Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
2:00
PM PT

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
10:00
AM PT
The Oregon Ducks made the biggest splash on the recruiting trail over the weekend, landing a commitment from ESPN 300 athlete Malik Lovette. The Ducks had the nation's No. 276 prospect on campus for an official visit and sealed the deal rather quickly. Elsewhere, it was a fairly quiet weekend for the conference overall, as three Thursday games, two Friday game and several away games left only four programs hosting Saturday contests and even fewer official visitors.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
8:00
AM PT
Leading off

Week 2 brings two of the most anticipated games of the college football season, with Michigan State traveling to Oregon and Stanford hosting USC. Nationally, most are calling the Sparty-Duck game the No. 1 nonconference matchup in college football this year. The Pac-12 blog agrees. And we know what Stanford and USC have been like the last few seasons. It's a good week to be a Pac-12 fan. Here's what some folks are saying about the matchups.

Athlon Sports on Oregon-Michigan State:
We don't really know anything about either team after lopsided victories in Week 1. Sparty crushed poor Jacksonville State 45-7, while the Ducks routed lowly South Dakota 62-13. This is the ultimate contrast in schemes with Marcus Mariota leading one of the nation's most powerful spread attacks and Pat Narduzzi directing one the gnarliest defensive units in the land.

And their take on Stanford-USC:
Look for quarterbacks Kevin Hogan (204 yds, 4 total TD) and Cody Kessler (394 yds, 4 TD) to build on excellent Week 1 performances. Stanford is looking for revenge after a late-season upset at the hands of the Trojans in Los Angeles a year ago, and the loser will fall a game behind higher-ranked division contenders.

Sports Illustrated previews the MSU-Oregon game as well, with a focus on what this game could mean for the playoff selection committee down the road:
The ramifications of the result from Eugene will transcend what Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun do on the field, as the season’s marquee non-conference game provides precious data points in comparing the Big Ten and the Pac-12.

And our own Ted Miller hit on this yesterday.

Bowling talk

One of the bolder predictions in the preseason came from Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports, who pegged the Washington Huskies as the team to beat in North. Here is his weekly notebook with news and notes and his opinion from around college football. Top to bottom, it’s a good read with plenty of Pac-12 goodies in there. But the one most readers will stop on are his predictions for the six bowl games on New Year’s Day, which still include Washington and UCLA.
Am I feeling a little skittish about my UCLA and Washington picks right about now? Of course. Will I be swapping out Michigan State for Ohio State this time next week? Quite possibly. But I’d like to watch more than one game before jumping to any grand conclusions. After all, a year ago Auburn barely survived Washington State at home in its season opener and Michigan State could barely move the ball against Western Michigan. They wound up a combined 25-3.
Tune in

For all of your audio needs, you can check out the Solid Verbal podcast. They recap a lot of what happened in the Pac-12 (starting at about the 38:20 mark). Among the topics:
  • Some praise for California.
  • Should we freak out about UCLA?
  • Washington's struggles.
  • Washington State-Rutgers.

Worth a listen if you have the time.

News/notes/team reports

*I posted the updated depth charts last week for each team. Is that a weekly feature you guys want? Tweet at me and let me know.

Just for fun

Never hurts to keep an eye on this:



Nice to see Cal players celebrating.

Pac-12 QB Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
3:00
AM PT
The Pac-12 typically has great quarterbacks and good depth at the position, but the 2014 season is particularly stacked behind center. With 10 returning starters, including a handful who are expected to be All-American candidates and early NFL draft picks, it’s almost difficult to keep up with who’s doing what to whom’s secondary.

No worries. We’ve got you covered. Each week, we will provide you a top-five ranking of the Pac-12 QBs.

Now, it won’t always be a 1 to 5 ranking according to the expected pecking order at season’s end or NFL draft lists. It will react heavily to the preceding week. And we’ll try to spread some love. If our ratings seem inconsistent and they frustrate you at times, well, we just feel so horrible about that.

Honorable mention:
Brett Hundley, UCLA, Connor Halliday, Washington State, Taylor Kelly, Arizona State: Three big names end up here after being outshined by others, at least for one week. Hundley was victimized by poor offensive line play at Virginia and mostly played well under intense pressure, but he gets hit for he and his team falling well short of expectations. One offensive touchdown ... really? Halliday gets a hat tip for putting up huge numbers in a loss, but it was a disappointing season-opening loss. Ergo, only a hat tip. Kelly put up solid if unspectacular numbers against a terrible opponent.

