Jul 26, 2013; Culver City, CA, USA; Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin speaks to the media during PAC-12 media day held at the Sony Studios Lot. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
This week was by and large a boring week in the Pac-12. With a slate of opponents that included Central Arkansas, Weber State and Sacramento State, I’m not surprised that the most exciting games this week came from the sole conference match-up. It also goes without saying that the non-conference portion of the season isn’t nearly as fun to watch as the in-conference portion. Sure, there are exceptions to that (this weekend’s Nebraska/UCLA game should be a lot of fun to watch). But, when San Jose State, Virginia and UNLV are the best three non-conference opponents of the week, you know it’s going to be a boring week.
The Pac-12 did go undefeated this week in the non-conference portion of the schedule. A perfect 8-0, including the 37-30 win by the Golden Bears. Let’s take a look at the rest of the weekend in Pac-12 action:
Washington State 10, USC 7
A lot of people are saying they expected USC to struggle this year, at least on the offensive side of the ball. I guess I’m a little surprised that this season they have looked so bad. They struggled against a very bad Hawaii team in their opener, then against a Washington State team that gave up 31 points in week 1 to an Auburn team that isn’t expected to do too much in the SEC this year.
I guess I expected USC to come out and play a lot better than in their opener because they were at home, against a Cougar team I doubt makes a run in the North this year. Instead, they got nearly no production out of the quarterback position. Between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, they went 11-of-21 with 54 yards passing and two interceptions. That wasn’t the worst of it. USC was outgained 222-193, and that with Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday having a pedestrian day (26-of-38, 215 yards and two interceptions).
The highlight of the game probably came after Washington State kicker Andrew Furney hit a 41-yard field goal to push the Cougars ahead 10-7. The boo that had been coming down all game long at the Coliseum became a “Fire Lane Kiffin!” chant. This became the first home opening loss for USC since 1997. Look for Lane Kiffin to be out of a job before the year is up.
Arizona State 55, Sacramento State 0
Where USC couldn’t score to save their lives (or jobs, in Lane Kiffin’s case), Arizona State couldn’t not score. The brightest star on a night that included more than a few great performances for the Sun Devils had to be quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly went 23-of-31 with 300 yards passing and five touchdowns. It was the ASU’s first game of the year, but they looked dominant enough to merit being a viable top-25 team.
Marion Grice also had a nice day, picking up 124 all-purpose yards, with a rushing and a receiving touchdown. The halfback looks to have a solid second season in Tempe, and if he can play the way he did against Sac St. during the Pac-12 schedule, this Arizona State team can be very dangerous and possibly challenge for the Pac-12 South title.
Utah 70, Weber State 7
Utah moved to 2-o on the season after dismantling the Weber State Wildcats. They haven’t played the best of competition (between the Wildcats and Utah State in week one). That said, they still beat Weber State to a pulp, and outlasted a Utah State team who went on to beat Air Force pretty easily this week. This team is still a mystery, but a you can’t help but look at a team that had 628 yards of offense.
Travis Wilson was efficient, going 14-of-19 with 264 yards and three passing touchdowns. Add to that, he ran for 93 yards. Utah didn’t even let him play in the second half.
Interesting stat of the game: Weber State had the ball for 33 minutes of the game, while Utah had the ball for a little under 27 minutes. Looking at the score, you’d thing that number would favor Utah rather than Weber State.
Oregon 59, Virginia 10
Against one of the better opponents on the schedule this weekend, Oregon devoured Virginia. They had 350 yards on the ground, including 122 yards from their quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota also added 199 yards passing and two touchdowns, targeting 8 separate receivers.
Oregon didn’t just do it on the offensive side of the ball; they played a really good defensive ball game. They had three interceptions and a fumble. The three picks came from three different defenders, including junior cornerback Dior Mathis, who ran the ball back 97 yards after the interception.
The Ducks play the Tennessee Volunteers this weekend. We’ll get to see DAT-ESS-EE-SEE-SPEED head up against Oregon’s dynamic defense. I know, Tennessee isn’t a top-end SEC team like an Alabama or Georgia, but the Vols are riding high after two blow-out wins (albeit against subpar teams). The game is still a good test for Oregon.
Colorado 38, Central Arkansas 24
Central Arkansas had a chance to win the game. They had the ball in Colorado territory late in the game, with a seven point lead. As a Pac-12 fan who always wants to see the conference prosper (even if that means I have to root for Stanford every bowl season), I never like to see one of ours lose to an FCS opponent. Colorado, like Cal, really could have lost this one.
