There is no making sense of college football, and even less in the Pac-12, and still even less in the Pac-12 North.
Not that the South Division is any more predictable, but the North has spun wildly off its typically reliable axis, thanks, for the most part, to this past Saturday evening.
Oregon hadn’t been great all year, but nobody particularly reasonable could have predicted the 70-21 embarrassment the Ducks suffered at the hands of Washington. Stanford, too, was left somewhat stunned, blown out at home by Washington State. Just like that, the Pac-12’s perennial powers were knocked off by typically middling teams.
What happened in the middle of the pack — one could argue — could prove to be the most shocking development in Week 6: Oregon State toppled Cal in overtime.
The Bears haven’t exactly been spectacular this season, but they’ve been good enough to the extent that it wouldn’t have been that surprising if they won a North Division in which Stanford and Oregon can’t tie their shoelaces. Over the first five weeks they had proved to be one of the most offensively explosive teams in the country, putting up more than 40 points in the first four games before scoring more on Utah than any team had this season.
So what if the defense wasn’t much of a defense at all? The Bears would score more than opponents.
Then came the road trip to Oregon State.
If you were to make a list of games to watch prior to Saturday, this one would not have been on it.
The Beavers were one of the least inspiring teams in the entire country, young and without any real semblance of talent at any of the skill positions. It shouldn’t have been close. For a while, it wasn’t — except in the opposite direction from what anybody would have thought.
Oregon State had jumped out to a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter on the backs of a record- setting performance on the ground. Cal’s offense woke up from the coma it had been in during the first three quarters, enough to tie the game and send it to overtime, but it wasn’t enough. Even coach Sonny Dykes admitted afterwards that his team was outplayed.
“Our guys fought hard in the second half, but it was too little, too late,” Dykes said. “I told them guys, I didn’t think we deserved to win. We sleepwalked through the first half, for sure.”
The win is immense for the overall morale of Oregon State, which snapped a streak of 12 consecutive losses in the Pac-12. While the Beavers will not make a run up the conference standings, it crushed Cal’s chances of doing just that.
With Stanford losing to Washington State and Oregon getting pummeled by Washington, this was Cal’s opportunity to take a sizable leap. Instead, the Bears are 1-2 in the conference, looking up at a Huskies team that does not appear to be vulnerable in any way.
What the Oregon State win will do is pave the way for Washington. Cal is essentially out of the running, and Stanford, with two losses as well, will need help. Right now Team David Shaw needs to focus on helping itself, especially an offense that is as predictable as the sunrise.
While Wazzu has displayed flashes of brilliance, it’s unlikely it can sustain its present level of play for the rest of the season.
The North, for the first time since the conference expanded, is going to be won by someone other than Oregon and Stanford.
Washington is doing its part, and the Huskies would have been the favorite heading into Week 7 regardless, but they can thank Oregon State for an extra measure of help.