For those new to This Week In The Pac-12: We're quickly breaking down each Pac-12 game and what it means, and each game deemed important enough will have a question in bold for readers to respond to. Answer as many as you can!
At various points this week Pac-12 opponents were struggling mightily with Eastern Washington, Hawaii, Houston, Montana St., Minnesota, and Sacramento St. . . . which isn't exactly a list of college football powerhouses. And perhaps more painfully, the standard bearer for the conference contracted fumblitis at the worst possible moment, and LSU borrowed the Clancy Pendergast patented blueprint® to stop the Oregon spread in a convincing Tiger win at the Jerrydome.
Let's break down the week that was game-by-game, from most embarrassing to least embarrasing. The starting point on our journey is a pretty easy choice. Beavers, step up!
Sacramento St. 29, Oregon St. 28
Part of me is feeling just the smallest bit smug for predicting a down season for Oregon St. On the other hand, nobody predicted this. The Beavers were somewhat crippled by a slew of injuries and the Hornets took advantage. Oregon St. has taken their penchant for non-conference losses to a whole new level. Despite their troubles the Beavers still should have won - out-gaining Sac. St. by a healthy margin and missing what should have been a game-winning field goal. As it is, this team very much looks like a 5-7 squad that lost its best player on both offense and defense to the draft.
11 true freshmen dressed for the game, and 8 played, including 3 who started. 14 Beavers made their first start, including 8 on defense. And those counts don't even include safety Anthony Watkins, who didn't start until the end of last season, or CB Sean Martin, who played more than half the game after Rashaad Reynolds, him self a first time starter in place of the injured Brandon Hardin, cramped up in the 90 degree plus heat.
Yet it wasn't just OSU's youth that betrayed them - 2nd year starter Ryan Katz was generally ineffective and was eventually removed from the game, a shocking development for a player many pegged as a dark-horse All-Pac-12 candidate.
Do you still irrationally fear the Beavers, or has the Mike Riley magic finally run out?
Washington 30, Eastern Washington 27
While Oregon St. was a bit unlucky to lose to Sac St., Washington was extremely lucky to beat Eastern Washington. Nearly every meaningful stat shows a game that Eastern Washington dominated. Eastern doubled UW's yardage total and completely corralled new Husky QB Keith Price, who finished with a long completion of 10 yards. The Pac-12 was thisclose to two shockingly bad FCS defeats.
No pressure...absolutely no pressure most of the night against a 1-AA foe. Alameda Ta'amu played like a big fat pile of goo. He was dominated most of the evening by players who had no business being on the same playing field with him.
Washington has Hawaii visiting Seattle before traveling to Nebraska. What will be UW's record when they take on the Bears in week 4?
Hawaii 34, Colorado 17
The road losing streak drags on for the Buffaloes, who actually did a pretty good job slowing down Hawaii's run and shoot passing attack but utterly failed to stop Bryant Moniz's running attack. Meanwhile, counting sacks, Colorado averaged 0.6 yards per carry. I didn't wish Marshall on Buffalo fans who certainly deserve some kind of optimism, but Cal fans can't say they're shocked.
As Buff fans, we knew 2011 was potentially going to be a difficult season. Colorado has a brutal schedule both out and in conference. New coaching staff transitions always have their growing pains especially given the lack of success from the prior regime. We all expected the Embree debut to be better than it was and I am sure the staff did as well. It's still very early and now we know that patience will be need to get this thing turned around.
If you can remember your pre-season confidence score for Cal @ Colorado (on a scale from 0.0 to 1.0) how far has it moved due to the events of week 1?
Houston 38, UCLA 34
Last year UCLA had a bad defense, and they lost two high-round draft picks to the NFL. So 38 points from Case Keenum and Houston at home perhaps shouldn't be a surprise. Still, pundits continue to identify UCLA as a team to watch each year, so it's just as well that the Bruins let their supporters down early in the season. Frankly, UCLA did better than I thought they would, but many pegged this game as a must win for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, and in that regard it's a failure.
I was actually plesantly surprised by the UCLA offense and the play of Richard Brehaut. Jonathan Franklin was his usually productive self, but with marginally improved line play. Houston likely doesn't have a great defense, but 34 points and 554 yards is still a strong statement. We'll see if they can do it against stiffer opposition.
In my eye-test, I can only see this game as a failure, because this is a game that we didn't have to lose. That's the bottom line. If we execute two or three plays differently, the final score is different.
Who would worry you the most as UCLA's new coach in 2012?
