It’s the gift and the curse of college football in September: You can’t trust anyone.
A team which looks like world-beaters one week will be terrible the next. A school will pull an upset you never saw coming on a certain Saturday then get upset themselves seven days later. A club will start the season in the Top 10, and play their way out of the Top 25 within weeks. It happens in every week, of every September, of every year of the college football season.
And it’s happened again on the last September weekend of 2012 as well, with the only difference being that this week we didn’t have to wait until Saturday to likely see our biggest surprise.
That upset came Thursday night, where the undermanned and at times overwhelmed Washington Huskies stunned No. 8 Stanford 17-13, in a sloppy, defensively-charged game at Qwest Field. And yes, for those of you scoring at home, the Stanford team which lost on Thursday is the same one which stunned USC in Palo Alto just 12 ago.
It’s like we said before: Welcome to college football in September.
For Washington it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of games, and one that (at least on offense) they didn’t deserve to win any more than Stanford did. All night long a young Huskies offensive line (which has now lost four projected starters since the start of the year), left quarterback Keith Price out to dry, meaning his stats (19 of 37 passing for 177 yards) do no justice to just how good he was in the pocket. But to their credit the line did hold up when they needed to late, allowing Bishop Stankey to rush for a 61-yard touchdown score late in the third, before Price found Kasen Williams for the game winning score in the fourth. It wasn’t a pretty offensive effort, but the Huskies did do just enough to win.
Really though, the story was the Huskies defense and their ability to slow down both the Stanford running game with Stepfan Taylor and the passing attack with Josh Nunes. Taylor finished the night with just 75 yards on 31 carries, a far cry from the 153 on 27 carries he had in the upset of USC two weeks ago.
In the pocket Nunes was just as bad, and in the process looked to be exactly what he was entering Thursday night: A redshirt freshman making his first career road start. Washington’s defensive line made him uncomfortable all night long, leading him to complete just 18 of 37 passes for no touchdowns and an interception on the night. Incredibly, Nunes might’ve even been worse than those numbers indicate.
Now, in the big picture there probably wasn’t a ton to take away for either of these teams. Well, you know, other than that they both have a lot of work to do.
At the same time, there may have been one big one for the Pac-12 as a whole. Yup, it appears as though it’s going to be one of “those” years out West.
I mean seriously, after four weeks and change, what do we really know about this league, other than that right now Oregon is head and shoulders above everyone else, and there are five or six teams behind them who can beat any other team depending on the night. After all, how can anyone definitively who is the “best” team amongst a group of Stanford, USC, Arizona, UCLA, Washington and Oregon State? The best case could be made for Oregon State, but they’ve only played two games so far, with a bye week before each. Meanwhile the other four already have one ugly loss on their resumes.
Point being, it’s going to be a fun year in the Pac-12.
There might not be as many elite teams as there have been in years past, but there are a lot of good ones. And a lot of good teams mean a lot of hard-fought games.
We saw one Thursday night.
For all his articles, opinions and analysis of college football, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.