Pac-12: Washington Huskies

Oregon remains at No. 2; USC drops

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
3:01
PM ET
video
Oregon strengthened its hold on the No. 2 spot in the fourth AP poll of the season, but the Pac-12 is without two top-10 teams for the first time this season.

The Ducks picked up an additional first-place vote and are six points closer to top-ranked Florida State (42 behind) compared to last week.

USC took the biggest fall, dropping eight spots to No. 17 following its 37-31 loss to Boston College and is now one spot behind Stanford, which the Trojans beat on the road last week.

UCLA remains at No. 12 after squeaking out a win against reeling Texas, but was jumped by both Ole Miss and Michigan State. Through three games, UCLA remains undefeated, but none of its wins have done much to impress voters.

Next up for the Bruins is No. 15 Arizona State in Tempe on Sept. 25. The Sun Devils jumped Stanford this week -- largely because USC's loss to Boston College devalued the Cardinal -- after opening conference play with a 38-24 win against Colorado.

Washington (14) and Arizona (3) also received votes.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:00
PM ET
 

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
2:50
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Some things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 3:

Marcus Mariota should be your Heisman front-runner: On the strength of his 19-of-23 performance (82.6 percent passing) with two passing touchdowns and two on the ground during Oregon's 48-14 win over Wyoming, I challenge you to find someone more deserving three games into the season. He has 11 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has a signature win against a top-10 team and he's got a "Heisman moment" highlight. Whatever your criteria, Mariota meets it thus far.

Defensive POY up for grabs: Erick Dargan snagged a pair of interceptions against Wyoming. Shaq Thompson had two defensive touchdowns. Eric Kendricks, Danny Shelton, Leonard Williams and AJ Tarpley should be in the discussion. (I'm not going to name every player, so apologies if your favorite player or team feels slighted.) I have no clue who is going to win it. But it's going to be one of the fun storylines to follow as we start to flow into full-time conference play.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota passed for two touchdowns and ran for another two in the victory over Wyoming.
The Cardinal can rebound: Stanford improves to 8-0 following a loss under David Shaw. The Cardinal haven't lost back-to-back games since 2009 or back-to-back home games since 2007, which was Jim Harbaugh's first season. Their 35-0 shutout of Army was the second shutout of the season for the Cardinal and their sixth since the start of the 2010 season. Only Alabama has more. If Stanford can find a little more consistency on offense, there's no reason to rule it out of anything yet. But that's a big if.

USC: Dude.

USC (Take 2): Not sure what's more shocking about BC's 37-31 win over the Trojans. That USC lost a week after securing such a significant conference win for Steve Sarkisian, or that the Trojans were out-rushed 452-20. 20! Tailback R U kidding me? Not what we expect from a Sarkisian offense, nor is it what we expect from a Justin Wilcox defense. Twice the Trojans had a double-digit lead, only to cough it up. For a team that has shown a tremendous amount of fortitude through the first two weeks, it was severely lacking in Week 3.

Those gritty Bruins: Seeing Jerry Neuheisel carried off the field by his teammates, chanting "Jerry, Jerry" following the Bruins' 20-17 win over Texas in Dallas is exactly why college football is awesome. That was a brutal environment, and for the Bruins to fumble away the game with four minutes left, and then excel in all three phases -- defensive stop, huge punt return, clutch touchdown pass -- shows that this team is capable of putting it all together. If the Bruins can do it for 60 minutes, they will be a scary, scary team. The status of Brett Hundley's elbow will no doubt be much debated in the bye week.

The Cougs have a pulse: A 59-21 win over Portland State is a good start. Now do it against an FBS team. Washington State's offense is potent enough that every single Pac-12 North team should be wary.

The full Washington: When the Huskies put it together on both sides, they can be a pretty darn good football team, as evidenced by their 44-19 win over Illinois. They were balanced (245 rushing, 219 passing), the defense was nasty and the aforementioned Thompson (two defensive touchdowns) hauled in the first interception of the season for Washington after several missed opportunities the first two weeks. Another team that, when/if it all comes together, could shake things up in the North.

QB question marks? The bye week comes at a good time for UCLA and ASU. Their Thursday night showdown on Sept. 25 in Tempe has massive Pac-12 South implications. At least it has the last couple of years. But with Taylor Kelly nursing a foot injury (he was on crutches and in a boot) and Hundley's elbow injury, both teams could use the week off to get their high-profile signal-callers healthy. (We should also note another outstanding performance from ASU running back D.J. Foster, who had 147 yards on the ground and a score, and 59 yards receiving and a touchdown in a 38-24 win against Colorado.)

