Pac-12: Boise State Broncos

Here's our take on Oregon State's win over Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

It was over when: It never really got started. Oregon State dominated on both sides of the ball from bell to bell. When Oregon State went up 38-6 with eight minutes left in the third quarter, sportswriters everywhere started typing (cough, cough).

Game ball goes to: The Beavers as a whole. There really wasn't a standout player in this win -- well, other than Oregon State CB Rashaad Reynolds (see below) -- but what was notable was a team that had lost five in a row playing perhaps its most complete game of the season. While it has been a tough year for Mike Riley, the bowl performance clearly suggests he has not lost his locker room.

Key stat: Oregon State, a team that struggled to run the ball and stop the run all season, averaged 5.9 yards per carry while the Broncos averaged 4.1 yards per carry. That reveals how the Beavers owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards, Boise State 155.

Unsung hero: Reynolds returned fumbles 3 and 70 yards for touchdowns in the first half as the Beavers took charge of the game. Not sure if that qualifies as "unsung," but it was a pretty efficient way to make life easy for the Beavers.

What it means for Oregon State: It means Riley and Oregon State end 2013 with a winning record and a bowl win, as well as a team that sets up well for 2014. The Pac-12 North again won't be easy next fall, but what's coming back next August in Corvallis -- even without early NFL entries Brandin Cooks and Scott Crichton -- looks stronger than what came back last August.

What it means for Boise State: While Boise State fans will fret the first post-Chris Petersen performance, this bowl game doesn't mean much for the program. Sure, plenty of folks will be skeptical whether the Broncos can continue to be nationally relevant. But it's up to new coach Bryan Harsin and the Broncos as a whole to show the doubters it will be business as usual for the top non-AQ power. That can only happen next fall. And, by the way, the Broncos have a lot coming back.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, click here.
For about 20 minutes of Chris Petersen’s introductory press conference, the new Washington head coach beamed with confidence, magnetism and charisma. He looked and sounded the part. And if I’m a recruit on the fence, there’s a sense that this is a guy I want to play for.

He was passionate in his answers and seemed prepared to tackle any and all questions thrown at him.

Except this one: Are you going to beat Oregon?

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenChris Petersen takes over at Washington after Steve Sarkisian was hired at USC.
And for the slightest tick on Monday, there was an uncomfortable shift in body language.

“Do we have to start that already?” he quipped to an amused crowd.

Then he paused for about five seconds and offered this: “We’ll be playing hard.”

It might not be the answer diehards had hoped for. After all, 10 straight losses to the Ducks has left even the staunchest of supporters feeling frustrated at the state of the program -- despite its recent trips to the postseason and ascension up the Pac-12 North pecking order.

Then again, what’s he supposed to say? “Hells yeah!” (Of course not, but how cool would that have been?)

But that is the reality of the situation he’s walking into. Washington is a team that is built to win immediately. In some ways, Petersen’s task is tougher than his predecessor’s. Steve Sarkisian took an 0-12 program and built it into a respectable player in the Pac-12 North -- though he was never able to get his team into the elite ranks of the league. For Petersen, there will be no honeymoon. He carries a burden of expectation that Sarkisian failed to meet in his final season.

Petersen’s credentials -- which include two Bear Bryant Coach of the Year awards and a 92-12 record in eight seasons at Boise State -- are nearly flawless.

Though one of those losses came this year in the same stadium he’ll now call home. The Huskies handed Petersen the worst loss of his career, a 38-6 thumping in the season opener. That, he said, was very much on his mind when he decided to accept the Washington job.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m here. I mean that,” Petersen said. “When you walked into this stadium, this beautiful environment, there’s not a better one in college football. And when you pack it with these passionate people in purple, holy smokes. I was very, very irritated to tell you the truth.

“But deep down I really liked it. Cause that’s what college football should be all about. … At the end of the day, I can’t wait to win a game in this stadium.”

