clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

As the weekend passes, some thoughts on college football's first Saturday

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  A Oregon Ducks cheerleader at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: A Oregon Ducks cheerleader at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images

We still don't know how good Utah is right now, but I'm not ready to discuss how bad they are. After watching a great deal of supposed good teams struggle in games even worse than the Utes, I've decided that maybe one week of football action is not the best way to decide the entirety of the season.

Many of those teams that did struggle, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it), play in the Pac-12. 

The worst offender had to have been the Oregon St. Beavers, who, in their home opener, lost to Sacramento State - a program that hasn't had a winning season since going 7-4 in 2000. 

It was a bad loss. No way to spin it. For Mike Riley, who has been consistently called one of the top coaches in America, it's going to take a pretty spectacular season for people to forget this one. Add the uncertainty of their program anyway and last year's five-wins and you've got to wonder if maybe the steam is finally running out of the Riley Express up in Corvallis. You hate to overreact, obviously, but what a bad way to start a season on the heels of a very disappointing season last fall. 

Oregon State wasn't the only Pac-12 team to struggle with the FCS, though. Washington, who really is in rebuild mode right now, was taken to the wire by Eastern Washington, who, I should point out, is no slouch of a team - they won the FCS championship last year.

Still, that game moved into a dangerous territory for Washington and was close despite four turnovers by the Eagles. Eastern Washington lost when, down three, their quarterback, with less than a minute left to go, threw an interception in the end zone. Had he connected with that receiver, the Huskies are SOL - but they made the stop and I guess we can commend them for it. 

Oddly enough, the only team from the northwest not to struggle Saturday was Washington State! Maybe, just maybe, Paul Wulff is finally turning it around in Pullman. 

The Cougars routed Idaho State 64-21, but in the process lost quarterback Jeff Tuel to a fractured left clavicle. Who knows how long he'll be sidelined with that injury, but it could be for a bulk of the season. Of course, we Ute fans can sympathize with quarterback injuries.

Utah's next opponent, the USC Trojans, looked pretty mortal in their opening 19-18 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers - a team they wrecked 32-21 in Minneapolis last year. 

It was an ugly, undisciplined performance by the Trojans. They played sloppy, looked confused at times and had costly penalties that killed drives, stalled momentum and allowed the Gophers back into the game after a difficult start. 

However, there is talent here. SC's offense is quick and has some big-time play makers. The points on the board don't really reflect the offense's performance overall.

But in the end, all that does matter is the score and if Utah can keep the game close like Minnesota did in the second half, anything is possible. That will require them cleaning up their own sloppiness and advancing the ball more than five yards through the air, but there is a template for a win here. A few days ago, I wasn't sure we could even find any hint of victory heading into this one. 

As for the Pac-12's new premier program, the Oregon Ducks, they flopped on the national stage badly. This was an ugly performance. You can spin it all you want, but LSU, at times, made the Ducks look absolutely silly. The conference blew a big chance of making a huge statement against a very good LSU Tigers team and they couldn't get it done. 

I'm not surprised Oregon lost. It was going to be a tough game. But LSU just completely wore down this once vaunted offense and now the Ducks have been held in check in their last two games against SEC teams. 

I still expect them to have a great season and they'll probably find their way to the Pac-12 title game, though Stanford is going to be a huge roadblock (they looked just as good as they looked last season), but Oregon has had three opportunities now to elevate their program - the Rose Bowl against Ohio State, the national title against Auburn and Saturday against LSU. In every game, they lost. 

Chip Kelly is a great motivator and innovator and I have no doubt he'll pile up the wins - but in big games on the national stage? 0-3 is 0-3.

Of course, I'm not knocking the Ducks. Every Pac-12 fan would love to be in the position they've been the last few seasons. Even with their missteps on the national stage, the fact they're there speaks volumes for what they've been able to create in Eugene.

You just wished they could have finished.