Teams that tanked: Cougs, Buffs and Bears

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
1:00
PM ET
It was not an impressive first weekend for the Pac-12.

Sure, USC and Oregon fans are sitting pretty, satiated on the wide range of talents their teams put on display Saturday. And eight of the 11 teams that played the opening weekend won. A win is a win.

Though, of course, we know that not completely to be true.

Arizona State fans feel much better about their victory over an overmatched foe than Stanford fans do with theirs. Washington fans are probably less confident of the Huskies' upset hopes at LSU on Saturday after watching their team get statistically matched by San Diego State.

But Stanford and Washington fans certainly feel better than those of Washington State, California and Colorado. Those are the three that tanked. They entered the first weekend of the season with high hopes but then they face-planted.

Washington State, it must be remembered, was nearly a two touchdown underdog at BYU. And the Cougars of Provo looked like a Top-25 team. Still, WSU fans were hopeful that the positive momentum of the Mike Leach hiring would propel them to an upset. Or, at least, a respectable performance. Didn't happen. And the Cougars of Provo covered big in a 30-6 victory.

The numbers were bad: No touchdowns, for one. BYU outgained WSU 426 yards to 224 yards. The Cougs rushed for minus-5 yards; 224 yards used to be an average half for Leach's passing offense at Texas Tech.

And, perhaps most concerning, was the feeling-sorry-for-ourselves looks the WSU players had on the sideline, as noted by Leach.

Still, it's possible that Cal and Colorado fans feel worse. They both lost as favorites. Cal was opening up its fancy remodeled stadium. Colorado was trying to keep in check a sorta-rival that has generated offseason buzz by hiring Jim McElwain away from Alabama.

Upsets happen. And there are many kinds. The best kind are the worst kind. Your team just implodes in a flurry of turnovers and penalties. It plays its worst. Those are the best kind of upsets to suffer because you can correct mistakes.

The worst kind are simple: Your team gets physically whipped at the line of scrimmage by a team that wasn't supposed to do that. The underdog either proves superior or it just wants it more. Either is a terrible thing to entertain.

Nevada shouldn't outgain California 450 yards to 365 as a visiting team. It shouldn't outrush the Bears 220 yards to 110. What that simply means is the Wolf Pack won the battle up front. And that's the worst thing that can happen to a team.

Same goes for Colorado. It was outgained 298 yards to 245 but, most notably, outrushed 125 yards to 58.

Fifty-eight! The Buffs, trying to become a physical team as they were during the program's heyday, rushed for 2.0 yards per carry. Yuck.

Ergo, McElwain, taking over one of three teams the Buffs beat last year, became the first Colorado State coach to win his debut in 42 years.

So, yeah, Cougs, Bears and Buffs, you guys should feel bad. You didn't just lose. You lost ugly.

The only good news we have for you is a not surprising sports platitude: One game doesn't make a season, one way or another. Heck, the year Colorado won the national title, splitting it with Georgia Tech in 1990, the Buffaloes opened 1-1-1.

Florida State lost its 1988 opener 31-0 to Miami but finished 11-1 and won the Sugar Bowl. It lost its first two games in 1989, to Southern Miss and Clemson, but then won 10 in a row and beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

Again, one game doesn't make a season.

That said, 107 FBS teams started their seasons with optimism last week. Half of them are now less optimistic, some significantly so.

And Cal, Colorado and Washington State fall in that latter group.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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