Pac-12's 10 best games of 2016

The regular season has come and gone, and looking back, it’s fair to say that we were gifted with a pretty darn good slate of games and surprises this season. Here’s a look back at the 10 best games in the Pac-12 this season -- the most surprising, the most entertaining and the ones that made you want to rewatch the highlights almost immediately.

1. Colorado 41, Oregon 38: This was our first real indicator of how good the Buffs could be. There was the drama of Sefo Liufau’s injury and the way freshman quarterback Steven Montez replaced him, the thrilling fourth-quarter touchdown catch by Bryce Bobo and Ahkello Witherspoon’s game-sealing interception. The expression on Mike MacIntyre’s face after the win was priceless and it sent an early message to the rest of the conference: The rise was/is very real.

2. Oregon 30, No. 12 Utah 28: The Ducks were one of the most disappointing stories in all of college football when they travelled to Utah for this Week 12 matchup. Questions were swirling about Mark Helfrich’s job, Brady Hoke’s defense was abysmal and the offense just couldn’t put it together. Then, everything went right. The best part for the Ducks? Justin Herbert’s game-winning drive capped with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Darren Carrington with two seconds remaining.

3. No. 24 Utah 31, USC 27: The tables were turned as the Utah defense struggled and its offense had a chance to shine. Specifically in the fourth quarter, when the Utes turned a 10-point deficit into a four-point win with back-to-back scoring drives led by quarterback Troy Williams (both capped with Williams TD passes). However, the best highlight from this game came from USC’s Adoree' Jackson, who scored on a 100-yard kickoff return.

4. No. 5 Washington 70, Oregon 21: Oregon’s 12-year streak came to an end at the hands of Washington quarterback Jake Browning, whose finger point will go down in Oregon-Washington history, and a tough-nosed defense that gave the Ducks their worst loss since 1985. Browning accounted for eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing), while Budda Baker picked off Herbert’s first pass attempt.

5. No. 12 USC 45, Notre Dame 27: This game is worth rewatching for Jackson’s highlights alone. He finished with one rushing attempt (12 yards), one touchdown reception (for a team-leading 52 yards), two tackles, four kick returns (for one touchdown and 161 yards) and three punt returns (for a touchdown and 66 yards). Not too shabby, Adoree’.

6. Oregon State 34, Oregon 24: The Beavers broke an eight-year losing streak to the Ducks in the season finale for both teams. More surprising was how Oregon State got it done -- a third-string QB led the passing attack (Marcus McMaryion finished with 101 yards and one touchdown) while Ryan Nall dominated the ground game (four touchdowns and 155 yards).

7. No. 20 USC 26, No. 4 Washington 13: The Trojans’ offense was clicking at such a high level and was looked at as the Huskies’ biggest challenge thus far in the season (and the result would give the committee pause through the rest of the rankings). Sam Darnold’s 287 passing yards was the most the Huskies gave up this season, and the USC defense kept Browning in check, holding him to a season-low adjusted QBR.

8. Cal 52, Oregon 49: Cal linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk’s interception -- his only one of the season -- could’ve come at no better time as it sealed things for the Bears in double overtime. This was a crazy game that saw more than 1,000 yards of offense and 100 points, but the crazier part might’ve been how the Bears’ defense won it with a game-clinching interception just two weeks after the defense gave the team a win with a goal-line stand against then-No. 18 Utah.

9. Washington State 51, Oregon 33: Are we sure that a Mike Leach team rushed for six touchdowns (and threw for zero) in a game ... and still won? We probably wouldn’t have bought that if we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes. This year the Cougars were more balanced than they ever had been under Leach, and this game -- though the scales tilted toward the run game -- Leach showed his ability to adapt. Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks each accounted for two TDs against the Ducks.

10. No. 7 Stanford 22, No. 13 UCLA 13: This top-15 matchup was one of the highlights of Week 4. But with Christian McCaffrey being well-contained by the UCLA defense (he still rushed for 138 yards, which is a great weekend for anyone else), the Cardinal pass game and defense took over late. Quarterback Ryan Burns led a game-winning touchdown drive with under two minutes to go, and then a Joey Alfieri sack led to a Solomon Thomas touchdown return to seal the game.