Best Pac-12 NFL Players: Week 8 Offensive Standouts

Best Pac-12 NFL Players: Week 7 Offensive Standouts

It’s a Good Day to Be a Pac-12 NFL Fan

This weekend, Pac-12 football fans got it all. Oregon and Washington State certainly lit up the field offensively. The Ducks are currently ranked 6th in Unafraidshow’s College Football Rankings. Likewise, many Pac-12 NFL players gave us memorable performances in week 8. Here they are!

Best Quarterback Performance

Gardner Minshew II – Washington State – Jacksonville Jaguars

Minshew magic is back! Let’s go!

Unlike the rest of football fans, Pac-12 NFL fans knew that Minshew was for real. We knew a long time ago. It’s just great to see everyone else accept it.

Against a competent New York Jets defense, Minshew didn’t flinch. He compiled 279 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. He also let the Jets sack him twice. But, for those who watched the game, his pocket-presence is next level. Minshew’s movement in the pocket and ability to extend plays is incredible.

Last, and definitely important, Minshew threw zero interceptions. Again. Overall, he has just 2 interceptions and 13 touchdowns this season. The sixth-round rookie is playing far above any expectation.

Gardner Minshew for Rookie of the Year!

Best Running Back Performance

Christian McCaffrey – Stanford – Carolina Panthers

Against the league’s second-best defense (New England Patriots are clear first), the Carolina Panthers flopped. They only scored 13 points, while the 49ers rolled through 51 points. However, that didn’t stop all-star, Pac-12 NFL running back Christian McCaffrey from creating highlights.

This season, McCaffrey’s durability and production is incredible. His 2019 stats include:

Keep rolling RUN-CMC.

Subscribe to the Best Pac-12 Podcast

Anchor // Apple Podcasts // Spotify // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic 

Best Wide Receiver Performance

Juju Smith-Schuster – USC – Pittsburgh Steelers

To say that this season has been rough for the Pittsburgh Steelers is to say the least. After a promising 2017 season and a breakout 2018 season, everyone was ready for Juju Smith-Schuster to keep the hype train going. With the departure of Antonio Brown (to mental illness?), Smith-Schuster was primed for an elite 2019 campaign.

But, all hope went down with Ben Roethlisberger. However, Smith-Schuster still has the ability to pop on the field. In week 8, he cleared the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. Granted, this week he played the Miami Dolphins (#tankfortua), but he’s a good wide receiver.

https://twitter.com/JimmyClarke/status/1189005033653882882

His plus-16.5 (No. 20) Production Premium and plus-39.2-percent Target Premium (No. 10) show that he still has talent, but he’s just trapped on an anemic offense.

Best Tight End Performance

Austin Hooper – Stanford – Atlanta Falcons

Even with Matt Schaub under center, Austin Hooper was a baller. He reeled in 6 of 7 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was one reason why the Pac-12 NFL fans didn’t switch channels. Hooper’s late score helped the Falcons attempt a last-minute comeback (or at least cover the a plus-7.5 spread).

Honestly, look at those stats. Among tight ends, Hooper is:

Miss Last Week’s Pac-12 NFL Best Performances?

https://unafraidshow.com/best-pac-12-nfl-players-week-7-offensive-standouts/

Oregon vs. Stanford 2019 – The Ducks fly past sinking Stanford

Pac-12 Football Review: Oregon leads 2020 recruiting, BYU Games, KJ Costello

Oregon vs. Stanford 2019 was another in the series of two relatively new Pac-12 heavyweights. And yet, this iteration felt different.

The Stanford Cardinal have had a nightmarish start to the season, after winning the opener to Northwestern the Cardinal have lost three straight games including a 21-6 loss at home to the University of Oregon.

First Half

Facing a Ducks team ranked #16 in the nation and led by Heisman candidate Justin Herbert, the Cardinal would attempt to right the ship. Receiving the opening kickoff, the Cardinal drove 61 yards in 12 plays in 6:21 seconds, primarily off the legs of running back Cameron Scarlett. Unable to punch the ball into the endzone Stanford would settle for a field goal, taking a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinal defense was the one of a few bright spots on the day, keeping Herbert under 300 yards passing (19/24 259yards 3TDs). The Stanford defense also held Oregon’s rushing attack to 61 total yards. They harassed Herbert all game long, totaling four sacks and piled up seven tackles for loss.

On the Ducks third possession, however, Oregon found something exploitable in the Cardinal defense. Herbert hit wide receiver Jaylon Redd on a crossing route and he outraces the coverage for 36 yards and a lead changing score. Oregon went 55 yards on 2 plays, using only :35 off the clock to take a 7-3 lead. With his second completion, Herbert broke 8,000 yards passing. He also extended his streak of games with a passing TD to 32.

