Kalen Ballange (Photo: Tim Nelson/SunDevilSource.com)

Around the Pac-12: What we learned in Week Two

The Pac-12 mostly took care of business in Weak, er, Week Two, but one nagging concern still afflicts most teams.

The Pac-12 finished 8-2 this weekend in non-conference action, securing wins against Texas Tech, BYU and a handful of patsies. A look at this weekend’s postgame analyses from Scout’s Pac-12 experts show that much of the league is still nervous about its defensive units with tougher Saturdays looming.

Note, Stanford and Oregon State were on byes.

Arizona Wildcats

Beat Grambling State 31-21

Brandon Dawkins made the first start of his career and I think we saw why Rich Rodriguez has had a tough decision and why his coaching staff is a bit split on who should be the starting quarterback. Anu Solomon is what he is. He is 100 percent better thrower than Dawkins, at least intermediately, and knows the offense better. He has a better connection with his receivers, but that’s something that would change if Dawkins plays more. 

However, Dawkins has much more running ability, and it’s not close. His 21-yard touchdown run was something that Solomon absolutely could not do and he had some great deep throws as well. Then again, he missed Nick Wilson on what should have been an easy touchdown and had a few throws that he made when the receiver wasn’t even looking.

So what do you do?

Arizona could go with Dawkins, who has a higher ceiling with his running ability, but likely will never be as good of a thrower as Solomon. Or you go with Solomon, who is afraid to get hit and is basically a drop back passer now, though better than Dawkins in that regard. 

The tackling was atrocious. Davonte Neal missed at least a couple tackles in the open field, Paul Magloire missed a handful and saw his playing time disappear, and the tackling in general was just bad. It needs to improve or Arizona’s defense will struggle the whole season and it may come with personnel changes. -- Full story

Arizona State Sun Devils

Beat Texas Tech, 68-55
We saw a much more expanded playbook than last week and the results were impressive. What we saw Saturday could be an indication the Sun Devil offense will be as potent as it has been the last three years. It's safe to assume quarterback Manny Wilkins and the other first-year starters should only improve with experience. ASU might not score 68 points again for a long time but the offense definitely has the potential to be one of the top units in the conference.

Overall ASU's defense has shown signs it can be solid but it needs better play from the Spur position and to generate more pressure on the quarterback when it rushes four or less. -- Full story (premium)

California Golden Bears

Lost to San Diego State, 45-40
Cal simply couldn't tackle. There were more arm tackles than I could count. Sonny Dykes was asked if he was concerned about tackling, and he gave the quote of the night: "I'm always concerned about tackling." That says a lot, and with more 1,000-yard rushers are coming up on Cal's schedule, it has to be a major worry ... Defensively this team needs a lot of work.

Wide receiver Chad Hansen has been very good, but quarterback Davis Webb needs to spread the ball around. Defenders were swarming around Hansen, and teams are going to seize on this predictability.

Cal had just 82 net rushing yards over the course of the game. The holes just weren't there. It's a concern that Cal hasn't found an effective balance to their passing game.

Back in the 1970s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay was asked about his team's execution, he said, "I'm all for it." There was a lot of poor execution for Cal today. -- Full story (premium)

Colorado Buffaloes

Beat Idaho State, 56-7
As Colorado turns their focus toward the first away game of the season against the 2-0 and #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines, their belief in “could-and-should” has morphed into a trust that they can-and-will. The maturation of this team is palpable, even if not yet fully tested. ... In a game that was 42-0 by the time Sefo Liufau took his final snap, a game that saw Colorado rack up nearly 600 yards of offense and one that showcased a defense yield less than 100 total yards, the Buffs did exactly what everyone not wearing Bengals’ orange hoped to see. -- Full story (premium)

Oregon Ducks

Beat Virginia, 44-26

Last season, the Ducks had a defense that was so bad, it ranked dead last in the Pac-12 Conference at 485.3 yards per game. The Ducks were also dead last in scoring defense, allowing 37.5 ppg to be scored against them. However, so far there has been improvement statistically. This year the Ducks are ranked #82 nationally and eighth in the conference at 390.0 ypg, two spots below UCLA at #80 (385.0) and above Arizona (#101, 435.5), California (#107, 472.5), Washington State (#118, 513.0) and Arizona State (#119, 513.0).

