USC, Oregon look like powerhouses
Notebook: Four new head coaches take the helm in the Pac-12
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Labor Day Weekend was a weekend of firsts for the Pac-12, a weekend of the-season-afters.
Stanford entered its first season after Andrew Luck graduated and moved on to greener (bluer?) pastures in Indianapolis. Who could forget that USC began its first season post-sanctions, reminding each and every fan of what they missed the past three years? The Pac-12 featured two freshman quarterbacks along with four new head coaches. And Oregon brought out yet another uniform combination, striking resemblance to the marriage of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a bathroom vanity mirror..
But while the Pac-12 introduced a whole lot of new to the college football diet, some things never change. Oregon and USC surprised no one and impressed everyone. Utah and Arizona State got a nice ego boost with their respective 41-0 and 63-3 clobberings. Washington State and Cal left much to be desired. On the flipside, UCLA may actually be for real this time. Stanford may have a lot to worry about.
And when is Oregon State going to play a game?
Head coach Rich Rodriguez must be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Rich Rod’s second-chance project in Arizona nearly ended in disaster as Toledo pushed the WIldcats to overtime. A win was what the doctor ordered to restore his confidence. A hefty 624 yards of total offense ain’t bad, either.
• Matt Scott could be the Widcats best weapon. Scott racked up 461 total yards with two touchdowns.
• Toledo is a formidable MAC opponent, but it only gets tougher for the Wildcats. Arizona next faces off with Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma State (1-0). The ‘Cats must keep the offense rolling if they want a shot at victory.
Arizona State (1-0)
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly’s slate stands at 247 yards and a touchdown entering a tough test for the Sun Devils in Illinois (1-0). Kelly will be on a national stage with a chance to further boost his confidence against an Illini defense that allowed 265 yards passing.
• Arizona State running back Marion Grice (107 yards, three touchdowns) may have a tougher task at hand. Illinois squashed Western Michigan at the line, denying a single yard to the Broncos on the ground.
Instead of a light warm-up, Cal was put to the test right off the bat against Nevada. Now, the Bears sit with one loss, which rings a death knell for power conference teams looking to find their ways to the BCS.
• Things don’t get much easier for Cal, however. One game against Southern Utah (0-1) is the Bears’ last chance at a resounding victory before entering the gauntlet that includes Ohio State and USC as they plow forward to the conference schedule.
• The good news in Cal’s opening weekend woes: Zach Maynard has a killer arm, showcasing it on multiple occasions with strikes down the middle of the field, one for a score.
The Buffs couldn’t put points on the board against a Colorado State team with new leadership, which won’t fly come the PAC-12 season starting week four at Washington State.
• Jordan Webb could stand to complete a few more passes. The junior from Missouri hit only 22 of 41 attempts. Complete four or five more of those attempts and folks are reading a different story. Week two against Sacramento State (0-1) is his chance to do so.
Marcus Mariota is the real deal. The true freshman quarterback showed why he fits so well into the Oregon offense: he can do it all. 18 of 22 passing for 200 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and 24 rushing yards to boot is a line that has Chip Kelly and Oregon fans drooling, mouths agape.
• Concerning news from this weekend: Oregon gave up 34 points to Arkansas State. Yes, the game was essentially out of reach at half with the Ducks up 50-10. However, the Oregon defense being outscored 24-10 in the second half should have the coaching staff looking long and hard at the defensive scheme. Bet your bottom dollar that USC won’t be held to 34 points very easily.
Oregon State (0-0)
With its first game “postponed” – nobody knows if OSU will reschedule the game – questions obviously still loom in Beavers camp. The game with hurricane-plagued Nicholls State could be rescheduled for December 1 or not played at all, the latter keeping the Beavers out of Pac-12 title contention.
• Now, instead of shaking off the cobwebs against Nicholls State, the Beavers open the season Saturday against their toughest non-conference opponent in Wisconsin (1-0). The question surrounding Oregon State: will the Beavers be ready?
Southern Cal (1-0)
As mentioned, USC surprised no one and impressed everyone. Quarterback Matt Barkley hit Marquise Lee for a 75-yard touchdown to start the game, giving other teams a loud sign of what’s to come.
• The Trojans scored on all sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams. Further driving home the theme, fans can expect the unexpected from USC and it will always be dazzling. Although we cannot draw too many conclusions from the Trojans’ routine muscle-flexing early in the season – the Trojans face Syracuse (0-1) in Week 2 . Barkley and his boys should have no problem cruising to 2-0 before its storied matchup with Stanford on September 15.
A three-point escape can seem frightening for Stanford fans, but the good news is the team brought home the win. In the week after, quarterback Josh Nunes must think of how to make himself memorable. He needs to be the big man on campus and turn Luck into a fond memory.
• Only one week stands between Stanford and USC renewing their yearly engagement. That’s one week for Nunes and the Cardinal to build some confidence and chemistry against Duke (1-0) in preparation for their toughest test of the young season.
• Although we cannot draw too many conclusions from the Trojans’ routine muscle-flexing early in the season – the Trojans face Syracuse (0-1) in Week 2 . Barkley and his boys should have
Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin ought to have folks in Los Angeles beaming with excitement. Hundley and Franklin sparked the Bruin offense for a combined 484 yards and six touchdowns.
• Much like Kelly in Oregon, head coach Jim Mora needs to take a hard look at his defense. The Bruins allowed 24 points to Rice, a 4-8 team last season. Again, teams like Nebraska – the Bruins’ next opponent, USC and Arizona State won’t be quite as easy to stop.
Utah doesn’t have a “two-quarterback system” but it certainly has two viable quarterbacks. Jordan Wynn is the starter. Period. Wynn provides a certain steadiness the Utes need while 6’6” Travis Wilson provides an entirely different dynamic – he punched in two scores against Northern Colorado this weekend.
• John White may be on his way to breaking his own single-season rushing record. After setting the bar last season at 1519, White rattled off 119 with a touchdown. He’ll have his work cut out for him against in-state rival Utah State (1-0) on Friday, as the Aggies only allowed 56 yards on the ground in their week one matchup with Southern Utah.
Washington’s defense – the defense that surrendered 67 points to Robert Griffin III and company in last season’s Alamo Bowl – turned out to be the deciding factor this weekend as safety Will Shamburger scored on a fumble recovery.
• The question remains, though, as it does for many teams in the PAC-12. Can the Huskies outscore top teams? They’ll find out next week when they play LSU (1-0). A win over Les Miles’ Tigers would send shockwaves throughout the nation. Washington needs to at the least keep the game close to prove they deserve to battle with not just the Pac-12’s but the nation’s elite.
Washington State (0-1)
Washington State has been for years trying to gain relevancy beyond the ever-present flags in the background of ESPN’s College Gameday. Mike Leach is supposed to be the coach that can do just that, but a 30-6 loss to BYU is not the start he needs to do so.
• The look of frustration on of Marquess Wilson after having two huge plays called back due to holding, one of which being a touchdown, said it all for the Cougars’ performance. He tilted his head back by the chin like a PEZ dispenser, threw his arms in the air and let them fall like dead weight back to his body, shoulders slouched the entire time. The potential, the talent and the coach are all there. Wazzou just has to put it together.