Pac-12 Whiparound: Explosion

It couldn't get worse for the Conference of Champions after an opening week where so much went haywire. Things got better this week, as a number of teams bounced back and the Pac-12 went undefeated in games played outside of the state of Michigan.

    It couldn't get worse for the Conference of Champions after an opening week where so much went haywire. Things got better this week, as a number of teams bounced back and the Pac-12 went undefeated in games played outside of the state of Michigan.  Now, what happened in the Great Lakes State wasn't great, but I'd also argue it wasn't disastrous. It helps that overall the competition wasn't stiff overall but the bottom line is 10-2 serves as a good elixir after a disappointing week for the CoC.  After two weeks, we don't necessarily have a crystal clear understanding of these teams' identities, but we're getting closer, and we certainly have an appreciation of what most of them are trying to be.
    All right, let's get these doggies rollin'!  Hyah! Hyah! Hyah!

Utah 24, Utah State 14:  The rugged Utes defense battered Chuckie Keeton, who is only a year away from his AARP subscription, but in typical Ute fashion, they were unable to run away from the Aggies.  Kyle Whittingham noted the Utes' underwhelming overall appearance in the first two games, but also astutely noted that two wins are two wins.  Nevertheless, after two weeks, this looks like a good team stuck in a great division.  Even with ASU's shakiness through two games, I'd still say this is the weakest team in the Pac-12 South.  That's especially the case after the Utes lost quarterback Travis Wilson, who injured his non-throwing shoulder. Per Bleacher Report, Wilson is expected to return vs. Oregon but is uncertain for the Utes' next game.  Next Up:  Sat. @ Fresno State 7:30 PM CBSSN-  Credit Whittingham for playing a true roadie in a venue many notable schools have refused to visit.  These aren't your older cousin's Bulldogs, though.  Fresno State just went out to SEC country and were ground into chum for the Land Sharks of Mississippi.  Without Wilson, this could be a real struggle, but expect the Utah defense to ultimately carry the day.

Michigan 35, Oregon State 7:  This game got very, very ugly after an illegal formation penalty on a punt led to a re-kick that never happened.  An airmailed snap led to a 96-yard swap in field position, and the Beavers never recovered.  Michigan's defensive front was formidable and without Storm Barr-Woods at 100%, Coach Gary Anderson had little chance of mustering up enough points to leave the Big House with a win.  Freshman QB Seth Collins struggled on the road, which was to be expected.  Unfortunately, this is likely how the Beavers are going to look on the road this year.  Next Up: Sat. vs. San Jose State

Washington 49, Sacramento State 0: 
After a tough loss on the road, the Huskies returned to home and got healthy at the expense of the Hornets.  Quarterback Jake Browning completed 68% of his passes and threw for 326 yards.  The Huskies' ground game found the sledding much better in their natural habitat.  A week after mustering only 29 yards total against Boise State, the 'Dawgs stung the Hornets for 218 yards and five touchdowns.  Next Up: Sat. vs. Utah State 2 PM P12 Networks  If Chuckie Keeton is healthy, this could be a dangerous game for the Huskies.  Utah State just left the MUSS, so they'll be accustomed to a loud Pac-12 home venue.  Keep an eye on this one for a clearer indication of just what Washington's got this year.

Colorado 48, UMass 14: 
The Minutemen hung around for a quarter before Ralphie's Renegades stampeded all over them to the tune of 390 yards rushing. Quarterback Sefo Liufau was a modest 15-of-24 for 168 yards, but clearly he didn't need to do much in the face of that kind of rushing dominanceColorado Coach Mike McCartney couldn't be happy with UMASS' 5.6 yards per play even in a blowout.  The Colorado defense is going to have to step it up in the next weeks if the Buffaloes are going to threaten Pac-12 competition on a weekly basis.  Next Up:  Sat "@" Colorado State 4PM CBSSN:  The annual state showdown at the home of the Broncos.  This game has been a challenge for Colorado in recent years with Colorado State having won two of the last three head-to-head matchups.  Coach Mike Bobo's team is coming off a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to Minnesota last Saturday, so they should be able to hang physically with the Buffaloes.  Colorado really needs this win before their brutal Pac-12 schedule gets underway.

Washington State 37, Rutgers 34: 
Maybe the most needed win in the Pirate's time up in Pullman came in Piscataway.  Quarterback Luke Falk stepped up big time against the Scarlet Knights, completing 71.2% of his 66 passes for a whopping 478 yards and four touchdowns.  The Air Raid was in full effect in Jersey, but like for Colorado, the Cougars' defense left much to be desired.  Rutgers averaged a very healthy 6.1 yards per attempt and were it not for three turnovers and 100 penalty yards, the Cougs may have been fatally lanced by the Knights.  As it stands, they avoid the 0-2 start, and that's all that ultimately matters.  Next Up:  Sat. vs. Wyoming 5:30 PM P12 Networks:  Wyoming has already lost five players for the year due to injury, illness, or suspension, and three more are questionable for the game on Saturday to due injury, suspension, and concussion.  The depleted Cowboys are terrible (0-2), and should pose little threat to the Cougars, but that's what we thought about Portland State.

