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This Week In The Pac-12: Conference Games Are More Fun

"Lane has just been <em>completely</em> out of control lately."
"Lane has just been completely out of control lately."

San Jose St., Hawaii, and a variety of FCS teams?  All in good fun, I suppose.  Sure, LSU, Texas and Missouri are plenty important.  But the real excitement comes when we get real, live conference games.  Utah and USC got the Pac-12 era (circa 2011 to 2012) off to a thrilling start and Cal vs. Colorado offered a sugar-free substitute that tasted just as good without that unhealthy hit to the official standings.  And like any good Pac-(solve for X) game should have, there were plenty of confused referee decisions!  So this week we'll look at every Pac-12 game of the week, from most exciting down to the most boring.

USC 17 23, Utah 14

Sometimes I think USC is just intentionally trolling us.  Sure, tease us with sanctions, and pretend like you're getting weaker by barely winning games with last-second interceptions and kick blocks.  We all know you'll work out every kink in time for Cal, when Robert Woods will decide to one-up Paul Richardson by catching 22 passes for 423 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Realistically, USC shouldn't have needed a blocked kick to clinch the game, but the Trojans managed six different drives into Utah territory that didn't result in any points.  Fumbles, interceptions, turnovers on downs - USC did it all in what was ultimately a futile effort to hand Utah a victory.

Block U's reaction?  Losing sucks, but at least it wasn't in embarrassing fashion.

Prior to the season, the majority of Pac-12 fans identified Utah as the South Division favorites.  Are the Utes still the likely South champs?

Meanwhile, Conquest Chronicles isn't pleased with the careless errors:

There is very little that you can put on Lane Kiffin With this game.  THREE turnovers that led to 14-points. A number of dropped INT's. Some very bad penalties.

On a scale from 1 to OHHOLYGODWHY, how frightened are you of Robert Woods?

Arizona St. 37, Missouri 30

The third of four highly entertaining, very flawed Pac-12 games saw a flurry of passing yards, penalties, and goofy coaching decisions.  But beyond getting a win over a ranked team (well, ranked at the time) Arizona St. just might have a quarterback to compliment what might be an excellent defense.  Osweiler was both efficient and explosive in finding eight different receivers and averaging nearly 15 yards per completion.

Still, the Sun Devils were thisclose to blowing a two touchdown 4th quarter lead at home and the pre-season injuries to important players on defense might be a fatal flaw.  After all, the Miami Redhawks did a much better job of controlling the Missouri attack in week 1.  Vontaze is still Vontaze, but is there enough talent around him?

House of Sparky extols the virtues of Vinnie Strang Aaron Pflugrad:

Wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad had a game for the ages against the Missouri Tigers in ASU's 37-30 overtime win. The senior had 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, paving the way for the Sun Devils with over a third of the team's offensive production (492 total yards). In a game that was defined by its momentum shifts, Pflugrad seemed to be the spark for the Sun Devils every time.

Which unit is a bigger concern for ASU fans - Osweiler and the offense of Burfict and the defense?

Washington 40, Hawaii 32

After struggling to stop Eastern Washington through the air, more than a few might have leaned towards picking Hawaii to earn their 2nd win over a Pac-12 foe.  And while both teams racked up plenty of passing yards, it was Chris Polk and UW's ability to run the ball that was the difference.

Still, Washington needed a 4th quarter touchdown, and interception, and an onside kick recovery to hold on for the win at home, so it was hardly an easy win.  Their next stop?  A trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska, who struggled against Fresno St. just enough to make me doubt that the Cornhuskers are an obvious favorite.

UWDawgPound is pleased, and points out a shocking stat that starkly reminds us how far UW has fallen:

The kids were definitely ready to play this week so all the hard work paid off and the team is 2-0 for the first time since 2007 . . . Defensively the team showed emotion and played better. Getting stops on third is still a big adventure and the lack of a consistent pass rush is putting a lot of pressure on the secondary.

True or False: Cal's Pac-12 opener against Washington is the biggest non-Stanford game of the year?

UCLA 27, San Jose St. 17

This is what I wrote last week:

And troubles aside, there's no way that UCLA struggles with San Jose St., right?  RIGHT?

Honestly, it was a joke - a cheap shot at an easy target, or so I thought at the time.  I never envisioned a scenario in which UCLA had an trouble putting together a halfway convincing win over the Spartans.  And yet there I was, turning on the TV to discover both teams tied at 17 entering the 4th quarter.  I'm no longer convinced that UCLA should be favored in any game on the rest of their schedule.

Bruins Nation makes an impressive psychological analogy:

With no disrepect to San Jose State (and doesn't that phrase always mean that some form of disrespect is about to follow?), no matter how closely associated our two schools are, there is one thing that should never be closely associated between us.  Not on our field.  Not in our home opener.  Heck, not anywhere, at any time, on this or any other planet . . . It's learned helplessness.  It's written on this football team.  It was written on Rick Neuheisel's face.  And it's written all over the Bruin fanbase.

