Monday, September 12, 2011
Pac-12 rewind and look ahead
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the second week of games and looking ahead to Week 3.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler and Arizona State won a thriller against Missouri.
Team of the week: Arizona State announced its return to relevancy -- and the national polls -- with a 37-30 win aganst Missouri. Sure, it was sloppy, and the Sun Devils nearly blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, but that was the sort of game that was a near-miss, not a win over the previous two seasons.
Best game: While the Sun Devils produced a thriller, it was ruined by 23 combined penalties with the Tigers. Utah's visit to USC was played at a high level throughout and lived up to its backdrop as the first-ever Pac-12 game (again, Colorado and California fans who didn't read any of the the 12,237 mentions that their game wasn't conference game: Your game wasn't a conference game; it didn't count in the standings). USC's 23-14 victory even featured a thrilling -- thrilling -- final score controversy.
Biggest play: Utah could have forced overtime at USC, but kicker Coleman Petersen's 41-yard field goal attempt was low and was easily blocked by Matt Kalil. Torin Harris returned the block for a TD, which accounts for the deceiving final margin.
Offensive standout: Wow. So many big numbers this weekend it's hard to single out one player. But one Pac-12 team beat a ranked nonconference foe, so we're going with Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards with three TDs and no interceptions and also rushed five times for 34 yards and a score. The number of Osweiler doubters has been greatly reduced.
Defensive standout: The many big offensive performances obscured a brilliant defensive one by Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas, who got screwed out of a helmet sticker. Duke couldn't handle Thomas, who recorded 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble against the Blue Devils
Special teams standout: Colorado was concerned about its kicking during the preseason, but Will Oliver has answered those concerned. In the overtime loss to California, he was 4 for 4 on field goals, with a long of 52 yards, and 3 for 3 on PATs. He accounted for 15 of the Buffs 33 points. He's yet to miss a kick in two games.
Smiley face: USC, California and Arizona State have found ways to lose games they should have won of late, but all three found ways to win tight games over the weekend.
Frowny face: Arizona and Oregon State both lost on the road to very good teams, but neither distinguished itself with a competitive effort.
Thought of the week: If the quarterback play continues at the present pace, who wins first- and second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback? Consider the pecking order here before you answer.
Questions for the week: Can the Pac-12 make big statements on the road? Four conference teams face tough road matchups Saturday. Arizona State is at Illinois, trying to avoid a letdown game. Utah visits rival BYU in a contest that might be even nastier than before for the former Mountain West Conference members. Washington plays Nebraska for the third time in a year, this time with the Cornhuskers wanting revenge. And Washington State plays at a tough San Diego State squad looking for a 3-0 start.