In this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden get into all of the action in week one, including a disastrous showing by the schools up north, though George thinks the Pac-12 at least outperformed the ACC. Who put on the worst coaching clinic- Justin Wilcox, Nick Rolovich, or Jimmy Lake? The guys get into their Pac-12 power rankings, and are unified at the top after UCLA’s dominant performance against LSU. Finally, Previews and picks for the upcoming week 2 slate of games.
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Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?
The Pac-12 Apostles is a podcast for fans who love the Pac-12 conference. George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden are committed to the honest and fair conversation about the conference. Join us by becoming a Pac-12 Apostle. Subscribe and share the podcast.
Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.
George Wrighster is a former Pac-12 and long-time NFL tight end. As a television/radio host, opinionist, and analyst, who is UNAFRAID to speak the truth. Contrary to industry norms he uses, facts, stats, and common sense to win an argument. He has covered college football, basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB since 2014. Through years of playing college football, covering bowl games, coaching changes, and scandals, he has a great pulse for the conference and national perspective.
Ralph Amsden is a sportswriter and podcaster. He is the publisher of Rivals’ ArizonaVarsity.com, and was previously the managing editor of the Arizona State University Rivals affiliate, DevilsDigest.com. Wyoming born, Arizona raised, and now based in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and four kids, Amsden made his mark in Arizona sports media through investigative reporting, and being one of the first people to leverage social media and the podcast medium to grow his platform. In addition to his podcasts, he is the Content Director for UnafraidShow.com. Ralph might be sub-.500 in spousal disputes and schoolyard fights, but whether the topic is food, movies, music, parenting, politics, sports, television, religion, or zoological factoids, he’s always UNAFRAID to square up.
Vita Vea displayed versatility to headline Pac-12 NFL standouts
This week in football, Pac-12 NFL fans were treated to a rare gem: a 347-pound player scoring an offensive touchdown. Everyone loves it when defensive players catch touchdown passes. Who else joined Vita Vea with top Pac-12 NFL Week 12 performances?
The Big List of Pac-12 NFL Performers, College by College
Nick Foles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Honestly, it’s a tough year for Arizona. Each and every week, it’s a difficult school to find Pac-12 NFL talent. This week, Foles was alright. Not great. But not horrible. He completed 66.7-percent of his passes for 272 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s weeks like this that make fans wish the Jags would have stuck with Gardner Minshew.
However, there aren’t any significant Arizona options in the NFL right now. Therefore, it’s Nick Foles beating a low bell-curve.
N’Keal Harry – New England Patriots
Now, we’re not going to try and paint N’Keal Harry a Pro-Bowler. But, he reached a big milestone this Sunday. In the first quarter, N’Keal Harry caught the game’s lone touchdown. It was his very first touchdown and hopefully there will be many more.
In college, N’Keal Harry’s 43.9-percent (89th-percentile) College Dominator and 18.7 (95th-percentile) Breakout Age were collegiate elite. Combine that with a 134.5 (98th-percentile) SPARK-x Score and first-round draft pedigree. All to go along with playing snaps for the New England Patriots dynasty. N’Keal Harry’s stock will only go up from here.
Mychal Kendricks – Seattle Seahawks
11 solo tackles. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mychal Kendricks was a sure-tackler. He locked up the middle of the field and helped keep the Eagles to just 9 points.
Kendricks also made one tackle for a loss. It wasn’t a pretty win for the Seahawks. But, it was a win nonetheless. And, the defense held up well to a receiver-less Eagles offense. Kendricks double-digit tackle total was a large part of that win.
Jimmy Smith – Baltimore Ravens
Earlier this season, the Baltimore Ravens secondary was exploitable. Now, with the addition of Marcus Peters and a healthy Jimmy Smith, the Ravens are once again difficult to face. On Monday night, the Ravens dominated the Rams.
In their easy win, Jimmy Smith made big plays. Not only did he sack quarterback Jared Goff, but he intercepted the ball to seal the game. Jimmy Smith is a great Pac-12 NFL representative.