Recruiting notebook

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
3:30
PM PT
The first day college coaches can call Class of 2015 recruits as part of the fall recruiting calendar is Sept. 1.

For USC coach Steve Sarkisian, the sales pitch for his calls today was made a lot easier by what his team did over the weekend.

"Hello, Mister Recruit, did you watch our game?"

There can be no better way to attract recruits than by putting a good product on the field, and the Trojans did that in a big way on Saturday in a 52-13 victory against Fresno State. Recruits were able to see a modern up-tempo offense get the ball to a bevy of athletes and the results were mind-boggling. They also saw a physical defensive front lead the way to a four-interception day.

All of that is important in the minds of recruits, but perhaps the most important number for Sarkisian was 11. As in 11 true freshmen played, and they not only played, they had an impact on the game. Three of those true freshman started (receiver JuJu Smith, left guard Toa Lobendahn and right guard Damien Mama) and three scored touchdowns (Smith, Adoree' Jackson and Bryce Dixon).

"I’m not surprised," Sarkisian said of his talented freshmen stepping up in their first game. "We know the importance of this freshman class. We needed them to come in and contribute to have success."

Smith had a team-leading 123 yards on four catches, including a 53-yarder that showed speed to go along with his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame. Jackson had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, also getting credit for one tackle on defense and providing good pass coverage. Dixon added a 22-yard touchdown. Ajene Harris had a catch. Viane Talamaivao saw plenty of time on the offensive line. On defense, Uchenna Nwosu had a pair of tackles and Olajuwon Tucker added one.

"Ever since the summer in practices these guys have come wanting to learn," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said of the freshmen. "We threw them in there, and I knew that they were going to run the right route and not miss their assignments. I was excited for them, especially in their first game."

With an offense that ran a conference-record 105 plays, Sarkisian will be able to show recruits there is immediate opportunity. He proved he is willing to start a true freshman by putting three of them in the lineup for the opener. Even those who don’t start were able to get plenty of reps in reserve to give the starters a rest. There was rotation, not only with guys like Dixon and Harris, but Talamaivao was one of those who rotated in on the line. And Jackson saw time on offense, defense and special teams, a truly remarkable feat.

"I thought Adoree' did well," Sarkisian said. "He really had an impact on all three phases. He had a great look in his eye, and the game was never too big for him."

Do you think Adoree’s former Serra teammates John Houston and Rasheem Green noticed his contribution? Or did Iman Marshall notice his former Poly teammate Smith? Of course they did. And plenty of other recruits noticed as well. Now Sarkisian will look to capitalize on that strong early impression to get the recruiting cycle started on the right foot. He’s definitely off to a good beginning after the opening game.

.

A look at the stats some recruits recorded in their games this past weekend:

CLASS OF 2015

QB Sam Darnold (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente): USC commit passed for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Also rushed for 78 yards and two more touchdowns in a 38-22 victory against Garfield.

QB Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure): USC commit completed 21 of 39 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-20 loss to Helix.

RB Aca'Cedric Ware (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): USC commit had 23 carries for 193 yards and 4 TDs in a 56-34 victory against South Oak Cliff.

WR Tristan Payton (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast): USC commit caught seven passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in a 41-6 victory against Ribault.

WR Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro): Had 117 yards rushing, 186 yards receiving and 63 yards on two punt returns in a 41-14 victory against Scottsdale Chaparral.

CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly): Was strong on the defensive side of the ball and chipped in on offense with a 10-yard touchdown reception in a 54-14 victory against Crenshaw.

DE Joseph Wicker (Long Beach, Calif./ Poly): Recorded six sacks.

ATH Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills): In a 42-7 victory against Payson, Gustin completed 13 of 23 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns at quarterback. He also rushed for 52 yards and one touchdown. On defense he had 11 tackles with 1 sack.

WR Cordell Broadus (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Hauled in five passes for 73 yards and one touchdown in a 48-27 victory against Servite.

WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite): Made a handful of catches, including a 49-yard touchdown in a 48-27 loss to Bishop Gorman.