California 35, SDSU 7: 
Golden Goff continues to shine, and the Bear defense continues to shut down opponents in what many consider a put-up or shut-up season for that side of the ball.  San Diego State is not great, but they were a step up from Grambling and there remains little doubt that this is one of the most formidable offenses in the country.  Cal's defense has already forced seven turnovers, an encouraging trend but one that also casts doubt on how dependable the Cal defense is straight up.  Six of the seven have been interceptions, which is very encouraging for a secondary that was ravaged on the reg last season.  Next Up:  Sat. @Texas 4 PM FOX:  The Bears have a huge national television showcase game against a Longhorn program under severe duress following a disastrous season opener at Notre Dame and the dismissal of AD Steve Patterson this week.  Coach Charlie Strong's defense has allowed 33 points per game so far, which makes them fresh meat for an offense playing this well.  Overconfidence is the only legitimate threat standing between Cal and 3-0.

Arizona 44, Nevada 20: 
RichRod navigated a tricky little trip to the Biggest Little City.  The balanced Wildcats blasted the Wolf Pack for 570 total yards that included 264 passing from QB Anu Solomon (who completed 72% of his passes) and 194 on just 21 carries from Nick WilsonInjuries continue to pile up for Arizona, who has seven players out and four listed as questionable.  That includes seven defensive players among the wounded, a whopping four of them linebackers.  Arizona was thin coming into this year, and it's clear that attrition is going to be the biggest obstacle in Arizona's bid to repeat as champions of the Pac-12 South.  Next Up:  Rich Rod's cupcake diet has yielded two wins and should produce another one this week against Northern Arizona.

USC 59, Idaho 9: 
Talked to Ryan Abraham of uscfootball.com this week, and he made a good point about USC's opening wins over Arkansas State.  First, he noted that Arkansas State may, in fact, be a pretty good team based on its ability to hang with Missouri four four quarters last week.  Idaho is unquestionably a pile of garbage, but Abraham's point was that plenty of 'SC teams in the past have allowed lesser teams to hang in games far longer than they should.  That the Trojans came out and dominated these two teams is not surprising, but that they came out and immediately seized control of the game is encouraging.  There's still a lot of season left, but those hoping for USC to self-destruct or lose focus this season may be disappointed for the first time in many, many years.  Next Up: Sat. vs. Stanford 5 PM ABC: The competition gets ramped up this week with the Pac-12 opener against the Cardinal.  SC is still a double-digit favorite, and if they roll Stanford it would certainly add more validity to their dominance in the first two games.

Michigan State 31, Oregon 28: 
The Ducks seem like they're taking a lot heat for taking a top-five team down to the wire in a true road game.  This game didn't change my opinion of Oregon (the class of the Pac-12 until someone dethrones them) but it did exacerbate concerns about the Ducks' secondary.  Everybody knew this was going to be a problem coming into the season, and last Saturday night's matchup did show that if the Ducks are going to remain a threat for the playoff the back four (or five) will need to improve.  Next Up:  Sat. vs. Georgia State 11 AM P12 Networks:  This game's already over, Georgia State just doesn't know it.  Or maybe they do.  Either way, I'm going to use this space to argue against the ridiculous 11 AM time slot the Pac-12 Networks has established.  Why is the league's own network making things ideal for out-of-towners to play Pac-12 schools?  When teams travel east to play at 9 AM Pacific, it has a huge impact.  11 AM is 2 PM Georgia State time.  I get it.  TV, money, etc.  But to me, this is the Pac-12 inadvertently accomodating those who don't return the courtesy.

UCLA 37, UNLV 3: 
The Rosen One's Coronation Tour continued with an unsurprising romp of UNLV.  He did throw his first interception, but aside from that, the Bruins handled their business in Sin City. Running back Paul Perkins and the Bruins' run game have quietly run up some ridiculous numbers, unnoticed with Rosen-mania running wild.  Perkins, Bolo Olorunfunmi, and Soso Jamabo are all averaging 6.6 yards per carry or higher.  UCLA's touted offensive line is making things very easy for Dr. Rosen Rosen, and vice versa. Next Up:  Sat. vs. BYU 7:30 PM FS1:  Those Holy Rollin' Cardiac Cougars of BYU visit the Rosen Bowl in a game that should at least provide The Rosen Child some legitimate defensive competition.  UCLA has more than enough talent to win this game, but the scrappy Cougars won't go quietly, and if it comes down to a Hail Mary pass....