Arik Armstead – San Francisco 49ers
Oh my. All quarterbacks should fear Arik Armstead. Incredibly, Armstead hit quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and sacked him twice. His defensive pressure is a great asset for the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s a great year for him. Against 42 targets, he’s allowed just 20 receptions. He’s an underrated corner climbing to the top of his game. Sitting at six and five, the Steelers are on the hunt for a playoff spot. They need Nelson to keep churning out solid games.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
It’s just not fair. No one can tackle Christian McCaffrey one-on-one. Even against a stout defense with a backup quarterback, McCaffrey finds a way to score. Although the Saints held him to just 64 yards on 22 carries, he still added 9 receptions for 69 yards a touchdown.
Up until this game, Fabian Moreau played mostly slot-corner in the NFL. However, moved to outside cornerback against the Lions, he was finally able to show off his skillset. On the day, Moreau racked up six tackles and two pass break-ups.
But, his biggest plays came on his two interceptions. Moreau displayed an ability to jump routes and track the deep-ball. Moreover, he did what many corners can’t. He held onto the ball and earned his team possession. Well done Mr. Moreau.
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
It’s been an up and down season for the Jets. But, just like last season, Sam Darnold is closing out the season well. This time, he torched the Oakland Raiders and didn’t let off the gas.
315 Passing Yards
2 Passing Touchdowns
16 Rushing Yards
One Rushing Touchdown
His 83.5 QBR and 127.8 Passer Rating were both season highs. Darnold and the Jets are now on a three-game win streak. Also, keep in mind that Darnold is still only 22 years old. We still have years to go with this young, Pac-12 NFL quarterback. Provided he doesn’t get Mono again next season, New York has it’s quarterback.
Star Lotulelei – Buffalo Bills
Although his stat line from Week 11 was more impressive, Star Lotulelei had another impactful game in Week 12. Against the Denver Broncos, Lotulelei recorded another solo sack. Back-to-back weeks with a full sack. In his seven-year career, Lotulelei’s career-best is four sacks in 2016.
It would be nice to see him beat that total by closing out the year with a streak. Granted, his sacks came against Miami and Denver. So, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to continue this fun. However, in the final quarter of the NFL season, why not root for an underdog?
Vita Vea – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everyone loves it when the big guy scores. And Vita Vea is one large, athletic specimen. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 347lbs, Vea is a monster of a man.
In their win against Atlanta, Vea caught a one-yard pass from Jameis Winston for the touchdown. That puts his career catch percentage at 100-percent. Of course it’s just one target. But, it’s reminiscent of Mike Vrable’s receiving.
Additionally, Vita Vea managed to record two tackles, two pass break-ups and one sack. It was an excellent game for the big guy and a highlight Pac-12 NFL fans will be talking about all season.
Deone Bucannon – New York Giants
Unfortunately, Deone Bucannon injured his ankle in Week 12’s loss to the Chicago Bears. However, before he left the game, Bucannon recorded five tackles. One of which was an impressive defensive stop against Tarik Cohen. If he didn’t make the stop, Cohen would have likely run for more than just a first down.
In 2019, this was Bucannon’s first game with more than one tackle. During weeks 9, 10 and 12, Bucannon played 36 to 39-percent of defensive snaps. His move from special teams to defense for the New York Giants, along with his five tackles, are a bright spot for Cougar fans.
Miss Week 11’s Top Pac-12 NFL Performances? Read them here:
This wee, only one Pac-12 NFL player repeated from Week 10’s Best Pac-12 NFL list. Finally, we get some fresh faces and new players on here. Let’s see who joined the ranks of the best!
Nick Folk – New England Patriots
It’s not often that a place-kicker joins the best of Pac-12 NFL players. Yet here we are. With the New England offense moving slowly, their defense and special teams are picking up the slack.
In a tight, 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Folk scored the majority of the Patriots’ points. He went three-for-three with field goals of 35, 22 and 39 yards.
