Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota fumbles as Stanford Cardinal defensive end Henry Anderson tackles during first half of NCAA football game in Eugene

Oregon also goes down on night of BCS bedlam


Anybody following college football close enough — that would be y’all — knows that teams contending for a BCS championship this late in the season are going to get every opponent’s best shot. It just so happens there were two knockout punches tonight.

No. 2 Kansas State got throttled by Baylor earlier this evening 52-24. Not long after, No. 14 Stanford shocked No. 1 Oregon 17-14 in overtime. Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado missed a 41-yard field goal (his second miss of the night) before Jordan Williamson nailed a 37-yarder to give the Cardinal the win.

But it wasn’t just that the Ducks lost, it’s that Stanford’s defense was able to contain the likes of Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas for an entire game. Even more impressive is that Stanford actually lost the turnover battle three to one. One of the most dangerous things about the Ducks is that they make opponents pay for their mistakes.

Not tonight. Oregon only got one touchdown off a turnover — and that was a turnover on downs. In fact, on Stanford’s three real turnovers, the Ducks threw an interception, missed a field goal and punted. In all, Oregon got just 11 plays for 26 yards off those turnovers. Stanford’s defense, which had been torched in the second half the past two seasons against UO, held strong the entire game, even when it was put in tough spots.

But Stanford’s defense was best at harassing Mariota, who was under duress the entire night.

Also impressive was Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan, who made is road debut as a starter. He threw for 211 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He’ll need to have another big game next on the road against UCLA. The Bruins knocked off USC earlier this afternoon and  secured their spot in the Pac-12 championship game. Depending on what happens next week between the Bruins and the Cardinal, the Pac-12 championship game could be a rematch. Stanford is tied with Oregon at 7-1 in the conference and needs a win over UCLA and/or a loss by Oregon to Oregon State. to secure a Pac-12 North title.

But what does Stanford’s win tonight mean on the national scale? We take you live to Chip Diller, CFT’s BCS analyst.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.