No more Paul Richardson questions: Though the Buffs fell to 1-2, they were fairly competitive against the Sun Devils and Nelson Spruce continues to emerge as one of the premier playmakers in the league. He entered Saturday as the league leader in receiving yards per game and he tacked on seven more catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns. The Buffs are going to shock someone this season.

Wildcats' backfield growing up fast: Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon tossed three touchdowns on 22-of-26 passing with one pick in the Wildcats' 35-28 win over Nevada. True freshman running back Nick Wilson rushed for 171 yards and two scores on 29 carries. Both have quickly developed into A-list playmakers in the Pac-12. And it's hard not to imagine them only getting better with experience. Really intriguing game next week with Cal coming to town.

Mailbag: USC, Mariota, Coug expectations

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
6:00
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Trojan1981 from Office writes: Hey Ted, If USC keeps playing as well as they have ( I know there have only been two games) Where do you see them at the end of the season?

Ted Miller: Trojan1981! Where the heck have you been! Didn't someone tell you the good times are back?

Compared to most top-10 teams, it's more difficult to project USC forward. With fewer than 60 healthy players on scholarship, a fairly typical slate of injuries to starters over the next few weeks could derail the Trojans. It's not just about losing quality players, it's also a winnowing of rotations. When the Trojans line up against all the up-tempo teams in the Pac-12, you might start to see some struggles in the second half of games as fatigue becomes a factor. USC's own up-tempo offense won't help that, by the way.

I know USC won last year with a slim depth chart -- just 13 players seeing action on defense, for example -- but if you're talking about Pac-12 championships, that's the primary concern.

Call that my caveat in advance of calling USC now a co-favorite in the Pac-12's South Division, which means the Trojans have a legitimate shot at playing themselves into the College Football Playoff as the Pac-12 champions, though I'm still picking that honor for Oregon.

USC, after winning at Stanford, has one of the most forgiving schedules in the Pac-12, as it doesn't play Oregon or Washington. The Trojans will be favored in their next eight games before they visit UCLA, which still has to play Stanford and Oregon and visit Washington. They get Notre Dame at home to conclude the season.

If USC stays healthy and continues to progress, they've got as good a shot as anyone at going undefeated over the remainder of the regular season. I'm not predicting that. There figures to be at least one bump along the way. But I am typing that there is a chance.


Quackhead from Norfolk, Va., writes: Hypothetically someone other than Mariota puts up monster numbers, will Marcus' 3 years of consistent stats, living up the hype and good character give the nod to him winning the Heisman? Will that factor into the judges' minds or winning it is based purely on stats?

Miller: Stats are a big part of it, but Marcus Mariota's overall résumé will be a factor in many Heisman Trophy voters minds, even though the award is supposed to be purely about this season. It could operate, for example, as a tiebreaker.

Winning, however, is the key. Mariota fronting a 13-0 or 12-1 Oregon team with similar stats to last season will beat out another QB who has slightly better numbers but has lost two or three games. Most voters also will compare schedule difficulty and how Mariota compared to other candidates in big games. Already, Mariota has a shiny line on his résumé: Outstanding performance in win over good Michigan State team.

After dealing with controversial winners three of the past four years, many voters also probably will look kindly upon Mariota's squeaky-clean image.

My gist: Mariota is in great position to win the Heisman, but we've got lots of football ahead.


Peter from Denver writes: The best season in Oregon State football history (2000) started with a close home win against a FCS team then an 8 point win on the road against a bad team from the Mountain west. Then they had a bye week and played San Diego State at home, after that the Beavers played a highly ranked USC team. Let me know if this sounds familiar. Is this a crazy coincidence or could this be a good year for the Beavers?

Miller: Boy, that 2000 Oregon State team was something. Perhaps the most underrated and unknown great team in recent memory, despite a final top-five ranking in both polls.

I've long contended that crew the most talented team in the Pac-10 in 2000, in large part because of the NFL success of its former players -- WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, LB Nick Barnett, DE DeLawrence Grant, etc. A couple of Pac-12 assistant coaches -- QB Jonathan Smith at Washington and DB Keith Heyward at USC -- probably agree.

Are the 2014 Beavers as talented? Probably not. Certainly not at receiver or on either line (at least until stud O-lineman Isaac Seumalo returns to health).

At this point, Peter, you are dabbling in wishful thinking and coincidence.

But if the Beavers win at USC on Sept. 27, well, then maybe you will be carried through the streets of Corvallis and hailed as a genius.

(Read full post)

It’s early enough in the season that scoring averages, be it offense or defense, are so dramatically skewed by the lack of data that reading too much into them would be an insanity-inducing practice.

After all, Stanford probably isn’t going to maintain its league-leading 6.5 points allowed per game. And with that in mind, Washington coach Chris Petersen is confident his defense isn’t going to maintain its average of allowing 34 points per game, which ranks 99th in FBS ball through two weeks.