Lawrence Guy – New England Patriots
Although his three tackles don’t seem like much, Lawrency Guy was a key-cog in the Patriots’ defensive win. Against the Eagles, his two biggest were:
Penetrating tackle on Miles Sanders on the one-yard line (shown in above Tweet)
Fumble recovery after the strip-sack by Danny Shelton
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Cameron Jordan – New Orleans Saints
Through 10 games, Cameron Jordan’s racked up:
18 quarterback hits
8 tackles for a loss
One fumble recovery (and one should-be touchdown)
And 10 sacks
On Sunday, he managed to hit quarterback Jameis Winston four times, get 1.5 sacks and add a tackle for a loss. It was another All-Pro game for Cameron Jordan. His stats and 82.0 PFF grade are why he is still among the best Pac-12 NFL players in the league.
Josh Tupou – Cincinnati Bengals
Although the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Oakland Raiders, Josh Tupou played very well. It was by-far his best game of the season. Tupou compiled seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, one stuff and one forced fumble.
Honestly, is there anything better to watch than a special teams touchdown? They are rare, special and should be treated as such.
In the first quarter, up 3-0, Kenjon Barner fielded the punt from Younghoe Koo at the Atlanta 22. He then took it 78 yards to the house. The seventh-year journeyman just earned his first, NFL punt/kick return touchdown. Of course, his highlight-touchdown is worthy of praise.
Jordan Poyer – Buffalo Bills
Yes, their game was against the hapless Miami Dolphins. Nonetheless, the Buffalo Bills won by 17 and Miami finally couldn’t cover the spread.
In this game, Jordan Poyer did his usual damage as a reliable tackler. He totaled six tackles (four solo) and also added a fumble recovery. On the season, Poyer now has 72 tackles, one sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Somehow, even though he compiled nearly 200 yards from scrimmage, the Carolina Panthers only scored three points. How on Earth is that possible? What else does Christian McCaffrey have to do?
In their Week 11 matchup, our Pac-12 NFL superstar turned 14 carries into 70 rushing yards and also caught 11 balls for 121 yards. 191 yards from scrimmage. Yet, only three points for the Panthers. This team needs to get a viable quarterback or send the Stanford star to another team. His play deserves the playoffs.
Eric Kendricks – Minnesota Vikings
Eric Kendricks is elite. Right now, he’s playing the best football of his career. He currently owns a 90.5 PFF grade. Last week, he earned a spot on the top Pac-12 NFL list with his fourth-down heroics.
Because of his stellar form, the Vikings have utilized Kendricks in pass coverage this season. He’s stepped up to the challenge with 12 pass break-ups. Eric Kendricks, with 85 tackles and 12 pass breaks-ups, is playing like a top-three linebacker.
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
Though his 43.7 (No. 25) QBR on the season is uninspiring, Sam Darnold played his best game this week. He displayed an excellent passing ceiling with 293 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yes, he still took two sacks and threw an interception against Washington. But, this was one of the better games for Darnold and his 6-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio since returning from illness is promising.
Also, keep in mind these two things before putting down Darnold:
Heading into Week 11, Marcus Williams already was PFF’s top safety. That’s already praise enough for a Pac-12 NFL player. But then, he went and showed out in Week 11. Games like this show why he is the best of the best. Not only did he record three tackles and two pass break-ups. But, he also took an interception to the house.
There’s nothing like a pick-six for football fans. Especially defense enthusiasts. Marcus Williams is having a career year.
Danny Shelton – New England Patriots
Down ten to six with just over two minutes left in the first half, Danny Shelton came up big. His strip-sack of Carson Wentz put the Patriots in excellent field position. Unfortunately, as is the case this year with the Patriots’ offense, they came away with three points. Though they started at the Eagles 22, they couldn’t score a touchdown. It’s a shame.
But, what isn’t a travesty is the New England Patriots’ defense. They look like one of the greatest defenses of all time. If players like Danny Shelton can keep bailing out the offense, they might win yet another Super Bowl.
