College Football Observations: PAC-12 has a path to the playoffs
The Pac-12 has been left out of the college football playoff picture for many years. The only two teams from the conference to reach the playoff have been Oregon in the first edition and Washington in 2016.
Yet after five years on the outside looking in, there may finally be hope for the Pac-12 in the form of Mario Cristobal’s Ducks.
There were originally some concern after beating Fresno State by only a touchdown but Oregon’s 35-28 upset win over No. 3 Ohio State has the Ducks in the CFP hunt as the Pac-12’s flagship program.
Ohio State hasn’t lost a regular season game since 2018 against Purdue but the Buckeyes’ were shown to be vulnerable to the ground game. Minnesota senior running back Mo Ibrahim ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State last week.
The Ducks were carried by junior running back CJ Verdell, who ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns and also caught three passes for 34 yards and a score.
“We saw the Minnesota running back was having a good game, and we wanted to do the same thing,” Verdell said after the game.
Now all that is left for Oregon is the win the Pac-12 title. The Ducks have a good chance of running the table but a midseason matchup with No. 16 UCLA, led by former Ducks coach Chip Kelly makes for an interesting obstacle.
Outside of Stanford, who avenged its lopsided loss to Kansas State with a convincing win over No. 14 USC, the Pac-12 North Division is entirely winnable. At this point, the team coming out of the South Division might be more enticing.
Arizona State took care of business at home against UNLV with a 37-10 victory on Saturday. Quarterback Jayden Daniels showed off his pro potential by running for a career-high 122 yards while throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. Rachaad White also rushed for two touchdowns.
It was surprisingly a close game in the first half. UNLV, coming off a double overtime loss to FCS Eastern Washington a week ago, trailed by only four points going into halftime. The Sun Devils defense held the Rebels to just 19 total yards in the second half while the offense scored 23 unanswered points to cruise to victory.
“Eventually, our guys came together,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “In the third quarter, that’s when we got going.”
ASU, UCLA and Oregon are the only two teams in the Pac-12 with a 2-0 record. Oregon will likely run the table in the North but the South will likely be decided early when the Sun Devils and Bruins meet on October 2.
But first, the Sun Devils will have to take care of BYU next week. Even though they are an independent, the Cougars have started the season with wins over Arizona and No. 21 Utah.
BYU could crash the party this season before entering the Big 12. The Cougars already snapped their long losing streak against their arch rivals with a 26-17 win over the Utes. A win over ASU would position them nicely for a potential perfect season ending with a trip to USC.
BYU is certainly taking advantage of its independence this season with seven Power 5 opponents on the schedule. Running the table this time around could give the Cougars their best chance at the playoff since leaving the Mountain West Conference a decade ago.
About: Tony Capobianco
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