“We have a long way to go. I think that’s obvious,” Petersen said. “The first week they played pretty well against a team that runs the ball pretty well. Then they played against a team that throws the ball pretty well, and we didn’t play well enough.”

Well enough to win both games. So there’s that.

Depending on how your cup runneth, half full or half empty, the Huskies either have a really good problem or a really bad problem. The good problem is that their nose guard leads the team with 24 tackles. The bad problem is that their nose guard leads the team with 24 tackles.

Petersen cited missed tackles as a big problem through the first two weeks. Against Hawaii, the Huskies yielded 217 yards on the ground and 143 to Joey Iosefa in a narrow 17-16 win. Last week, the front seven stiffened and yielded just 98 rushing yards to Eastern Washington. But missed tackles and interceptions in the secondary contributed to 475 passing yards and seven touchdowns from quarterback Vernon Adams.

“A couple of our DBs were in position to make plays, and they just executed better than we did,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. They got the ball in there and made very tough catches. ... We need to tackle better, and we need to play better technique. So it’s obviously a work in progress.”

Nose guard Danny Shelton has been the star of the show to date -- especially with his four sacks last week in the 59-52 win over EWU. With a nation-leading six sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss, he’s been the game-changer that has allowed Washington to stave of disaster in the first two games. That the effort has come from a 6-2, 339-pound defensive lineman who regularly sees double and triple teams is a pleasant surprise for Petersen.

“Danny has been doing a really nice job the last two weeks,” Petersen said. “He’s just playing hard, and he’s a really powerful guy. I don’t think I’ve seen a nose guard with four sacks … they take on blocks so everyone else can make them. We just hope he can continue his progression.”

The rest of the front seven is coming around. Besides Shelton’s 24 tackles, the other starting six have a combined 62 stops -- headlined by Shaq Thompson’s 19 tackles and John Timu’s 14. Freshman Budda Baker leads all secondary players with 13 tackles. But missed opportunities in the secondary have made things closer than they probably should have been -- especially last week. Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said he’s counted six missed interceptions so far this season.

“Every week there’s going to be a lot of improvement, whether we win by 60 or lose by 7, there’s going to be something to improve on,” Lake told reporters earlier this week. “We’re never where we need to be, and we can help these guys out with some different coverages. We’ve also got to make some more plays on the football, and then when we get a chance to intercept a football and stop a drive, we’ve got to cash in and make sure we catch the football.”

They should have ample opportunities this week against Illinois and new quarterback Wes Lunt. The transfer from Oklahoma State is averaging 44 pass attempts through two games and is completing 67 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns and a pick. That’s going to put additional pressure on a young secondary that will be without Marcus Peters, who has been suspended this week.

“We do have confidence in our guys,” Lake said. “A lot of those plays we were right there, and their guys made the play and we didn’t, which is unacceptable. We have to make those plays. That’s what we’re going to work on this week to make those strides, and hopefully you guys will see that this Saturday.”

Pac-12 morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
AM ET
Happy Friday!

Leading off

As we turn the corner on Week 2 and look ahead to this weekend, folks are starting to weigh in with their picks.

The Pac-12 blog posted theirs yesterday. Not a lot of drama. In fact, I don't think the #4Pac disagreed on any games this week. We all like the Pac-12 teams playing nonconference games to win.

We're not the only ones. Here are some thoughts from Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel of Fox, who both pick the Los Angeles teams to pull off wins.

Feldman on UCLA:
The Bruins struggled in their first two games a lot more than most expected. Their O-line has been terrible, giving up more negative yardage plays than anyone in the country, but they are getting a little healthier and despite this one being played in Texas, UT is just way too undermanned on offense to knock off a Bruins team with a bunch of studs in its front seven.

Jacob Thorpe of the Spokesman Review also lays out his picks for each Pac-12 game this week. (And he makes a few funnies along the way).

Friday leftovers

Part of the fun of this space is that I can put in whatever I want. I had some leftover quotes from the three coaches whose teams are on bye this week, and all three had a different take on the timing of the bye. Thought you'd like it, so I'm sharing.

Kyle Whittingham: "I would just assume play 12 straight every year." (So very Whittingham).

Sonny Dykes: "We had a pretty physical fall camp that grinded on our guys pretty good. I think we're all a little worn out physically and mentally as well ... football is a lot about momentum and getting in a routine and you hate to mess with those things. But you hope your players are mature enough to be able to handle it and stay focused and remember what's made them successful. It's probably not the perfect time, but at the same time it's probably needed."

Mike Riley: "I'm going to take advantage of it. One thing about going to Hawaii in the middle of the year, and I know people in that league have to do it all the time, that was an 11-hour trip for us. ... I'm glad we aren't playing. I gave the players [one] day off, we're going to get three games in. Because of that game and that location, I'm glad we have a bye.