RB Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas/Plano West): Ran for 120 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries. Also caught two passes for 64 yards and one touchdown in 44-7 victory agaist Mesquite.

RB Dexter Williams (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange): Miami commit rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown in 27-24 victory against Boone. Williams recently revealed that he plans on taking an official visit to USC.

QB Caleb Wilson (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Completed 8 of 15 passes for 142 yards. Also rushed for one touchdown in a 24-6 victory against Lakewood.

RB Malik Roberson (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Ran for 43 yards and one touchdown.

WR Trent Irwin (Newhall, Calif./Hart): Caught 10 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown in a 63-48 loss to Chino Hills.

CLASS OF 2016

ATH Mique Juarez (Torrance, Calif./North): One sack, one interception, and a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD in a 13-10 victory against Redondo Union.

QB K.J. Costello (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic): Passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-21 victory against Bishop Amat.

QB Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist Academy): Completed 8 of 16 passes for 84 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in a 33-14 victory against Ouachita Christian.

S C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif./Serra): Compiled five tackles.

CLASS OF 2017

ATH Nathan Tilford (Upland, Calif./Upland): Rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries in a 71-0 victory against Knight.

QB Tate Martell (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman): Completed 9 of 15 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Also rushed for 110 yards.

Osiris St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite): Had six receptions for 141 yards.

Pac-12 names players of the week

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
6:30
PM PT
video

USC quarterback Cody Kessler, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks and Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay have been named the Pac-12's players of the week.

Kessler is the offensive player for posting a career-high 394 passing yards in USC's 52-13 win over Fresno State. He tossed four touchdown passes and also rushed for one.

Kendricks was named defensive player of the week for a 16-tackle effort in UCLA's 28-20 road win over Virgnia. The Bruins turned in three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter, including an interception that Kendricks returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Kendricks, who was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week, also forced a fumble that led to another touchdown.

Clay took home this week's special-teams honors for returning a pair of kicks for touchdowns in Utah's 56-14 win over Idaho State. The first was a 46-yard punt return late in the first half. Later in the game he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. He became the league's first player since Cal's Deltha O'Neal in 1999 to score off a punt and a kicker return in the same game.

USC ready for revenge-minded Stanford

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
12:26
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Having toyed with the Fresno State Bulldogs in their 52-13 season-opening victory in the Coliseum on Saturday, things take a dramatic upturn as the USC Trojans get ready for this weekend’s trip to Palo Alto and the revenge-minded Stanford Cardinal.

Head coach David Shaw’s Cardinal, no doubt, will be seeking retribution after last season’s gut-wrenching, 20-17 upset loss to the Trojans in Los Angeles, which sparked a stampede of Cardinal and Gold faithful onto the hollowed turf of the Coliseum upon the game’s stirring conclusion.

Fond memories of that USC triumph still resonate with returning Trojans players, especially sophomore strong safety Su'a Cravens.

Just ask the 2013 freshman All-American about his recollections of last November’s upset win and the current state of the USC/Stanford series, and Craven’s Hollywood smile quickly turns Tony Soprano serious.

“My interception, of course, the field goal, and team ball,” said Cravens, recalling his pick of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in the fourth quarter last season, which helped set up Andre Heidari's game-winning 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.

“In the last couple of years Stanford has made it a rivalry, not as intense as UCLA or Notre Dame, but this is a big game coming up this weekend,” Cravens said. “They are going to be on all their Ps and Qs and so will we.”

Stanford, which opened its season at home Saturday by destroying UC Davis 45-0, obviously doesn’t have pleasant memories of the last time these two private universities met, and Shaw will have his troops good and ready for payback.

Adding to the intrigue for this Saturday’s Pac-12 opener for both teams will be the Trojans' freshmen-on-the-road factor, an element that didn’t play out in a negative way against Fresno State.

You can bet Stanford will be looking to physically and mentally intimidate Steve Sarkisian’s inexperienced, wide-eyed USC freshmen, all of whom played significant roles against Fresno State.

Having been a freshman last season, Cravens has some advice for his younger teammates as it relates to the Cardinal.

“Don’t make the game bigger than what it is,” Cravens said. “It’s a long season and I understand it’s Stanford, but it’s your game and don’t let anybody else distract you.”

