The first week of Pac-12 football has wrapped up in what many called the best opening weekend of college football. It is still really early I. The 2016 season, and the narratives for each team are not set yet. Having said that, here are five things we took away from week one of Pac-12 play.
1. Pac-12 Disappoints in Week One
The Pac-12 had two big match ups against the SEC and lost both. No. 16 UCLA fell on the road at unranked Texas A&M who was predicted to be a middle of the pack team in the SEC West. The biggest matchup was No. 20 USC against No. 1 Alabama in Arlington, Texas, and USC got blown off the field 52-6 by the defending national champions. The night got worse for the Pac-12 when Washington State fell at home to Eastern Washington. Arizona also fell to BYU on a last second field goal. The Pac-12 only secured two wins over Power 5 conference teams, Stanford's 26-13 win over Kansas State and Washington's 48-13 win over Rutgers. The Pac-12 missed the College Football Playoff last year, and while they are not completely doomed after week one, their chances do not look great.
2. Pac-12 Lacked Defense
Outside of a few teams, Pac-12 defenses got shelled in week one. Half the teams in the conference gave up more than 400 total yards. WSU gave up over 600 yards and worse than 9 yards per play against Eastern Washington. Half the conference surrendered 28 points or more. USC gave 52 to an Alabama offense led by a true freshman. Half the teams in the conference were +0 or worse in the turnover margin, with Arizona and Arizona State failing to force a single turnover. There are more stats we could cover to illustrate the overall poor defensive performances from Pac-12 teams in week one. Overall, only a few Pac-12 defenses passed the eye test in week one.
3. Washington Hype
Admittedly I might be a bit biased, but UW was the only team that impressed me in week one. While Rutgers is not expected to be a good team this year, they are still a Power 5 team, and UW completely dominated them. John Ross III looks like one of the most dangerous weapons in the Pac-12, and Jake Browning started his sophomore season off well. The UW defense did not disappoint, yielding only three point through three quarters. UW recorded three sacks and forced three turnovers against Rutgers. UW recorded two non-offensive touchdowns with Ross taking a kickoff back for a touchdown and Dante Pettis taking a punt to the house. The only blemish for UW was the 3.0 yards per carry rushing and failing to top 100 yards (they managed only 91 yards). UW however did not really need to run the football with Browning doing plenty of damage through the air, throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns with one interception (277 and all three touchdowns came in the first half). Rutgers is not a good team, and UW will likely not be challenged until they travel to Arizona in week four, but they look every bit a contender for the Pac-12 North after week one.
4. Who is the Leader in the Pac-12 South?
The two preseason favorites in the Pac-12 South UCLA and USC both fell to SEC opponents in Texas, and both teams showed some major flaws. Utah looked dominant defensively against an FCS opponent breaking in a new quarterback, but they struggled on the offensive line and to run the football, two projected areas of strength heading into the season. It took until the fourth quarter for Arizona State to put away Northern Arizona. Arizona fell to BYU in a game where both the offense and defense struggled. The only Pac-12 South team that looked impressive in week one is the one everyone thought would finish last: Colorado. They dismantled in-state rival Colorado State 44-7. Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau did not show any lingering effects from foot surgery in the game. He was 23-of-33 for 318 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. The Buffs defense also played well, pitching a shutout for the first three quarters and forcing four turnovers. I am not ready to say Colorado is the front runner in the South or will even compete for the title, they will not be an easy out this year. There does not look to be any elite teams in the Pac-12 South after one week of the 2016 season.
5. Christian McCaffrey is Still the Best Player in the Pac-12
Despite poor offensive line player, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey dazzled against Kansas State. He had rushing touchdowns of 35 and 41 yards and had 210 all-purpose yards in the game, which does not include the 95 yards he gained on a punt return that got called back. Some thought UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen or Washington State quarterback Luke Falk could be the Pac-12's best hope as a Heisman candidate. Both quarterbacks suffered losses in week one, and Rosen threw three interceptions against Texas A&M. McCaffrey is still far and away the best player in the Pac-12, and he is fun to watch. He is bigger and stronger this year and should continue to make defenses look silly trying to stop him.
Remember, this is only week one and a lot can change over the course of the season. Stanford lost to Northwestern in week one last year and won the Pac-12. WSU fell to Portland State and still managed to win nine games. There is still a lot of football left to be played this year, which is good for the Pac-12 because the conference has some work to do to dig itself out of the hole it dug for itself in week one.