When Justin Herbert’s final pass attempt sailed through the back of the end zone Saturday night, the Oregon Ducks were forced to walk off the field at AT&T Stadium with a punch-to-the-gut 27-21 loss to No. 16 Auburn.
The Ducks, ranked No. 11 entering the game, led for all but the final nine seconds, when Auburn quarterback Bo Nix hit Seth Williams for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up.
It was obviously a difficult loss for the Ducks to swallow and could prove to be costly if Oregon is able to rebound and contend for a College Football Playoff berth.
And, right or wrong, it was also a blow to the Pac-12 Conference, which has now, according to ESPN, lost 10 straight games to a ranked SEC opponent.
An Oregon win would have been huge for the conference, especially on a day when SEC teams Mississippi (Memphis), South Carolina (North Carolina), Missouri (Wyoming) and Tennessee (Georgia State at home) all lost.
Also, Arkansas edged Portland State 20-13 at home and Mississippi State won by 10 at Louisiana.
But instead, the storyline remains that the Pac-12 can’t win a big game with national interest.
That narrative will overshadow that the conference teams started the season 8-4 after beginning 0-2 (losses by Arizona on Aug. 24 and UCLA on Thursday).
And there aren’t many more opportunities for the conference to make a statement in nonconference play.
Arizona State is at Michigan State, UCLA hosts Oklahoma and Stanford is at Central Florida, all in Week 3. Also, Stanford and USC play Notre Dame.
Saturday was certainly a missed opportunity for the Ducks, as well as the conference.
It was a rough day for both Stanford’s K.J. Costello and USC’s J.T. Daniels as the two starting quarterbacks were knocked out of their respective games in the first half on Saturday.
Costello took a late hit to the head and neck area in the closing seconds of the half against Northwestern and there was surprisingly no review for targeting on the play.
Daniels was having a great start to the season, passing for 215 yards, before injuring his right knee while being sacked. Coach Clay Helton confirmed Sunday night that Daniels has a torn ACL and will miss the season.
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USC and Stanford meet up this Saturday at the Coliseum.
Washington quarterback Jacob Eason had about as good a debut as he could have hoped for, helping lead the Huskies to a 47-14 blowout of Eastern Washington.
The transfer from Georgia who sat out last season finished 27 of 36 for 349 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Matchups of interest
• The Ducks will need to quickly put their tough loss behind as Nevada comes to town Saturday following a last-second win over Purdue.
Nevada kicker Brandon Talton booted a 56-yarder as time expired to not only win the game but earn a scholarship.
• Oregon State is coming off a 52-36 loss at home to Oklahoma State and now heads to Hawaii. This is interesting as Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich called the Beavers out some 16 months ago for sending recruiting mailings to several of his players.
• As mentioned, USC and Stanford play their annual opener against each other in Week 2 due to their matchups with Notre Dame. The health of the quarterbacks will be interesting in how this one plays out.
• Washington host California in another conference opener. The Huskies played what would probably be considered their worst game of the season last year at Cal in a 15-10 loss.
While it’s hard to draw many conclusions from just one game, Utah, Washington and Oregon still appear to be at the top of conference. I had Utah and Oregon 1-2 in my media poll to start the season and the loss to Auburn only drops the Ducks one spot at this time.
After that I have Stanford, USC and Washington State. Arizona State is No. 7 followed by Colorado and California.
The bottom three are Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State.