having trouble adjusting to the Utah-BYU game being played in September can relate to fans in the Bay Area, who are being jolted by the sudden arrival of this week's Big Game between Cal and Stanford. This is the teams' first October contest in 115 meetings.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford has been outspoken about the loss of tradition, but he said Tuesday, "It doesn't help to get angry about it."
The Big Game usually was staged the Saturday before Thanksgiving, concluding the regular season for Cal although Stanford has often met Notre Dame the following week. With his team visiting Utah next week, Tedford said, "The odd part is probably going to be afterward."
The Pac-12 offered to schedule the game the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but neither school liked that option, according to the San Jose Mercury-News. The traditional date created so many scheduling complications that other conference members voted against it.
In any case, the October meeting is expected to occur only once in a while. Other Pac-12 rivalries may have to take their turn in a midseason slot.
Meanwhile, even during the baseball playoffs, it feels like Big Game week to Stanford coach David Shaw. Compared with the usual preparation, "You start feeling it on Monday, as opposed to when you walk into it on game day," Shaw said.
Offense losing its bite
Washington's "Bark For Sark" theme has a different twist this season. The Huskies have fixed most of their defensive issues, thanks to new coordinator Justin Wilcox, but coach Steve Sarkisian's offense has regressed in his fourth year. Washington has gone from 38th nationally in total offense last season to 109th, not far ahead of Utah.
Although the Huskies lost offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Alabama (his replacement is Eric Kiesau, a former Utah State assistant), lack of continuity should not be a factor. Sarkisian still calls the plays and quarterback Keith Price is a second-year starter. "We've played some really good teams, we've endured some injuries and we're getting better," Sarkisian said.
The Huskies, who are averaging 317.5 yards, should improve dramatically this week, facing Arizona's 110th-ranked defense.
'Whatever it takes'
The old Lane Kiffin might have been more concerned about passing yardage and a Heisman Trophy campaign. USC's coach called only 20 pass plays in a 24-14 win at Washington, with Matt Barkley completing 10 of them for 167 yards. Marqise Lee, who caught 12 passes the previous week at Utah, had only two receptions. But running back Silas Redd gained 155 yards and the Trojans controlled the game. "Whatever it takes to win," said Kiffin, who once was fired by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis of "Just win, baby" fame.
Stars in the making
The independent BYU Cougars went 1-2 against Pac-12 schools this season, beating Washington State and losing to Utah and Oregon State.
In each loss, the Cougars enabled an opponent to earn Pac-12 player of the week recognition in his first meaningful action. BYU could not have done much to prevent Utah punter Tom Hackett's success, other than possibly fielding his three punts that were downed inside the 10-yard line. The Cougars definitely facilitated Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz's honors, allowing him to pass for 332 yards and three touchdowns.
In his first career start, Vaz became the second OSU quarterback in three weeks to win the Pac-12 offensive award, following Sean Mannion. The Beavers matched Arizona's 2010 feat of having QBs Nick Foles and Matt Scott honored in the same season.
The award-winning statistics for OSU's quarterbacks:
Player Opponent Comp. Att. Yds. TD Int.
Sean Mannion Arizona 29 45 433 3 0
Cody Vaz BYU 20 32 332 3 0