Still, the Cardinal were not out. Unfortunately their offense couldn’t get going, or even out of its own way. Osiris St. Brown was called for a chop block, costing Stanford 15 yards and seriously impairing the momentum. Two runs and an incompletion later and the Cardinal had to punt on 4th and 12 from their 33.

Stanford’s defense, meanwhile, continued to smother the gun and pistol stretch runs which the Ducks are known for. However, getting off the field on third downs remained a major problem. On two consecutive third-and-longs the Cardinal allowed the Ducks to convert. This led to an eventual score.

On the next possession the Cardinal found momentum as halftime approached. But on the eighth play of the drive at the Oregon 39 yard line, quarterback K.J. Costello was sacked. And after the original play was ruled a fumble returned for a TD, upon official review it was ruled Costello’s knee and elbow were down. The sack counted but the scoop and score did not.

With the offense stifled by Oregon’s defense, the Ducks had another shot. Herbert threw for gains of 24 yards, 16 yards, and 16 yards. The final was a TD pass to tight end Jacob Breeland on a back shoulder throw and catch to open up the lead. 14-3 Ducks.

2nd Half

Heading into the second half the Cardinal had hope. Their first drive showed they could play against Oregon’s stout defense and a 14-3 score was not insurmountable.

But after stopping the Ducks’ offense on their first drive of the second half, Stanford started the third quarter moving backwards.One false start, one delay of game penalty, a completion for 0 yards, a sack of 8 yards, and a 6 yard run. All preceded an opening drive punt for the Cardinal.

The Ducks, believing in either their defense or Stanford’s offensive futility — or a combination of the two — were content to continue running the clock. Stanford had 181 yards of total offense with no touchdowns heading into the 4th quarter. Scarlett, the lone offensive bright spot, had 91 yards on 17 carries. Only Austin Jones and St. Brown had more than 20 yards of receptions for the Cardinal.

This offensive futility was highlighted by a Costello interception that led to Oregon’s third TD of the game. After Oregon safety Jevon Holland intercepted Costello, Herbert marched the Ducks down the field. He connected with Breeland once again for a 24-yard TD, the second of Breeland’s day and 172nd of Herbert’s career.

Now down 21-3, Stanford needed something to get any momentum back.

Moving the offense down the field, Costello had his biggest play of the game on a 25 yard pass to M. Wilson. After Scarlett added 6 yards on a run, Costello once again hit Wilson for 14 yards on another slant, bringing the Cardinals into the redone for just the second time of the afternoon. An incompletion into the end zone was followed by a loss of three on a screen. Costello was then sacked on 3rd and 13 by Lamar Winston Jr., forcing a field goal attempt. Fortunately for Stanford, kicker Jeff Toner connected. With time bleeding away, Stanford was down 21-6.

Needing to score quickly and get the ball back, Stanford attempted an onside kick. They did not convert, and saw Oregon drive 41 yards on 7 plays. This put the Ducks in field goal range. Fortunately for the Cardinal, Oregon missed. With 5:35 seconds left in the game the Cardinal took possession at their 20 yard line down 21-6.

But after starting out with a nice pass on first down for a first down, the Cardinal offense failed to convert a fourth down, giving the Ducks the ball and the opportunity to run more off the clock. And while they did punt to Stanford, Costello and Stanford had no time. He was sacked for the last play of the game, an appropriate ending for the way the game played throughout.

Oregon vs. Stanford 2019 Final Thoughts

Costello finished the game 16/30 for 120 yards 0TDS and 1 INT. Scarlett carried the ball 19 times for 97 yards and 0 TDs. Stanford’s leading receiver was Michael Wilson with 61 yards on 5 catches. The Cardinal are in desperate need of offense and help doesn’t appear to be on the way.

Pac-12 College Football Playoff Chances Entering Week 2

2019 UW Football Washington Huskies

College football week one was a mixed-bag of results for the Pac-12 Conference. Not counting Arizona’s tough humiliating loss to Hawaii, the Pac-12 went 8-3 in week one. Not bad. The conference did, however, see the Oregon Ducks fall to Auburn, potentially hurting the chances of having a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative.

Fortunately there’s a lot of football to be played. Oregon is by no means eliminated from the playoff, and most of the other conference contenders took care of business appropriately.

Pac-12 teams enter week two with no big headline non-conference matchups outside of Nebraska vs. Colorado. There are, however, huge games in California vs. Washington and Stanford vs. USC. Both of these will have conference and College Football Playoff ramifications.

