To say the opening weekend in the Pac-12 was a strange one would be an understatement. Stanford and Arizona State (two of the contenders in the league) were idle. Oregon’s win over an FCS team gave us very little knowledge regarding this year’s squad. Arizona and Oregon State also dipped into the FCS pool and we saw the Beavers drop that game, as a ranked team no less, in what was the most disappointing debut in the league. Adding to the oddity that was Week 1 was Colorado looking competent, as well as Washington killing Boise State. USC, UCLA and WSU’s games all went as expected and Cal played well, but made too many mistakes to score a big upset for the league. As a result, the majority of the league saw very little movement. In fact, five teams remained set in their power ranking. As you would expect Washington made the biggest jump while OSU had the biggest fall.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time check out a stock report, but if it is…The above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Arizona – We knew that the defense would be a strength and they pitched a shutout. B.J. Denker was decent in his debut as a passer, but he did show his dual-threat potential with 71 rushing yards. He also didn’t turn it over. Ka’Deem Carey’s suspension didn’t seem to matter as seldom-used senior Daniel Jenkins got a chance to shine with 12 caries, 139 yards and a score. The one thing to remind folks of is that all this success was against Northern Arizona. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in their first real test of the year. Unfortunately that won’t be until September 28th. Week one grade: A
Arizona State – Idle
Oregon – Idle … just kidding they played Nicholls State. There really is nothing to say about their 66-3 beat down of an overmatched FCS team other than with the playoff system putting a premium on strength of schedule this will hopefully be the last time we see the Duck’s annual cupcake game. Week one grade: A
Stanford – Idle
UCLA – Well the Bruins’ opening game was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? Hundley picked up right where he left off a season ago and after Johnathan Franklin’s graduation, we thought the rushing game would take a hit. Well, Jordon James sparkled in his debut, coming just 60 yards shy of matching his rushing yards from a season ago. After a rocky first half, the defense made the necessary adjustments and really stymied Nevada in the second half. Week one grade: A-
Oregon State – I’m not going into full blown panic mode if I’m a Beavers fan. First of all, Eastern Washington is a fantastic FCS program. There was also Oregon State’s offensive performance. Sean Mannion was amazing going 37-for-43 for 422 yards, 3 TDs and 0 picks. Scoring 46 points is typically more than enough to win most games. Now the defense on the other hand, well that was a major disappointment. 625 yards? Wowza. They allowed 13.2 yards per pass. Ugly. Week one grade: D+ (A for offense, F for defense and the special teams didn’t do much in the return game, as well as missing a game tying kick; granted that was from 50+ away)
USC – Still not entirely sure what we are getting with this team at QB. Both Kessler and Wittek failed to get into a good rhythm and Kessler took a safety. The defense played well and the running game was efficient, but to force four turnovers and only score 23 points (there was a defensive TD) tells me that the offensive side of the ball is still a work in progress. Week one grade: C+
Utah – Well, they beat my Chuckie Keeton squad, but it wasn’t pretty. They were outgained by Utah State and the running game produced a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. Travis Wilson played very well in his debut, though, against a defense that should be pretty stout. I’m still not loving this Utes team yet, but they found a way to win a game I thought they would lose. Considering how rough the rest of the season unfolds for them, they had to win this one if they want to get to a bowl. Well done, Utes. Week one grade: B+
Washington – After selling the majority of my Husky stock last week I will hold on to the few shares I have left. No way to sugar coat it to make me look good…UW flat out dominated Boise in every facet of the game. They had the better quarterback play, the better rushing attack, they were amazing on third down (11/15) and made Boise look really, really bad – which is never easy to do. Consistency has been a problem for Washington under Sarkisian. Let’s see how they look against an Illinois team that had some things work for them in their debut, or better yet, the league opener against Arizona before we go all-in on U-dub. Week one grade: A+
Cal – The Bears looked good, at times, against Northwestern, but they had three costly turnovers and couldn’t do anything rushing the rock. Considering they still have five ranked teams left (not counting OSU, who will not be ranked once the new poll is out…thanks for playing on Monday, Florida State!), they have a monumental up-hill climb for a bowl. Respectability, however, might not be too far off. Week one grade: C-
Colorado – It was a big improvement from last season, but CSU is a bottom feeder team in the Mountain West. Also, the two TD margin is deceiving. This was a one possession game for almost the entire second half. The biggest margin was nine points in the final thirty minutes of play before a late score (under four minutes to go) by the Buffs made it look a little better on the scoreboard. What’s worse is they found ways to give up all these points while holding the Rams to under 300 yards. The kick return was obviously the big culprit in that. Still, they lost this game a year ago and there were plenty of positives – including Connor Wood coming out of nowhere to have a wonderful day at QB. Week one grade: B
Washington State – The Cougars are probably the hardest to examine since they played on the road in a tough stadium. Their opponent, Auburn, was also going through a major upheaval of their own as they welcomed a new coach. Wazzu did some very nice things against Auburn offensively, but it still wasn’t enough as they committed three costly INTs. They also gave up a special teams TD and couldn’t stop the Auburn ground game at all. The improvement was visible, but the lack of talent means the margin of error is very slim. WSU simply can’t turn the ball over like they did, or have special teams gaffes, if they want to win. Week one grade: C-
Buy that kid dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) – 22/33, 274, 2 TD, 0 INT……this was a very hard selection to make over Wood, UW’s Keith Price and Mannion in the losing effort.
Washington Defense – Yes, this is a cop out, but they really played that well. The day John Timu had at LB was impressive: seven solo tackles (13 total) and a half tackle on a TFL. Sean Parker had five solo tackles from his safety position to go along with an INT. Not only did that INT come deep in UW territory, preventing Boise from taking a 7-0 lead, but the ensuing drive resulted in seven points.
Andy Phillips (K, Utah) – 3/3 FG (long of 45), 3/3 XP, 12 points. When the margin of victory is just four points and you get a performance like that from your kicker, he deserves the game ball. This is why elite programs aren’t just sound in the kicking game, but use it to their advantage.
Dunce of the week
Any viewer subjected to the Oregon vs. Nicholls game. I’m all for going to the game, especially on opening day, but if I was an Oregon supporter I would have needed a lot of convincing to show up. I would’ve sold my tickets (hopefully at a profit, but that would’ve been highly unlikely) and watched all the other good games, especially since this started at 4:00 eastern, meaning LSU-TCU and Alabama-Virginia Tech were right around the corner, let alone Clemson-Georgia later that night. Those three games sound a lot more enjoyable than fighting heat and traffic for something you knew was going to be ugly.