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.
Even though the Apple Cup was in Seattle, the Washington State Cougars began with a bang. They took the ball 81 yards down the field on a patient, 13-play drive. Capping the drive off with a Max Borghi one-yard touchdown, WSU looked great.
Then, the Cougars defense sacked Jacob Eason on his first offensive play. They held strong and forced the Huskies to a three-and-out on their first possession. Ball goes back to the Cougs and they’re already leading 7-0.
The stage was set for a WSU upset in the Apple Cup. Anthony Gordon looked comfortable, patient and was willing to take what the defense gave him. Mike Leach schemed up open looks and it was perfect weather for the Air Raid offense. 41 degrees, sunny and no wind.
But, everything changed after that.
Anthony Gordon’s Dreadful Apple Cup Performance
Although Gordon’s 103.0 Passing Efficiency Rating against Utah in Week 5 was poor, that was at least against an elite defense and the Pac-12’s best team. But, even though the Washington Huskies played exceptionally well, they are no Utah. Somehow, the Huskies held Gordon to 308 yards and zero touchdowns on 62 attempts, while intercepting two of his passes. So why did Gordon struggle so much in this Apple Cup?
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Offensive Line Issues
Up until the Apple Cup, Washington State ranked first in the FBS in Sack Rate, per footballoutsiders. Their 2.1-percent Sack Rate was phenomenal. Keeping Anthony Gordon upright was standard procedure. Just 13 sacks on 585 attempts. Their line was top-notch.
However, against the Huskies, they fell apart. Washington consistently pressured Gordon and sacked him five times. In just one game, they accounted for 28-percent of all sacks against WSU this season. Joe Tryon, Edeguan Ulofoshio and Ryan Bowman took Gordon down for negative-45 yards and a forced fumble on their five sacks.
Even more impressive, they delivered back-to-back sacks on the Cougars fourth drive. After starting out leading 7-0 and playing with a lead, Gordon’s fourth drive was a nightmare. Down 10-14, sacked twice in a row and throwing from his own end zone on 3rd-and-27. The Huskies manhandled WSU’s line time and time again.
Even after a poor Apple Cup showing, Anthony Gordon still leads the FBS in passing yards (5,228) and touchdowns (45). In fact, his 5,228 passing yards is almost 1,000 yards better than Joe Burrow’s second-ranked 4,366 yards. Yet, against UW, he couldn’t get anything going after their opening drive.
Call it preparation, home-field advantage or the Chris Petersen edge. Whatever it is, the Cougars consistently fail in the Apple Cup. In Peterson’s own words. the Cougars “run the same offense every week.” Because of this, preparation was simple and all the Huskies needed to do was execute their game-plan.
In their game plan, they often dropped eight into coverage and only rushed three. UW’s secondary gave up nothing deep and forced Gordon to check passes down. It was a rare occasion to see even an attempt, let alone a reception downfield. Instead, Max Borghi led the team with 12 receptions. Then, when Gordon actually tried to make something happen, he threw into a sea of defenders.
Offensively, the Cougars came into the Apple Cup with all the counting stats. But, UW matched up in perfection. They covered downfield, gave their defensive line time to get to Gordon, forced everything short and kept Gordon fearful of taking shots.
Jacob Eason Let’s it Fly in the Apple Cup
Unlike Anthony Gordon, Jacob Eason and the Huskies were willing to take chances downfield. And it paid off in spectacular fashion.
Though Jacob Eason started off the game with a sack, a deep incompletion and a three-and-out, he kept his gunslinger attitude. He took advantage of Terrell Bynum’s speed and hit him for 57-yards on their first touchdown drive.
More importantly, Eason and the Huskies maintained their confidence, even with more issues. Remember that Eason started off the game with a three-and-out, missing on a deep shot. Then, in the second quarter, he overthrew a wide-open Hunter Bryant and was then bailed out on a deep overthrow because of a penalty. Aside from his earlier 57-yard connection with Bynum, it appeared that Eason’s inaccuracy was hurting the Huskies. But, they continued to put faith in Eason and their receivers.
Again and again, it paid dividends. While the Cougars lacked downfield threats or ability, the Huskies took advantage of their Apple Cup matchup. Not only that, but UW finally utilized their talent properly. Hunter Bryant led the team in receptions and yards, which completely makes sense given his talent.
But, unlike prior games where Aaron Fuller and Chico McClatcher took up targets and space, sophomores Terrell Bynum and Cade Otton got involved. Their combined 6 receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown were huge. They made play after play, getting first downs, yards after the catch, or making difficult catches.
The Huskies Won the Apple Cup by Sticking with Their Gunslinger
It took Anthony Gordon 62 attempts to reach 308 passing yards. On the opposite sideline, Eason threw just 22 times, but compiled 244 yards and led his team to four touchdowns. The Huskies leaned into Eason’s gunslinging style and schemed up ways to get his receivers one-on-one matchups downfield. Even though Eason missed some throws and Bryant and Bynum dropped passes, they stuck with it.
Unlike this, the Cougars collapsed and failed to adjust. Gordon was afraid to throw it deep and continued to dump it off to his safety valves. His passes routinely traveled to the short-middle or the flats.