It also gives Riley &Co. time to get out on the recruiting trail:

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Utah fans have to wait a week. Maybe this will hold them over.


Huskies mixing it up in the uni dept.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
8:00
AM ET
There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Leading off

Remember all that chatter in August about how good the quarterbacks were in the Pac-12? Well, it was also in July, and June ... pretty much since last season ended. The quarterbacks driving this quarterback-driven league certainly deserve their spotlight. But lest we forget, there are some guys who can also do some damage on the ground.

John Marshall of The Associated Press looks at some of the teams in the conference who are also tearing things up on the ground. Marshall goes into detail on the running games of four teams in the league, including Arizona State:
The Sun Devils also have a pass-first perception that isn't exactly true. Since coach Todd Graham arrived three years ago, his focus has been on establishing a strong running game to set up the pass. The Sun Devils have had success doing just that with a variety of backs. This season, it's D.J. Foster's turn. A high-profile local recruit, he spent his first two seasons playing multiple positions so the Sun Devils could take advantage of his versatility.

Arizona, ASU, Washington, Utah, Oregon and USC are the six teams that are averaging more than 200 yards per game. However, perhaps the most interesting element of this story is who isn't mentioned. And that's Stanford. While the Cardinal have never been the team that put up obscene rushing numbers, they certainly have set the standard over the last few years for power running. And they've produced a 1,000-yard rusher every season since 2008. Bizarre seeing the Cardinal ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. But as Marshall points out, it's still early.

Individual hype

Some high praise in a couple of different articles about Pac-12 players Wednesday. First, CBS' Dennis Dodd profiles UCLA's Myles Jack. He cites an NFL scout who calls Jack the best athlete in the Pac-12.

Also, Stanford coach David Shaw joined the NFL's college football podcast and compared wide receiver Ty Montgomery to former first-round pick Irving Fryar.
"This guy needs to touch the ball every single way as humanly possible," Shaw said. "Just because he’s that kind of an athlete. He’s that kind of a dynamic football player. We have to make it hard for defenses to key on him … There is one name some of the younger listeners might not know very well, but I spent a year with Irving Fryar in Philadelphia. You’re talking about compact, physical, explosive. Irving ran a 4.3 coming out of college, coming out of Nebraska, and he would run over somebody and then run around them."
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

The smile hasn't changed, eh? Good for you, KP.


Something to keep an eye on in 2015?

Pac-12 morning links

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
8:00
AM ET
Smelly cat, smelly cat,
What are they feeding you?
Smelly cat, smelly cat
It's not your fault.

Leading off

Depth chart day! Here are the updated depth charts that are available. As always, I'll point out some moves or changes of note heading into Week 3. Note that three teams are on bye this week -- Cal, Oregon State and Utah -- so we'll have an updated depth chart for them next week.
Not a lot of notes/changes to report this week. It seems like a lot of those lingering position battles that spilled over into the start of the season have been ironed out. But there are still a couple. Here are some changes from Week 2 to Week 3.
  • At Colorado, Christian Powell is listed as the starting tailback in front of Michael Adkins. Though they've been split pretty evenly thus far with Powell carrying 24 times and Adkins carrying 21 times.
  • At Oregon, Tyrell Crosby is officially in at right tackle following the injury to Andre Yruretagoyena during the Michigan State game. Crosby played the bulk of the second half. Also on special teams, Devon Allen is now listed as a primary kick returner along with Keanon Lowe. Last week it was listed as Lowe and Thomas Tyner. Allen returned three kicks for 69 yards against MSU with a long of 26 yards.
  • Though he's officially listed as the starter, USC linebacker Hayes Pullard will have to sit out the first half after being ejected for an illegal hit in last week's game against Stanford. Michael Hutchings will get the start.
  • At Washington, Ben Riva is "officially" back at at right tackle, though he was back in EWU game. Darrell Daniels or Michael Hartvigson will start at tight end for the injured Joshua Perkins. Marcus Peters, who has been suspended for this game, is still listed first on the depth chart. Travell Dixon, Naijiel Hale or Sidney Jones will likely rotate.
  • Last week Wes Concepcion and Jordan Dascalo were separated by an "or" as WSU's punters. No "or" this week with Dascalo on top. He punted three times in the loss to Nevada with two of the three inside the 20 and an average of 40.3 yards per kick. In other special teams news, Quentin Breshears gets the nod over Erik Powell at kicker. Powell made a 25-yard kick in the second quarter against Nevada, but missed from 37 and 38 yards in the third. Breshears connected from 38 yards in the fourth.
Heisman chatter

The Heisman Pundit has updated its weekly straw poll, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is back on top. That's what happens when you throw for 318 yards and three touchdowns against a top 10 team that won the Rose Bowl last year. The poll consists of 10 Heisman voters from across the country and Mariota had seven of 10 first-place votes.

