But then Sunday happened at USC.
Sarkisian was not at practice Sunday. When word got to Haden that Sarkisian was absent, he immediately called his head coach.
"I called Steve and talked to him," Haden told the Los Angeles Times. "It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence."
This will no doubt be the lead story casting a shadow over the conference this week. And it comes on the heels of one of the more surprising weekends of football.
It began with Washington upsetting USC on Thursday night. It continued with Washington State following its in-state rival and beating Oregon.
The Pac-12 North is now wide open with three one-loss teams (Cal, Washington and Washington State) after two amazing upsets on the weekend.
Idle Stanford—still undefeated in conference play—is now in first place in the North. And if things fall the right way for Bay Area fans the rest of the season, the Big Game may just decide who plays for a right to go to the Rose Bowl.
But the big story is USC, where the troubles began brewing earlier in the week.
Washington upsets No. 17 USC
Washington was supposed to be in rebuilding mode. USC was supposed to be contenders for the College Football Playoff.
And while there may be no chance for the Huskies to be playing for a national championship in January, they made sure that the Trojans—and USC's former coach—would not be.
Washington went into the Coliseum on Thursday night and left with a gritty 17-12 victory over USC, its first at the Coliseum since 2010.
"This," Huskies senior linebacker Travis Feeney told The Seattle Times. "... This is something I've always wanted. This was a big win. A big win for Seattle. A big win for the Husky fans. Man, I cried. I cried tears of joy, man."
The game Thursday was a gritty, defensive affair, a game that played into Washington's hands.
The Huskies halted what has been a prolific USC offense. Quarterback Cody Kessler struggled, passing for just 156 yards as Washington harassed him all night. Kessler was intercepted twice—the first one coming on the opening drive of the game—and was sacked five times.
The Trojans had just 346 yards of total offense, almost 150 yards less than their average this season.
"This one hurts," Kessler told the Los Angeles Daily News. "It doesn't feel good, but at the same time, guys are going to look to me, guys are going to look to Su'a (Cravens), guys are going to look to Tuerk, even though he's out. Guys are going to look to guys like that who have that leadership."
The Huskies did not play spectacularly on the offensive side of the ball either. Washington had just 299 yards of total offense.
A trick play gave the Huskies the go-ahead score in the quarter. A double-pass—that went from Josh Browning to Marvin Hall and the finally Josh Perkins—was the 27-yard dagger that gave Washington a 10-6 lead.
It was just enough as the Huskies defense held off the Trojans.
Falk fuels Washington State to win over Oregon
Streaks have to end sometime.
That sometime came Saturday afternoon in Eugene for Washington State as the Cougars upset Oregon, 45-38, in a double over time thriller. The win snaps Wazzu's eight-game losing streak to the Ducks.
Redshirt Sophomore Luke Falk led the way, throwing for 505 yards and five touchdowns.
That included an eight-yard fade to Dom Williams that tied the game at 31-31 to force overtime after leading the Cougars on a two-minute drill executed to near perfection.
Falk threw his fifth touchdown pass to Robert Lewis in the first half of the second overtime. The game ended when Washington State's defense came up big—again, as Shalom Luani intercepted Jeff Lockie on 4th-and-9 in the second overtime.
The Cougars were down 31-21 early in the fourth quarter before their defense stepped up and Falk led his offense to two scoring drive in the last four minutes of regulation.
"We know what type of team we are," Washington State receiver Gabe Marks told the Seattle Times. "This validates what we've been preaching all season. We're a different team, and we can do something different."
The Ducks got plenty of offense from Royce Freeman, who had a career-high 246 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns (two on the ground and one receiving). But somehow, it wasn't enough.
Jeff Lockie got the call over Taylor Alie at quarterback with Vernon Adams still sidelined with a hand injury. Lockie had just 123 passing yards but did toss two touchdowns.
"You can pick on one thing if you want, but that game should have been over well before (overtime)," offensive coordinator Scott Frost told The Oregonian. "We had a chance to end the game with a first down, and we had them where we wanted them with five minutes left in the game, but we didn't finish."
This is not the Oregon team of old with that same killer instinct. The Ducks, midway through the season, are staring at a 3-3 record, no hope of a return to the College Football Playoff, and are about to face what could be a brutal stretch beginning with a trip to Seattle to play Washington next week.
Arizona State blows past Colorado
It seems that Arizona State has shaken off the early season cobwebs.
The Sun Devils made easy work of Colorado on Saturday, earning an easy 48-23 victory, to set up what most would have thought to be unfathomable - after their early loses to Texas A&M and USC - a shot at first place in the Pac-12 South.
ASU makes the trip to Utah next week on an upswing, winning back-to-back conference games and finally finding the offense that made it dangerous last season.
The Sun Devils totaled 491 yards of total offense, converted 10-of-17 third down attempts and basically took control of the game after one quarter.
Quarterback Mike Bercovici seems to have found his rhythm running the read option. The senior threw five touchdown passes (tying a career high), had 260 yards passing and had 40 yards rushing.
It was a far cry from the type of play that plagued Arizona State in early September.
"The challenges you go through make you stronger, and I think we got a really strong team," Sun Devils coach Todd Graham told AZCentral.com.
The Buffaloes, on the other hand, struggled mightily. Quarterback Sefo Liufau was constantly under duress. He was sacked eight times by the ASU defense. Colorado also turned the ball over twice, leading to Sun Devils scores.
The closest the Buffs got to Arizona State was when the score was 14-7 in favor of ASU, midway through the first quarter. After that, Colorado had no answers for the Sun Devils, leading to its 13th consecutive loss in Pac-12 play.
"I think we had a pretty good start to the season and I don't want to go back to last year, or even the year before that, because that's really frustrating and really upsetting because I know how talented this team in all phases," Liufau told The Daily Camera. "We're just missing something and I think we just have to believe in ourselves and push ourselves to fight because we can compete with these teams."
Arizona routs Oregon State as Solomon returns
What a difference a quarterback makes.
Anu Solomon returned to the Arizona lineup after missing the last six quarters with a concussion. The Wildcats lost their last two games. So what does Solomon do in his return? He managed to lead Arizona to a 44-7 win over Oregon State and seemed to stave off calling the season a disaster for the Wildcats.
Solomon did not account for any touchdowns, but he was effective and efficient, going 17-for-30 on pass attempts and throwing for 276 yards. Solomon did have two long completions that eventually ended in touchdowns for Arizona—a 50-yard hook-up with David Richards and a 70-yard bomb to Johnny Jackson. Solomon sat in the fourth quarter.
The running game accounted for all of the Wildcats' scoring. Orlando Bradford had three rushing touchdowns. Nick Wilson chipped in two as Jared Baker led the team with 123 yards on the ground.
"I thought he was pretty sharp," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told the Arizona Daily Star. "This probably wasn't his sharpest game, but he makes big plays because he sees some big plays developing. He was rusty at times, but I thought he saw the field well."
There was nothing good about Saturday's loss for the Beavers to take back to Corvallis. Oregon State managed to gain 249 yards and allowed the Wildcats to gain 644 yards themselves.
Starting quarterback Seth Collins—who was 8-for-24 with just 56 passing yards—managed to score on a 17-yard run at the onset of the second quarter, cutting the Beavers deficit to 13-7. But that would be the only glimmer of good fortune for Oregon State all game.
The game was over by halftime, as the Beavers entered their locker room trailing 34-7.
"It's not fun to be a part of a game like that, let me just tell you," Oregon State coach Gary Andersen told the Gazette-Times. "For any of us. It's very tough to sit there and for everybody involved, everybody in the university, it's unacceptable."