Petersen laid out his recruiting approach. He smoothly dismissed questions about the makeup of the coaching staff -- which he said hopefully will be finalized within about a week.

He also addressed what role he’ll play as the Huskies prepare to face BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27 against BYU.

“I certainly will be around for some of the practices,” he said. “I don’t want to be that dark shadow looming over them. These guys have done a great job this season. And I understand as well as anyone how tough it is on these kids, what they’ve been through the last week and a half, to lose their coach. That’s not easy. That’s not fun for anybody. I want to be around here for help and support.

“But this is their team. They need to finish this season off right. And anything I can help them with. But I’m not here to coach this game. Once that is over we’ll jump in and we’ll start to get after it. But I’m really hopeful they go out and play well.”
It’s clear that Petersen knows what he’s getting himself into. He knows that an entire season simply doesn’t boil down to games against Fresno State or Nevada -- depending on the year. But that every week in the nine-game Pac-12 is going to be a grind.

In their first official news conference, a lot of coaches talk about winning conference championships and national championships. Petersen didn’t do that. Instead he talked about the process. And he believes the process that worked in Boise will work in Seattle.

And if it does, beating Oregon won’t be a question. It will simply take care of itself.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

December, 8, 2013
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Boise State Broncos (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (6-6)

Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, Honolulu (ESPN)

BOISE STATE BRONCOS BREAKDOWN
[+] EnlargeGrant Hedrick
AP Photo/Otto KitsingerGrant Hedrick took over at quarterback for the Broncos after Joe Southwick was injured.
The Broncos enter the bowl season for the first time in eight years without coach Chris Petersen, who accepted the head coaching job at Washington earlier in the week. It’s also the first time in three years they aren’t in the Las Vegas Bowl. Linebackers coach Bob Gregory will coach Boise State in Hawaii.

It’s been an off year for Boise, which has dropped four games in a season for the first time since 2005. After Joe Southwick broke his ankle against Nevada, Grant Hedrick stepped in as the starter and has been efficient, completing 68.2 percent of his throws with 15 touchdowns to five interceptions.

The Broncos have won their past four bowl appearances -- including the 2009 Fiesta Bowl and all three stops in Vegas. -- Kevin Gemmell

vs.
OREGON STATE BEAVERS BREAKDOWN
The Beavers limped to the finish line with five straight losses, but they have a chance to end the season on a good note in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against Boise State.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion and Cody Vaz
AP Photo/Don RyanSean Mannion is piloting the nation's third-best passing attack.
Quarterback Sean Mannion ranks No. 2 in the nation with 4,403 yards passing and is paired with receiver Brandin Cooks to become one of the nation’s most dangerous combinations. Cooks caught 15 touchdown passes and leads the nation with 1,670 receiving yards.

After losing the season opener against FCS opponent Eastern Washington, Oregon State rebounded to win six straight, but did not beat a team that finished with a winning record. The Beavers nearly upset Oregon in the Civil War, but the Ducks scored with 29 seconds left to win 36-35.

Without longtime coach Chris Petersen, who left to replace Steve Sarkisian at Washington, the Broncos will be led by interim coach Bob Gregory. The teams met five times from 2003 to 2010, with Boise State winning three, including the last two.

Mannion and Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick have been competing against each other dating back to their high school days in the Bay Area, where they were in the same league. It’s unclear if Southwick or Grant Hedrick will start the bowl game as Southwick continues to come back from a broken ankle.

Oregon State’s last bowl win came in the 2008 Sun Bowl against Pittsburgh. -- Kyle Bonagura

Why Petersen finally left Boise State

December, 6, 2013
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Chris Petersen did what few thought anyone would ever do at Boise State. Not only did he take the Broncos to two BCS bowls and win nearly nine of every 10 games he coached, he stayed for eight seasons. Petersen ended that era Thursday night, signing a term sheet to become coach of the Washington Huskies.