Luckily for Colorado, Jered Bell picked off an errant Wynrick Smothers pass and ran it back for a game-tying touchdown. This was the second pick-six and the third interception of the game for Smothers and the Central Arkansas Bears. The game would look a lot more lopsided than it was, as the Buffs pulled away with two touchdowns in the last ten minutes of the game.
On the other side, Colorado quarterback Connor Wood didn’t fair much better. He had two interceptions of his own. On the bright side, he still passed for 340 yards and three touchdowns. The highlight was the first score of the day, a 55-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson. Richardson would end the day with 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon State 33, Hawaii 13
I don’t want to say that the pre-season ranking the Beavers had was a bad call. That said, this team looks like they’re either not as good as they were originally thought to be or they’re playing down to their competition. They lost to Eastern Washington, which was bad. Then, this week, against a bad Hawaii team, they went into halftime tied. At least Eastern Washington is an FCS Championship contender team. Hawaii is going to be bad all season long.
Oregon State was able to take advantage of garbage play out of this Hawaii secondary, outscoring the Rainbow Warriors 19-0 in the second half. At least quarterback Sean Mannion was great, going 31-of-43 with 372 yards and four touchdowns. He connected Brandin Crooks twice in the red zone for two scores.
We’ll find out what kind of team this Oregon State team is next week when they go up against Utah. The two are similar in a lot of way. The craziest thing is that this game could determine which team is actually will be a contender, and which team is going to be a team that in the middle of the standings this year.
Arizona 58, UNLV 13
This game may look like a great win over an FBS team. And, in a lot of ways, it was. Behind a rushing attack that included Ka’Deem Carey running for 171 yards and two touchdowns, Arizona’s offense was able to score early and often. The run game accounted for 397 yards out of 478 total offensive yards. Arizona also scored twice off of interceptions returned for touchdowns.
That said, Arizona has a bad quarterback situation brewing. B.J. Denker, the current starter, looked bad for the most part. He ended the night 8-of-21 with only 87 yards through the air. Most of his damage came from his legs, as he amassed 60 yards on 16 carried and two rushing touchdowns. However, if he can’t get his arm working, this offense won’t be able to deal with some of the tougher teams in the Pac-12.
Stanford 34, San Jose State 13
San Jose State features one of the more hyped quarterbacks in the nation in junior David Fales. Also, 11 Spartans were named to different watch lists this pre-season. I guess I expected a little more out of this Spartan team than I saw this past weekend. They beat Sac State in week one, but didn’t look that impressive. Then, this week, they were never really in the game.
Stanford had a 27-6 lead before both teams scored late touchdowns to produce the final line score. The Cardinals played a methodical, grind-it-out style that tired out the Spartans by the time the third quarter rolled around. Kevin Hogan played a good game, going 17-of-27 with 207 passing yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Gaffney ran up and down the field all game long, picking up 104 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
Fales was held to 216 yards on 43 pass attempts. He passed for the teams only touchdown in the third quarter, but he was picked off as well by safety Ed Reynolds.
Here is the line-up for this coming Saturday. It is an upgraded slate than the borefest we got this weekend.
UCLA at Nebraska, 9:00 am, ABC
Stanford at Army, 9:00 am, CBS Sports Network
Fresno St. at Colorado, 11:00 am
Boston College at USC, 12:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Tennessee at Oregon, 12:30, ABC
Washington at Illinois, 3:00 pm, Big-10 Network
Southern Utah at Washington St., 3:30, Pac-12 Network
Ohio St. at Cal, 4:00 pm, Fox
Oregon St. at Utah, 7:00 pm, Fox Sports 1
Wisconsin at Arizona St., 7:30 pm, ESPN
UTSA at Arizona, 7:30, Pac-12 Network
A lot of the questions we’ve had through the first two weeks should be answered by next weekend. The Pac-12 will match up with more than a few AQ conference teams, and that could tell us how good this conference really is. The best match-up of the weekend is a tie between UCLA/Nebraska and Arizona State/Wisconsin. UCLA has real national title aspirations, and while no one sees them being as good as Oregon or Stanford, this match up could tell us if they need to be entered into that discussion or if they are still a year or two away from that. Arizona State features a quick, pass-happy offense, while Wisconsin is still living in that old-world, power-football mentality that too many Big Ten teams still live in. It’ll be fun seeing the speedsters from the west take on those big uglies from out east. Obviously, Oregon and Stanford are must-watch teams at this point, as they are the best chances (other than Ohio State) for any non-SEC team to win a National Championship.