Pac-12 Week 2 Stock Watch
We are only one game into the 2019 college football season and already Pac-12 fans are wondering if this year might be worse than last year. Arizona and UCLA suffered bad losses, Oregon State was shaky, and the Cal Bears needed every tool in the tool kit to beat UC Davis. USC and Stanford lost their season-starting quarterbacks to injury, and Oregon dropped a heartbreaker.
Things were not entirely bad, though.
Arizona State has a true freshman quarterback who can ball, Washington State was dominant, Colorado did not look like the pushover some predicted the Buffs to be this year, and Washington and Utah played like conference contenders with the goods to possibly crack the playoffs.
The Utes defeated rival BYU, 30-12, in a physical football game. Utah has experience, can rush the football when defenses know they are running and, most importantly, have a defense. Even though BYU is not supposed to be everything and a balloon this year, to dominate a rival in Week 1 is impressive. Unlike some Pac-12 teams, the Utes looked like they actually practiced with one another during Fall Camp.
After winning a highly advertised QB battle in Fall Camp, Jacob Eason proved his worth against Eastern Washington. Eason threw for 349 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead a balanced Husky offense that totaled 570 yards. Defensively, Washington held the Eagles to 274 yards and just 2.1 yards per carry.
I know it is only one game, but Colorado might not be the pushover the conference media predicted this summer. First year Coach Mel Tucker seems to have brought an SEC toughness to the Buffs that could further materialize over the course of the season. I say this because although CU looked great offensively against rival Colorado State and its defense did force four turnovers, the defense still has holes. Tucker did not hesitate to call out his team’s glaring weaknesses after the victory, which I like to see. The true test comes this weekend when CU hosts longtime rival Nebraska. If CU plays well, even in a loss, suddenly the Buffs could prove to be a future problem other Pac-12 teams cannot afford to overlook. Fans may want to buy now because something tells me CU is going to pull off the upset against the Cornhuskers.
The bottom line is Oregon got snake bitten in Dallas last weekend. For a week one matchup, small mistakes aside, the Ducks looked like a team capable of dominating the Pac-12 this season. Justin Herbert can flat out sling the football, which was particularly impressive against an SEC defense where Herbert went into battle with not a single starter at the receiver position taking the field due to injury. The scary thing is Oregon’s reserve receivers could start tomorrow on 9 of the Pac-12 teams. Defensively, the Ducks need to clean up their secondary (just a little), but proved yet again they know how to recruit and develop defensive linemen capable of stuffing the run and pressuring the QB.
Say what you will, but Wazzu is a football school. The amazing thing is it kind-of-sort-of-always-has-been. The Cougars rolled in week one, 58-7. Quarterback Anthony Gordon, in his debut, completed 29-of-35 passes for 420 yards and 5 touchdowns. In true WSU fashion, QB’s can sling the football, the defense is way faster in person, the offensive line is sound, and skill makers with names few have ever heard of make plays all over the field. Whatever Mike Leach is selling up there, I am buying.
Few Wildcat fans are going to sell Arizona, but I would at least put a stop-loss on the Wildcats as we enter September. Without sugarcoating things, Arizona did not play well in Hawaii. The 45-38 setback was a bad loss despite some late-game heroics that nearly forced overtime. Arizona’s defense was everything the staff promised it would not be this offseason. The offense tallied just 8 total yards of offense after the first quarter. Assignments were missed, penalties were thrown, and there were times when the coaching staff looked more confused than the players. This month, the Wildcats host Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, and UCLA. The program literally does not travel again until an October 5 matchup with Colorado in Boulder. It is must win time for this program against three beatable opponents.
The Sun Devils got a strong debut from true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels in a 30-7 win over Kent State. Daniels was 15-of-24 passing for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns. More impressive was ASU’s defense, holding the visitors to just 200 yards of total offense, which included a woeful 5-for-18 on third down conversions. It is early, but my fear is ASU is beating Arizona in recruiting (again), with an emphasis on defensive players. If this proves true, the Sun Devils will outpace the Wildcats on the field, in the conference standings, and on the recruiting trail. ASU will host Sacramento State this weekend before its marquee non-conference game at Michigan State on September 14.
Stanford is on hold right now until they can figure out their quarterback situation after starter K.J. Costello went down in a 17-7 win over Northwestern. Depending on his long-term situation, the Cardinal can be an attractive buy, especially if they open conference play with a win over USC this weekend. What I like about Stanford is Coach David Shaw seems content on going back to his roots this year, with a foundation of solid defense and controlled offense. In today’s world of fast-strike offenses, the Cardinal seek to wear opponents down by keeping opposing offenses off the field and defenses on the field. It is a recipe that works, even in today’s college football climate. Even without Costello, who started the game 16-of-20 passing and a touchdown, the Cardinal defense held a good Northwestern team to just 210 yards of total offense. 210!! Stanford’s offense controlled the clock to the tune of 38 minutes. Talk about ripping the heart out of an opposing offense.
USC escaped with a 31-23 win over 2018 MWC champ Fresno State on Saturday. However, the Trojans lost starting quarterback J.T. Daniels for the season after the promising signal-caller tore his ACL and meniscus against the Bulldogs. Helping the next quarterback is arguably the best receiving corps in the Pac-12, a stereotypical USC offensive line, a creative offensive coordinator, and a defense that should be better than the 462 yards allowed last Saturday. Working against the Trojans is their schedule. USC hosts Stanford this weekend, then visits BYU before playing three straight against potential national contenders Utah, Washington, and Notre Dame. Fans already seem to hate the lovable Clay Helton, so Trojan faithful may want to sell now before fully investing their hearts.
The Bears looked awful against UC Davis. Simply awful. Looking back, I can hardly believe I took the time to watch a majority of this game. Cal did win 27-13. However, sometimes you actually lose when you win. The Bears struggled in every facet of the game, highlighted by four turnovers on three lost fumbles to an FCS school.
On paper, Oregon State’s 52-36 loss to Oklahoma State does not look that bad. However, the game was not close despite the Beavers leading 10-7 after the first quarter. The Cowboys quickly took over with a dominating second and third quarter. Worrisome for the Beavers is the fact they gave up 352 rush yards on their home field. In a conference where rushing offenses are as good as passing offenses, the Beavers can ill afford to let opposing offenses run wild against them. If they do not figure this out, it will be a very long season in Corvallis.
Similar to Cal, UCLA was pitiful against Cincinnati. Highly-touted starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was just 8-for-26 passing. This, in an offense designed to hit the quick routes and move the ball in small chunks, is almost impossible to do. Another impossible accomplishment, or lack thereof, is the fact a Chip Kelly offense only totaled 218 yards last Saturday. The 24-14 loss to the Bearcats was shocking for invested viewers and a key reason why many Bruins fans are experiencing an emotional deficit right now.