Should UCLA be favored in any game the rest of the way?  Candidates: at home vs. Washington St. and Colorado

Oregon 69, Nevada 20

Probably the most predictable result of the weekend.  Nevada's defense was never going to stop Oregon, and without Kaepernick they couldn't score enough to keep it remotely competitive.

AddictedtoQuack didn't really have any post game thoughts, so let's take things in a different direction:

Maynard threw in another "meh" performance overall as he went 18/35 for 243 yards

If you could use one word to describe Maynard's performance in Boulder, what word would you use?

Oklahoma St. 37, Arizona 14

Arizona shares Arizona St.'s problem in that they have a ton of injuries to their defense.  But they have the added problem of a key offensive injury (WR Juron Criner) and five new starters on the offensive line.  That all snowballed on the road against an excellent Oklahoma St. team, leading to a rather dismal blow out.

AZ Desert Swarm: The Wildcats just aren't really very good:

I'm not crapping out on this team. That's why we'll watch every week. Nothing is certain. But the old, redundant saying of "they are who they are" is true for the Wildcats. Arizona, visibly, is what it is -- nothing more. There's no hidden "truth" that's waiting to pop out, and in that, the "real" identity of this team is, unfortunately, already out there.

Mike Stoops hot seat watch, year infinite:  How hard do the Wildcats need to fall to justify firing Mike Stoops?

Stanford 44, Duke 14

I just looked at the score, which completely met what I expected, so I was surprised to see this from Rule of Tree:

Thought you'd kick butt, you didn't: Stanford

OK, I guess giving up 335 yards to Duke is a little meh, but seriously, it took an Andrew Luck pick-6 for Duke to put up half their points.  Much as I wish it weren't true, I doubt that'll be a year long issue for young Andy.  But Stanford does have a few things to work on:

This Stanford team has a LOT to work on for next Saturday's game against Arizona.  The offensive line still is not gelling, and at times seemed worse this week than they did against SJSU.  They allowed Luck to be hurried numerous times, gave him his first sack of the season, and, as Brian Griese was all too willing to point out, allowed defenders to breach gaps unimpeded.

Are Stanford's 'struggles' legitimate concerns, or just cosmetic problems for fans looking to critique an otherwise mundane blowout?

Washington St. 59, UNLV 7

UNLV is almost certainly a horrible team, but 52 point margins of victory against anybody is impressive.  CougCenter comes to praise their QB, who is working hard to create the most unexpected QB controversy ever!

Speaking of starting quarterbacks, Marshall Lobbestael was simply fantastic. The senior threw for 361 yards and five touchdowns while completing 75 percent of his passes.

Three straight road games, but three straight against teams that are struggling to various degrees.  How many wins does the unstoppable Cougar juggernaut get against San Diego St., Colorado and UCLA over the next three weeks?

Wisconsin 35, Oregon St. 0

Actually, this might have been the most predictable result of the weekend.  In other news, Sacramento St. lost to previously 0-1 Southern Utah by 21 points.  It's going to be a long, long fall in Corvallis.  Meanwhile, Mike Riley is handling OSU's Quarterbacks in a fashion I don't particularly understand.  Building the Dam analyzes the delicate situation:

MIKE RILEY: Golly guys, nice to see you. How was your flight over?  

KATZ: I'm starting tomorrow, right coach? 

RILEY: Yes, of course. You're the glue to this team.

MANNION: I'm still getting 99% of the snaps though, right?

RILEY: Oh Gosh, you weren't supposed to tell anyone that!

Is Oregon St. the new Washington St.?

Next Week

Saturday (all times PDT)
Colorado St. @ Colorado, 10:30 am
Texas @ UCLA, 12:30 pm, ABC/ESPN
Washington @ Nebraska, 12:30 pm, ABC/ESPN
Missouri St. @ Oregon, 12:30 pm
Presbyterian @ Cal, 2:30 pm
Washington St. @ San Diego St., 3:30 pm
Arizona St. @ Illinois, 4:00 pm, Big-10 Network
Syracuse @ USC, 5:00 pm, FX
Utah @ BYU, 6:15 pm, ESPN2
Stanford @ Arizona, 7:45 pm, ESPN

A solid mixture of intriguing games with a few FCS stinkers mixed in.  Burning questions: Is UCLA's exchanging-wins-over-Texas-forQB-health-and-general-success deal with the devil still active?  Will the 3rd Washington-Nebraska contest in a calendar year finally provide a competitive battle?  Will the Holy War be even more awesome now that Utah can lord their big-boy conference status over BYU?