Welcome to Before The Snap, For The Win’s college football show where we’ll break down the sport’s trending storylines, examine each week’s biggest matchups and track the College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races.
The Pac-12 simultaneously won and lost Week 4.
First, the #Pac12AfterDark delivered one of the best, craziest and shocking games of the season so far with UCLA’s 67-63 upset over Washington State in a game that ended around 2:30 a.m. ET early Sunday morning.
Against the then-winless Bruins, the Cougars had a 35-17 lead at halftime, and they jumped out to 49-17 with less than seven minutes left in the third quarter. Amazingly, UCLA erased a 32-point deficit thanks to a series of Washington State fumbles, followed up by touchdowns of its own.
All of a sudden midway through the fourth quarter, UCLA scored a touchdown off a punt return and had a 60-56 lead.
And after a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Demetric Felton with 67 seconds left, UCLA had a four-point lead, subsequently sacked Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and forced a fumble. Game over.
It was wild — and if you went to bed at a reasonable hour, you missed all of it.
Gordon went 41-for-61 for 570 yards, nine (9!) touchdowns and two interceptions. And lost. On the other side, Thompson-Robinson threw for 507 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, and the two teams combined for 1,377 yards in a single game.
No defense, all offense — and almost 80 percent of it was unsurprisingly in the air.
But bigger than Chip Kelly and UCLA finally getting their first win of the season is the fact that Washington State lost, leaving Cal as the only undefeated Pac-12 team.
UCLA fans before the Bruins won Saturday. (James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)
Going into the season, Oregon and Washington State looked like they’d be the conference’s primary College Football Playoff contenders, while Utah seemed like a dark-horse candidate. Washington — which has the Pac-12’s most recent playoff appearance in the 2016-17 season — and Stanford didn’t look like powerhouses. Maybe USC, Arizona or Arizona State would surprise, but maybe not.
The biggest thing we predicted for the Pac-12 was if it wants to earn a playoff spot against the other Power Five conferences, it would have to produce an undefeated conference champion.
Well, Oregon lost to Auburn and Arizona to Hawaii in Week 1, Cal upset Washington in Week 2 and USC and Colorado went down against BYU and Air Force, respectively, in Week 3. And in Week 4, USC upset Utah on Friday and then UCLA topped Washington State early Sunday morning — depending on your time zone.
(AP Photo/Young Kwak)
That leaves Cal as the lone undefeated Pac-12 team through the first four weeks of the season. So it is possible that the Golden Bears win out with games against ranked Oregon, Utah and USC, plus Washington State, still to come and surprise everyone as the conference champ with an unlikely playoff argument.
ESPN’s Playoff Predictor algorithm lists Oregon as Pac-12 team with the best playoff chance, which is at just seven percent and No. 11 on the list. So it’s possible that Oregon, as a one-loss conference champ, could still find a path to the playoff — especially with some help from chaos in other conferences.
Or maybe the Pac-12 gets shut out of the College Football Playoff for the third straight year.