Under Petersen, Boise State became a household name in college football. Yet he resisted the urge to climb to the next rung. Instead, he took his program to unprecedented heights. Even with this season's 8-4 record, the first year that Petersen failed to win 10 games with the Broncos, his record is 92-12 (.885). That ranks first among FBS head coaches with at least five years on the sidelines.

If Petersen never won another game, he will be glorified in the history of the game for leading Boise State to victories in the Fiesta Bowl in the 2006 and 2009 seasons.

To read more, click here.

Petersen will be challenged in Pac-12

December, 6, 2013
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Major narratives in college football change quickly. Just as the midseason hyperventilating surrounding the BCS title game typically sounds nothing like the end-of-season hyperventilating about the BCS title game, so do narratives almost immediately evolve on coaching changes.

Washington formally announced the hiring of Chris Petersen away from Boise State on Friday, answering one of the major annual questions in college football: Will Chris Petersen ever leave Boise?

[+] EnlargePetersen
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsChris Petersen won 92 games in eight years at Boise State.
The hiring, rightfully, will be widely celebrated, particularly among those wearing Huskies purple.

With a list of big-name targets after Steve Sarkisian opted to bolt for USC on Monday, athletic director Scott Woodward moved quickly and decisively. He checked in with UCLA coach Jim Mora, who thought seriously about the job before re-upping with the Bruins. Rumors briefly flew over Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, a Don James disciple. Then two names emerged: Petersen and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who worked under Sarkisian from 2009 to 2011.

Both would be good hires, but Petersen is the big fish, the guy who spurned many previous overtures because he liked living and coaching in Boise. He has won five conference titles and two BCS bowls while winning 88 percent of his games (92-12) over eight years with the Broncos.

This hiring will create immediate buzz across the country. Huskies fans, many of whom were growing impatient with Sarkisian not challenging Oregon and Stanford in the Pac-12 North Division, probably view themselves as being in a better place today than they were just after finishing the regular season 8-4. They would like to thank USC for poaching their former coach, as well as apparently passing on Petersen in favor of Sarkisian.

But that narrative will shortly shift as well. Words, spin and column inches celebrating Petersen's arrival will eventually give way to actual games. While Petersen is a great hire on paper, he is not a certainty. This is new territory for him. Coaching Boise State in the WAC and then the Mountain West is not the same thing as coaching the Huskies in the Pac-12.

For one, he will no longer be primarily recruiting proverbial diamonds in the rough who are overlooked by major powers and then taking time to develop them. He now must go after elite players who have offers from USC, Stanford, Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama. It's a different type of recruiting with different challenges and different potential pratfalls.

Of course, the biggest difference will be the schedule.

At Boise State, Petersen built a national power by gaining nationwide attention on a near-annual basis with an early-season victory over a marquee AQ conference foe -- Georgia, Oregon, Virginia Tech, etc. -- then running the table through a weak conference. It was a nice formula for non-AQ success, and the magical win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season gave the Broncos national credibility that trickled down through the years.

While there were plenty of naysayers, Boise State earned a spot at the adult table. The general feeling was an undefeated Boise State deserved a shot at the big boys, even if it never was invited to the championship game.

Much deserved credit for that goes to Petersen, who reached many short lists of the nation's best coaches, alongside guys named Nick Saban, Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer.

Petersen, however, will need a new formula in the Pac-12. There are no Wyomings, New Mexicos or Colorado States in his new conference, which is as deep in quality players, coaches and teams as it has ever been.

He has never coached a team that faced a Pac-12 grind of nine conference games. He's never led a team through a back-to-back-to-back slate of Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State, as the Huskies did during a midseason three-game losing streak that turned fans sour.

We know Petersen, 49, is smart. We know he's an offensive innovator. He is the only two-time winner of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award as national coach of the year. He seems to be good at evaluating talent, both with players and assistant coaches.

Nonetheless, we don't know for sure if he has the coaching chops to consistently win at this level. Or win big enough to make himself the long-term answer at Washington, though it's perfectly reasonable to believe he will be. Just recall how things went for the former Boise State head coaches who preceded Petersen in bolting for AQ jobs, Dirk Koetter to Arizona State and Dan Hawkins to Colorado. At the time, both were widely viewed as fantastic hires. Neither succeeded.

