Pac-12 North Notebook: Cardinal, Cougars square off in shocking conference showdown

Kevin Hogan (8) is leading Stanford to a potential playoff bid; however, Washington State is ready for a battle in Pullman.
Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford has been perhaps the nation’s most dominant team since its week one loss to Northwestern. However, the Cardinal will face a unique test on Saturday as they play in Pullman against dangerous Washington State.

The No. 8 Cardinal (6-1, 5-0) sit atop the Pac-12 North standings and are the only Pac-12 team yet to suffer a conference loss. Meanwhile, the Cougars (5-2, 3-1) have won three straight Pac-12 games for the first time in over a decade and sit a game behind Stanford in the North. Shockingly, this game has massive conference implications.

Washington State’s recent success has everything to do with the play of sophomore QB Luke Falk. Over the past three games, Falk has thrown for 1,426 yards and 16 touchdowns. Over his past two first halves – against Arizona and Oregon State – Falk has thrown 10 touchdowns.

Stanford’s pass defense is ranked No. 47 in the country and is only allowing 52.9-percent of passes to be completed. That being said, the only starter the Cardinal have faced this year with any legitimate playing experience was USC’s Cody Kessler. The Cardinal will have a stiff test as they try to defend nation’s second-best passing attack, led by Falk and a bevy of talented receivers.

Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey continues to be a one-man wrecking crew. The sophomore sensation has shot up the Heisman rankings over the past five weeks, as he’s gained no less than 249 all-purpose yards in Pac-12 play.

”I’m at the point where I don’t know what else I can say other than watch him, just watch him,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw of McCaffrey, according to the San Jose Mercury News. ”He’s so quick, so explosive. The little guy never gets tired. He gets pounded, he gets hit, he gets blown up on a kickoff return and we want to sub him and take him out to see if he’s OK and he comes over with a smile on his face.”

Washington State’s rushing defense is ranked No. 105 in the country and has allowed over 200 yards on the ground three times this season, including 410 yards to Oregon.

Stanford is the better team, but the Cougars are as hot and as dangerous offensively as any team in the country right now. Should the Cougars win, the team will amazingly have an inside track at claiming the North.

With Adams and Carrington back, the Ducks could play spoiler

When QB Vernon Adams Jr. was asked how the second-half of Oregon’s season would be considered a success, he replied “Just winning out,” according to The Oregonian.

Oregon’s season has been far from a success so far; however, the Ducks find themselves in a position to play spoiler to the hopes of teams like Cal, Stanford, USC and, on Thursday, Arizona State.

With Adams back healthy and wide receiver Darren Carrington back from suspension, the Ducks look like they could go on a second-half run. Against Washington, Adams played beautifully outside the pocket and Carrington re-established himself as one of the nation’s most dynamic wide receivers.

Oregon’s offensive line and secondary are still major concerns; however, the Ducks could make a strong statement to the rest of the conference by beating Arizona State in Tempe on Thursday night.

Does Oregon State have a QB controversy?

In Saturday’s 17-13 loss to Colorado, Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen utilized both Nick Mitchell and Seth Collins at quarterback.

Mitchell, a redshirt freshman, had previously not played this season. He went 9-of-24 for 122 yards and threw an interception. Meanwhile, the true freshman Collins, who had started every game this season, played second fiddle to Mitchell. However, Collins play was far superior as he went 4-of-7 for 77 yards and ran for 50 yards on nine carries.

Collins was once thought to be Oregon State’s future. He may still be. Mitchell, a pro-style QB, had played well in practice and head coach Gary Andersen said that “It is best for us, no question, to have two styles of offense”, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

For now, it looks like both QBs will continue to split time.

Quick Hits: Oregon State defense back Treston Decoud left Saturday’s game against Colorado in an ambulance after suffering an injury in the second quarter. He later was released from the hospital and re-joined his teammates postgame … Kevin Hogan has the best QB rating in the Pac-12 by far … Washington true freshman RB Myles Gaskin has 3 straight 100-yard rushing performances … Gabe Marks had four touchdowns in WSU’s win over Arizona, a school record.

Jason Gold covers the Pac-12 for FOX Sports. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.