Week 1 in the Pac-12 seemingly had everything, but if there was an overarching theme it was one of disappointment and lost luster. More important than lost luster, several teams lost key players, a result that left even the week's victors hurting in one way or the other. And while this week didn't seal the fates of any member of the Conference of Champions, a number of teams have had their season trajectories altered after playing just four quarters of football. So let's take a look at exactly what happened this week.
Utah 24, Michigan 17: The Utes won a predictably physical game in Coach Khaki's Wolverine debut, holding down a Michigan offense with the help of three interceptions of quarterback Jake Rudock. Quarterback Travis Wilson was efficient, if not explosive. Wilson completed 24 of 33 and averaged 6.3 yards per attempt. The Utes got just enough from Devontae Booker (69 yards) and Wilson's legs (53 yards) to offset an uncharacteristically off day from "Automatic" Andy Phillips, who went only 1/3 on field goal attempts.
Takeaway: Utah rarely looks impressive in either victory or defeat. At home against a Michigan team struggling on offense, this game probably shouldn't have been as close as it was, but that's how the Utes are built. I didn't see anything to make me think Utah is a threat in the Pac-12 South, but I also remain convicted that nobody is going to enjoy playing them this year, especially at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Next Up: Friday, 9/11 vs. Utah State 6 PM ESPN 2- The Utes should move to 2-0 with a home victory that should be far more comfortable than their first effort. Utah State won its opener 12-9, so don't expect many offensive fireworks in this one.
Arizona 42, UTSA 32: Arizona's offense was on point, but it's secondary looked as shaky as many feared it would be in getting by QB Blake Bogenschutz for 332 yards. To make matters worse, the Wildcats lost All-Universe Linebacker Scooby Wright for the game and somewhere between 3-4 weeks. It could have been worse for Arizona w/r/t/ Scoob, but Rich Rod has some serious work to do on his defense before The Rosen One comes to Arizona Stadium, with or without Wright.
Next Up: Saturday at Nevada 4 PM CBSSN Arizona heads to the Biggest Little City in the World and step number one on the agenda is improving a pass defense that did not look ready for Pac-12 play in its opener. Keep your eyes on this one. The 'Cats should have enough offense to win, but #MountainWestAfterDark could have Rich Rod dialing Reno 911 if Arizona's Scooby-less defense struggles.
Hawaii 28, Colorado 20: The first of the disappointing upset defeats ended in controversy, as the officials took too long to reset the football on Colorado's would-be last gasp attempt. However, the bottom line is that this shouldn't have been close at all and the Buffaloes have some serious work to do before conference play starts. Many thought this would be the year that the Buffs jump up and beat somebody in the Pac-12 South, but their opening effort was uninspiring at best.
Next Up: Saturday vs. UMASS 11 AM P12 Networks: The Buffs should bounce back on the Mainland, but there's a bit more pressure to play well coming off a very disheartening loss.
Oregon State 26 Weber State 7: Coach Gary Anderson's Beaver debut went ideally, with quarterback Seth Collins vindicating Anderson's choice in the Beavers' offseason quarterback controversy and the defense controlling Weber State's offense. Collins passed for only 92 yards, but ran for 152 and threw two touchdowns. Weber State was 0-13 on third down attempts and the Beavs outgained the Wildcats 391 yards to 178. It was a completely dominant performance against an over-matched foe.
Next Up: Saturday @ Michigan 9 AM ABC The undercard of the Oregon Schools visit to the Great Lakes State is no less intriguing. Freshman QB Seth Collins heads to the Big House to try and spoil Coach Khaki's homecoming. This is a huge opportunity for Oregon State that comes with none of the must-win pressures awaiting that other Oregon school's field trip.