To be fair, the only sure things in college football right now are Saban and Meyer.

Speaking of assistant coaches, Petersen's first big recruiting job will be persuading defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to stick around. Wilcox could follow Sarkisian to USC, though his contracted $1 million buyout is pricey, even for the Trojans, or he might end up a head-coaching candidate, starting with the place Petersen just left.

Wilcox was Petersen's defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009. They could prove a powerful tandem in Montlake.

There also is a not unreasonable Pollyanna side to this. Maybe when Petersen gets an A-list program with A-list facilities and A-list revenue he becomes an even better coach? Maybe he becomes Washington's Nick Saban.

Or maybe he becomes the second coming of Don James.

Washington hires Chris Petersen

December, 6, 2013
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Boise State's Chris Petersen was named coach at Washington on Friday.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed in Washington's news release announcing the hire, but according to ESPN sources the contract will make Petersen one of the highest-paid coaches in the Pac-12.

"Coach Petersen's success and record are extraordinary, but even more impressive is the man himself," Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said in the statement. "His integrity, work ethic and character make him an outstanding fit and leader of our student-athletes at UW. We are thrilled and proud to call Coach Petersen a Husky."

Petersen met Thursday night with Woodward and senior associate AD Jennifer Cohen in Boise and signed an agreement on terms, ESPN sources said.

Petersen, 49, felt ready to leave because, according to a source, the timing was right for professional and family reasons and because he felt Washington was the right fit.

Petersen has been connected to various openings over the past few years, including those at USC, UCLA and Stanford, but felt this was the best match. The California native has also worked in Idaho and Oregon and recruited those states as well as Washington.

The Huskies zeroed in on Petersen from the outset.

Once Woodward set quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo in place as interim coach, he turned his attention toward Petersen. A representative of Petersen's said the meeting Thursday night in Boise was "not an interview."

"Representatives from both sides spent all day Thursday working out the agreement," the source said.

To continue reading, click here.
Washington had a singular, overriding goal entering the opening weekend of the season: Win. Beat Boise State. Walk out of renovated Husky Stadium at 1-0.

So mission accomplished.

But 1-0 is not all the Huskies got out of that 38-6 victory.

For one, there's winning and then there's delivering the sort of whipping that really good teams do to pretty good teams to make a national statement. We don't know yet how good the Broncos are, but the Huskies stomped the nation's No. 19 team like you'd expect, say, LSU to take care of business. The Huskies recorded plenty of style points on both sides of the ball.

Keith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe season opener against Boise State was more than just a victory for Keith Price and Washington.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins also sat out because he was suspended for an offseason DUI. Winning the way the Huskies did without him is a positive on several levels. First, it shows that the offense can roll up nearly 600 yards without the nation's best tight end. That speaks to the number of weapons the Huskies offense has. The biggest revelation in the game might have been the depth and talent of the Huskies receivers even after Kasen Williams.

Further, and beyond Xs and Os, coach Steve Sarkisian was able to score a point for his discipline. There was plenty of thinking that ASJ would play -- Kevin and I have debated it for weeks, with me predicting he would play (and, as Kevin quickly pointed out via text, me being wrong, wrong, wrong). That means no media snark putting an asterisk on the win for a lack of accountability.

And, in a more Machiavellian coaching sense, let's not forgot that ASJ gets to rest his surgically repaired pinkie for two more weeks before going to Chicago to play Illinois, as the Huskies are off this week. That, quietly, is a big deal.

This off week also feels fortuitous.

A lot was put into this game by the Huskies. Even though Sarkisian and his players relentlessly beat the drum of "it's just one game," the reason they relentlessly beat that drum is because few saw it that way. This game was a grand opening of not only a stadium, it also was the "hello world" moment for what Sarkisian has repeatedly described as his best team. A face plant would have substantially lowered Sark and the program's Q-rating. It also, by the way, would have devalued whatever the Huskies might have accomplished thereafter -- taking the perception of the Pac-12 down with it -- because a loss to a non-AQ team has a lingering transitive effect that's hard to shake.

