What’s Happening Out West?

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.10.2016

For those that may have been asleep, there is a tectonic shift happening in the PAC-12. As Fox Sports Stewart Mandel points out, the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal have won the past seven PAC-12 titles. No USC, UCLA, or Washington in site. Now, the Ducks are losers of four in a row and Stanford has been manhandled in two consecutive conference loses. So the question is, what happened?

First, the Washington Huskies are pretty good. The #5 Huskies have defeated the Cardinal and the Ducks in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 114-27. Impressive yes but it’s how they beat these two that makes you stand back and take notice. They overpowered the Cardinal recording 8 sacks along the way and bullying the perennial bully. They then went into Autzen Stadium and hung 70 on the Ducks. A team they had not beaten in a dozen years.

Stanford didn’t recover losing the Washington State at home on Saturday night. It was another game where the offensive line was beaten up, although this time they only gave up four sacks.

The Ducks meanwhile have become the an oil spill. The once high powered offense is unable to make up for a defense that cannot stop a nose bleed since the second half of last years Alamo Bowl. Changes were made including a change in defensive coordinators and scheme.

After back-to-back seasons with a graduate transfer named the opening day quarterback, the Ducks have now turned to freshman Justin Herbert. Herbert may turn out to be a fine quarterback but it makes you wonder why head coach Mark Helfrich was unable to recruit a starting quarterback since he became head coach?

Helfrich has developed quarterbacks throughout his career. From Andrew Walter at Arizona State to Marcus Mariota at Oregon. This is his fourth season as head coach and he has yet to recruit and develop a quarterback.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has another problem. How does a team that has flat out overpowered teams over the last decade all of sudden forget how to do it? Add to that that his star player, Christian McCaffery, has been stuffed by opposing defenses and is now dinged up to the point that he may not play Saturday against Notre Dame.

In both cases you have to look at the head coaches. Did these coaches and their staffs identify the right players in the recruiting process and sign them? Are their players not responding to coaching? More often than not, when programs that have had as much success as Stanford and Oregon have over the last decade, players have a tendency to become complacent. They almost feel like it should be handed to them and they don’t have to work for it anymore.

Helfrich and Shaw have some tough mountains to climb. Neither thought that they would be in this place at this point in the season. While Helfrich and the Ducks have an off week to like their wounds and regroup, Shaw must find an answer this week in South Bend. The other fact is that while the media will always fawn over USC and UCLA, the Huskies are the team to beat out west.

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What To Watch Fri. 2/13 – Sun. 2/15

All times are Pacific.

 

Friday February 13th

Arizona Wildcats at Washington Huskies – 6pm ESPN: This is a good basketball game for a Friday night. It’s no gimmie either for the #7 ranked Wildcats.

Boston Bruins at Vancouver Canucks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Two teams battling to stay in the playoff picture in their respective conferences.

 

Saturday February 14th

Baylor Bears at Kansas Jayhawks – 10am CBS: Not many top 25 match ups but this should be the best of the bunch.

Villanova at Butler – 3pm CBS Sports Network: This is the other top 25 match up worth watching.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens – 4pm NHL Network: Well the Leafs aren’t very good this year but the Habs are.

Washington Capitals at LA Kings – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Alex Ovechkin and the Caps head out west to take on the defending Stanley Cup champs.

UFC Fight Night – 7pm FS1: Either Benson Henderson is going to grind out Brandon Thatch for 5 rounds or Thatch catches Henderson early. Take your pick.

 

Sunday February 15th

Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am NBC: It’s on national TV for a reason. You get to see some of the biggest names in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning at San Jose Sharks – 5pm NHL GameCenter: The Lightning hit that tough west coast swing coming off two hard fought games against Nashville and St Louis.