Welcome to the Conference of Champions. In this weekly series, Nick and I take a look around the Conference of Champions and give our thoughts on the other Conference of Champions games. Since we are also in the Conference of Champions, Let us discuss the weekly Champions in this Conference. It’s bound to get weird. Hey it could get weird, especially with the inner sanctum workings of Pac-12 After Dark. Hope you stick around with us all season in the Conference of Champions.
Week 1: RPOs, DTRs, CEOs, and Mike Leach Formations.
Stanford vs. San Diego State: Stanford W. 31-10.
An amusing stat from this game: SDSU actually had a higher success rate than Stanford . . . but Stanford was by far more explosive thanks to SDSU’s inability to single cover JJ Arcega-Whiteside. It’s weird to be able to reduce one side of the ball to just one dude’s dominant performance, but he was basically Stanford’s only meaningful source of offense against the Aztecs. I suspect that lots of teams are going to be asking themselves how they are going to balance shutting down Bryce Love (possible thanks to Stanford’s still iffy o-line) and stopping Arcega-Whiteside.
The bigger question – was Stanford’s defensive performance for real? SDSU traditionally has a strong running game, and I thought prior to the game that they would be able to exploit Stanford’s inexperienced defensive line. After an early touchdown, that wasn’t the case at all. To be fair, SDSU’s quarterback self-immolated and the Aztecs had to then play from behind, but there are concerning early signs that the Stanford defense may well be stronger than predicted by most.
Washington at Auburn: Washington L. 16-21.
UW played one of the toughest road games they could possibly schedule and ended up playing Auburn to a near dead heat. And as these things often do, the game turned on turnover margin. Jake Browning’s odd first half interception when he failed to throw the ball away led to one Auburn field goal, and his goal line option fumble took 7 potential UW points off the board, and that was enough in a 5 point loss.
I don’t think this game provides any evidence that UW isn’t the best team in the conference – do we think that anybody else was likely to give Auburn a tougher game on the road than what the Huskies did? But you can’t help but wonder how differently things might have ended up if UW didn’t oddly decide to trust the legs of the not-exactly-mobile Jake Browning on multiple plays inside the goal line. Know your personnel!
Oregon vs. Bowling Green: Oregon W. 58-24.
I don’t really think there’s much to be taken from this game. Oregon cruised even though it was sloppy at times. You can point to an inefficient game from Justin Herbert, but then you also have to acknowledge that he averaged 28 yards per completion and a touchdown every other throw that made it in the hands of a Duck. Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense was doing a decent bend-but-don’t-break impression while still scoring 9 points themselves. I don’t see anything from this game to change my general opinion of the Ducks, which is that they are in the tier directly below UW, Stanford, and USC in the Pac-12 pecking order.
Oregon State at Ohio State: Oregon State L. 31-77.
That the Beavers were utterly blown away by the Ohio State offense is hardly a surprise. What is more interesting is that the Beavers managed to average an excellent 6.3 yards/play despite a pretty awful 27.9% success rate. What that tells you is that OSU didn’t have many successful plays, but when they were successful they were really successful. Based on OSU’s 2017 season and their talent level I suspect that type of performance isn’t sustainable, but it’s something to be wary of from the presumed worst team in the conference.
Washington State at Wyoming: Washington State W. 41-19.
New air raid quarterback, similar air raid results. Transfer Gardner Minshew III completed 66% of his passes, most typically short, to average 5.6 yards/attempt. Doing so against Pac-12 level opposition will likely be tougher sledding, but it’s not a huge surprise that Mike Leach has already shown he has a minimally competent quarterback despite an off-season full of doubt at the position.
Weber State at Utah: Utah W. 41-10.
As expected from this Utah team. Playing a FCS opponent to start the year, they give up 10 in the first quarter and then shut them out the rest of the way. Tyler Huntley looks to be one of the most improved QBs in the conference. Zach Moss may be the most underrated RB in the conference. Year 2 of the Troy Taylor offense in Utah is off to a blazing start and doesn’t seem to be missing Darren Carrington as much as we expected. This could be the year that we’re thankful that we dont have to play this Utah team. I’m thinking they make a big run in the South.
Colorado at Colorado State: Colorado W. 45-13.
A Battle of Pac-12 QBs. Wait. Sorry. Current Vs. Former Pac-12 QBs. Montez Vs. Carta-Samuels. That is correct Carta-Samuels is still playing CFB at Colorado State. Montez thoroughly outplayed him and dismantled the CSU defense though. The biggest star for me though? Laviska Shenault Jr. (Try saying his name 5 times fast). The sophomore from Desoto, Texas had 11 receptions for 211 yards. 211?!?! Is this the Colorado offense that we’re used to seeing? He also had a long reception of 89 yards. Looks like they have the heir apparent to Bryce Bobo.
UNLV at USC: USC W. 43-21
This one was weird. USC wasn’t USC. Then they kind of were. Then they punted UNLV into stratosphere. Just look at the quarter scoring: 6-13-0-24. USC seems to have found their QB for atleast the next 3 years in JT Daniels. He already has a connection to his HS and now college teammate in Amon-Ra St. Brown (Yes. His first name is Amon-Ra). The only silver lining in this game is that Daniels only threw a single TD pass, which was to St. Brown on a 43 yard TD. Chase McGrath also knocked in 5/5 FGs, so it seems they’ll be kicking if they ever get into the opponent 40. Thats a very small margin for error. SMH.
Cincinnati at UCLA: UCLA L. 17-26
One second... (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)... Ahem. What a disaster of a loss. Michigan grad transwer Wilton Speight started at QB and only lasted 12 pass attempts, one of which was an INT. Then came Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who by all accounts is exactly the QB, Chip Kelly needs in his system. He’s going to turn him into the Jeremiah Masoli, Vernon Adams for this offense. It also made me sick to my stomach to see former Cal targets/commits playing for UCLA. Especially Kazmeir Allen who ran for 103 yards on just 5 carries. I feel sick.
UTSA at ASU: ASU W. 49-7.
CEO Herm Edwards got off to a blazing start with his new company. Hey, let’s be real though. Offensively he inherited, arguably, the most talented duo in the conference in Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry. Harry had 140 yards and 2 TDs on 6 receptions and Wilkins threw for 237 yards on 16/24 passing with 4 TDs. Granted it was against UTSA, but it looks as though the other Arizona school has more problems than this ASU team. Let’s see if they run this really like a business and make any changes mid-season. THAT would make this social experiment so much more intriguing.
BYU at Arizona: Arizona L. 23-28.
What a difference it is in Tucson compared to Tempe. We all laughed when ASU hired Herm. We were shocked when Arizona was able to sign Kevin Sumlin. Look at the record though. The team we laughed at is 1-0. Arizona is 0-1. College football man. College football. BYU also made Khalil Tate look pedestrian at best. So there is that. Other than that this game was pretty mundane. It was punting or touchdowns for both teams.