Week 1 of the 2015 college football season finally came! But, for some Pac-12 teams, they're just glad it's over. The Pac-12 emerged 7-5 after all their season openers - 4 wins short of what most Pac-12 fans expected. While some teams scheduled cupcakes and got all sorts of dessert in Week 1 (Arizona, California, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, and USC), one team got some real competition and came out victorious (Utah), one team almost got an upset (Washington), and two ranked teams just embarrassed themselves (Arizona State and Stanford). Our conference bottom dwellers - well, they proved they belong there (Colorado and Washington State).
Let's review how the Pac-12 did in Week 1, assess which teams are licking their wounds, and quickly look ahead to Week 2:
Arizona 42, UTSA 32
The UofA Wildcats didn't have a real easy time dispatching of the UTSA Roadrunners. It took about 2.5 quarters to start their separation from the feisty road team. About halfway through the 3rd quarter, UTSA's Aaron Grubb fumbled the ball on a sweep play to the left and Arizona's Jamar Allah picked it up and ran it back for a 22-yard TD. This put the Wildcats up by 28-20. Then, QB Anu Solomon connected with Nate Phillips for a redzone TD pass to put things essentially out of reach for UTSA.
The big news from Tucson is that All-American LB Scooby Wright was injured early in the game and did not return. After the game, the news came out that Wright had a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee. On Saturday night, he had a minor procedure done to clean it up and it appears hopeful that he will be able to return to the field for the Wildcats at some point this season. Wright is the heart and soul of that defense - if not the whole team - so his lost would be a major one.
ASU 17, Texas A&M 38
This was not supposed to happen in the marquee Pac-12 matchup of the opening weekend. Although it wasn't really a neutral site game (played in Houston), the 15th-ranked Sun Devils were favorites to win against the Aggies. Texas A&M HC Kevin Sumlin switched back and forth with his QBs Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray throughout the game - it's tough for any team to prepare for two opposing QBs, let alone one, so you've got to think that was difficult on ASU's defense all game long.
In addition to its defensive woes, ASU's offense just didn't seem to show-up for this game. QB Mike Bercovici threw for only 199 yards and 1 TD. On the ground, ASU only ran for 102 yards combined. Texas A&M's freshman WR Christian Kirk lit-up the Sun Devils all night long. He had 6 receptions for 106 yards, 1 receiving TD, and 1 punt return TD. Luckily, ASU scheduled a cupcake game next week against Cal Poly to help heal its wounds from this disaster of a season opener.
California 73, Grambling State 14
This was your typical high school varsity versus JV match-up. Cal didn't get good competition to play against, but a more advanced practice session can't ever hurt. Cal came away with a win and no injuries - HC Sonny Dykes couldn't ask for anymore. Superstar QB Jared Goff threw for 309 yards (9.7 yards/pass average!), 3 TDs, and 1 INT. On the ground, the Golden Bears spread the wealth with Khalfani Muhammad (92 yards on 8 carries), Tre Watson, Vic Enwere, Jeffrey Copich Jr, Fabiano Hale, and Daniel Lasco. (Lasco got a lot of rest this game, and that's good for Cal.) In the air, all of Cal's star WRs got catches (Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler, Maurice Harris, Trevor Davis, Darius Powe, andStephen Anderson), along with many of the fresher faces on to Cal fans (e.g. Kanawi Noa).
For Cal, the best part about this game is having their 2nd and 3rd-string guys all get real reps, and lots of them. Building depth is what Cal needs to do in these first two weeks of the season before heading down to Austin in mid-September.
Colorado 20, Hawaii 28
What?! For reals?! Colorado soaked in that Hawaiian sun just a little too long before this game. They weren't mentally ready to play and it showed on the field. QB Sefo Liufau threw for only 158 yards and had 1 INT against a pretty mediocre defense, but he was actually quite lethal on the ground with 18 carries for 81 yards. WR Nelson Spruce had 8 receptions for 69 yards. For the Rainbow Warriors, former USC QB Max Wittek had a pretty productive showing for aging HC Norm Chow - he threw for 202 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs (although his QBR of 19.8 was lower than Liufau's 26.2).
