The overwhelming feeling after one week of football in the Pac-12 this season is … meh.
It wasn’t a great showing for a conference that spent much of the offseason as the subject of comparisons to the mighty SEC for the title of “best conference in the country.”
Pac-12 teams went 7-5 overall, but only 2-3 in contests against Power Five conference opponents. And there was Washington State’s embarrassing loss to Portland State on their home turf to put the cherry on a very mediocre Week 1 sundae.
Who was impressive? Who was depressing? Here’s my Pac-12 performance ratings for Week 1.
1. UCLA Bruins (defeated Virginia 34-16): Anybody else scared about what we’re going to see from quarterback Josh Rosen in the next four years? The true freshman merely completed 28-of-35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins’ season-opening win. Rosen spread out the ball to 11 different receivers, too. UCLA’s defense was pretty good, keeping the Cavaliers out of the end zone until there was only 3:36 left in the ball game.
2. Utah Utes (defeated Michigan 24-17): The Utes didn’t put up big numbers, but squeezed out a win over Michigan in Jim Harbaugh’s coaching debut for the Wolverines. Quarterback Travis Wilson was his adequate self, and his 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Utes up by two touchdowns. Defensively, the new-look Utes forced three touchdowns, including Justin Thomas’ interception return for a score that capped Utah’s scoring midway through the fourth.
3. USC Trojans (defeated Arkansas State 55-6): The Trojans battered a pretty decent Sun Belt opponent — the Red Wolves have averaged almost nine wins per season over the last four years. Cody Kessler threw four touchdown passes and USC showed big-play ability. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 61-yard touchdown pass, Tre Madden uncorked a 65-yard touchdown run and backup tailback Ronald Jones had a 44-yard scoring jaunt of his own.
4. California Golden Bears (defeated Grambling State 73-14): Yes, it was against Grambling State, but Cal put up 73 points, the second-most in program history. Jared Goff threw three touchdown passes, all to Kenny Lawler, and the Bears used six different tailbacks to rack up 185 yards rushing. The Cal defense also forced five turnovers. This is what you’re supposed to do against an FCS opponent.
5. Oregon Ducks (defeated Eastern Washington 61-42): The Ducks were the Ducks Saturday, rolling up 731 total yards. Royce Freeman ran for 180 and three scores. Vernon Adams, playing against his old team, threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns while racking up 94 more on the ground. But defensively, the Ducks lacked. E-Wash quarterbacks threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns against the Oregon defense.
6. Oregon State Beavers (defeated Weber State 26-7): The first game for new head coach Gary Andersen was a success. The Beavers rolled up 281 yards on the ground, including 152 from freshman quarterback Seth Collins. Again, this came against an FCS team that had two wins last season, but it was an O.K. first outing for the Beavs.
7. Arizona Wildcats (defeated UTSA 42-32): Offense, good. Defense, bad. That’s actually strange to say considering the Wildcats had two defensive touchdowns which were basically the factor in the game. The Roadrunners had 525 yards against a UA defense that lost stud linebacker Scooby Wright to a knee injury. Wright should be out for a month, but as head coach Rich Rodriguez said after the game, the Wildcats have work to do.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils (lost to Texas A&M 38-17): The Devils’ offense got pushed around by an aggressive Texas A&M defense that sacked Mike Bercovici nine times and severely limited ASU’s big-play ability. The defense played well for most of the game, and their special teams units continue to be a problem despite the highly-touted hire of coordinator Shawn Slocum, who spent a decade coaching the Green Bay Packers special teams.
9. Washington Huskies (lost to Boise State 16-13): UW’s defense played well, holding the Broncos scoreless in the second half, but the offense struggled mightily. The Huskies had just one run over 8 yards, and that was a 12-yard scramble by freshman quarterback Jake Browning. The only touchdown came courtesy of a 76-yard punt return by Dante Pettis. UW put up only 179 yards in the game.
10. Colorado Buffaloes (lost to Hawaii 28-20): Tough one for the Buffs, who saw the clock run out on them down eight and on the doorstep of Hawaii’s end zone. Some blamed the officials, but Colorado players showed very little urgency in getting to the line for a potential last play. CU outgained Hawaii, but three turnovers proved costly.
11. Stanford Cardinal (lost to Northwestern 16-6): What was that? Credit goes to Northwestern for playing a good, sound game, but Stanford sleep-walked through most of their opener. The Cardinal put up only 240 yards of total offense and made only two red-zone trips, both of which ended in field goals from Conrad Ukropina.
12. Washington State Cougars (lost to Portland State 24-17): Portland State had been 0-14 against current Pac-12 members, losing by an average score of nearly 36 points per game. Then Saturday happened. The Cougs couldn’t get anything going on offense against the Vikings despite their 411 yards of offense. Washington State held the ball for over 13 minutes in the first quarter, but came away with only a field goal.
Offensive Player of the Week: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA – The frosh threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns in his intro to college football. And he drew praise from his head coach, who had previously been critical of him during training camp. “I did not see a deer in the headlights look with him at all. I didn’t think that I would either. I didn’t know how he’d perform, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was going to be too big for him,” Jim Mora, Jr. said. “He was very in the moment—before the game, last night, during the game. He’s a mature young man and he handled it well. It’s only going to get harder for him because he had some success. People are going to start patting him on the back and telling him how great he is. We have to do the best we can to make sure he doesn’t listen to the noise—keep pushing him, keep demanding a lot out of him, and keep supporting him.”
Defensive Player of the Week: Justin Thomas, DB, Utah – The junior turned in the biggest defensive play of the week.