The Pac-12 may be in the final year of its existence, but Week 7 of the college football season forced fans of the sport to turn their eyes West.
Oregon and Washington faced off as top 10 opponents for the first time in the 115-year history of the rivalry and did not disappoint.
The Huskies and Ducks gave fans what may go down as the game of the year with two Heisman candidates dueling until the very end.
But it wasn’t just the top 10 matchup in Seattle that made headlines for the Pac-12.
Let’s take a look at what college football fans learned from Week 7 of the season, with an eye toward West Coast football.
The Colorado Buffaloes were the toast of the sports world — not just college football — after three weeks of the 2023 season.
After starting the season 3-0 in Deion Sanders’ first year as head coach of an FBS program, the attention on Colorado was unprecedented. Daytime sports shows dedicated hours to Sanders’ turnaround in Boulder while “Coach Prime” was featured in countless articles and on “60 Minutes.”
Even after losses to Oregon and USC — games the Buffaloes were expected to lose — Colorado’s season was viewed as a success following a 1-11 campaign.
Week 7 of the college football season brought something new — a Colorado loss to an inferior opponent.
The Buffaloes blew a 29-0 lead to Stanford, losing 46-43 in double overtime as the Cardinal earned its first Pac-12 win of the season.
After the game, Sanders told his team that all the praise and fawning over their season was about to turn.
“What we just did today was pathetic,” Sanders told his team. “All the love that you received, all the love that we received, oh you about ready to see that slip. And don’t get beside yourself on social media and start responding to the foolishness because they’re right. They’re right.”
Prior to Week 7, a bowl game seemed likely for Colorado, a program that has played in just two postseason games in the last 15 years. Getting to six wins appeared doable, but a loss to Stanford changes the odds of that happening.
Colorado’s schedule is daunting the rest of the way.
After their bye week, the Buffaloes face No. 25 UCLA, No. 12 Oregon State, Arizona, Washington State and No. 14 Utah.
Coach Prime’s first year in Boulder has been successful, but there’s a chance the feel-good story has ended for now.
Playing Monday morning quarterback is a fool’s errand, but let’s go ahead and play it anyway.
Saturday’s matchup between Washington and Oregon was the game of the week with ESPN’s “College Gameday” on campus in front of a raucous crowd in Seattle. The game was billed as the matchup of the Week 7 slate, and the two teams did not disappoint.
The Huskies won 36-33 after Oregon kicker Camden Lewis missed a 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Two decisions by Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, one more questionable than the other, will be scrutinized as the season moves along.
Let’s start with the second decision.
With 2:16 left in the game and Oregon up 33-29, the Ducks faced a fourth and 3 at the Washington 47-yard line. Instead of punting and pinning the Huskies deep in their territory, forcing Washington to go the length of the field to score, Lanning chose to try to end the game on the spot.
It didn’t work as Bo Nix’s pass fell to the turf before Washington took the lead in just two plays.
While questioning the decision to go for it on fourth down is certainly understandable, Lanning is an aggressive coach. He had a chance to end the game without ever giving Washington a chance to score.
It was Lanning’s fourth down call at the end of the first half that should draw scrutiny.
Down 22-18 with three seconds left in the first half, Oregon faced a fourth and goal at the Washington 3-yard line. Instead of taking the three points to head into halftime down one, Lanning went for seven points and failed.
“This game’s 100 percent on me. I don’t think you guys have to look anywhere else but me,” Lanning said after the game.
The problem with going for it late in the half is there’s no upside beyond scoring. With no time left in the half, you don’t get the benefit of pinning a team deep in its own territory should the fourth-down attempt fail.
The loss only dropped Oregon one spot in the AP top 25.
Caleb Williams’ attempt to become just the second player to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies has more than likely come to an end.
All the questions around USC after a shaky 6-0 start were answered against Notre Dame Saturday.
The Trojans were beaten soundly by the Fighting Irish, and Williams was unable to put his team on his back, as he’s done all season.
Williams had his worst game of the year on a big stage, throwing for just 199 yards with three interceptions.
“I made mistakes that I usually don’t make,” Williams said. “Nights like that happen. You have to get through it. You got to keep fighting. You have to be a leader.”
If you’ve been watching USC over the past several weeks, it felt like Saturday’s game against Notre Dame was inevitable.
Williams was sacked five times, and USC turned the ball over five times as Notre Dame got back in the win column after a loss to Louisville.
USC still has a lot to play for. The Trojans are undefeated in Pac-12 play, but they’ll have to be perfect the rest of the way. Maybe Williams goes on a tear the rest of the way. But, for now, his chance to do what only Archie Griffin has done is over.
“That is a big ‘not fine.’ Caleb Williams was the prohibitive favorite going into the season, but that was an awful time to have his worst game. I think he literally goes off the board for the time being. There’s just too many other great candidates. We mentioned Nix, Jayden Daniels from LSU, [Michael] Penix from Washington. I don’t see Caleb Williams getting back in the race,” Paul Finebaum said Monday on “Sportscenter,” according to On3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report