Stanford 31, UCF 7: 
Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan averaged a gaudy 11.8 YPA on his way to a career-best 341 yards passing, and Cardinal fans fell head over heels for Bryce Love, who had 143 yards on three touches in a game Stanford sorely needed to find some footing coming off the traumatizing and stunning no-show in Evanston.  The Cardinal defense was characteristically stout, even after the loss of defensive tackle Aziz Shittu to disqualification in the first half. Few would have guessed that the most reliable part of Stanford's offense would be the kicking game, but Conrad Ukropina is 3-of-3 to start the year, including a 52-yarder to close out the first half last Saturday night.   Next Up:  Sat. @USC 5 PM ABC:  Stanford's make or break game of 2015 comes early in the form of the weekender, and the Cardinal's thin defensive line and inexperienced secondary puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of Hogan and the offense to deliver what could be a galvanizing win or a devastating defeat, but nothing in between, for Stanford.

Arizona State 35, Cal Poly 21: 
This game was far too much of a struggle for the Sun Devils, and through two games numerous questions have arisen about the merit of Coach Graham's "Scholar Ballers."  Arizona State continues to miss Kalen Balage, out with mono for an indefinite period. Injuries are piling up for the Sun Devils much as they are for that School in Tucson.  On the plus side, ASU gave up only one sack to Cal Poly after allowing nine to Texas A&M. The Sun Devil defense will be without the services of safety Armand Henry (ankle), which means freshman Kareem Orr and Sophomore Chad Adams are the next men up for ASU.  Next Up: Fri. vs. New Mexico 7 PM P12 Networks:  Los Lobos should not be too much of a challenge even for the depleted Scholar Ballers.  Bob Davie's team is 1-1 after Tulsa blew them out.  This is the last dress rehearsal before USC comes to town, so expect Arizona State to have things buttoned up Friday Night.

Teams That Go Kaboom


This week rather than percentage we're just going to look at the total number of explosive drives (those that average 10+ YPP).  A number of teams made big leaps this past week, though much of that is a bigger commentary on their opponents than a suddenly discovered formula for combustability.

Team
Week 1
Week 2
Total
USC
4
6
10
Cal
5
3
8
Washington
0
5
5
UCLA
2
2
4
Arizona
1
2
3
Stanford
0
3
3
Arizona State
0
2
2
Colorado
0
2
2
Oregon
2
0
2
Washington State
1
1
2
Oregon State
1
0
1
Utah
0
0
0
 

All right, so what do we see?  First off, USC is very much USC, though Idaho is an abomination of a football team at this point.  The Trojans have been the  most explosive team in the conference, though as Fox Sports' Lindsey Thiry noted on The Bootleg Red Zone Report this week, that's been more a function of individual players taking small passes and making huge gains out of them more than any concerted effort to stretch the vertical passing game.  Either way, it's working for the Trojans so far, and is something Stanford's young defensive backfield is going to have to stop for the Cardinal to have a prayer on Saturday.  Washington took the biggest leap forward, but my analysis of that progress can be summed in two words:  Sacramento State.
    The two biggest disappointments in this category would have to be Oregon and Arizona State.  Now, both have played elite non-conference foes in one of the first two games.  However, Oregon put up 61 points in a week one win that featured but two explosive drives.  The Ducks,  a Methodical Blur?  That sounds more like a New Order album than an Oregon identity.  Chalk it up for now to working a new quarterback into the system.  Expect the Ducks to climb the charts starting this week. The Sun Devils have been banged up, but it has to be a concern if they don't start generating bigger plays, like the ones that carried ASU to victory in the Coliseum last year.

    Finally, can't be surprised that Utah is at the bottom here.  They are an ugly 2-0 (which is still beautiful if you're a Ute fan), and their offensive struggles are likely to be an issue all season long.

    So after a bounceback week for the CofC what do we really know?  First, we know that the Pac-12's best can hang with the Big 10's best.  We know that Cal and USC are going to light up the scoreboard all season long.  The Desert schools are incredibly banged up with only one more week before both host L.A. schools in the South's first true Separation Saturday.  We know WSU will throw until their QB's arm falls off (or he's knocked out), whichever comes first.  We know that Oregon State is going to have some ups and downs with a freshman quarterback and that UCLA's freshman QB is going to be dropping dimes all year long.  If there's one team we don't know about, it's Stanford, who shocked everybody with its offensive ineptitude in Week 1 and then appeared to have risen up to proficiency in Week 2.  In my mind they're the only real mystery team in this conference at this point.  That's okay, because Sunday night in the Coliseum, they'll be a mystery no longer, one way or the other.

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