A recap of the Pac-12 action from Week One …
Theme of the Week: Favorites do favorite things
Division favorites Oregon and USC took the first of six steps toward a championship game collision. The Ducks rolled outmanned Stanford, while USC went to the wire against Arizona State. (Reminder: The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released Nov. 24.)
Theme of the Season: Disruption
The conference took a series of COVID-19 hits before the first games were played, with Cal forced into a cancellation (against Washington) on Thursday, Utah doing the same (against Arizona) on Friday and Stanford announcing on Saturday that starting quarterback Davis Mills was being held out (at Oregon). The triple whammy was a brutally stark reminder that for all the testing and safety protocols in place, the season is fragile.
Game of the Week: USC 28, Arizona State 27
It delivered exactly what the conference needed for the ‘Big Noon’ audience: The appearance of an upset that morphed into a dramatic comeback as the Trojans scored two touchdowns, and recovered an onside kick, in the final three minutes. Reasonable chance this holds up as the game of the season.
Coach of the Week: Washington State’s Nick Rolovich
The Cougars looked like they had been playing for weeks (only five penalties and one turnover) under the leadership of a long-tenured coach with a veteran quarterback in charge and their best player in uniform … when the opposite was true on every front. No spring ball, new coach, rookie QB, no Max Borghi. A sterling performance all around.
Coordinator of the Week/Offense: Colorado’s Darrin Chiaverini
Sure, the Buffaloes benefitted greatly from four UCLA turnovers, but that tells a sliver of the story. They had three long touchdown drives, gained 525 yards, committed no turnovers, scored touchdowns on six-of-seven red-zone chances — and did it all with a new quarterback, new tailback and retooled receiving corps.
Coordinator of the Week/Defense: Arizona State’s Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce
The co-coordinators devised a zone-heavy approach that contained USC’s playmakers for 57 minutes and managed to generate pressure on Kedon Slovis. The Devils were tougher at the line of scrimmage, opportunistic and ready for everything USC attempted. In end the end, the Trojans got lucky on one play (the deflected touchdown) and made a phenomenal pass-and-catch on the other (winning touchdown).
Play of the Week: USC’s game-winning touchdown
An easy call: Fourth down at the 21, game on the line, 80 seconds left, and Slovis tossed a perfect seam pass to Drake London, who was so well covered he needed to make a sensational catch. The touchdown ultimately could determine the South and elevate the Trojans to the role of playoff contender. Not sure it qualifies as the revenge of the ‘Jael Mary’, but it’s close.
Offensive Player of the Week: USC receiver Drake London
Several good candidates, including WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura, Colorado tailback Jarek Broussard and Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough. But London made the play of the week — the last-minute touchdown catch — as part of his eight receptions and 125 yards. He was the best player on the field in the most consequential game of the day.
Defensive Player of the Week: ASU linebacker Merlin Robertson
The junior recorded 10 tackles against USC and was involved in two takeaways with a fumble recovery and interception. We considered his teammate, defensive lineman Jermayne Lole, but ultimately picked Robertson because of his role in the turnovers.
Johnson and Johnson of the Week: Oregon’s DJ and Johnny.
The receiver/tight end tandem (no relation) combined for nine catches for 115 yards — half of Oregon’s team total in each category. The Ducks need options in the passing game for Shough to prevent opponents from loading up against the run.
Debut of the Week: Colorado tailback Jarek Broussard
The sophomore from Dallas was a redshirt in 2018 and suffered a season-ending injury in 2019, thus making Saturday his first game in 27 months on campus. And it was some debut: 187 yards, three touchdowns, plus two receptions. Broussard was a Mike MacIntyre recruit who had limited interest from Power Five programs.
Freshman of the Week: WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura
Named the starter last week, de Laura played with efficiency and poise. He threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and operated the run-and-shoot like he had been running it for years. His future is bright, but we’ll be curious to see how he performs the rest of this season, once opponents get a feel for WSU’s playbook.
Cardboard Cutouts of the Week: Oregon
The Animal House characters in Autzen Stadium were sheer brilliance.
Stat of the Week: 348
Combined rushing yards by four quarterbacks: WSU’s de Laura (43), UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (109), ASU’s Jayden Daniels (111) and Oregon’s Tyler Shough (85).
Controversial Call of the Week: None
It was a relatively smooth opening day for Pac-12 officials, both on the field and in the replay booth
Worst start: UCLA
This will come as a complete and utter shock to anyone who has watched the Bruins stumble and bumble for two years, but they were not ready to play. Their first-half possessions, in order: fumble, interception, punt, touchdown, fumble, fumble, punt. Midway through the second quarter, they were down 35-7 in Boulder.
No team was a bigger disappointment in Week One than the Beavers, who had a decisive edge in continuity but were throughly outplayed for 60 minutes by WSU. They looked disoriented in stretches on offense, which we expected given the quarterback change. But their defense was sliced and diced, which was absolutely not expected.
Fresh start: Utah
Cal’s availability for its Week Two date at Arizona State is uncertain, but the outlook has brightened for Utah. Athletic director Mark Harlan posted on social media Sunday that the Utes are “pushing ahead” with plans to visit UCLA as scheduled this week. Except the game has been moved to Saturday to give them an extra day for players to prepare.