The Ducks this year are allowing 10.0 ppg fewer than last season and giving up 95.3 yards less in total offense. ... These are statistics and while it should be taken simply as a comparison, it does reveal that Mark Helfrich’s change at defensive coordinator, Brady Hoke has made an impact in this early season. -- Full story

UCLA Bruins

Beat UNLV, 42-21
Outside containment was a major issue in this game, as an under talented UNLV team was able to get what it wanted at times on runs and plays to the edge. As against Texas A&M, the Bruins gave up five yards per carry and it was only because UNLV elected to throw the ball more that the Bruins didn't end up giving up 200+ yards on the ground again.

Offensively, UCLA had some issues, but they were again of the variety that we think are mostly fixable -- aside from the offensive line, which is probably close to as good as it's going to be given the personnel deficiencies at that position.

We didn't think Josh Rosen looked great, but it was a significant step up from his performance against the Aggies. -- Full story (premium)

USC Trojans

Beat Utah State, 48-7
Is this performance good enough to beat Stanford next week in Palo Alto? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. But it was far, far better than what the Trojans put on the table last week in Texas. And that's all you can ask for right now. Get better. Play harder. We'd add "play smarter" to the list here but how about starting that week for the folks on The Farm. Because the one thing we needed to see from this now 1-1 USC team was effort -- a team that believed in itself. Never say die. Don't quit. Fight On, if you will. And for the most part, that happened here in this earliest home kickoff since the 1950's. The Trojans could have mailed it in. Could have said they're way better and saved it for next Saturday. We didn't think they would go through the motions, and they didn't. -- Full story (premium)

Utah Utes

Beat BYU, 20-19

Quarterback Troy Williams can't play like he did vs. BYU for the rest of the season if the Utes are to accomplish their goals. His poor decisions, particularly the times where he forced throws that weren’t open led to three interceptions that nearly cost the Utes the game.

Another week, another disappointing showing from Joe Williams. The fumbling issues continue, and are exacerbated by Williams' paltry 2.6 yards per carry. If these issues continue, the Utes can't continue to trust him in critical moments.

In contrast, every defensive unit performed brilliantly for the Utes. After a slow start last week against SUU, the defensive line was abusive early this week and it looked to be a long game for BYU’s offensive line. Linebackers, the big question mark on defense entering this season, is proving themselves one game at a time. -- Full story (premium)

Washington Huskies

Beat Idaho 59-14

Other than holding the ball a little too long on a couple of plays, one of which resulted in a sack and a fumble, it was about as perfect a day for a quarterback as you can have. There's no denying it, the first unit offensive line struggled a bit in the first quarter, unable to get much of a push and allowing free runners to get to QB Jake Browning and rush his throws.

I thought defensive lineman Vita Vea had his best game as a Dawg. He was practically unblockable and he really forced the issue up front as he collapsed the pocket on almost every play.  

For the second-straight week, Washington just took care of business. Sure, they struggled offensively in the first quarter, but they regrouped and ran away with it in the second quarter. Does more work need to happen on offense? Absolutely, but is it as bad as some people think it is? Not even close. Once again, the Huskies handled their business and did exactly what the eighth-ranked team in the country should do to a team like Idaho. -- Full story (premium)

Washington State Cougars

Lost to Boise State, 31-28

The horrendous officiating by the Mountain West crew cannot be used as an excuse for the WSU loss. That cannot be stressed enough. This Cougar team, right now, is not good enough to get six wins and go bowling -- let alone meet the expectations the fans, coaches and players themselves held so strongly just eight days ago.  

Mike Leach is right … the Cougars are not tough enough right now. When adversity reveals its ugly face, be it in the form of poor officiating or something else, the Cougars have folded up the tents in this season's first two games. They need to instead walk up to Adversity and punch it in the mouth. Bad calls?  Life isn’t fair. Suck it up and go win. -- Full story (premium)

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