Over the past few years, the term #Pac12AfterDark has evolved into more than just a phrase. It's become an aurora of the mysterious; it's where logic and "the expected" can sometimes go right out the window; it's become must-see TV, and it's not for the faint of heart.
This past slate of Saturday night games on the West Coast did not disappoint when it came to living up to that narrative.
There was a showdown between two of the conference's more perennial programs that ended in heartbreak and what many would called the unthinkable. And elsewhere there was a career-high performance by one prospect that was certainly for the ages.
As always, when the night lights of the Pac-12 turned on, there were big games and important moments for a handful of the best draft-eligible prospects the conference had to offer, and we got our latest chance to see if it would make or break them.
This is what the 2019 NFL Draft learned about the Pac-12 on Saturday.
Justin Herbert Really Can Be QB1
Let me first just say that if you were a non-Stanford fan watching that game, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for that emptiness that you feel in your stomach after watching Oregon choke that win away in the most fear-driven fashion possible. It was not enjoyable to watch.
But much of the reason for that feeling is due to the fact that the Ducks' quarterback, Justin Herbert, played a spectacular game and really deserved a better result. Herbert finished the game 26-for-33 with 346 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But, in regulation, Herbert's stats were even better, as he went 25-for-27 with 331 and that one touchdown.
Not only were Herbert's numbers good enough to win the game, the tape he put out there was good enough to be considered the top quarterback in this draft class. Herbert's mechanics are so smooth. He has laser accuracy, and his arm strength is plenty adequate. Herbert put on a clinic against the Cardinal of how to throw to a spot and not a receiver, and he looked head and shoulders above most of his own offensive weapons, too.
Herbert just seemed like he was playing a higher level game than everyone else. He looked like an MLB all-star pitcher playing against AA opponents during a rehab assignment as he made his way up to the majors where he belonged.
Herbert's record will show a loss, but those who watch the tape will know it shouldn't cast a shadow.
Arcega-Whiteside Is Marques Colston In The Making
A few weeks ago when Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was balling out for the first time in front of the nation in 2018, SOMEONE on the TDN Twitter account compared Arcega-Whiteside to Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans -- saying that Arcega-Whiteside was better than Evans, essentially.
I spoke out against this blasphemy.
However, the kid can play, and he deserves to be getting legit NFL comparisons.
Arcega-Whiteside burst onto the scene a few weeks ago by showing off his 6-foot-4 frame and the tools that come with it. Arcega-Whiteside is a master of boxing defenders out -- as if he's going for rebounds -- and makes 50/50 catches seem much more in his favor than a true coin flip.
But, on Saturday, as shown in the clip above, Arcega-Whiteside also showed that being that big doesn't mean he has to sacrifice quick feet. Though I think the Evans comparison is rich due to how freakishly athletic Evans is at a bigger size, Arcega-Whiteside has a lot of prime Marques Colston in his game.
That'll play very well at the next level.
Not A Believer In Bryce
Bryce Love had one of the best seasons in college football history last year when he rushed for 2,118 yards,but when it came to our early mock drafts and initial preseason rankings, people wanted to know why Love's name was absent from many of them.
Games like the one he played against Oregon are reasons why.
Love is a tough kid who runs hard for as much as his bread-and-butter is his speed. But, at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, it's just going to be so hard for him to be a major-use back in the NFL. Going into the contest with Oregon, Love was averaging just 4.1 yards per carry and had just one touchdown. Against Oregon, with 19 carries, Love averaged just 4.7 yards per carry, though he did add another touchdown.
Love is a good college back, and he could be a nice speed/receiving option in a rotation in the NFL. But he's not RB1, and he's not a first rounder. Like him and enjoy him for what he is -- we surely can. Don't try to make him more.