Junior linebacker Anthony Sarao, once a Stanford commit, added to Cravens' advice by saying, “Take every practice this week one at a time and get ready for Stanford’s physicality by being in the film room.”

And what kind of game does Cravens expect for the noon kickoff in Northern California?

“It’s going to be a physical game,” Cravens smiled. “They like to keep it in between the tackles.”

And Cravens isn’t alone in his assessment for the upcoming Cardinal confrontation.

“It’s going to be big on big,” echoed All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

And somewhere legendary Trojans defensive line coach Marv Goux must be smiling.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
8:00
AM PT
I can't believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they're everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.

Leading off

Welcome to Week 2. By now, you probably already know what happened in Week 1. But we'll use this space each Monday to give you a quick reference to every game that happened in the Pac-12. National reactions

Here's a look at what some folks around the nation are saying about the Pac-12 and its teams.

John Taylor of NBC Sports hit on a couple of Pac-12 teams in his Week 1 rewind. USC coach Steve Sarkisian is getting a lot of praise for keeping things together after a tumultuous week leading up to the Trojans' first game.
In the first game of the Steve Sarkisian era Saturday night, the Trojans took out all of their lingering frustrations on an overmatched Fresno State squad by the score of 52-13. Quarterback Cody Kessler passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns ... in the first half alone. The offense ultimately rolled up 704 yards of offense on 104 plays, the latter of which set a Pac-12 record.

Anne Petersen of the Associated Press gets to the heart of what everyone is thinking in Eugene ... we can finally start looking ahead to Week 2 and Oregon vs. Michigan State.
While Oregon is known for their hyper-drive offense, Michigan State's success last season -- the Spartans went undefeated in conference play -- came in large part because of their bruising defense. The Spartans lost standouts Max Bullough and Darqueze Dennard from that defense, but they still have lineman Shilique Calhoun, considered one of the top players in his league, and linebacker Taiwan Jones, who looked promising in the opener with Bullough gone.

UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is catching a little heat from Pete Roussel for the way his linemen performed in the win over Virginia. The Bruins were without starting center Jake Brendel. And that obviously hurt. But there were bigger line issues at play. Not to mention more than a few wide receiver drops.
The resume of a coach is his tape. And right now, Adrian Klemm has his hands full. He knows it, too. That "super assistant" label from the media doesn’t look so fitting right now.
Nationally honored

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week for his performance in UCLA's win over Virginia. Kendricks posted 16 tackles, forced a fumble that led to a UCLA defensive touchdown and also returned an interception for a touchdown. Say what you want about the offense (and there is plenty to say), but Kendricks had a monster game.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Saw this Saturday night and had to tweet it out, because it's equal parts awesome and adorable.

 

Georgia, USC benefit big in Week 1

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
10:13
PM PT
For more information on the rankings here, check out the Football Power Index and Dean Oliver's primer on this metric used by the Stats & Information analytics team.

What were the top analytical and statistical storylines from Week 1 of the college football season?

Georgia is the new favorite in the SEC
Georgia’s chances of winning the SEC greatly improved in Week 1.

The Bulldogs’ win over Clemson and South Carolina’s loss to Texas A&M combined to raise Georgia’s chances of winning the SEC East from 29 percent (in preseason) to 62 percent and its overall chance of winning the SEC from 11 percent to 31 percent, via ESPN’s FPI rating.

The Bulldogs jumped from 14th to sixth in the rankings. That was the third-biggest FPI ranking jump of any Top-25 team after Week 1, behind Nebraska (up 13 spots to 28) and Texas A&M (up eight spots to No. 8).

South Carolina’s probability of winning the SEC East plummeted from 41 percent to 11 percent and its chance of winning the SEC fell from 19 percent to four percent.

Clemson and South Carolina had the two biggest drops in FPI rankings among teams in the Top 25, with Clemson falling 17 spots (to 30th) and South Carolina slipping 13 (to 20th). They were followed by North Carolina, which dropped 12 spots to 31 despite beating Liberty, 56-29.

North Carolina’s win against Liberty may have seemed dominant based on the 56-29 final score, but the Tar Heels trailed Liberty early in the second half before scoring 28 straight points. Their average in-game win probability ranked 29th out of 59 teams that won on Saturday.