If Mike Leach ever wants to win an Apple Cup, he needs to make adjustments and have a backup plan. It was clear that he didn’t have that on Friday.
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.
Wow. That was the worst call of the season. Every Washington State fan should be infuriated. It is despicable what the Pac-12 referees and officials did to their team. While mistakes happen every game, this was without a doubt a horrible penalty. But, even worse, this poor call and what ensued after uncovered pure incompetency by the Pac-12 conference.
For those that missed it, here’s what happened:
Saturday (An Egregious Mistake)
Down 20-11 in the third quarter, WSU’s Travell Harris returns kickoff to the 50-yard line.
WSU penalized for illegal hands to the face. Football placed at WSU 8-yard line.
Referee realizes he made an error. Because the penalty was against WSU, it should have been placed at Cal’s 35-yard line. The drive results in a field goal.
WSU loses to Cal 20-33
Sunday (Incorrect Apology)
First, the Pac-12 releases the above statement acknowledging “mechanics error”.
In that statement, they claim that WSU was informed of the mistake “After the next play was run”.
In punishment, the Pac-12 suspends referee for one game and crew is “downgraded”.
After realizing his mistake, Matt Richards (referee) decided to wait until the next media break to inform Washington State. Their drive took up 6 minutes and 38 seconds of the game clock…
What this all means for Pac-12 refereeing
Among college football, the Pac-12 is not respected. It’s the ugly duckling of the Power Five. Because of mistakes like this, and other failures of Larry Scott, Pac-12 football is taunted.
For Pac-12 fans, it’s clear that Pac-12 referees are inconsistent and consistently make poor judgment calls. But, it’s one thing to make a mistake as an official. It’s an entirely other issue to have no measures to correct it.
Is this not 2019? Don’t we have booths, staff and video replay? The Pac-12 should utilize on-site and off-site video assistants to make sure that errors like this don’t happen. Honestly, it’s pathetic. Absolutely depressing. Football programs shouldn’t endure Pac-12 referee mistakes that ruin a game. We are better than this.
It’s about time that the Pac-12 owns up to its faults, corrects its mistakes and takes action for the future. Apologies aren’t enough.
What are the Worst Pac-12 Referee Mistakes?
If you remember an official error that is bigger than this one, comment below or Tweet at us!
UW and USC were strong candidates to be in the college football playoffs, but losses to Cal and BYU, respectively, have all but eliminated them from being a Pac-12 2019 College Football Playoff team.
Oregon looks strong, but an early-season loss to Auburn, while respectable, gives them a razor-thin margin of error if they want to make the playoffs this year.
The conference still has six teams ranked in the top 25: Utah (10) Oregon (16) WSU (19) Washington (22) Cal (23) and Arizona State (24), with USC just getting bumped following their loss.
The question now, however, is will any of these teams make it out of the hyper-competitive PAC-12 conference play in order to participate in the College Football Playoff, or will the competitive nature of the conference knock every team out of contention with a handful of losses?
No. 10 Utah
Utah might have the best shot at it, although they have a classic trap game coming up on Thursday when they play the Trojans down in Southern California. They have No. 19 Washington State after that, but at least they’ll be in front of the home crowd. Most of the rest of their tough opponents will be at home, although a date with the No. 23 Huskies in Montlake won’t be easy.
They likely can’t afford to lose any games if they want to make the playoffs, so this will be a huge challenge.
No. 19 Washington State
Washington State is 3-0 and ranked No. 19, but they haven’t played anyone yet and all their tough games are on the road this year, including @ Utah, @ Arizona State, @ Oregon, @ Cal and @ UW for the Apple Cup. It’s hard to imagine them not taking a loss (or two) out of that murderer’s row, all but ensuring they won’t be playing for a title.
No. 16 Oregon
Oregon has to get by the Huskies in Seattle, the Sun Devils in Tempe and the Trojans in Los Angeles, but – lead by star quarterback Justin Herbert – they may actually have the best shot at playing meaningful football in early 2020.
I just don’t see it for UW, Arizona State or Cal.
UW already lost to Cal, which gives them a miniscule margin of error – unless Cal kills it this year which would make the loss not look as bad. Still, UW has to get through Oregon and Utah (both at home) as well as Arizona in Arizona, Colorado in Colorado and a sneaky-good BYU team this weekend. They have a favorable home schedule, but that Cal loss looms large for the Huskies and their new quarterback, Jacob Eason.
Arizona State’s win over Michigan State looks nice, and they have a decent home schedule, but road games against Cal, Utah and home matchups against USC and Oregon will be a tough gauntlet to emerge 4-0 from, which they’ll likely have to do if they want a college football playoff berth.
Finally, Cal is a surprise team on this last after beating UW in the lightning fest at Husky Stadium, but road games against Ole Miss, Oregon and Utah will be extremely difficult to power through for a team that wasn’t expected to do much this year.
This doesn’t even include the fact that teams like UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State are known spoilers, and could easily trip one of these teams up on their quest for a championship.
All-in-all, the PAC-12 seems likely to shoot themselves in the foot again this year, limiting their opportunities to make a name for themselves on the national stage with continued losses against each other in conference play.