By David K.
Well, it certainly wasn’t a pretty opening week for the Pac-12, with struggles against FCS opponents and a lackluster performance by Oregon in the weekend’s marquee matchup of top 5 programs. Still, it wasn’t all bad, with some impressive individual performances, and solid wins by the Bay Area teams. As I’ll be ranking teams based on performance so far, the first few weeks are likely to see much greater change than later weeks, when we will have a more complete picture of each team (and more head-to-head matchups to consider).
1. Stanford (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
An easy win against a weak opponent. Doesn’t tell us much about the Cardinal, whose game against Duke next week will likely be just as unrevealing. November date with Oregon may be first (and only) real test. Moved up a spot largely due to Oregon’s loss.
2. Oregon (0-1, 0-0)
It should have been a clash of titans, instead it was a one-sided win for the LSU Tigers. Oregon didn’t help itself much either, losing the ball four times. Heisman hopeful LaMichael James had one of his weakest performances as a Duck. A close loss would have been enough to keep Oregon on top, but this one wasn’t close.
3. Cal (1-0, 0-0)
The Bears looked shaky to start, but recovered quickly to take control of the game against Fresno State. Transfer QB Zach Maynard performed well for Cal. This win, plus weak performances by the rest of the Pac-12 North, helped boost the Bears into 3rd for now.
4. Washington (1-0, 0-0)
Eastern Washington QB Bo Mitchell absolutely embarrassed the Huskies’ defensive secondary, who couldn’t seem to cover a receiver to save their lives. A good performance by the Huskies offense plus some key turnovers were enough to give the home team the win, but it wasn’t pretty. The defending FCS champs are certainly no pushover, but if the Huskies expect to return to the upper echelons of the Pac, they need to be able to dominate in games like these.
5. Washington State (1-0, 0-0)
WSU had no problems handling Idaho State, but then the Tigers are one of the worst programs in the FCS. Still, a necessary win for Coach Paul Wulff, who’s got probably the hottest seat in the Pac-12 after woeful seasons the past three years in Pullman. 1-0 for the first time in years, the Cougars hope to continue the trend. Bad news for Washington State? Star QB Jeff Tuel will be out for a few weeks at least with a broken clavicle.
6. Oregon State (0-1, 0-0)
While Washington was able to escape its close encounter with an FCS team, Oregon State was not so lucky against Sacramento State. A fourth quarter by the Beavers rally tied the game, but the Hornets scored on a two-point conversion to win in overtime. The Beavers were one of two teams (Duke being the other) to lose to an FCS team so far this season. Oregon State is going to need to pick itself up off the mat quickly, as they travel to Wisconsin next week. For now, the bottom spot is all for the Beavers.
1. USC (1-0, 0-0)
Lane Kiffin’s decision to twice attempt 2-point conversions on the Trojans’ first two TDs, both of which failed, put the Trojans in a precarious position late, with lowly Minnesota needing just a field goal to win. USC was saved by a last-minute interception to stop the opponent’s drive. The offense sputtered in the second half despite an outstanding performance by sophomore receiver Robert Woods, whose 17 receptions set a school record.
2. ASU (1-0, 0-0)
Arizona State showed off their new uniforms in style, easily handling the visiting Mustangs of UC Davis. The offense was particularly impressive, racking up over 500 yards. UC Davis will certainly be one of the easier opponents the Sun Devi’s face this season, but as we’ve seen, FCS teams weren’t exactly easy fare for all of their Pac-12 brethren.
3. Utah (1-0, 0-0)
Utah’s victory over Montana State was never in doubt, but it wasn’t as impressive a performance as ASU’s. Still, the offense was not firing on all cylinders under new OC Norm Chow, and the Utes will face tougher competition starting next week against USC in the Pac-12 opener.
4. Arizona (1-0, 0-0)
Nick Foles was outstanding in the season opener for the Wildcats, going 34 of 42 for 412 yards and 5 TDs. Still, there was cause for concern early on, as Northern Arizona pulled within 4 points by half time. The second half was less friendly to the visitors as Arizona scored 26 unanswered points. The Wildcats offense could pose trouble to its opponents down the line.
5. UCLA (0-1, 0-0)
It looked like it was going to be a rough start for the Bruins against Houston, as starting QB Kevin Prince was knocked out of the game early (concussion) and Houston opened up a 17-point lead by halftime. The Bruins fought back admirably under backup QB Richard Brehaut, at one point pulling within 3, but ultimately were unable to defeat the Cougars. Both defenses struggled, especially in the secondary, as each team racked up over 300 yards passing and 150 yards rushing. Penalties could be a problem from the Bruins; they committed 10 in this game.
6. Colorado (0-1, 0-0)
Colorado’s Pac-12 debut was less successful than their new rival Utah. Although the game was in reach for the Buffaloes at times, they were unable to produce on offense, going an abysmal 2-12 on 3rd down conversions. Meanwhile their defense was unable to handle Hawaii QB Bryan Muniz, who threw for 178 yards and rushed for another 121, accounting for 4 TDs through the ground and air. Up next for Colorado is a non-conference conference game against Cal, scheduled before the conference re-alignment and unable to be worked into the new schedules.