Here are this week's results:
  1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 24 (7)
  2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia — 18 (3)
  3. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M — 9
  4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama— 4
  5. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 3
  6. (tie) Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame — 1
    Javorius Allen, RB, USC — 1

Allen certainly deserves to represented on this list so far after another strong performance in USC's win over Stanford. Though he only has one rushing touchdown through two games, he's averaging a hearty 6.4 yards per carry.

And in more #SuperMariota news, Dennis Dodd of CBS explains why Mariota should be the Heisman front runner through the first couple of weeks.

Road to playoff

Checking in on the playoff hunt, our Heather Dinich says the Pac-12 has a "great chance" to land a team in the first College Football Playoff. Writes Dinich:
If the Pac-12 follows the script, the title game will feature USC and Oregon, but as one of the most balanced and deepest conferences in the country, it could also cannibalize itself.

As we know all too well, the Pac-12 is fond of cannibalism. See 2011, 2012 and 2013 as prime examples. The Pac-12 blog believes -- and has stated numerous times -- that the Pac-12 champion deserves a spot in the playoff, be it Oregon, USC, UCLA, Stanford or any other wild card. Because whoever wins this league will have gone through a harsher grinder than any other team in the country.

And speaking of playoffs, let's check in with Joey Galloway and his four teams this week:



News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

If you saw the links yesterday, you saw a considerably stoked Utah group reacting to their new white helmets. Here's a closer look:

What about the rest of Pac-12?

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
9:00
PM ET
A lot the Pac-12 focus through Weeks 1 and 2 were on Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC. The reason for that was preseason hype and big games, as well as off-field issues (USC).

But, as some of you have pointed out, there are eight other Pac-12 teams. Though these teams have mostly played under-the-radar games that haven't been terribly revealing, it still seems reasonable to take a measure of the Pac-12 teams that have yet to play a marquee matchup.

Arizona (2-0): The Wildcats actually got plenty of preseason and early-season coverage for two reasons: 1. Interesting QB competition; 2. They've played FBS teams on Friday and Thursday nights so far, which means more ownership of the available window. The Wildcats are receiving votes in both polls. The visit from Nevada on Saturday could be tricky. Ask Washington State.

What we've learned: That QB Anu Solomon can look great. And not so great. Same with the defense. The Wildcats might be a dark horse in the South Division. Or they might not be. Keep in mind, this team could be 4-0 and potentially ranked as it heads into a bye week before visiting Oregon on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona State (2-0): Sun Devils fans are probably the most annoyed with their lack of attention after winning the South Division last year. The biggest reason for the lack of coverage is the opponents: An FCS team in Week 1 (Weber State) and New Mexico, a team that has gone 10-53 over the past five-plus years. At this time last year, ASU already had a win over Wisconsin, with Stanford, USC and Notre Dame the next three games. And, curiously, Arizona fans were complaining about all the attention the Sun Devils were getting.

What we've learned: Nothing. Zero. We already knew the QB Taylor Kelly, WR Jaelen Strong and RB D.J. Foster would be good. We also haven't learned much about a rebuilt defense. While the visit to Colorado could be somewhat revealing, the Buffaloes already lost to Colorado State. No, the Sun Devils won't take center stage, despite a national ranking, until UCLA visits on Thursday, Sept. 25.

California (2-0): Cal fans, just look at that record. Let it flow over you like warm sunshine. Your Bears already have doubled their 2013 win total! ESPN reporter and College Football Playoff guru Heather Dinich ranked you 25th! While neither win -- Northwestern nor Sacramento State -- rates as earth-shattering, the Wildcats are a Big Ten team and, well... 2 and Oh!

What we've learned: Probably a lot. For one, Cal is no longer a patsy. That doesn't mean it surges to bowl eligibility in Year 2 under Sonny Dykes, but this is clearly a vastly superior team compared to the hapless 2013 version. The Bears played better in their first two games than they did at any point last season. Welcome back to the living, Cal. The Pac-12 blog again awaits those joyous 12,000-word sabermetrically sound breakdowns of why Stanford might have the same red zone futility it had against USC in the Big Game.

Colorado (1-1): It wasn't just that the Buffaloes lost to Colorado State in the opener, it was that they lost because the Rams owned the line of scrimmage. Not good. The performance at UMass, which went 1-11 last year, also was pretty mediocre, though there was some flint shown in a comeback victory. Buffs bowl hopes feel pretty remote.

