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Dominant Utes embarrass Ducks, send UO’s playoff hopes to early grave

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For those of you who had Oregon in the four-team playoff pool, thanks for playing.

Just four games into the season, and with admittedly no dominant team or two on the national landscape, Oregon likely has played its way out of contention for the 2015 College Football Playoff, with No. 18 Utah throttling and/or drubbing and/or woodshedding the 13th-ranked Ducks 62-20 in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium.  The loss drops the Ducks, who played for the national championship just eight months ago, to 2-2 on the season, with its other loss coming to Michigan State.  While it’s still possible for them to run the table and win the Pac-12, it would seem highly unlikely that a two-loss team from any conference could earn one of the four spots in the two semifinal games.  Then again, as weird as this season is shaping up to be, you just never know what’s going to happen seven or eight weeks down the road that will impact how the CFP shakes out.

As it stands now, though, the Ducks have much bigger and more pressing things to worry about than the postseason, like fixing a suddenly-wobbly offense that was made to look even more wobbly by a physical and swarming Utes defense.  A defense, in fact, that you could say is playoff-caliber.

The Ducks came into the matchup averaging 50 points and 567.3 yards per game; the Utes limited that high-powered attack to just 13 and 237 late into the third quarter, before garbage time kicked in.  Even then, the Ducks totaled just 400 yards of offense for the game.

And it’s not just that the defense was dominant.  After the Utes were forced to punt on the opening possession of the game, they scored on each of their next nine possessions — not including the end of the half — with seven of those drives ending in touchdowns.  And, between the eighth and ninth drives, they returned a punt for a touchdown to step down a little a little harder on the Ducks’ throats.

Now, four weeks into the season, if you’re looking for playoff contenders from the Pac-12, you look UCLA and Stanford and… Utah?  Yep, unbeaten Utah.  And why not?  The season-opening win over Michigan looks more impressive by the week as the Wolverines have turned it around in a hurry under Jim Harbaugh.  And what happened late Saturday night speaks for itself, throttling UO in its worst home loss since a 54-0 beating at the hands of Washington way back in 1977.

And the kicker to all of this?  Utah’s game next week against Cal actually means something as both are unbeaten at 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play.

While the Ducks may be dead, the Ute movement in the Pac-12 is very much alive and well.  Through four weeks, anyway.

WR Weston Bridges is fourth Michigan State player to enter portal

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In the offseason, Weston Bridges changed positions.  Midway through the 2019 season, it appears Bridges is now set to change schools.

On his personal Twitter account Monday afternoon, Bridges indicated that he has decided to take his leave of Michigan State and transfer to an undetermined elsewhere.  It has subsequently been confirmed that the wide receiver is headed into the NCAA transfer database.

A three-star member of the Spartans’ 2017 recruiting class, Bridges was rated as the No. 31 running back in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of Ohio.  During the spring this year, Bridges moved from running back to receiver.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Bridges carried the ball 16 times for 53 yards last season.  He was suspended for a late-September game because of unspecified violations of team rules.

Bridges is the fourth MSU football player to enter the portal since the 2019 season kicked off, joining linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle (HERE) as well as a pair of running backs in Connor Heyward (HERE) and La’Darius Jefferson (HERE).

Louisville’s season-opening QB starter to undergo year-ending surgery

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Jawon Pass began the 2019 season as Louisville’s starter under center.  After a couple of weeks of uncertainty, the redshirt junior will end it on the sidelines.

Pass suffered what turned out to be diagnosed as a case of turf toe in the season-opening loss to Notre Dame.  It wasn’t severe enough, however, to keep the starting quarterback out of the Week 2 win over Eastern Kentucky.

The past four games, though, Pass has been sidelined because of the injury.  Tuesday, it was confirmed by the football program that, as some have speculated, Pass will undergo surgery and, as a result, miss the remainder of the 2019 season.

With Pass sidelined, Malik Cunningham had started all four games in his place.  The redshirt sophomore, though, has been dealing with his own injuries, including a knee issue, that at least temporarily knocked him out of a pair of games.

True freshman Evan Conley replaced Cunningham both times, and was even named as the ACC’s Quarterback and Rookie of the Week for his performance in the upset of Wake Forest this past weekend.

For the season, Cunningham has completed 44-of-66 passes (66.7 percent) for 820 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception.  Conley is at a 64.9 completion percentage on his 37 attempts, throwing for 422 yards, four touchdowns and a pick.  Cunningham is the Cardinals third-leading rusher with 226 yards, while Conley is fifth with 84.

As of today, head coach Scott Satterfield has not named a starter for this weekend’s game against No. 3 Clemson.

USC’s leading rusher set for knee surgery

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Vavae Malepeai tolerated the pain as long as he could, until he couldn’t.

A knee injury sidelined Malepeai for most of USC’s summer camp.  Even as he had played — and played well — in all six games, the issue lingered on into the regular season; this weekend, the pause button was hit on Malepeai’s year as Clay Helton confirmed that the running back will undergo surgery to repair the damage to his knee.

No timetable for a return was given.

“Vavae is a warrior,” the head coach said according to the Los Angeles Times. “[He was] dealing with a sore knee and really fighting through it for his team. It’s just gotten to the point where it’s gotten too sore, so we’re going to go ahead and take care of it now.”

Malepeai’s 406 yards rushing and four touchdowns currently lead the Trojans.

With Malepeai out for the foreseeable future, Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr will see their opportunities in the running game increase.  Stepp is second on the team with 241 yards rushing, Carr third at 233.  Both players have a pair of touchdowns each on the ground.

Mike Leach banned Wazzu players from social media

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With this development, just how Washington’s State’s “fat, dumb, happy and entitled” football players will communicate with their “fat little girlfriends” is the great unknown.

After starting the 2019 season 3-0, dropped two straight games heading into the bye — the first an embarrassing collapse against UCLA and then a 25-point beating on the road against then-No. 19 Utah.  Following the loss to the Utes, Tracy Claeys stepped down as Wazzu’s defensive coordinator.

Leading into this past weekend’s game against Arizona State, the Pac-12 Network confirmed, Mike Leach banned his players from using social media late last month because of the distractions such activities bring.

“I think we entertain too many distractions,” the head coach explained to the network, by way of the Yakima Herald, “and if I had it to do over again, I would’ve done it when we started camp. But no, I think we entertain too many distractions. I think we’re a little too distracted right now, but I think there is a team-wide determination to be less distracted.”

The social media ban wasn’t an immediate elixir for what ails Wazzu, however, as they fell to No. 18 Arizona State 38-34 in Week 7.  The Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held leads of 31-24 (early in the fourth quarter) and 34-31 (late in the fourth quarter) before allowing the game-winning touchdown with less than 40 seconds left on the clock.

With the loss, Wazzu now sits at 0-3 in Pac-12 play.