Jalen Thompson – Arizona Cardinals
As most know, the Arizona Cardinals need help in their secondary. Their pass-defending is among the worst in the league. However, Jalen Thompson got his first interception this week.
Additionally, he also had his first pass break-up. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the rookie out of Washington State.
While the Oregon Ducks held onto the spotlight with their seventh-straight win, the Utah Utes deserve more recognition. Granted, the Utes are ranked ninth in the nation, but they still don’t get the love they deserve from Pac-12 fans. With a top defense and an effective offense, the Utah Utes are the best team in the Pac-12.
The Oregon Ducks showed weakness against Washington and Washington State
After dominating opponents for five straight weeks, Oregon slipped. Now, they didn’t lose to Washington or Washington State. But, their wins were too close for a top team.
Nevada, Montana, Stanford, Cal and Colorado: 195 Points Scored: 25 Points Allowed
Washington and Washington State: 72 Points Scored: 66 Points Allowed
Against Washington and Washington State, Oregon’s point differential dropped from Plus-175 to Plus-6. Their defense bent against Jacob Eason and Anthony Gordon.
Additionally, they also needed heroic wins against the Huskies and Cougars. In Week 8, the Oregon Ducks overcame a 14-point deficit and got the benefit of a late, no-call on the Huskies final drive. Additionally, they needed a last-second field goal to beat the Cougars. Yes, the Ducks got the wins, but it wasn’t pretty.
Additionally, Utah has PFF’s two highest graded defenders, Julian Blackmon (86) and Terrell Burgess (84). These safeties are just one reason why Utah steamrolls its opponents. Defensively, the Utah Utes have it all. Teams can’t run against them, pass against them or score against them. It’s a deadly squad ready to win a championship.
Quality and consistent on offense
With such a stifling defense, the Utah Utes only need an average offense to compete. A game-manager at quarterback would suffice. Considering that their holding opponents to 10.3 points per game, the offense doesn’t have to do much.
However, Utah’s offense is putting up 33.1 points per game with a quality, balanced, offensive system. In six of their eight games, they’ve scored at least 30 points. Their quarterback, Tyler Huntley, is having a quiet and underrated season. Currently, Huntley has 1,778 passing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, 229 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns and just one interception.
Additionally, per PFF, Huntley ranks first in the nation in Adjusted Completion Percentage. This metric factors out “dropped passes, throwaways, spiked balls, batted passes and passes where the QB was hit as he threw the ball.” His 86.9-percent Adjusted Completion Percentage displays his elite accuracy. Huntley’s 10.3 yards per attempt (6th in nation) and 123.4 passer rating (7th in the nation) show how underrated he is. Huntley is accurate, efficient and elite. Don’t sleep on Tyler Huntley.
Moreover, the Utah Utes utilize their powerful running back, Zack Moss. Moss, per PFF, is forcing a missed tackle on 45-percent of his rush attempts, third highest of the league. His five forced missed tackles and 65 yards after contact in their recent win display this. Moss’ 10 rushing touchdowns lead the Pac-12 and he also rolled up 728 rushing yards. Keep in mind, Utah’s benched Moss multiple times this season in blowout wins. If he played every quarter this season, he’d likely have over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Moss is a top runner in the nation and the Utah Utes lean on him to close out games.
Move Aside Oregon, it’s time for the Utah Utes to rise
In almost every defensive metric, the Utah Utes are better than the Oregon Ducks. Additionally, quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss are efficient and productive when called upon. They have an elite defense, a strong offense, and every reason to be crowned as the Pac-12 kings.
Pac-12 Football had big offensive performances, with three teams (Oregon, Washington, Utah) scoring over 45 points. Multiple receivers and running backs found the pay-dirt multiple times. These top-athletes displayed powerful running, big-play ability, and creativity to make the Pac-12 Football’s Best Offensive Performances list.
While many Pac-12 football players had big games, Unafraidshow only has room for one at each position.
