Welcome to the Week 2 edition of Martin's Musings, where we will take a look at what happened around the Pac-12 the previous week and at the week to come.
Weekly Pecking Order (Record)
1.) USC (2-0) LW:2 – After two straight weeks of blowouts, the Trojans sit atop the rankings for the first time all season. Sure, Oregon lost and USC hasn't played anyone who could beat even the worst teams in the conference, but here we stand. USC looks the part so far, but the competition only gets tougher from here on out, so it will be interesting to see how well the Trojans can hold up against some quality opponents down the stretch.
2.) UCLA (2-0) LW:3 – The biggest takeaway for UCLA this past weekend is that Josh Rosen is in fact human and not a machine. He threw a pick and wasn't perfect even though UCLA still rolled right along. The defenses he has faced so far will be nothing compared to what Rosen will see in conference play, so take his rise to greatness with a grain of salt. The Bruins will be tested by a gritty BYU team this week and it should reveal more about how their season should unfold.
3.) Oregon (1-1) LW:1 – Playing your starting quarterback with a broken finger on his throwing hand in one of the most meaningful games of the season probably isn't the best idea, but Oregon went with it anyways because it meant not having to start Jeff Lockie in a hostile road game. I get it, though I don't have to agree with it. Oregon is good enough to go undefeated the rest of the season, but one slip up likely puts it on the outside looking in, even if it wins the conference.
4.) Arizona (2-0) LW:4 – While playing middle linebacker in Tucson is slowly turning into some kind of evil curse, Arizona actually looked like a pretty good team on the road this week. Every position played better than the previous week, including the offensive line. Nick Wilson doubled his production from the opener and the outlook for the Wildcats perked up in anticipation with a show down with UCLA next week.
5.) Utah (2-0) LW:5 – It was only a matter of time before Utah got hit with the injury bug and it only made things worse when Travis Wilson came up as the lottery winner for said injury. Sure, Utah hung on to beat Utah State in a game that was probably closer than it needed to be, but the oft-injured Wilson is now going to miss at least two weeks. With all shoulder (and Travis Wilson) injuries, there is a likelihood that it is reaggravated again at some point this season, which would put Utah firmly behind the eight-ball.
6.) California (2-0) LW:6 – The Golden Bears are still dominating on offense, but unlike USC, don't have the talent level for me to believe that they are a true contender until they can prove it. That shouldn't be a problem after this week though, as Cal gets a shot at a lackluster Texas team that is desperate to string a few wins together in the wake of the Steve Patterson debacle. Don't sleep on California in that one, as the Golden Bears are favored by a touchdown.
7.) Stanford (1-1) LW:8 – Things weren't looking great for Stanford through the first two weeks of the season, but playing a stacked USC team this early in the year may be even worse. The outlook is grim for the Cardinal in this one and it doesn't look to be getting any easier as they get UCLA and Arizona in two of the next three weeks.
8.) Arizona State (1-1) LW:7 – Look, Arizona State should be ranked much lower than this after nearly letting Cal Poly literally run all over it in week two, but the fact of the matter is that the Sun Devils are a better team than that game showed and should wipe the floor with any of the four teams below them in the rankings. With that being said, if they dont step up their game, any chances of being in the running for the Pac-12 South will fade quickly.
9.) Washington (1-1) LW: 11 – If it wasn't for the terrible offense that UW has had since Chris Peterson took over, the Huskies could potentially be in the top half of the conference in what seems to be a somewhat down year. Washington can redeem itself in a showdown with Utah State this weekend. If the game doesn't end in a 3-3 tie, we should all be considered winners.
10.) Colorado (1-1) LW:10 – Rivalry week comes early to Denver, as in-state little brother Colorado State hosts the Buffs for a showdown. This is really where we can start to see what type of team Colorado is this year. The loss to Hawaii could have been due to the long flight, or the Rainbow Warriors could be a good team this year (they hung with Ohio State for three quarters) and beating UMass isn't really that impressive. CSU is a solid opponent and if Colorado can come away with a win, there may be hope after all.
11.) Washington State (1-1) LW:12 – Say what you want about how bad this Wazzu team can be at times, but it will never fail to bring some excitement. If it isn't one of Mike Leach's quarterbacks throwing the ball more times than the rest of the conference combined, it is the coming up with unique ways to make the final minutes of the game into a thriller (see Coug'd below).
12.) Oregon State (1-1) LW:9 – I know it is still Gary Anderson's first year, but the second half that the Beavers had in Ann Arbor against a not-good-not-terrible Michigan squad was just plain embarassing (see Stat of the Week below). Maybe San Jose State will take it easy on them this week.
Stat of the Week
The offensive juggernaut that is Oregon State (heavy sarcasm) amassed a whopping nine yards of total offense in the second half against Michigan on Saturday. Granted, some of the negative plays were due to penalties, but the worst part about the whole thing was that the only first down that the Beavers got in the second half was due to a personal foul on Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden. In fact, Oregon State didn't have a plus-yardage play of more than tne yards after Jim Harbaugh's sideline explosion over a roughing the kicker call. Maybe the khakied commander is bringing a new meaning to "three and out" in the Big House.
A new verb has been steadily sweeping the conference over the last decade and the origin of the phrase "Coug'd" shouldn't have been in doubt after the wild fourth quarter between Washington State and Rutgers on Saturday afternoon. Wazzu led the entire game, comfortably for the most part, entering the fourth quarter. The Scarlet Knights scored and grabbed a two point conversion right off the bat to tie the game and two minutes later the Cougars answered right back, with a field goal to take the 23-20 lead.
Not to be outdone, Rutger's Janarion Grant ran the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for the score and Rutgers led 27-23. Exactly three minutes later, Luke Falk found Gabe Marks for a 23-yard touchdown strike, putting Wazzu back in front 30-27. Rutgers fumbled, Washington State turned the ball over on downs, and Rutgers had to punt. Neither team wanted to win this game.
That was until Washington State was forced to punt from deep in its own territory with just under two minutes remaining in the game. Grant took the punt from his own 45 yard line and zigzagged his way to the end zone, putting Rutgers back on top with 1:31 left on the clock.
That is too much time for a Mike Leach offense. Eight plays into the drive, it looked like Wazzu had taken the lead on a 30-yard screen pass, but the runner had stepped out of bounds back at the 21. Nevertheless, Falk found River Cracraft two plays later. With just 13 ticks left on the scoreboard, Rutgers tried the backyard, never stop pitching the ball play that was executed as poorly as Oregon State's offense and Washington State escaped with the victory.
Games to Watch Week 3
BYU at UCLA – There's no doubt that UCLA is going to come out of this one with a win unless it is looking forward to Arizona. That's a possibility, but my guess is that the game is a slugfest for about a quarter and a half before the Bruins pull away. If BYU is in a position to win or tie late with the ball in Tanner Mangum's hands, all bets are off. UCLA 31, BYU 21.
Stanford at USC – This game really shouldn't be that close, but it is a redemption game for Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal, so it could turn out to be a pretty good one. In any case, this game marks the start of Pac-12 play, which means it is the first game of the season that truly matters in the hunt for the conference title. USC 38, Stanford 10
Cal at Texas – Ten years ago, this would have been a stellar matchup of heavyweights. Now, it is a stellar matchup of rebuilding unknowns. California can win the conference some glory points with a win, not to mention adding a few more coals to the fire under Charlie Strong's chair. More than that, the Golden Bears can send a message that they are for real this season with a big win. California 35, Texas 23