Seven up and five down coming out of the gate isn’t as good a result as was hoped but if one is going to take a flyer with a game prediction, week one is the week to do it.
As the unknowns become known and the sample size grows the pecking order will begin to evolve. The results of the combined opening week pulled back the curtain just a bit so hopefully that results in something better than a 60% grade in week two. But that’s getting ahead of our self – first a quick recap of the rights and wrongs of week one.
Saturday, August 24
Hawaii 45 – Arizona 38 (pick: Arizona 34-13)
Oregon will get the most grief – and as we will note below, somewhat deservedly – for another loss to an SEC team on a high profile stage, but Arizona’s clunker in Hawaii didn’t get the Pac-12 started on the right foot. Stopped at the one-yard line on a 30-yard scramble as time expired, Wildcat quarterback Khalil Tate completed 22 of 39 passes for 361 yards and three scores. Two picks didn’t help the cause but a pair of Rainbow Warrior qb’s tossed up four interceptions and Arizona recovered two fumbles and STILL found a way to come up a yard short.
Thursday, August 29
Cincinnati 24 – UCLA 14 (pick: UCLA 33-28)
A hallmark of the Chip Kelly regime while at Oregon was outstanding quarterback play. First Dennis Dixon when Kelly was Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinator, followed by Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Dixon and capped by Marcus Mariota taking the reigns as a redshirt sophomore before Kelly departed to the NFL. So how does UCLA’s Dorian Thompson end up going 8 for 26 with two picks? The Bruins weren’t any better on the ground- a negative 20-yards rushing by Thompson, was hardly offset by a pair of UCLA running backs who combined for 82 yards on 26 carries. Oh – and the UCLA defense allowed 242 yards in the air and 175 on the ground. A lotta bamboo watering to be done in Westwood.
Arizona State 30 – Kent State 7 (pick: ASU 43-16)
Nothing out of the ordinary in Tempe. ASU opened up a 27-0 lead and was never threatened by the Golden Flashes. Freshman Jayden Daniels threw for a pair of scores and ran for another in ASU’s 21st straight home opening win.
Utah 30 – BYU 12 (pick: Utah 37-17)
Tyler Huntley didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the Utes, completing 13 of only 16 attempts for 106 yards. He didn’t have to. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson tossed two of them; a 58-yard pick six to Utah DB Francis Bernard and a 39-yard house call to teammate Julian Blackmon. Oh – and the Utes shredded the Cougar run defense for 262 yards, of which a career high 187 yards were thanks to running back Zack Moss. Fear the Utes.
Friday, August 30
Colorado 52 – Colorado State 31 (pick: Colorado 28-24)
24-21 in favor of the Buffs at the half, Colorado pulled away from the Rams with a 28-point second stanza. Now in his 8th year at quarterback for Colorado, Steven Montez completed 13 of 20 attempts for two touchdowns but the star of the night was running back Alex Fotenot with 125 yards and three scores on 19 carries.
Oklahoma State 52 – Oregon State 36 (pick: Oregon State 31-28)
We were told the Oregon State defense was better. Benny lied.
Saturday, August 31
Washington 47 – Eastern Washington 14 (pick: Washington 36-21)
The Huskies have a new quarterback in Georgia transfer Jacob Eason and he had himself a pretty nice debut on Montlake, completing 27 of 36 for 349 yards and four touchdowns. Washington scored the first 28 points and clicked on the cruise control.
Stanford 17 – Northwestern 7 (pick: Stanford 35-14)
After a scoreless opening period, Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello directed a 15-play, 90-yard drive that consumed 8:22 of the second quarter to break the ice. Jet Toner pushed Stanford’s lead to 10 with a 51-yard field goal to end the half. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth, the Cardinal score coming on a recovered fumble in the Northwestern end zone with just 20 seconds remaining in the game. A late hit sidelined Costello for the second half, forcing Stanford to rely on their rushing attack and their defense to come away with the win.
California 27 – UC Davis 13 (pick: California 31-10)
UC-Davis put 10 quick points on the board but by the second quarter California head coach Justin Wilcox had settled down what still appears to be an “iffy” offense enough for the Bears to take a 13-10 lead into the locker room. In the second half Wilcox’s forte – the defense – took over as Cal limited the Aggies to a field goal.
Auburn 27 – Oregon 21 (pick: Oregon 37-17)
Enough shoulda, woulda, couldas to last five seasons all in one game. There is little point in rehashing everything that shoulda, woulda, coulda been different and all that is left is to turn to the next opponent. That said, both Oregon and Auburn could end up a top-10 team by the end of the season… but could could just as easily find themselves at 8-5. Particularly if Oregon continues to struggle scoring points in the second half. Too many games over the past few years have seen the Ducks build a lead and then squander away a victory that was in hand. Under both Bellotti and Kelly the Ducks tended to bury a team once they got the lead. Whether it is playing down to the competition, playing not to lose or subconsciously hitting cruise control once in possession of the lead really makes no matter. The fact that it happens and it happens semi-regularly is justifiable cause for caution.