Best Offensive Performances from Pac-12 Football Week 7: Quarterback
Jayden Daniels – Arizona State
Though he’s a freshman, Jayden Daniels is ballin. He led the Sun Devils to a big win against the Cougars. He threw for three touchdowns, zero interceptions and showed off his mobility.
On Arizona State’s final drive, Daniels was poised as a senior. He executed play after play. Then, in a moment of brilliance and creativity, Daniels kept the ball and ran it in himself. It’s not every day Pac-12 football fans get to witness a freshman do this. Especially a freshman from the west coast. From San Bernardino to glory, it’s good to watch Jayden Daniels rise.
Zack Moss – Utah
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On just five carries, Zack Moss ran for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yes, only five carries. Moss continues to be an underutilized, efficient runner. His five carries yielded yards of:
91 yard touchdown
6 yard touchdown
Moss didn’t even play in the second half. Why? Because the Utes didn’t need him any more. Although in a limited role, Zack Moss showed why he is in the conversation with Eno Benjamin for Pac-12 football’s best back. Moss is powerful and can take any carry to the house.
Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State
There’s fast. And then there’s Brandon Aiyuk fast. As pointed out by Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Aiyuk’s route speed makes him an “underrated NFL prospect” in the 2020 class. With his acceleration and long-speed, Aiyuk torched the Cougars secondary. After a performance like this, Aiyuk’s rank among Pac-12 football receivers surges.
Against WSU, Aiyuk made the most of each target from Jayden Daniels. With 8 targets, he secured 7 receptions for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns. On those, he sped past the Cougars for touchdowns of 40, 86 and 36 yards. It was impressive!
Jacob Breeland – Oregon
It is nigh-impossible to remove Jacob Breeland from any best Pac-12 football list. He is just too good at football. Breeland is reliable and can turn any reception into a big play. On the season, Breeland leads NCAA tight ends in receptions-per-game and touchdowns-per-game.
He’s a large target with speed and route-running skills. Like many first and second-round tight ends before him, he’s a matchup nightmare. It’s why Breeland is on scout’s lists as a potential second-round NFL pick in the 2020 draft.
However, after catching a 22-yards reception, Breeland suffered an injury that forced him from the rest of the contest. Mario Cristobal said that his leg injury is serious and will cause him to miss the rest of the season. If healthy, Breeland will get drafted on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Disagree with the Unafraidshow’s Best Pac-12 football players?
If you disagree with this list, send in your own recommendations. Each week, Unafraidshow will rank the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end performances from Pac-12 football. Be sure to comment, tweet Unafraidshow, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite moments of each Pac-12 football week.
As we predicted earlier in the season, the PAC-12 is doing an excellent job of eating each other alive – a tradition unlike any other in the conference of champions.
Cal and Washington State both cost themselves spots in the top-25 with losses to Arizona State and Utah, respectively, leaving the conference with no undefeated teams.
At this point, because so many teams are lumped together, it’s hard to pick a clear favorite for the PAC-12 championship.
Here are the schools who still have a realistic chance of winning the PAC-12, with a look at their remaining schedule:
No. 13 Oregon Ducks (3-1)
Oregon’s loss to Auburn hurts, especially since it was a winnable game, but ultimately they are still the team best positioned to win the PAC-12 Championship, and possibly the only team who has a real chance at playing in the College Football Playoff this season.
That doesn’t mean it will be an easy road however, as they have true road games against Washington, Arizona State and USC, as well as a home date with the Cougars of Washington State.
Led by quarterback Justin Herbert, the Ducks should be playing meaningful football into the early part of 2020, but they still have some work to do to get there.
Washington actually has a somewhat favorable schedule going forward, as their two toughest opponents – Oregon and Utah – are both at home along with this year’s Apple Cup against Washington State.
Oregon is still the favorite, but the Huskies are also in good shape to make a push for a Rose Bowl berth if they can win out this season.
No. 17 Utah Utes (4-1)
As I predicted, the Utes fell for the trap game against the USC Trojans down in California, wish dampened their hopes this season quite a bit.