What we've learned: It might be another slog for Colorado. The preseason hope for Season 2 of Mike MacIntyre's rebuilding job was a strong 2-0. That would give a young team confidence. But, based on the early returns, this team could take a step back compared to 2013. Even the visit from Hawaii, which challenged both Washington and Oregon State, looks like a tossup. Of course, if the Buffs go nose-to-nose with the Sun Devils on Saturday ...

Oregon State (2-0): Bottom line is 2-0 is good for a team that has been notoriously slow out of the gate, even during good years. While things got a little testy with Hawaii in the second half, there's reason for optimism as the Beavers head into the bye week before playing host to San Diego State.

What we've learned: Not too much. We don't yet know what to make of Hawaii, which is obviously much improved over the program that won four games over the past two-plus years. It appears the Beavers rushing offense is much better, as it is averaging 170 yards per game compared to 94 last year. A trip to USC on Sept. 27 could be a major reveal.

Utah (2-0): The Utes looked good over the weekend on both sides of the ball while whipping Fresno State, but they've been outstanding in nonconference games as a member of the Pac-12, going 10-1. It's the conference games that will measure Utah's improvement.

What we've learned: There have been some hints that this might be Utah's best Pac-12 team, and that starts with quality behind center in QB Travis Wilson. Seeing that Michigan got pounded by Notre Dame, there's no reason Utah can't go into the Big House and get a win after their off week. At 3-0, Utes fans would be thinking about more than just any old bowl game. Still, the visit from Washington State the following weekend is more important than the Ann Arbor jaunt.

Washington (2-0): The Huskies have been pushed to the brink by Hawaii, which went 1-11 last year, and an FCS team, as Eastern Washington scored 52 points against a struggling pass defense. The offense looked much better with QB Cyler Miles behind center, but the defense -- the perceived preseason strength -- has been mediocre-to-bad so far.

What we've learned: We've learned new coach Chris Petersen didn't bring a magical formula to make the Huskies dominant on both sides of the ball, at least not immediately. This team started off in the Top 25 but tumbled out after an unimpressive opener, and the battle with Eastern Washington didn't help the team's image. Still, Washington should open 4-0 before playing host to Stanford on Sept. 27. That's when we take a true measure of the Huskies.

Washington State (0-2): No team has been more disappointing than Washington State. Just about every projection had the Cougars at 2-0, but they are the opposite. It's possible that Rutgers and Nevada will prove to be quality bowl teams, but that doesn't help a program that saw itself rising in the Pac-12 North.

What we've learned: Learned? That the defense and the offensive line still have issues, and those issues create problems for a team that can only pass the ball. Of course, it's possible the Cougs will be better when they get back to familiar Pac-12 terrain. The test of the season probably will come with back-to-back games at Utah and against California on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4. The Cougs probably must win both to have bowl hopes.

Pac-12 by the numbers: Week 3

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
5:30
PM ET
Here's another look at random stats pertaining to the Pac-12.

Wyoming at No. 2 Oregon
  • QB Marcus Mariota's yards per pass attempt (12.19) ranks No. 4 in the country, and he is one of three quarterbacks nationally with at least six touchdown passes and no interceptions.
  • The Ducks rank second in the country in points (108) and sixth in total offense (582 yards per game) among teams that have played two games.
  • DB Troy Hill is tied for fifth nationally with three pass breakups.
Illinois at Washington
  • RB Lavon Coleman ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 with 196 yards rushing.
  • Washington is 45-44-2 all-time against Big Ten teams.
  • Washington DT Danny Shelton ranks No. 1 in the nation with six sacks.
Army at No. 15 Stanford
  • Stanford has gone three-and-out just once in 23 drives.
  • In 11 trips to the red zone, Stanford has scored three touchdowns.
  • The Stanford defense has faced 25 opposing drives and has allowed points on three -- with one being a touchdown.
Portland State at Washington State
  • QB Connor Halliday leads the nation in pass attempts (113), completions (78) and passing yards (921).
  • Among teams without a win, WSU has scored the second-most points in the country (52).
  • Only two teams -- SMU and Central Florida -- average less yards per rush than WSU (1.38).
No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas in Arlington
  • UCLA is one of four teams in the country with at least five red-zone drives that has scored a touchdown on each one.
  • The Bruins have nine players on their roster from the state of Texas.
  • Only two teams in the country -- Oregon State (26) and Texas Tech (25) -- have committed more penalties than UCLA (21).
No. 9 USC at Boston College
  • WR Nelson Agholor (14 catches, 148 yards) has been targeted on 21 of USC's 63 pass attempts.
  • USC's 56.3 percent third-down conversion rate ranks No. 10 nationally.
  • RB Buck Allen is No. 10 in the country in carries (45) and rushing yards (287).
No. 16 Arizona State at Colorado
  • Through two games, the Sun Devils have averaged 7.78 yards per play, which ranks No. 5 nationally.
  • ASU QB Taylor Kelly's 90.7 raw QBR ranks No. 5 nationally.
  • ASU RB D.J. Foster has three carries for 40-plus yards. Last year no one at ASU had more than two such carries.
  • Colorado WR Nelson Spruce leads the Pac-12 with 249 receiving yards.
  • In five games in this series, Arizona State holds a 5-0 lead.
Nevada at Arizona
  • Among running backs in the country with two or fewer career games, Nick Wilson ranks No. 3 with 278 rushing yards.
  • The Wildcats rank No. 3 in the country in total offense (620.5 yards per game) among teams that have played two games. They rank No. 1 among teams that have only played FBS schools.
  • Nevada has allowed just one touchdown its opponents' seven trips to the redzone this year.
Past weeks