Washington State 58 – New Mexico State 7 (pick: WSU 48-15)
Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon waited his turn to take the keys to the Mike Leach Air-Raid offense but once in hand, he wasted no time in taking full advantage of the opportunity. Facing what is admittedly a struggling New Mexico squad, Gordon completed his first 15 passes on his way to a 29 for 35 outing good for 420 yards and handful of touchdowns. WSU rolled up 618 total yards of offense against the hapless Aggies.
USC 31 – Fresno State 23 (pick: Fresno State 31-27)
It’s only the first game of the season but USC head coach Clay Helton will be tough to beat in the bonehead plays of the year category. In 60 minutes or less, Helton went for a fourth down play that was stuffed at midfield when all logic called for a punt, sent two players out on the field for a kick-off return wearing the same jersey number negating a nice return and then burned a time out as the play clock was expiring that allowed Fresno State to kick a field goal. Quite the trifecta. Oh, and quarterback J.T. Daniels was lost for the season with a knee injury. A win is a win is a win as they say… but one like this doesn’t bode well for the Men of Troy.
Friday, September 6
Sacramento State @ Arizona State
Another patsy in the Valley of the Sun. It’s part of the plan… beat up the FBS and mid-major conference teams on the schedule and pretend to be a contender, then fold the tent once the cage match that is a Pac-12 schedule gets underway and ASU has perfected it better than most. ASU 55-13
Saturday, September 7
Northern Illinois @ Utah
The Utes are favored by better than three scores and that’s probably not enough. Utah 38-10
Nebraska @ Colorado
One of the “old skool” match-ups that made the Big Eight a great football conference. Now that both institutions have joined different conferences, the rivalry may not affect the standings but the passion remains white hot. Colorado’s offense looked capable in their opening win over Colorado State and Scott Frost appears to be hanging his hat on a return of the legendary “black shirt” Husker defense while he recruits the offensive talent he needs. Colorado slipped out of Lincoln last year with a 33-28 win after Steven Montez scorched the Nebraska defense for 351 yards, something Frost knows can’t happen again if he and the Huskers hope to avenge that loss. Favored by four, Nebraska still has too many missing pieces offensively and the thought is the Buffs’ experience on the offensive side of the ball is still a half-step or a bit more ahead of Nebraska’s defensive rebuild. Colorado 38-27
San Diego State @ UCLA
UCLA should win this game. And a rebound in the home opener at the Rose Bowl from an effort in week one that was disappointing across the board wouldn’t be beyond the realm of the possible. But not the likely given the Bruins apparent disinterest in game one. The Aztecs would like nothing better to add UCLA to their recent collection of Pac-12 pelts – in the past two seasons San Diego State has split a pair of games with Stanford and swept a pair from Arizona State. Make it four out of five. Aztecs 33-28
Northern Colorado @ Washington State
Andthatsanother Cougar B-L-O-W-O-U-T… WSU 58-10
California @ Washington
An early start to the Pac-12 slate for the Bears and the Huskies. Washington is listed as just less than a two touchdown favorite and in facing one of the better defenses in the conference it wouldn’t surprise if the Huskies fall a bit short of the 47 points they put up with ease against Eastern Washington. The problem for the Bears remains their offense, so even if Wilcox’s gang were to hold Washington to four scores it wouldn’t be enough. And they won’t….Washington 31-18
Stanford @ USC
It is possible both teams will be without their week one starting quarterback. J.T. Daniels is lost for the season at USC and K.J. Costello remains questionable after suffering a concussion in Stanford’s win over Northwestern. Side by side, the Trojans have the advantage at all of the skill positions offensively but the one constant to the USC offense lately has been head coach Clay Helton’s knack of dropping a monkey wrench in the offensive gear works at the worst possible moment. Stanford and head coach David Shaw live to take advantage of such opportunities. Cardinal 27-22
Northern Arizona @ Arizona
If the Wildcats come up a yard short against the Lumberjacks Kevin Sumlin’s stay in Tucson may be a short one. They won’t – but Sumlin has a lot yet to prove in turning a floundering program in the right direction. A win over Northern Arizona won’t solve many of his team’s problems but it will even their record. Arizona 41-13
Oregon State @ Hawai’i
Hawaii turned the ball over six times and still put 45 points on the board. At least the weather and the beach will be pleasant. Hawaii 48-28.
Nevada @ Oregon
A bit of a trap game in that the Wolfpack stole a game from Purdue a week ago on a last second field goal and will come into Autzen playing with house money. Assuming Oregon’s defense plays as well as it did in the opener, Nevada won’t be going back to Reno with a 2-0 record. If the offense plays to its potential as opposed to how it played last week, Oregon rolls 48-18.
~ Rick Morgan