They did bounce back with a commanding victory over Washington State, 38-13, but they’ll probably need to be perfect (or close to it) if they want to win the PAC-12 championship and play in either the Rose Bowl or the college football championship.
A date with the No. 15 Huskies in Montlake will be the biggest challenge they face, although back to back home bouts with Arizona State and Cal won’t be easy either.
No. 20 Arizona State (4-1)
Arizona State is the biggest wildcard out of this group, but they did beat Michigan State earlier this season and just defeated Cal on the road, making them 4-1 with only a three-point loss to Colorado standing in their way.
They also have a favorable home schedule as well, with only Utah remaining as a tough conference game on the road.
They’ll have to defend their home turf against Oregon, Washington State, USC and rival Arizona, but they are a team to keep an eye on in the hyper-competitive PAC-12 conference this year.
The second week of college football has come and gone. With it came an impressive performance from the Pac-12 Conference, as Pac-12 college football teams went 6-2 against non-conference opponents. The Oregon Ducks got back on track against Nevada, Utah separated from Northern Illinois, and Colorado had a huge win over Nebraska at home.
Pac-12 conference play also begin last week, with California dispatching Washington and USC handling Stanford.
From these games came many outstanding performances. Here are the best from Pac-12 football week 3.
Quarterback – Kedon Slovis, USC
Is college football ready for USC football to back? Because from first look the 2019 Trojans may be the real deal along with freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis.
Starting in place of injured quarterback JT Daniels, Slovis completid 28-of-33 passes for 377 yards and 3 TDs in a big 45-20 win over the Stanford Cardinal. Exercising the abilities that made him a top competitor for the starting role out of camp, Sedonis showed the Pac-12 just how dangerous USC could be in 2019.
Running back – Marcel Dancy, California
There was thunder and lightning in the air and on the ground in Seattle on Saturday night. After a 3-hour delay to the game, the California Golden Bears shocked the Washington Huskies in a 20-19 upset on the road.
One of the reasons Cal managed the upset and its first Pac-12 win of 2019 was junior running back Marcel Dancy. Though he finished with 8 fewer yards than fellow Cal running back Christopher Brown Jr. Dancy made the most of his 7 carries, exploding for 72 yards and 2 TDs. The Oakland native had runs of 23 yards and 20 yards on Cal’s momentum-building first drive of the second half.
In the upset win over Big Red, Nixon had 6 receptions for 148 yards and 1 TD. One of his receptions was a 96-yard explosion that allowed the Buffaloes to stay within reach and establish momentum in the game. While Laviska Shenault Jr. commanded the most attention from Nebraska on Saturday, Nixon’s impressive effort was a big reason the Buffaloes came away with the win.
Evan Weaver, Linebacker, California
18 tackles, 14 of them solo and two for loss. That massive stat line belonged to California linebacker Evan Weaver, who did everything humanely capable to help the Golden Bears beat Washington. Expect to see him be a Pac-12 football top performer a number of times this year.
Greg Johnson, Cornerback, USC
While Sedonis commanded much of the attention in USC’s win over Stanford, not lost is USC cornerback Greg Johnson. With the Trojans establishing a two-score lead over the Stanford and needing to forward momentum, Johnson had a key interception to set USC up for another score, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Johnson finished the game with 6 tackles (4 solo) and one INT.
Bradlee Anae, Defensive End, Utah
Any day you get a sack is a big deal. A day when you get three? That means you’re about to be a Pac-12 top performer.
Making his debut of 2019, Utah senior defensive end did just that on Saturday against Northern Illinois. Finishing with four total tackles, Anae made the most of his efforts with three big sacks that kept the Huskies from any second half momentum.
Cristian Zendejas, Kicker, Arizona State
Nobody could have predicted redshirt sophomore kicker Cristian Zendejas would be the difference maker in Arizona State’s game against Sacramento State. Nobody!
That’s exactly what he was, however. Zendejas converted all four field goal attempts, helping the Sun Devils avoid the big upset at home. A Pac-12 football top performer? You bet!