What does that mean? Well, did you ever bring up Georgia's loss to Boise State to open 2011 as a way to diminish the SEC? But of course we, er, you did.

So the off week means the Huskies can enjoy the game tape, put ice on some bumps and bruises and not worry about the proverbial "let-down game" a week later. They get extra time to get ASJ back into the swing of things. They get extra time to refocus.

The eventual quality of their refocusing is the next test. The Huskies take on a struggling Illinois team -- the Illini barely slipped by Southern Illinois on Saturday -- at Soldier Field on Sept. 14. While the Huskies get extra time to rest and game-plan this weekend, Illinois will have its hands full with a tough Cincinnati squad on Saturday.

Still, Washington has not been good on the road of late. They are 3-8 the past two seasons away from Seattle, and among those defeats are plenty of flat performances. If Washington approaches the efficiency and focus it showed in the win over Boise State, it rolls by two or more touchdowns. But if it just goes through the motions and gets upset, the entire positive narrative of the Boise State victory could reverse course in an equally negative way.

Part of the challenge of being a good college football team is being good every week. It's about not settling. It's not about pining for eight wins. Heck, it's not really about victory totals and postseason rewards.

It's about an obsessive focus on every moment of preparation and game-day execution. It's about "winning the day," but we won't type that because the phrase has been taken.

Washington showed everyone Saturday what it can be this fall. The performance produced credible grounds for optimism. But it also raised a bar over which the Huskies now must consistently leap over. Or end up wondering what might have been. Again.

Price, Huskies dominate Boise State

September, 1, 2013
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SEATTLE -- The first game of a college football season is not a destination. It's only the initial part of the journey, and often it is not terribly indicative of how things might play out over the course of the next three months. The euphoria of a big opening day win can disappear in the mire of a midseason slump. A disappointing loss can become a touchstone for a special season.

So it's probably unwise to write heroic couplets about Washington's dominant 38-6 victory over No. 19 Boise State and draw epic conclusions about the state of the program as it opens a fancy remodeled Husky Stadium, which is freaking spectacular. Yes, the Huskies dominated a ranked team on both sides of the ball. Yes, it seems meaningful that Washington QB Keith Price had a brilliant game. But the Huskies have flirted with a return to national relevance before, only to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle just as folks were raising an inquisitive eyebrow.

"One game doesn't define us," Price said. "I know we have a long way to go. It's a long season."

And yet this was a really impressive performance in front of 71,963 fans who made Husky Stadium quake like it did during the good old days.

You have to start with Price. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 324 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, which gave him 56 for his career -- a new school record, eclipsing Cody Pickett. He also rushed for 25 yards. His efficiency rating of 176.8 would have led the nation in 2012.

Yet the best part of his performance might be that all that happened after a miserable start. Price threw an interception on his first pass of the game. You could almost hear the collective, "Oh, no, not again," in the stadium.

"I threw a bad ball -- no excuse," Price said. "But I told myself I wasn't going to get down and I'm going to lead my team. Nobody was really tripping on the sideline."

The Huskies' offense, in fact, didn't really start churning until the second half. Going into the locker room at halftime, it was only 10-3, with both offenses regretting wasted opportunities.

But things turned Washington's way quickly in the third. Price hit Kasen Williams for a 38-yard gain. Then he hit him again for a 19-yard touchdown and a 17-6 lead on the next play. Price, masterly running a new, up-tempo offense, ended the Huskies' next possession with an 18-yard strike to reserve tight end Joshua Perkins for a 24-6 advantage.

Perkins likely was the target there because All-America tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was out, suspended due to an offseason DUI. Perkins was one of seven players who caught passes from Price, with Jaydon Mickens leading the charge with nine receptions for 109 yards.