Boise State 16 Washington 13: Offense is going to be a struggle once again for Washington, who needed a punt return touchdown to get into double digits. On the plus side, Chris Petersen seems to have identified his quarterback in Jake Browning, who should some moxie in rallying the Huskies in the second half. Also, Petersen's defense grew tougher as the game went on, shutting down Boise State after a shaky start. Expectations were not high for the Huskies coming into this year, but it appears at least that Petersen has a team willing to fight in a tough environment and a quarterback who will reward him for the bumps and missteps we're going to see throughout this season.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Sacramento State 11 AM Pac-12 Networks The Huskies return for some home cooking along the lake. Sacramento State has played Pac-12 schools in the past, but Washington's defense should do enough to take the pressure off its offense and bring home the win.
Northwestern 16, Stanford 6: An absolute no-show by a Cardinal offense many assumed would pick up where it left off at the end of last season. The first play of the season was a botched snap, and the first play of the second half required a time-out call before it could be run. In between was a poorly-choreographed clown car of comedy masking itself as a college football offense. Stanford appeared virtually uncoached for long stretches last Saturday, and the loss of defensive tackle Harrision Phillips puts added pressure on Coach Shaw and the offense to cure what ails them quickly.
Next Up: Saturday vs. UCF 7:30 PM Fox Sports 1 Two salty teams meet on The Farm Saturday night. Both came off disappointing defeats and both feature defenses trying desperately to compensate for short-circuited offenses. Both coaches have accrued enough credibility not to be in too much trouble from an 0-2 start, but neither wants to put that to the test Saturday night. Stanford's been an outstanding home team during the David Shaw Era, but with no students, the Cardinal's going to have to energize a concerned fan base, not vice versa.
Portland State 24 Washington State 17: The Pirate's offense was bogged down by the Pullman slog, and Portland State was able to win a game despite 61 yards passing. WSU gave up all 24 points in the second half, and the Cougars' bid for a turnaround season got off to an inauspicious start. Quarterback Luke Falk did throw for 289 yards and two scores, but those aren't Air Raid numbers and they weren't enough to get Leach an opening game victory.
Next Up: Saturday at Rutgers 12:30 PM ESPNU: Credit to the Pirate for scheduling a true non-conference road game. I'd be more concerned for the Cougars if Rutgers wasn't embroiled in such a mess at the moment. Even with that, this stands as a tough trip for the Cougs. 0-2 is very much in play for Washington State.
UCLA 34 Virginia 16: The Josh Rosen Era is underway at UCLA, and it appears that Stanford's loss is going to benefit the Bruins for years to come. The Chosen Rosen carved up the Cavaliers, but the win came with a big loss for the UCLA defense. Eddie Vanderdoes tore is ACL and is finished for the season. A key part of the core of the Bruin defense, Coach Jim Mora is going to be hard pressed to replace such an indispensable player. The Bruins have loads of talent, but few on the roster have the talent and experience of Vanderdoes.
Next Up: Saturday at UNLV 7:30 PM CBSSN The Rosens head to Sin City, where it would take a David Copperfield masterpiece to keep the Rebels in this game. Most Bruin fans making the trip should be back in the casinos by the fourth quarter.
Cal 73 Grambling State 14: Cal had Jared Goff on Cheat Code Mode and this was never a contest. The totality of this mismatch makes any long term conclusions dubious outside of what we already knew: Cal can light up a scoreboard. Goff was done at halftime, and as predicted, the Grambling State band represented far better than the football team.
Next Up: Saturday vs. San Diego State 2 PM Pac-12 Networks Cal's not getting to 73 this week, but even with a tougher challenge from Las Aztecas, expect Los Osos to move to 2-0 and the Bay Area to go bonkers with Bear Love.
Texas A&M 38 Arizona State 17: Coach Todd Graham spoke early and often about national championship aspirations, but this was a not yet ready for primetime performance by the Sun Devils. ASU couldn't deal with A&M's pressure, especially that of super freak Sophomore defensive end Myles Garret, who fit left tackle for cement shoes early and often. ASU's special teams also contributed to the collapse, and the Sun Devils left Houston with both their college football playoff hopes and the reputation of the Pac-12 scorched under the white hot spotlight of a Primetime pratfall.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Cal Poly 8 PM Pac-12 Networks: The Mustangs are likely to face the Wrath of Bercovici in this one. ASU is still smarting in this one. Kalen Ballage, who missed the game against A&M and was sorely missed, will be out with mono for at least a couple more weeks. His absence will not be as noteworthy here, as ASU cruises barring a team-wide outbreak of mono.