Most people thought the Buffs were going to be bad this year. But, this bad?! Buffs fans can't blame this loss on the refs bumbling around on that final play - their team should've never been in that situation to begin with. Starting off the season losing to one of the few teams that they're supposed to beat is not a good sign for the Colorado fans everywhere. Buckle up for a loooong season, Buffs fans.
Oregon 61, Eastern Washington 42
If not for the fact that Oregon QB Vernon Adams just transferred from EWU and has really only practiced with the Ducks for two weeks prior to this season opener, there would really not be any noteworthy headlines from this game. Adams had a pretty good game throwing the ball (246 yards, 9.8 yards/pass, 2 TDs), but showed on the ground why Oregon wanted him so bad (14 carries, 94 yards).
Like the Cal vs. Grambling State matchup, this game wasn't going to be close. But, Oregon did allow EWU to put-up 42 points on them - that's disconcerting for Ducks fans. EWU QBs threw for 438 yards, 8.0 yards/pass, 5 TDs, and 2 INTs. While Oregon's defense did a good job stopping the run (allowing only 111 yards on the ground), its secondary will need to be shored-up quick. The Ducks are visiting 5th-ranked Michigan State next week - there's no time to celebrate this easy victory.
Oregon State 26, Weber State 7
The HC Gary Andersen era at Oregon State started off nicely with an easy win over Weber State. True freshman QB Seth Collins won his starting job and will probably start a new era for Beavers fans as they recuperate from losing HC Mike Riley and steady QB Sean Mannion. Collins began the game sharing the starting QB spot with RS FR Marcus McMaryion, but quickly showed he deserved full control of the helm by going 10 for 18, 92 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. On the ground, Collins ran 17 times for 152 yards!
Oregon State's true first test will come next week at Michigan. It was hard to tell the Beavers' real make-up in this initial cupcake match-up, but next week will give us greater insight into what we can expect from Andersen's developing squad.
Stanford 6, Northwestern 16
Yes, THIS happened, too. The 21st-ranked Cardinals rolled into Evanston for one of the first games of Saturday morning and gave notice to all other ranked teams that rankings don't mean anything at all. This game wasn't even supposed to be close for Stanford, but they found ways to make costly mistakes and Northwestern did not.
As HC David Shaw's teams have come to be like recently, there was not a lot of flash from his side - grinding it out has been his name of the game - but that only resulted in 2 FGs for the Cardinal. You don't win with 2 FGs. These 6 points were Stanford's fewest since 2007. Northwestern's defense showed-up to play and they weren't messing around. They had active hands all game long and really disrupted Stanford's flow. The Cardinal only have one more tune-up next week against UCF before they head down to the Memorial Coliseum.
UCLA 34, Virginia 16
The first game of UCLA's season revolved around one guy - true freshman QB Josh Rosen. Rosen performed just as advertised. Pac-12 teams should serve notice - the Bruins have a legitimate QB and he's only one game into his college career. Rosen threw for 351 yards (10.0 yards/pass!), 3 TDs, and 0 INTs. HS Jim Mora let the freshman got basically all the reps and has brought him along nicely throughout the offseason and fall practices. The Chosen Rosen has arrived, Pac-12 fans.
On the ground, another true freshman RB Soso Jamabo is making Bruins fans giddy - he averaged 8.8 yards/carry for a total of 79 yards. Star RB Paul Perkins had 14 carries for 59 yards. UCLA's passing game hauled in 386 yards with 13.3 yards/catch. Virginia provided good competition for UCLA and so will UNLV next week, then it's onto the big-time against BYU in mid-September.
USC 55, Arkansas State 6
This was a routine win for the Trojans - no one expected any different, and they delivered as promised. Star QB Cody Kessler threw for 236 yards (9.1 yards/pass), 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. RB Tre Madden had 12 carries for 106 yards and 1 TD. And, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had 4 catches for 89 yards, including a long 61-yard catch and run. The only concern for Trojans fans coming out of this game was Adoree Jackson (two-way player: DB & WR) pulling-up during a kick return and having to sit-out the 2nd half with an abdominal strain - but he said the injury was minor and that he'll be back quickly.
