We are a day away from the fourth weekend of college football and every weekend reveals high and low points for teams. Both teams listed on the low side of the chart last week turned it around (for the most part) and played much better in Week 3. Let’s see which team’s stocks are looking especially high and low this week —
During last week’s game against Colorado, Arizona State lost starting quarterback Taylor Kelly to a foot injury early in the third quarter. The Sun Devils announced this week that Kelly will be out for the September 25 game against UCLA and possibly the following week against Stanford as well.
Losing your starting quarterback to a injury is every team’s worst nightmare. The good news for Arizona State is that they don’t play this week. The bye week comes at a perfect time, giving them an extra week to get backup quarterback junior Mike Bercovici ready for the Bruins. It’ll be Bercovici’s first career start but not all hope is lost. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell commended Bercovici’s for his expert knowledge and command of the offense as well as the player’s trust in him to step up.
We won’t know exactly how much losing Kelly will hurt the Sun Devils for another week but this is definitely something to keep an eye on since it could affect the landscape of the Pac-12 South.
USC Trojan’s Run Defense & Sarkisian’s Adjustments
To understand the state of USC’s run defense and their troubles running the ball, you only have to look at one stat from last week’s loss to Boston College: USC 20 rushing yards, Boston College 452. That’s +432 for the Eagles. What’s shocking is that the team that is trying to make the run its identity is the one that had only 20 rushing yards. BC’s yards show that USC is severely lacking the ability to stop the run and if the team has any of hope of ending the season on a high note, they need to figure out how to defend that.
In the first three quarters of the game against Boston College, USC ran the ball on 1st and 2nd downs, which inevitably led to third-and-long situations where they were forced to pass (5-of-15 in 3rd down conversions). BC was able to predict this and blitzed during those third downs and got after Cody Kessler on a consistent basis. After the Trojans started passing more often in the third quarter, they were able to score points fairly quickly with two touchdown drives of 3:10 or less.
The other thing that became obvious during the Trojan’s loss is the lack of adjustments being made by head coach Steve Sarkisian. USC went into half time trailing 17-20 against the team they were supposed to beat by 17 points. Most people assumed that Sarkisian would look at what had happened in the first half and realize that running wasn’t going to work. Yet the Trojans came back into the game and immediately started trying to run the ball again, which resulted in their scoring zero points in the third quarter.
One of the good things discovered during that game was that Kessler seems to be coming into his own, making good decisions most of the time. He could easily become one of the best quarterbacks around.
Moving Up …
UCLA Bruins, Hundley’s Injury & Jerry Neuheisel
It seems strange to put UCLA in the “up” category when they have an injured quaterback just like Arizona State who is on the “down” category. The difference is that the Bruins have a backup who came into the game after Brett Hundley was injured early in the first quarter and rallied the team to a win. That quarterback also happens to have a last name very familiar to Pac-12 fans: Neuheisel. As in Jerry Neuheisel, son of former head coach Rick Neuheisel who has been head coach at Colorado, Washington and UCLA.
After being thrust into the game suddenly, Neuheisel handled himself admirably and behaved for the most part like a seasoned starter. Within minutes, he led the Bruins from their own 42 to the Texas 29, where Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a field goal for the first score of the game. Neuheisel was 23-of-30 with 179 yards and two touchdowns for the night. It’s hard to say that Hundley could have led the team any better.
From all reports, Hundley’s injury does not seem that serious, but their bye week comes at the perfect time for UCLA since the Bruins next play on September 25th against that other team with the injured quarterback, ASU.
Oregon Ducks and Mariota’s Heisman hopes
Things couldn’t be looking any better for the Oregon Ducks and their quarterback Marcus Mariota. The team is riding high after winning their first three games by a total score of 156-54. The Ducks are about to head into their conference schedule and play Washington State on Saturday (7:30 PM–EST– ESPN).
The Cougars are 1-2 this season having beaten only FCS Portland State before having a bye and beginning the trek through the meat of their schedule.
With Georgia‘s loss to South Carolina on Saturday, Todd Gurley’s Heisman hopes took a slight detour. Where before the game most people had Gurley and Mariota close to even, Mariota is now firmly on top. His diving touchdown in the second quarter against Wyoming was just the next clip in his Heisman-worthy highlight reel. He showed once again that he can carry the team as needed.
The Ducks looked a little sluggish at the beginning of last week’s game and it was (once again) a play by Mariota that kicked the Ducks into high gear. This week against Washington State, he will have another chance to impress the voters.