Oregon 61 Eastern Washington 42: Oregon continues to Oregon better than anybody else in the Pac-12 does anything. Unfortunately, the Ducks secondary gave up nearly as much as the Vernon Adams-led offense dished out to the Eagles. Adams had a concussion scare on a pretty clearly targeted hit towards the end of the game, but all indications are that he will be fine. The same cannot be said for Oregon's pass defense, at least at this stage of the season.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Michigan State 5 PM ABC Oregon carries the hopes and dreams of an entire conference into East Lansing. Vernon Adams will face the toughest defense he's ever seen, and Spartans QB Connor Cook must be salivating about the chance to play against the Duck secondary. This win last year propelled the Ducks and Marcus Mariota and stood at the top of the Pac-12's non-conference resume in 2014. It will do so again if the Ducks can negotiate a determined, well-coached and talented Michigan State team. Only SC's trip to Notre Dame comes close to this game for conference credibility.
USC 55 Arkansas State 6: Even in a drama-less track meet at the Coliseum, things didn't go without a hitch for the Trojans. All-Everything star Adoree Jackson suffered an injury that kept him out of the second half, though Jackson said he'd have been able to play had the game been closer. Quarterback Cody Kessler was also sacked six times, though Coach Steve Sarkisian said that at least two of them could be attributed to the Bakersfield Bandit himself. USC got encouraging efforts from its run game, led by Tre Madden's 106 yards on only 12 carries.
Next Up: Saturday vs. Idaho 5 PM Pac-12 Networks: USC will hold another track meet at the Coliseum. Expect the Trojans to address their pass protections struggles from last Saturday and expect another big game from the Trojan playmakers.
So let's quantify which QB's who fizzled and who sizzled this week, based on yards per play and yards per attempt.
||Yards Per Play
||Yards Per Attempt|
We start with yards per play to acknowledge that some of these signal callers do damage with their legs. That was certainly the case with Collins, who had a meager 5.1 yards per passing attempt but was the fourth most productive QB overall on opening weekend. No matter how you slice it, Rosen,Goff, and Adams were incredible. Kessler suffered from the sack yardage, but as we can see, the Bandit's throwing was as prolific as ever for the Trojans. The two worst quarterbacks of the week were not expected to be so far down this list, but Bercovici was facing a ferocious A&M pass rush and Hogan was undone by his own poor play as well as that of his line, backs, receivers, and coaches. These numbers will mean more and more as the season progresses, especially when we get into conference play. For now, they are a pretty good indication of how week 1 went, with only Wilson performing in the bottom half of QB's yet getting a win.
Teams That Go Kaboom
Football Outsiders utilizes a number of factors when evaluating an offense, and one of them is explosiveness. That's measured by the % of a team's drives that average 10 or more yards per play. Based on this metric, let's take a look at the Pac-12's offenses this week:
||EX Drives (%)
Now it goes without saying the asterisk here for sample size is huge, but nevertheless it's all we have at this point. Obviously, Cal can score, but there's no way the Bears are sustaining that scoring rate. Also, this is just one component of offensive success. Arizona put up 42 points yet had only one "explosive" drive. Oregon scored touchdowns on its first five series but wasn't the most explosive team of the week, as we've decided here. It should be noted that much like the chart above, Utah was the only team not engineer an explosive drive and win its game. The Utes are a rugged team and they will be in many close games, but ultimately this lack of offense is going to catch up with them. ASU and Stanford are teams nobody expected to see at the bottom of any offensive chart, but after week one we've already got them occupying the cellars of two.
Yes, IT WAS ONLY ONE WEEK. As Ohio State proved last year, one bad early week doesn't necessarily doom your season. On the other hand, there are only a handful of games that define a school's reputation for the crucial final stretch of the year, and those games are played mostly in September. All these teams will realign over the course of the year, but this first week reaffirmed one of my longest held beliefs: When there is no offense, there is no hope.
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