It was the first weekend of college football, and all 12 Pac-12 teams were in action. The first week of the season did not go how many Pac-12 teams hoped with Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State all losing.
4 Things We Learned about the Pac-12 in Week 1
It was the first weekend of college football, and all 12 Pac-12 teams were in action. The first week of the season did not go how many Pac-12 teams hoped with Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State all losing
1. The Pac-12 may not be as good as people thought.
Two Pac-12 teams that were ranked in the preseason (Arizona State and Stanford) fell to unranked foes (Texas A&M and Northwestern respectively). Washington State fell to FCS opponent Portland State. Colorado was not in paradise when they lost at Hawaii, a team that won only 4 games last season. Only Washington lost to a ranked team (Boise State). The Huskies offense managed only 179 yards against the Broncos. Despite winning, Arizona (against UTSA), Oregon State (against Weber State), and Utah (against Michigan) were all leading by less than two scores heading into the fourth quarter.
2. Defenses in the Pac-12 took a hit
The Pac-12 featured several dominant defenses last year, but many Pac-12 teams saw their defense struggle week one. Utah, who led the nation in sacks last year, did not record a sack against Michigan. Arizona (against UTSA), Arizona State (against Texas A&M), Oregon (against Eastern Washington), and USC (against Arkansas State) all allowed over 400 yards (with Arizona and Oregon both giving up over 500). Oregon's pass defense was lit up to the tune of 438 passing yards by Eastern Washington. Even Stanford, the Pac-12's top defense, gave up 330 yards to Northwestern. The Pac-12's best defensive player, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III, will miss at least a month with a knee injury. Considering many of the weak week one opponents, this was not a strong showing for most of the Pac-12's defenses.
3. It was a mixed bag for the new starting quarterbacks in the Pac-12
Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State all featured new full-time starting quarterbacks (though ASU's Mike Bercovici and WSU's Luke Falk started a few games last season when Taylor Kelly and Connor Halliday were out with injuries). Vernon Adams Jr of Oregon, Seth Collins of Oregon State, and Josh Rosen of UCLA all had positive debuts, leading their teams to victories. Adams Jr threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns against his former team, Eastern Washington. He added 94 yards on the ground. Seth Collins did most of his damage on the ground with 152 yards rushing in addition to 92 yards passing and two touchdowns against Weber State. UCLA's Josh Rosen looked the best though carving up Virginia's defense with 351 yards passing and three touchdowns. Some of the new starters struggled though, leading to week one losses. Bercovici threw for only 199 yards and one touchdown (he added one on the ground as well) in ASU's 38-17 loss to Texas A&M. Washington true freshman quarterback Jake Browning struggled against Boise State's defense, throwing for only 150 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in UW's 16-13 loss to Boise State. Falk passed for only 289 yards and two touchdowns before leaving late in the game with an injury in WSU's 24-17 loss to Portland State. Washington and Washington State will need improved play from their new quarterbacks or they risk missing a bowl game while ASU will hope for improvement from Bercovici if they want to challenge the likes of UCLA and USC for the Pac-12 South crown. Oregon and UCLA have to feel confident in their preseason goals with the strong play of their new starters, and Oregon State has to feel a little better about their quarterback position. Adams Jr and Collins will both face big tests next week against Michigan State and Michigan respectively.
4. Most of the top running backs in the Pac-12 struggled
Outside of Oregon's Royce Freeman who ran all over EWU, the top returning running backs in the Pac-12 struggled in week one. The Pac-12's leading rusher last season, UCLA's Paul Perkins, ran for only 59 yards and no touchdowns (he did add 58 yards receiving which led the team) against Virginia. Utah's Devontae Booker, a preseason All-American and Heisman hopeful, managed only 69 yards and one touchdown (he did add 55 yards receiving though) against a tough Michigan defense. Arizona's Nick Wilson fared a bit better but still not great against UTSA, with 97 yards rushing with no touchdowns and no catches. Washington's Dwayne Washington was considered by some to be the dark horse to lead the Pac-12 in rushing, but he managed only 14 yard rushing against Boise State with no touchdowns, but he did lead the team with 53 yards receiving. Arizona State's DJ Foster struggled against Texas A&M as well, recording only 13 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards with no touchdowns. Cal's Daniel Lasco, who topped 1,000 yards rushing last season, ran for only 14 yards and 20 yards receiving against Grambling State. Week one was not a good showing for most of the top Pac-12's top running backs. Week two will feature tough match ups for Booker against Utah State and Freeman against Michigan State, but most of the other backs will face weak defenses.
All 12 Pac-12 teams are in action again in week two. With only two FCS opponents on the schedule and one top 10 match up (Oregon at Michigan State), we should learn even more about the Pac-12 next week. Other important match ups after the big Oregon-Michigan State showdown include Utah-Utah State on Friday to decide in state bragging rights, Oregon State at Michigan, and Washington State at Rutgers. If the Pac-12 can go 3-0 against the Big Ten in week two of the season, it would go a long way to help the Pac-12's national credibility after a disastrous first week of the season.