Week 1

Week 2

Pac-12 morning links

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
8:00
AM ET
Oh, look what you've done to this rock'n roll clown.

Leading off

For as well as USC is doing on the field, the Trojans just can't seem to get out of their own way off of it (or at least off the sidelines). And that's not to say the whole Pat Haden thing is being blown waaaaayyyy out of proportion. Because it is. But still, news is news. And news came down that the USC athletic director has been fined $25,000 for his involvement in a brief sideline "discussion" with officials during USC's 13-10 win over Stanford.

Following a public apology Sunday night from Haden, who is also a member of the 13-member playoff selection committee, the Pac-12 issued its reprimand and fine Monday. Which in turn drew statements from USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff.

From Sarkisian:
“I regret putting Pat in the situation I put him in on Saturday. It is my job to manage the game, not Pat’s. For the good of the game, I will be better on this in the future.”

From Hancock:
"Emotional outbursts at games are not a matter for the playoff selection committee to deal with. This does not affect Pat Haden's capability as a committee member. We recognize that athletics directors cannot be dispassionate about their own teams, and that's why we have the recusal policy."

Joey Galloway and Danny Kanell discuss the situation here:

video Playoff chatter

If you haven't seen The Eliminator yet, you should. It's awesome. Our Mark Schlabach takes a look at all 128 FBS teams to see who is still in the hunt for one of those four spots, who is on the fence and who is out. Five Pac-12 teams are still "in contention" -- Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and USC. California, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah and Washington are "on the fence."

USA Today is taking a similar approach with its weekly "Played in/Played out" segment. Lots of good Pac-12 stuff in there this week.

Finally, some thoughts from Jon Wilner in his Week 2 recap. Writes Wilner:
Oregon’s victory over Michigan State had a twofold effect, at once vaulting the Ducks into the heart of the playoff picture while undermining the Big Ten’s quest for a spot in the four-team event -- which could, potentially, open the window for a second team from the Pac-12.
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

Utah players are really, really fired up about their white helmets.



Hey Cal? Are you going to play spoiler on Nov. 29?



Step up, ladies. The line starts at the right.

Week 2 statements can be deceiving

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
10:30
AM ET
Each college football season is a whodunit. Or, more accurately, it's a "who-will-do-it." It contains plot twists and turns, false leads and subtle clues about how things will play out. It's basically a 14-chapter potboiler, so if we seemed to have a couple of big reveals in Chapter 2, we should greet them with equanimity. Even skepticism.

No. 3 Oregon made the biggest national statement so far this season with a 46-27 victory against No. 7 Michigan State. The Ducks answered questions about their ability to match up with an elite physical defense and established their legitimacy. That quarterback Marcus Mariota turned in a tour de force for the Ducks further validates the preseason feeling that he was the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Also getting a hole punched in their validation cards were Ducks coach Mark Helfrich and new defensive coordinator Don Pellum.

[+] EnlargeRoyce Freeman
Phil Ellsworth/ESPN ImagesWe shouldn't punch Oregon's ticket to the College Football Playoff just yet.
Meanwhile, USC and new coach Steve Sarkisian also answered questions, though the Trojans' 13-10 triumph at Stanford was pretty much a quasi-comic thriller unto itself. For one, there's USC athletic director Pat Haden, who has never previously merited a rating on the wacko scale, apparently deciding there was some wisdom in his engaging the officials for all to see. Yes, a former USC quarterback, Rhodes Scholar and 61-year-old member of the College Football Playoff selection committee apparently didn't think making a spectacle of himself would turn out badly.

As for football, the Trojans won a second consecutive nail-biter over the Cardinal, propelling themselves into the top 10, They won in large part because Stanford couldn't get out of its own way. The Cardinal had nine drives inside the Trojans’ 35-yard line but scored just 10 points, which almost seems mathematically impossible. That red zone ineptitude would be notable for any team, but it's even more stunning when you consider Stanford's well-established reputation for disciplined, bruising, efficient play.

