Yes, five of the Pac-12’s opponents were FCS teams and not one of the 11 was ranked. But 11-0 is 11-0, and it’s a lot better than, say, 6-5 with an FCS loss, which is how Week 1 unfolded in 2016 for the Pac-12. It’s also the first perfect Week 1 in the conference’s 12-school...
Because overreaction is what Week One’s all about. (Next week in this space: The Week Two back-from-the-brink edition.)
Theme of the week I: Clean sweep
Yes, five of the Pac-12’s opponents were FCS teams and not a single one of the 11 was ranked.
But 11-0 is 11-0, and it’s a lot better than, say, 6-5 with an FCS loss, which is how Week One unfolded in 2016 for the Pac-12.
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It’s also the first perfect Week One in the conference’s 12-school era.
(Caveat: Oregon State lost in Week Zero, so the overall record isn’t perfect.)
Theme of the week II: No lead is safe.
Not even a 34-point lead late in the third quarter against a team that can’t run the ball or stop the run and doesn’t appear to have much heart or much concern for the fate of its head coach …
As the Bruins’ incredible rally unfolded — the second-greatest comeback in major college history — and as I watched Josh Rosen carve up Texas A&M’s defense, I thought back to the remarkable Heisman switcheroo we witnessed in 2015.
That season began with Cal’s Jared Goff as the conference front-runner, but it didn’t take long for a player across the Bay, Christian McCaffrey, to emerge as the true contender.
Could we be watching the same dynamic unfold in L.A., where USC’s Sam Darnold is (was?) the front-runner.
We’ll almost certainly have the answer by the end of the month.
And as the Bruins’ rally morphed into a wild celebration sure to last days, I thought ahead to Week Two.
Take Hawaii and the points.
Theme of the week III: Non-offensive touchdowns.
Eleven games and six touchdowns scored on defense or special teams by Pac-12 teams:
Pick-6s: Arizona State, USC, Oregon State
Punt return TDs: Washington, Arizona
Kickoff return TDs: Oregon
Theme of the week IV: Pace of play.
The conference moved to an officiating command center for all nonconference games on the Pac-12 Networks at the same time it introduced measures for speeding up games.
That’s an interesting push-pull, and the sample size is tiny. But here you go:
2016 Week One games on the P12Nets: Five
Average time: 3:23
2017 Week One games on the P12Nets: Seven
Average time: 3:21
(We’ll continue to monitor game times throughout the season.)
Hotline offensive player week: UCLA’s Josh Rosen
Threw for four touchdowns and a tick shy of 300 yards in the fourth quarter to execute the greatest comeback in conference history.
Hotline defensive player week: Washington’s Byron Murphy.
Redshirt freshman cornerback produced a memorable debut with two interceptions at Rutgers. Sidney who?
(Yes, that’s overreaction in action.)
Hotline special teams player of the week: Washington’s Dante Pettis.
His 61-yard punt return gave UW a 10-7 lead over Rutgers and a vital momentum injection headed into halftime.
Coach of the week: Cal’s Justin Wilcox.
Had the Bears ready in every aspect for a 9 a.m. kickoff in Chapel Hill. The tactics were right, the attitude was right. Validation for Wilcox and his staff on every front.
Transfer of the week: Darren Carrington.
Caught 10 passes for 127 yards and showed why Utah was willing to rent its soul … err, take a chance on the former Oregon receiver with a slew of transgressions in his past.
Slump buster: Washington State.
Snapped a five-game losing streak in season openers — and two-game Week One slump against FCS opponents — by shutting out Montana State.
Loss of luster: Sam Darnold.
The Heisman Trophy front-runner (maybe not any longer) failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since the first start of his career.
Pass muster: Ross Bowers.
Cal’s rookie quarterback (zero career passes before Saturday) looked like a veteran with 363 yards and four touchdowns. Psst: Beau Baldwin knows what he’s doing.
Stat of the week (non-UCLA edition): Arizona.
Rushed for 506 yards against NAU, the second consecutive game the Wildcats have topped 500 on the ground. (They churned for 511 in the 2016 finale against ASU.)
Stat of the century (plus one year): Oregon
The Ducks’ 77 points marked their highest game output since 1916.
Now, let’s overreact …
Colorado: The defense picked up where it left off, despite the attrition on the field and on the sideline. If the offense comes around, and it should given the returning personnel, the Buffs will contend for the South title.
Washington: Didn’t play with the urgency or physicality on offense that it showed last year from start to finish. Just how tight is UW’s grip on the North?
Arizona State: The defense remains a turnstile: New Mexico State averaged 5 yards per carry and threw for 398 yards. So much for new coordinator Phil Bennett making a deep, lasting impact.
Utah: Tyler Huntley’s mobility gives the Utes an added dimension, suits the offense installed by Troy Taylor and justifies the move away from veteran Troy Williams.
Oregon: The hype was justified. Willie Taggart is a genius, Royce Freeman is perfect for the power game, and Jim Leavitt’s defense is better than expected. The North has four contenders, not three.
USC: Soft, soft, soft on defense, especially when Cameron Smith was off the field. I’ve got Bryce Love for 175 yards and Stanford for 42 points on Saturday.
Arizona: Devastating as the Wildcats were with big plays on the ground against NAU, they showed little progress with the downfield passing game. Hello, South cellar.
Oregon State: The Beavers, who have committed seven turnovers in two games, should be in panic mode after their escape against Portland State. By far the worst team at this point.
(Actually, that’s not an overreaction.)
Cal: Amazing what coaching can do for a defense. The Bears sure don’t look like the worst team in the North and just might have a shot at the postseason.
UCLA overreaction: The incredible comeback should provide the fuel needed to challenge USC in the South, save Jim Mora’s job and get Josh Rosen into the Heisman discussion. Who needs a run defense anyhow?
(As noted in my picks of the week, the Mora Train is leaving the station. You’d best hop on.)
Washington State: Combine the Week One performance with the home-heavy early schedule, and the Cougars will be 4-0 and ranked in the No. 10-15 range when USC pays a visit at the end of the month.
And finally …
Cool moment of the week (absolutely non-overreacting edition): USC long snapper Jake Olson, who lost his sight as a kid, fulfilled a dream with a perfect snap on the final extra point.
And kudos to Western Michigan for its role in the moment.