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Recapping the best and worst, and everything in between, from Week 13 in the Pac-12 …

Theme of the week: Taking care of business

The three teams atop the standings handled their assignments as Oregon and Arizona won handily and Washington survived another close game. The results set up the championship duel we saw coming weeks ago, with the Huskies and Ducks in a rematch of their October epic. Meanwhile, Arizona finished with a six-game winning streak and is alone in third place, two games clear of the pack.

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Game of the week: Washington 24, WSU 21

Husky Stadium has been the site of several thrillers, with the Apple Cup near the top of the list: The visitors played with A-level intensity and controlled the line of scrimmage for significant stretches. WSU took advantage of a special teams penalty on the Huskies to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter, but UW made just enough plays — and got a huge assist from the officials (more below) — to produce the winning field goal as time expired.

Team of the week: Cal

The Bears looked doomed in early November, after a 63-19 loss at Oregon. But they recovered with three consecutive wins down the stretch to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2019 — before COVID set the program back by several years. The blowout victory Saturday night at UCLA was Cal’s most complete game of the season, by far. The big play: Jaydn Ott’s 100-yard kickoff return.

Coach of the week: Oregon’s Dan Lanning

Lanning (probably) won’t be named Pac-12 Coach of the Year — we expect Arizona’s Jedd Fisch or Washington’s Kalen DeBoer to receive the honor. But Lanning has done masterful work on the motivational front by keeping the Ducks operating at an elite level every weekend. There hasn’t been a hint of a letdown. The 31-7 wipeout of Oregon State on Friday night was the latest in a long line of first-class performances.

Hot Seat of the week: UCLA’s Chip Kelly

Kelly’s job security looked fragile after a dreadful home performance against Arizona State two weeks ago, then appeared to stabilize with the victory at USC. But the Bruins pulled a no-show in the 33-7 loss to Cal and finished with a 4-5 mark in league play. We’re left wondering if the administration will use the move to the Big Ten as the impetus for a change. And if a dismissal comes, will Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith have second thoughts about his own move? He is, after all, a Pasadena native.

Vacant seat of the week: Oregon State

Speaking of Smith: He accepted Michigan State’s offer early Saturday morning and will leave his alma mater after a superb two-year stretch in which the Beavers were relevant regionally and nationally. The Hotline understands Smith’s reasoning given OSU’s uncertain future but believes it’s the wrong move — that Michigan State is the wrong job. It’s like Oregon State in many ways, but with more pressure and fewer benefits.

Call of the week: Washington’s Kalen DeBoer

We have seen a plethora of terrible fourth-down decisions and a smattering of good ones across the conference. But UW’s call on fourth-and-1 from its 29-yard line — with one minute left in a tie game — was one of the best the Hotline has witnessed, ever. The Huskies set up a fake punt, then called timeout and sent the offense back on the field. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. faked a handoff, then tossed the ball to receiver Rome Odunze, who was running an orbit motion behind Penix. The play baffled WSU and the TV cameras alike and generated a 23-yard gain to keep the winning drive alive.

Bad call of the week I: Pac-12 officials

Washington State coach Jake Dickert described what happened next in Husky Stadium as a “BS call,” and we couldn’t agree more. One play after UW’s fourth-down conversion, the officials slapped Cougars edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. with a roughing-the-passer penalty that should never have been flagged — and put the Huskies in position for the game-winning field goal. It marred what was otherwise a riveting finish.

Bad call of the week II: ESPN’s Mark Jones

The play-by-play announcer for the Territorial Cup actually uttered the following sentence: “ASU athletic director Ray Anderson recently leaving his post, did a fantastic job while here.” Maybe Jones was sticking up for a friend. Maybe he’s (somehow) completely ignorant of the backstory. Either way, he came off as clueless.

Offensive player of the week: Arizona WR Tetairoa McMillan

The sophomore averaged 24 yards per catch on 11 receptions and scored two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ romp. His receiving yards (266) set a Territorial Cup record. We considered Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita, who threw for a school-record 527 yards, but McMillan’s playmaking was next-level.

Offensive player of the season: Oregon QB Bo Nix

Another masterclass performance (33-of-40 for 367 yards) established Nix as the clear frontrunner for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and co-favorite for the Heisman Trophy, alongside LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. His season-long efficiency is simply off the charts: 37 touchdowns, two interceptions and a completion percentage of 78.6.

Defensive player of the week: Cal LB David Reese

The Florida transfer had plenty of company Saturday night as the Bears smothered UCLA. But with three sacks and a forced fumble — it set up the critical touchdown just before halftime — Reese’s presence loomed largest.

Defensive player of the season: UCLA Edge Laiatu Latu

Although he was relatively quiet in the regular season finale, Latu made a greater week-to-week impact than any defensive player in the conference and fueled UCLA’s improvement on that side of the ball. He leads all Power Five players in sacks and all FBS players in tackles-for-loss.

Best fifth-string QB of the week: Utah’s Luke Bottari

In a fitting conclusion to this injury-marred season, the Utes turned to Bottari in their finale. Never mind that he had zero FBS experience. Or that he’s a walk-on who briefly entered the transfer portal earlier in the year. Or that he only threw for 61 yards on Saturday. All that matters is Bottari led the Utes to a 23-17 victory over Colorado.

Stat of the week I: Arizona

The Wildcats scored more points against Arizona State (59) on Saturday than they have in any Territorial Cup game since 1946, when they narrowly defeated the Sun Devils 67-0.

Stat of the week II: Stanford

The Cardinal was 0-7 at home this fall, its first winless season in Stanford Stadium since 2006 — the year before Jim Harbaugh took charge and rebuilt the program.

Stat of the era: Colorado

The Buffaloes finished dead last in the standings, the ninth time in their 13 seasons in the conference that they have occupied the cellar, either in the South division or the full conference.

Game of next week: Washington vs. Oregon 

The Pacific Northwest heavyweights will collide Friday in the last Pac-12 title game, the most anticipated in the event’s brief history. The undefeated Huskies are playoff-bound with a victory, while the one-loss Ducks should qualify for the CFP if they hoist the trophy. Let’s hope the duel is half as riveting as UW’s 36-33 victory in October. Oregon opened as a 7.5-point favorite.


*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to pac12hotline@bayareanewsgroup.com or call 408-920-5716

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.




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