With running back Bishop Sankey producing 161 of the Huskies' 268 rushing yards, it's pretty clear this offense has plenty of weapons, even with its biggest one sitting out.

"It was awesome to see other guys stepping up," Price said. "Once [Seferian-Jenkins] gets back, it's going to be kind of scary."

Coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game Seferian-Jenkins will return for the Huskies' Sept. 14 game at Illinois.

But the Huskies didn't provide Boise State its worst defeat since 2005 only because of the offense. The Washington defense holding the Broncos to their lowest point total since 1997 (a 58-0 loss to Washington State) is pretty meaningful, too. The Broncos only gained 3.9 yards per play. Their longest running play was 18 yards. Their longest passing play was 16 yards.

"We kept the ball in front of us," Sarkisian said about the Broncos' lack of big plays.

For a while, it was bend-but-don't-break. By the end, it was something more physically impressive.

"They dominated us in all phases," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.

Still, the story has to be Price, who began spring practices with an implicit threat that his starting job was up for grabs. That, Price said, was all the motivation he needed. A guy known for his easy smile -- his nickname is "Teeth" -- and mellow ways decided to get a little angry.

"I had a chip on my shoulder. I still do," he said. "I had a lot to prove to myself and a lot to prove to you guys. I know I've still got a long way to go."

Price was sacked 38 times last year, which ranked 102nd in the nation. He was sacked only once by the Broncos. Price having time to throw was a big reason the Huskies were 11-of-15 on third down.

"It was good running around and getting back to the old me," Price said.

Washington fans probably felt the same about the entire team, which ran around looking like the old Huskies -- the 1980s, early-1990s versions.

No, one game doesn't make a season. But if an opening game can be allowed to at least suggest something, this one hinted that Washington might make some noise this season.

Video: QB Price on UW win

September, 1, 2013
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Washington opened remodeled Husky Stadium with a dominant performance, and QB Keith Price was a big reason why.

Video: Washington LB Shaq Thompson

September, 1, 2013
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Washington LB Shaq Thompson talks about the Huskies' 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State.


SEATTLE -- Washington opened Husky Stadium in style with an impressive 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State.

It was over when: Bishop Sankey's 23-yard run gave Washington a 31-6 lead with 10:45 remaining. It seemed clear at that point the Broncos were out of gas on both sides of the ball.

Game ball goes to: The big question before the game was if Huskies QB Keith Price would be back to form. Well, if this game was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 324 yards and 2 TDs. He also rushed for 25 yards. He threw an interception on the second play of the game but was pretty much flawless thereafter.

What Washington learned: While it's premature to go all "Huskies are back, baby!" this was a dominant win against a ranked foe, with the Huskies showing up on both sides of the ball. If this is a standard performance for Price, this not only is a top-25 team, but it might make some noise in the Pac-12's North Division.

What Boise State learned: With just 10 starters back, is it possible that Boise State -- finally -- is rebuilding rather than reloading? Of course, losing at Washington, which might be a pretty good team, won't prevent the Broncos from rolling through the Mountain West Conference. But wins over AQ conference teams give the Broncos national credibility, and that might be lacking this fall.

What it means: Washington will replace Oregon State, which lost to Eastern Washington on Saturday, in the national ranking. The Huskies have a bye before visiting Illinois on Sept. 14.


Video: Boise State-Washington pregame

August, 31, 2013
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Ted Miller sets the scene for Boise State-Washington from the renovated Husky Stadium.
Welcome to the mailbag.

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To the notes!

Mark from Boise, Idaho, writes: Is it just me or is everyone doubting Boise in its opener vs UW? Who wants to bet against Coach Pete given time to prepare etc? I understand it will be a very hostile environment, I was there in 07 when Boise lost, and it still stands as the loudest stadium I've been in. But this Boise team should be vastly improved offensively from last year.