This game was probably most cathartic for HC Steve Sarkisian. He has spent the past two weeks trying to cover-up for his drunken rant against other Pac-12 teams at a school-sanctioned public event. Getting back on the football field and away from the microphones was probably best for Sarkisian, USC, and Pac-12 fans.
Utah 24, Michigan 17
On the opening night of the 2015 season, Utah showed-up and served notice that college football doesn't revolve around Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh (his khaki pants and all). The Wolverines program is pretty much in shambles and it's going to take time for Harbaugh to recruit his type of guys and build-up Big Blue again. The Utes were favored to win this game and they followed-through. QB Travis Wilson threw for 208 yards, 6.3 yards/pass, 0 TDs, and 1 INT. RB Devontae Booker had 22 carries for 69 yards and 1 TD. And, Utah's receivers caught 24 passes for 208 yards.
For Pac-12 fans, it was probably awkward seeing a Utah team look bigger, faster, and stronger than a Michigan team (a perennial powerhouse up until recently). But, HC Kyle Wittingham has done a great job with this veteran squad and is poised to pull-off some surprises this season. Hats off to Utah for scheduling this substantial Week 1 match-up and getting their guys ready for tough competition ahead.
Washington 13, Boise State 16
This Friday night, nationally-broadcasted match-up turned out as expected. Pac-12 fans were rooting for Huskies HC Chris Petersen to pull-off the upset against his former Boise State team, but Washington came-up just short on the smurf turf. The Broncos went up 16-0 in the 1st half and saw most of that lead disappear as the Huskies came storming back in the 2nd half. As in usual Petersen form, he made the right adjustments at halftime and got his guys in good situations to make plays.
The Huskies special teams kept them in the game. In particular, Dante Pettis' punt return game was the X-factor. Pettis returned a short punt for 17 yards to set-up Washington's first FG in the 3rd quarter. Then, he took the next punt back for a TD. Washington's Jaydon Mickens also blocked a Boise State punt that set-up U-Dub for its last FG. It's going to be a long season for the Huskies, but they're showing they've got fight and coaches who can effectively strategize and make adjustments.
Washington State 17, Portland State 24
Seriously? Did this really happen? I guess it did. In a rain-soaked and windy game, the Cougars just didn't show-up to play a seemingly subpar foe. WSU's offense was just outplayed by Portland State. While WSU had a better passing attack (307 yards on 28 completions, 2 TDs, 1 INT) than PSU (61 yards on 7 completions, 0 TDs, 0 INTs), they were dismal on the ground. The Cougs amassed only 104 yards on 30 carries for no TDs, while the Vikings had 233 yards rushing and 3 TDs on the ground.
Many WSU fans were waiting for next week's match-up at Rutgers to get a barometer on how this team may perform this year. Well, unfortunately, that assessment may have already come in Week 1.
Key Week 2 Matchups
Oregon State @ Michigan: We know Wolverines HC Jim Harbaugh is going to have his guys ready after embarrassing themselves the week before at Utah. Beavers HC Gary Andersen and his team are riding a wave of positivity right now after starting-off this new OSU era with a win. But, Michigan is no Weber State - this game is going to be a real fight as both new head coaches are trying to assess their teams. [Saturday 9/12, 9am PST, ABC]
Arizona @ Nevada: The Wildcats go on the road to play a decent Mountain West Conference team in Nevada. This game will give HC Rich Rodriguez and his squad a better idea of their team's strengths and weaknesses after a pretty easy tune-up against UTSA. [Saturday 9/12, 4pm PST, CBSSN]
Oregon @ Michigan State: ESPN's GameDay is making the trek to East Lansing next week, so that must mean this is a big-time game. The Ducks with QB Vernon Adams is still an unknown this early in the season. The Spartans' QB Connor Cook, however, is no unknown. Two teams with national title intentions get a preview of each other should they both not make it to the playoffs and see each other again in Pasadena on New Year's Day. [Saturday 9/12, 5pm PST, ABC]