Nonetheless, the victory made the Trojans the second-highest rated team in the Pac-12 in both major polls. Two weeks into the season, one might call them the South Division favorite and most likely team to challenge the Ducks.

But what of USC's friends from Westwood, UCLA, the previous holder of both those designations? The Bruins improved to 2-0, but only after an unimpressive performance in an anxious 42-35 victory against lightly regarded Memphis. They continued a tumble in national estimation, falling from a preseason ranking of No. 7 to No. 12 in the latest AP poll. In Week 1 at Virginia, the Bruins' offense, particularly the line, appeared hapless. In Week 2, the defense took the day off.

UCLA is a cipher. The Bruins look good on paper -- the depth chart suggests no obvious deficiencies -- but have not looked good on turf, at least thus far. They remain unbeaten but are presently the most deserving owner of the dreaded "overrated" label. They could turn out to be the Chapter 1 good guys who end up as heels. Or the opposite. They could be lying in wait, bland and unimpressive, before leaping out of the shadows to make their heroic flourish. Feel free, by the way, to put your own spin on coach Jim Mora's brief postgame interview in which he said he liked his defense "a lot," before frumping off, leaving reporter and audience hanging.

In the preseason, there was some hope that UCLA's game with Texas on Saturday in Cowboys Stadium would be revealing. While expectations weren't terribly high for the Longhorns under first-year coach Charlie Strong, there were reasonable projections this game at least would be a matchup of ranked teams. But Texas is battling growing pains, as well as injuries and suspensions, under Strong. It just got whipped for a second consecutive season by BYU, so the Longhorns look like more of a banana peel than a national stepping-stone for the Bruins.

If UCLA loses, it probably will fall out of the Top 25, going from vogue pick for CFP semifinalist to unranked within three weeks. If it wins, most will shrug and point to the Sept. 25 date at Arizona State, a Thursday night showdown between South Division contenders, as a true measuring stick for whether the Bruins merit our preseason gushing.

This skepticism, however, carries little more authority than everyone's present approbation of Oregon. It's just fickle words, really. Fodder for the daily grind of sports fandom, this week's topic. In December, Oregon's 2-0 might not end up being any more meaningful than UCLA's 2-0. Further, UCLA at 4-0, no matter how it got there, would probably rework its popular descriptive term from "overrated" to "opportunistic."

In other words, our present takes are no more than hunches. These are educated hunches based on tangible evidence, but we all know tangible evidence often has a brief shelf life in college football. Oregon, USC and UCLA have made statements about themselves through Week 2, and it's inevitable that we react to what has been said.

That doesn't mean we won't be breaking down a rematch between Arizona State and Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game when the regular season ends.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
8:00
AM ET
Look at you, member of the honor roll, assistant to the assistant manager of the movie theater. I'm tellin' ya, Rat, if this girl can't smell your qualifications, then who needs her. Right?

Leading off

Week 2 is in the books. And as we'll do each Monday, here's a quick look back at the games. Rank 'em

The latest rankings are out and five Pac-12 teams are among the top 16. Click here for Kyle Bonagura's summary and a super snazzy video with Brett McMurphy explaining his thought process on how he votes. Everyone has their own belief structure on how they should vote. I tend to lean more toward the McMurphy approach. Also, some good stuff in the video about Oregon.

Here are the latest rankings, with the AP rank first and the coaches poll second:
  • Oregon 2-4
  • USC 9-10
  • UCLA 12-12
  • Stanford 15-16
  • ASU 16-14

Also receiving votes in the AP poll are Washington, Utah and Arizona. Washington, Arizona and Oregon State are receiving votes in the coaches poll.

Oregon re-quacktions (it's Monday, laugh a little)

You might have heard the Ducks had a pretty big win over the weekend. It vaulted them to No. 2 in the AP ranking and earned them 16 first-place votes. Here are some takeaways from what folks are saying.
  • First off, is this guy the best ever at Oregon?
 
Writes Dodd:
Oregon needed to suffer. It needed to come from behind. It needed to hit and be hit. It needed to stare down this steely-eyed invader from across the land. It needed to win a game like this because it had never played a game like this.
News/notes/team reports

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
8:00
PM ET
We have twice as much data to work with than a week ago, but let's not kid ourselves with this: Trying to accurately project bowl games during the first week of September is a fool's errand.

At this point, you can really put everyone outside of Oregon, Colorado and Washington State in a bag, draw them out randomly and make valid points to why that random order makes sense.

If you agree with the order, cool. If you don't, you're probably justified.

College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: USC
Valero Alamo Bowl: UCLA
National University Holiday Bowl: Stanford
San Francisco Bowl: ASU
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Utah
Cactus Bowl: Washington
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Oregon State
*-At large

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
2:00
PM ET

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