Ted Miller: It does seem like most folks, including Las Vegas, which has Washington as a 3 1/2-point favorite, are picking the Huskies over Boise State, even though the Broncos: 1. Beat Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl to end the 2012 season; 2. Are ranked 19th in the AP poll; 3. And, well, are a Chris Petersen coached Boise State team.

Why?

The first is this: Boise State only welcomes back nine position player starters from the team that nipped the Huskies in a tight bowl game, while Washington welcomes back 18. That would suggest the Huskies should be taking a step forward from the team they were in 2012, while the Broncos might take a step back.

Then there's home-field advantage, which is significant in Husky Stadium in any event, but is even more pronounced because it's the first game after a massive renovation. The atmosphere will be frenzied.

So both Kevin and I are picking Washington to win.

Yet, as noted, Boise State is Boise State and Petersen is one of the best coaches in the nation. I don't think many folks who are picking the Huskies to win would be shocked if they didn't.

Mike from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: Ted, After such a lackluster performance by USC's offense do you feel they will be a contender for the South?

Ted Miller: Yes. I think it is too early to write off the Trojans. Season-opening games, particularly games on the road, are often not terribly revealing. Recall what we first thought of Chip Kelly when his Ducks got dominated at Boise State in 2009.

That said, my estimation of the Trojans certainly didn't go up based on what happened against Hawaii. While the defense looked good in the first iteration of Clancy Pendergast's new scheme, the offense meandered. The line was underwhelming, and the QB situation is no less murky. Further, we didn't see new and improved -- and inspired! -- play-calling from Lane Kiffin.

Still, the performances of Cody Kessler and Max Wittek in some ways validated Kiffin not naming a starter sooner -- neither showed why he should be the guy. In fairness to Kessler, it was his first college football game.

I think we'll get a far better measure of the Trojans -- and their QBs -- next weekend when Washington State comes to the Coliseum. It's a conference game against what figures to be an improved Cougars team.

Moving ahead, the Trojans should be 4-0 when the go to Arizona State for a key South Division matchup. If they aren't, and they then lose to the Sun Devils, it might be time to stick a fork in them even before the calendar flips into October.

Jeff from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: What was the best aspect of Utah's game last night? What was the worst? What could most easily be improved upon?

Ted Miller: The best aspect was winning. Utah State was 11-2 last year. The Aggies and QB Chucky Keeton are nobody's patsy.

But as far as specifically encouraging things, you'd have to start with the play of quarterback Travis Wilson. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 302 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Further, he seemed to keep his poise when things weren't going the Utes way.

Andy Phillips' kicking was also pretty darn good. His three field goals made the difference.

The worst? The defense and the lack of a consistent running game -- see being forced to kick a field goal after having a first-and-goal on the Aggies 3-yard line in the fourth quarter.

We should probably toss in the season-ending injury to receiver Kenneth Scott. The Utes aren't deep at the position, so that's a longterm issue.

Easily improved? Nothing is easy to improve, but you'd think the young secondary will get better. This was a tough first test for them and they struggled. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes because things won't get any easier when Pac-12 play begins.

Brian from Denver writes: Loved that Ole Miss-Vandy game. Can't recall the PAC10/12 ever starting the season with a conference game, but I wish they would throw one game in each of the first few weeks. Is there a reason they don't? Ted, it's your job to have an opinion about things like this. Will you share your thoughts?

Ted Miller: It used to be not terribly rare, in fact. I started to go through each Pac-10/12 team and immediately hit Arizona-Oregon in 1997. Then I found a bunch for Arizona State in the 1990s and decided that was enough proof, the last in 1998.

There also have been plenty of times Pac-12/10 teams have played in the second week, including the aforementioned USC-Washington State game on Sept. 7.

As for a reason why you don't see a lot of conference games on the opening or even second weekend is because coaches would prefer to have their early-season kinks worked out in nonconference games, which don't affect the conference standings. Further, athletic directors don't like them because a lot of Pac-12 schools aren't in class the first weekend, so you'd risk a lackluster showing in the student section.