USC 19, Minnesota 17
How many games can USC expect to win just based on the production of Barkley to Woods? Because that's all it took to hang on against Minnesota. Yet I'd like to think most Pac-12 teams will present a more difficult challenge than the Golden Gophers. USC didn't help themselves out any by missing two 2 pt. conversion attempts, but Minnesota did worse by missing two field goals. All in all, a thoroughly unconvincing win for the Trojans.
Conquest Chronicles isn't sure what to make of USC's struggles:
I just don't understand why Kiffin is so conservative. He says one thing then does another. I thought we would win comfortably yesterday. We didn't and now there are a lot more questions. I am not sure how this season will play out...
Is USC actually vulnerable or is this another elaborate plot to lure us into a false sense of security . . . or both?!?
Warning: Obnoxious music ahead
Utah 27, Montana St. 10
Utah raced out to a 24-0 lead, then Montana St. controlled the rest of the game for an uninspiring debut as a BCS team. The Utes struggled mightily to move the ball through the air and couldn't convert 3rd down attempts against the #6 ranked FCS Bobcats.
Yeah, the Utes won and are 1-0 and didn't fully embarrass themselves like Ole Miss and Virginia Tech did last year against FCS schools, but there was nothing in this win that gives me confidence this team is ready to head on the road, to play in front of 90,000 fans, and compete, let alone win, against a hungry and talented USC program.
Call me a defeatist and hopefully I'm proven wrong, but Thursday's game makes it difficult to find any confidence in this team - at least right now.
Opening day jitters or an omen of worse things to come for Utah?
LSU 40, Oregon 27
Statistically, LSU and Oregon played each other even, but boy do those penalties and turnovers sting. I don't think this loss means nearly as much as everybody else seems to think - Oregon is still a major contender for both the Pac-12 and a BCS bowl - but that doesn't mean this team doesn't have flaws that appropriately talented opponents can exploit. I only hope Cal is appropriately talented!
Watching the game, it was clear that the Ducks were a young team. There was little consistency for the offense, and small mistakes were made that more experienced players simply don't make.
Do you still consider Oregon to be the favorite to win the Pac-12 North, or is it . . . gulp . . . Stanford?
Arizona 41, Northern Arizona 10
Arizona destroyed an over-matched FCS opponent after fooling around for two quarters. Moving on.
Arizona St. 48, UC Davis 14
Arizona St. destroyed an over-matched FCS opponent without fooling around for two quarters. Moving on.
Stanford 57, San Jose St. 3
Stanford destroyed the functional equivalent of an overmatched FCS opponent without fooling around for two quarters. Moving on.
Did anything that happened in the above three games provide any meaningful info about any of the teams involved? Bonus points if you can make a compelling argument for a 'yes!'
Washington St. 64, Idaho St. 21
Washington State destroyed an over-matched FCS opponent . . . except, considering recent WSU results, that's actually a significant achievement, particularly without the help of Jeff Tuel. But of course, when WSU takes a quantifiable step forward, cruel and uncaring fate decides to break a bone in Tuel's spine.
Jeff Tuel, the quarterback on whom WSU's hopes and dreams rest this season, fractured his left collarbone in his one drive of play today against Idaho State. It's unknown how long he'll be out, but collarbone injuries typically don't heal very fast, and have to be solid before being exposed to contact again.
Do you expect WSU to remain competitive if Jeff Tuel is unable to play this year?
Here's your schedule. 10 almost uniformly intriguing games over three days should keep you appropriately glued to the couch you lazy, awful person. All times Pacific Standard.
Arizona at Oklahoma St., 5:00 pm, ESPN
Missouri at Arizona St., 7:30 pm, ESPN
Oregon St. at Wisconsin, 9:00 am, ESPN3
Cal at Colorado, 12:30 pm, CSN California
Stanford at Duke, 12:30 pm, ESPNU
Hawaii at Washington, 12:30 pm
Nevada at Oregon, 12:30 pm, FX
UNLV at Washington St., 2:00 pm
Utah at USC, 4:30 pm, Versus
San Jose St. at UCLA, 7:00 pm, Fox Sports West
Burning Questions: Can the Arizona schools rep the Pac-12 on ESPN after waxing FCS teams in Week 1? Can Washington avoid a loss to a feisty Hawaii team that runs an offense very similar to the Eastern Washington team that shredded them? What happens in the two Pac-12 matchups this weekend (official league games or otherwise)? And troubles aside, there's no way that UCLA struggles with San Jose St., right? RIGHT?