USC rises in Pac-12
USC jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 in FPI after defeating Fresno State on Saturday. Conversely, UCLA dropped in FPI from No. 4 to No. 7 after its offense struggled on the road against Virginia.

USC now has the second-best chance to win the Pac-12 behind Oregon and the No. 1 chance to win the Pac-12 South.

USC travels to Stanford on Saturday in a game with conference implications. The Football Power Index gives the Trojans a 51.6% chance to win the game, and it is projected to be the closest Pac-12 game of the year.

Comeback of the week: LSU over Wisconsin
LSU came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Wisconsin 28-24. Not only was that the largest comeback of the week, but LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (35 percent) of any team that won on Saturday. The Tigers had an above-average chance to win on only 16 percent of their plays.

LSU’s win probability dipped to six percent early in the third quarter after Wisconsin took a 24-7 lead. The Tigers went on to score 21 straight points to win the game.

Unlikeliest wins of Week 1
Based on ESPN’s FPI projections, UTSA’s win against Houston was the most unlikely win by an FBS team against another FBS team in Week 1. FPI gave UTSA a 19 percent chance to win entering the game.

Other significant upsets included Temple (30 percent chance to win) over Vanderbilt, Colorado State (34 percent chance to win) over Colorado and Rutgers (34 percent chance to win) over Washington State.
The first week of the season has come and gone, and with it went the redshirts for 75 freshman players in the Pac-12.

USC, which had the conference's highest-ranked recruiting class in 2014, played the most freshmen (11) and Oregon State played none. Those 75 players accounted for seven starts (on offense or defense) and eight touchdowns. The total number of players will undoubtedly grow in the next few weeks.

Here's a breakdown of all 75, by school (*-denotes players who started):

Arizona (6)
Arizona State (9)
Cal (8)
Colorado (3)
Oregon (10)
Oregon State (0)
  • None
Stanford (4)
UCLA (7)
USC (11)
Utah (10)
Washington (5)
Washington State (2)
Steve Sarkisian summed up the USC victory with the opening line of his postgame news conference.

“That was fun,” said the Trojans coach.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Maybe we should just call them Kids-R-Us.

Everyone knew USC had some excellent freshman prospects, but nobody expected them to make this kind of impact, especially in the first game of the season.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

LOS ANGELES -- Notes, quotes, and anecdotes from the Coliseum after the Trojans (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) defeated Fresno State (0-1, 0-0 MWC).

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian comments:

Happy days are here again: "That was fun. What a game by these guys, the whole group. I had a staff meeting this morning before we started our preparation, and I was saying I don't even think I need to speak to the team. I don't think they need motivation to play. They are hungry. I felt they practiced great, prep was really good this week, and ultimately we executed well in all three phases (offense, defense, special teams)."

Freshmen pass first test: "We needed them to come in and contribute to have success, knowing they'd have some mistakes but would ultimately help. I am not surprised. We've challenged them and put them in with the 1s, and they've all stepped in and played well."

Offensive line review: "For them to perform and protect Cody (Kessler) the way they did, I was proud of them. Coach Drevno got them ready to play. We tried to keep them fresh. When you get fatigued, that's where mistakes are made, so we tried to keep them as fresh as we could. For the most part, it worked out."

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter comments:

Overall assessment: "We got out-coached and out-played. You also have to give them a lot of credit. I'm disappointed but not discouraged. We're not ready at this point to compete against a team like USC."

Respecting the Trojans defense: "They are excellent on defense. They are very physical and really talented. They're big up front, their linebackers are physical and their secondary played well."

Physically dominated: "Our guys got worn down a bit in the second halt. It's partly due to who you're going against. Those are some big bodies. It's hard to keep pressure off the quarterback and give him time to throw."

More notes and anecdotes

Key(s) to victory: Trojans junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw for touchdowns of 10 and 5 yards and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in an impressive 21-0 first quarter barrage, and the Men of Troy cruised to a 52-13 victory over Fresno State.

The thermometer: It was 82 degrees at kickoff in the Coliseum at kickoff.

The offensive above scoring average: The Trojans scored 52 points against Fresno State on Saturday. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans scored 45 points.