Not a Husky from Seattle writes: Which conference team(s) do you think has the most upside this season? Looking at where things stood for say the Beavs and Cougs on the cusp of last season, I wouldn't have predicted either of those two outcomes. I had them switched. If there is any team that could dramatically exceed or fall short of this year's expectations, which would they be?

Ted Miller: I think Arizona is a team that could significantly exceed expectations. The Wildcats have a favorable schedule and seem likely to improve on defense. The only real question is quarterback play. If that's at least solid, the Wildcats could win eight or nine games.

On the potential downside, I see the three South Division favorites: Arizona State, UCLA and USC. There are plenty of reasons to like all three, but also potential questions. And all three won't finish the season happy.

For one with the Bruins: QB Brett Hundley likes to run. What if he gets hurt? After T.J. Millweard opted to transfer, his backup is Jerry Neuheisel, who didn't have a great preseason camp.

We saw that USC is hardly a certainty Thursday night. And Arizona State needs to prove it can win against good teams.

Dan from Denver writes: Hey Ted, Disclosure: this is a nitpicky question relating to a prediction the PAC-12 blog made for the 2011 season, but bear with me. Perhaps you'll be happy with this evidence of PAC-12 blog devotion. Anyway, in 2011, former OC David Shaw was starting his first year as HC at Stanford. Though he was following up arguably the best coach in school history, he had lots of returning talent and the conference's best QB. The PAC-12 blog placed the Cardinal at the top of the conference. Isn't Helfrich inheriting a similar situation this year? Isn't giving the nod to Stanford this year just a reflection of home field advantage, which has been shown to be tenuous the last two seasons? Maybe I'm just getting my ducky feelings hurt but I think Oregon isn't getting enough respect, especially considering what we know they can do to Stanford's defense if they're at the top of their game.

Ted Miller: We most certainly did not!

Seeeeee!

Got to admit you had me worried there.

Yes, both Kevin and I picked Stanford to win the Pac-12 this year. Still, both of us have said it was essentially a toss-up, with the unknowns of a coaching change being a factor you must acknowledge.

But keep in mind Oregon was picked by the Pac-12 media and is ranked ahead of Stanford -- No. 3 versus No. 4 -- in the AP and coaches poll.

And, as for disrespect, the Ducks’ No. 3 preseason ranking matches the program’s highest (2011) to start a season.

Mike from Denver writes: Wow, what a joke of a blog. Did you even watch the CSU/cu game last year? The Rams DOMINATED the second half of that game on both sides of the ball. It wasn't even close. And the Rams HAD the lead through the 3rd quarter and MOST of the 4th. Jesus stop making stuff up. It is embarrassing.

Ted Miller: Yes, I watched the game. No, I'm not embarrassed. It is factually incorrect to say that a 22-17 game "wasn't even close."

The offending passage for Mike likely is this
As for Colorado, it's pretty simple. If the Buffaloes had made plays in the fourth quarter of a game [against Colorado State] they seemed poised to take control of, it's possible that Jon Embree would still be the head coach, not Mike MacIntyre.

So, what's the source of the phrase "seemed poised to take control of"?

It's nothing less than... the game's play-by-play!

On the final play of the third quarter, Colorado linebacker Derrick Webb sacked Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, forcing the Rams to punt from their own 17-yard line. Marques Moseley returned that punt 24 yards to the Rams 35-yard line.

The Buffaloes drive stalled at the Rams 13, and Will Oliver kicked a 30-yard field goal. Colorado jumped ahead 17-16 to start the fourth quarter.

So "poised to take control of" is a pretty fair description of the situation, as is noting that the Buffaloes didn't win because they didn't make plays in the fourth quarter, such as that final drive that ended on the Rams 39-yard line.

Video: Pac-12 game of the week

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
3:00
PM ET

Washington wants to open renovated Husky Stadium with a strong showing against Boise State, and it will be interesting to see how the defense looks in year two under coordinator Justin Wilcox.

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