That said, here are the teams will the best chances of being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative entering week 2.

1. Utah Utes

Utah’s defense looked scary good against BYU. Limiting the Cougars to 300 yards total (208 yards passing, 92 yards on the ground), the Utes were stifling, exciting and showed why they’ll be what carries Utah through the season.

A defensive battle for much of the game, Utah scored twice off interceptions returned for touchdowns. The first came with 10:17 left in the first half, and the other with 12:25 left in the fourth. While both were crucial, the second came moments after the Utes executed a 3-play, 22 yard touchdown drive after recovering a fumble. The back-to-back scored put Utah up 30-6 and the game away for good.

If Utah’s defense is as tenacious as they looked against BYU, their lofty expectations to win the Pac-12 may be justified. And if Zack Moss can carry the offensive load, they may very well be the conference’s best shot at a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team.

2. Washington Huskies

Give credit where credit is due. There were plenty of questions surrounding Washington quarterback Jacob Eason heading into week one. A Georgia transfer who beat out Jake Haener, some questioned Chris Petersen’s decision to roll with Eason at QB. He has the arm talent, but are the other skills there? A 349 yard, four touchdown performance was his answer.

Now, this was against Eastern Washington. They’re a decent program but shouldn’t compete with the best of the Pac-12. Still, Eason’s outstanding debut can’ be ignored. The quarterback was impressive.

More impressive, however, was Washington’s defense. They held the Eagles to just 63 yards on the ground and despite no turnovers they commanded much of the game. The Huskies and Eason now face the tough task of navigating California’s not-so-secret secondary in week two. If they’re able to take care of the Golden Bears, the confidence surrounding this team will improve.

3. Oregon Ducks

Oregon should have won their game against Auburn. For much of the contest they were the better team. Unfortunately for the Ducks and the rest of the Pac-12, almost doesn’t cut it and the Tigers emerged victorious. Despite the loss, however, Oregon showed the nation it can compete with the big boys once again. Their defense was impressive, offensive line powerful, and with a little less conservative play calls the Ducks could have run away with the game.

Yet Oregon will now need nearly flawless performances the rest of the year. Unless Auburn finds itself in the SEC Championship Game, Oregon’s shot at being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative rests in their ability to run the table.

After how they played against the Tigers, that’s not impossible. The talent is there and what mistakes were made were more mental than physical.

4. Stanford Cardinal

If Stanford is going to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff, they’re going to need a big win over USC on Saturday night. Dispatching the Northwestern Wildcats in a classic Stanford way, the Cardinal looked impressive on defense but shaky on offense. Quarterback K.J. Costello was precise but unremarkable, and running back Cameron Scarlett was simply serviceable.

Fortunately Stanford flashed an impressive defense, forcing three fumbles (recovering two) and coming away with two INTs. With Costello still questionable for their game against USC, it’s clear Stanford’s defense must lead the way. For the Cardinal to have any shot at the College Football Playoff they’ll need to grind it out and hope a star emerges on offense.

5. Washington State Cougars

The Pac-12 North may eat itself alive this year, and not because there is a lack of talented teams. The problem in the North may be that there are too many quality teams for any to emerge with a record impressive enough to qualify a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team.

That’s exactly what could happen to the Washington State Cougars, who once again showed why Mike Leach’s offense is a godsend for quarterbacks looking to pad their stats. Quarterback Anthony Gordon completed 29-of-35 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns. While this came against New Mexico State, those are still numbers you can’t ignore.

More impressively, Washington State’s defense forced three turnovers and held the Aggies to just seven points. Regardless of opponent that’s an impressive effort. The Cougars now face another low-level opponent before an interesting matchup against Houston that should be a great barometer for just how good Washington State could be. They’re still in consideration for being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team, but they need to show a little more first.

6. USC Trojans

Most Pac-12 insiders understood the dangers of Fresno State vs. USC. The Bulldogs were a good team in 2018, Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford knows the Pac-12 and there were still plenty of uncertainties surrounding USC. Would they finally be able to live up to the talent on their roster?

For some that begins with a resounding yes. Running back Vavae Malepeai burst onto the scene with a 23 carry, 134 yard performance and was complimented by an explosive effort from Stephen Carr (6 carries for 56 yards, 6 receptions for 43 yards). Wide receiver Tyler Vaughns also impressed, catching 11 balls for 150 yards.

But the bad news for USC is that they lost starting quarterback J.T. Daniels for the season, paving way for true freshman Kedon Slovis to command the offense. A three-star prospect, Slovis will be immediately tested against Stanford’s defense. If USC is to make a College Football Playoff statement early on, this Stanford game is it.