Cody connects: For the game, Trojans junior quarterback Cody Kessler threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, was 25-of-37 through the air for 394 yards, and rushed for 28 yards. Just has important, he did not throw an interception.

Defensively speaking: The Trojans defense allowed 13 points to Fresno State on Saturday. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans allowed 20 points.

Defensive evaluation: Junior All-America tackle Leonard Williams said, "We had great energy in executing what we've been working on. We stopped the run. There's a lot we still have to work on on the goal line."

Getting offensive: The Trojans had 701 yards in total offense against the Bulldogs on Saturday. The Trojans had 499 yards in total offense against Fresno State in last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas.

Whew: The Trojans established a Pac-12 record on Saturday by running 105 offensive plays.

From the trenches: On the newness and effectiveness of the inexperienced offensive line, first-year starting sophomore right tackle Zach Banner said, "It's really amazing. We have three freshmen offensive linemen and somebody new like myself and we give up no sacks. We did good up front. We still need to fix some technical errors, and when we play Stanford, they're a whole different team with different schemes."

Defense stars: Against Fresno State on Saturday, the Men of Troy allowed 317 total yards. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans allowed 253 total yards on defense.

In defense: Regarding the Trojans defensive performance, junior linebacker Anthony Sarao said, "As a first game, I thought we played pretty well. However, overall we didn't play all that well. I am looking forward to playing Stanford and getting back to smashmouth football. In these spread offenses, I hate chasing bubble screens. It's petty to me."

Below the rush: Against Fresno State on Saturday, the Trojans rushed for 277 yards. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans rushed for 154 net yards.

Rush hour: Trojans junior tailback Javorius Allen led the Trojans tailbacks with 133 yards, the fifth time "Buck" has gained at least 100 yards -- all within the last seven games.

Rushing wall: Against Fresno State on Saturday, the Men of Troy allowed 157 net yards rushing. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans defense allowed 37 yards rushing.

The Millionaire: On his thoughts after he scored his first USC touchdown on an 18-yard reception from Cody Kessler in the second quarter, freshman Adoree' Jackson said, "When I caught the ball in the end zone, it was just like I picked up a million dollars off the ground."

Passing the test: On Saturday against Fresno State, the Trojans passed for 424 yards. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans passed for 345 yards.

Fresno perspective: On the Trojans controlling the ball, Fresno State safety Derron Smith said, "We couldn't get off the field in the first half. There were a lot of times where we just couldn't make a tackle or get a stop."

Z for victory: In honor of the late Trojans Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, the Trojans wore a "Z" on the back of their helmet.

Air raid: On Saturday, the Trojans defense allowed 160 passing yards. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans allowed 216 passing yards.

The flag is up: On Saturday, the Trojans were penalized nine times for 76 yards. In last season's Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas against the Bulldogs, the Trojans were penalized 10 times for 101 yards.

Top tacklers: Senior linebacker Hayes Pullard led the Trojans defense with eight tackles followed by junior All-America tackle with seven tackles.

The meat wagon: The lone serious Trojans injury reported afterward was tight end Chris Willson (broken foot).

Sock it to me: The Trojans wore black socks against Fresno State.

Freshman flutters: Describing his emotions of playing in the Coliseum for his first college football game, freshman offensive guard Viane Talamaivao said, "To say I had birds in my stomach is an understatement. I was scared to death. Once you're in it, you become use to it."

Counting the house: Game attendance was 76,037.

The NFL draft: Pro scouts in attendance included the Lions, Panthers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Browns, and Jets.

Next game: The Trojans open the 2014 Pac-12 Conference season next Saturday at Stanford (12:30 p.m. PDT).

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 1

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
8:00
AM PT
Football is back. That means helmet stickers are back! Here’s who gets one of college football's most coveted honors for Week 1.

Kaelin Clay, KR, Utah: The Pac-12 blog is always hesitant to dole out too much praise for victories in FCS games. But Clay went above and beyond in Utah’s 56-14 win over Idaho State. He returned a punt 46 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona: Not a bad night for the new guy. He threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start (also adding 50 yards on the ground) as the Wildcats totaled a school record 787 total yards in their 58-13 win over UNLV.

Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State: This is getting to be a troubling trend. Halliday has a monster game, but the Cougs lose in the fourth quarter. Sort of how we ended last year. Still, he threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns against a Big Ten team, a 41-38 loss to Rutgers. That has to count for something.

UCLA’s defense: While the offense significantly underwhelmed, the defense kept the Bruins alive with three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter, which was ultimately the difference in their 28-20 win at Virginia. Interception returns by Ishmael Adams and Eric Kendricks, with a Randall Goforth fumble return in between, gave the Bruins a big enough lead.

Jalen Jefferson, LB, Cal: Been a while since we tapped a Cal defensive player for a helmet sticker. Feels weird. Feels good. Jefferson led all players with 16 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and a critical 11-yard sack on Northwestern’s penultimate offensive play of the game. On the final play, it was Jefferson who snagged an interception, sealing a 31-24 win. He was Eh-vre-where.

Cody Kessler, QB, USC: I know, I know. We could do three or four quarterbacks every week. And just an FYI, we probably will, because they’re that good this year. Kessler picked up where he left off against Fresno State last year and posted a career high 394 yards on 25-of-37 passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the 52-13 win over the Bulldogs.
We never know. We learn.

We have ideas of what teams will look like, and we project based on returning talent, talking with coaches, watching practices and making educated guesses. But we never really know until we see what's on the field.

We're smarter Saturday night than we were Thursday morning -- mostly. The first week of Pac-12 Football 101, which saw the league go 10-2 in nonconference play, was chock-full of intellectual goodies.

Perhaps the team that enlightened us the most was the California Bears, who snapped a 16-game losing streak to FBS teams by going into Ryan Field and notching a 31-24 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.

[+] EnlargeCal's Jalen Jefferson
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJalen Jefferson celebrates his interception that essentially sealed the game for Cal.
It's not that it was the first FBS win of the Sonny Dykes era, or that the offense looked balanced and explosive. It's the fact that they had a 31-7 lead and won 31-24. Dykes liked the idea that his team had to tip-toe through a little bit of fire to pick up the win. He watched his team evolve from soft to salty.

"I never got the feeling from one player or one coach of ‘here we go again,'" Dykes told the Pac-12 blog via telephone after the game. "The guys really believed in each other. And the reason they did is because they have worked so hard. They were prepared. And they knew someone would make a play to give us a chance to win the ball game."

As it turned out, someone made two. On Northwestern's final drive, Jalen Jefferson notched a critical sack on second-and-6 for a loss of 11 yards. On the next play, Jefferson snagged an interception that essentially closed out the game.

"It's been a long few months for us, but we're a tighter team than we were last year," Jefferson said. "A lot of those breaks we weren't getting last year, we got them. We can feel things changing for the better."

Added quarterback Jared Goff: "I think we learned about resiliency. We knew they would fight back and we didn't give up ... we learned how to finish a game."

It was educational, for sure.

We learned some things haven't changed -- at least not yet. While the Bears were protecting the fourth quarter from a Big Ten team, the Washington State Cougars were yielding the fourth quarter to another. And UCLA? Well, Brett Hundley is still getting sacked, and his offensive line still looks leaky. If not for three defensive touchdowns, the Bruins would be staring at 0-1.

We didn't learn much from the FCS games -- other than it was good to see Utah's Travis Wilson back on the field and that Oregon State seems to makes those games sketchier than they probably should be. We don't know a ton more about ASU's defense or Oregon's offense. We didn't learn much about Stanford's rushing attack. Ty Montgomery is really good. But we already knew that.

We learned USC still has the ability to hit the mute button on the outside noise. If there's one team that knows a little something about turmoil, it's the Trojans -- for what they went through last year. That's a team with scary potential.

We learned not very good is sometimes good enough. See Washington and UCLA, whose fans are crawling into bed at this moment feeling both relieved and probably a little jolted.

And the rest of the Pac-12 probably learned a little something about the Bears.

"We're capable of being pretty good, I think," Dykes said. "We have to execute better. We're good in spurts. We have to be good consistently and close people out."

Next week Cal gets FCS Sacramento State with a chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 2011. The schedule ramps up with a pair of high-profile games, including Michigan State at Oregon and USC at Stanford.

Looking forward to what we'll know by this time next Saturday.

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