Monday, September 3, 2012
Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the first week of games in the Pac-12.
Team(s) of the week: USC and Oregon did nothing to dispel the notion they are the class of the conference and are headed toward an epic clash on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles. Both teams pounded lesser foes, while a number of teams trying to challenge them -- Stanford, Washington and California -- didn't look ready for prime time. Further, both looked strong on both sides of the ball.
USC receiver Marqise Lee stole the show against Hawaii on Saturday.
Best game: Arizona gave the conference its lone, true nail-biter of the week. QB Matt Scott threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Miller in overtime to give the Wildcats a 24-17 victory over Toledo in Rich Rodriguez's coaching debut. Scott bailed out kicker John Bonano, who missed a 25-yard field goal as regulation ended after failing on a 24-yard attempt earlier in the game.
Biggest play: We'll give you two from the same guy. USC WR Marqise Lee took the very first play of USC's game with Hawaii 75 yards for a score. He later dashed 100 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return.
Offensive standout: Scott seems like a good fit for Rodriguez's offense, just as most expected. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 387 yards and two scores and also rushed 14 times for 74 yards in the win against Toledo.
Defensive standout: Stanford CB Usua Amanam, a converted running back, recorded six tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the Cardinal's win over San Jose State.
Special-teams standout: Hard to overlook Lee's 100-yard kickoff return. The truth is it wasn't a very good weekend for special teams, with lapses all over the conference.
Smiley face: Well, is there anyone who doubts Oregon's redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota now? Yes, it was a home game against an overmatched Arkansas State team, but Mariota looked completely in control during the brief time he played. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 200 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. He also rushed for 24 yards. It was the ninth most efficient performance on the opening weekend.
Frowny face: Cal! Cal, Cal, Cal! DRRRRRRRRR. That 31-24 loss to Nevada was bad period, but losing on the very day you celebrate the opening of your $321 million renovated stadium? Yuck. Nevada has now swept a home-and-home series with the Bears, and the only conclusion is the Wolf Pack is just better. After all, they outgained Cal 450 yards to 365 and converted 11 of 20 third-down plays compared to 3-of-14 for Cal. Oh, and the Bears' piddling run game likely won't get better if OT Matt Summers-Gavin is injured. Recall the Pac-12 blog writing about solid upset hopes for the Bears at Ohio State on Sept. 15? The Pac-12 blog wishes that stricken from the record. Consider this from Jeff Faraudo of the Contra Costa Times: "[Nevada QB Cody] Fajardo torched the Bears for 327 yards rushing and passing. Uh-oh ... in two weeks, Cal faces Ohio State and QB Braxton Miller, who had 368 combined yards vs. Miami-Ohio."
Thought of the week: Arizona State's 30 penalty yards versus Northern Arizona were the fewest it has posted since recording just 27 versus Arizona on Dec. 1, 2007, a span of the past 51 games. New coach Todd Graham talked about discipline and he delivered in the first game. Sure, it's against an FCS team and not a very good one at that, but since his controversial hiring, Graham continues to give off a positive impression. Now let's see what he can do the next two weeks against Illinois on Saturday and at Missouri on Sept. 15. Oh, and did anybody see that Pittsburgh-Youngstown State score? Just wondering how the post-Graham era started for the Panthers.
Questions for the week: The Pac-12 went 8-3 against a weak opening slate, with California, Colorado and Washington State losing and Arizona, Stanford and Washington playing tight games with what should have been overmatched foes. It was not an impressive opening weekend for the most part. Now the competition amps up considerably, with matchups with the SEC (Washington at LSU), Big 12 (Oklahoma State at Arizona), Big Ten (Illinois at Arizona State, Nebraska at UCLA, Wisconsin at Oregon State) and ACC (Duke at Stanford) and Big East (USC vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J.). The Pac-12 will be underdogs in four of those games. Is anyone capable of pulling an upset? And will the favorites all hold serve?