Who’s not surprised that the only Pac-12 teams to lose in week one were Colorado and Washington State? Oh. Everybody. Who’s not surprised Wazzu lost because they Coug’d It? Huh. Everybody. Again.
A quick look at the Pac-12 games this week involving ranked teams, in order of scheduled kickoff.
#14 USC at #13 Stanford (-3) — 12:30pm PT Saturday, ABC
Covered elsewhere on the site. Short version: Stanford needs to show improvement in the entire offense. The USC offense had 105 plays (a Pac-12 record) and 701 yards last week against Fresno State. The Cardinal defense is good … but is it that good?
#7 Michigan State at #3 Oregon (-13) — 3:35pm PT Saturday, FOX
Both teams have been great in recent seasons, but haven’t met on the field since 1999. (MSU won that game at Spartan Stadium. The year before in Eugene, the Ducks won because Akili Smith — yes, that Akili Smith — threw four first half TD passes.) Sparty finally broke through last season by going undefeated in Big 10 play, winning the conference championship and beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Conversely, last year was the first time in five seasons that Oregon did not go to a BCS game. The winner of this game will have a huge non-conference feather in their cap with the new College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Both teams had no legitimate competition last week, as MSU beat Jacksonville State and Oregon demolished South Dakota.
Like every team taking on Oregon, the question is whether Michigan State’s defense can survive the onslaught. The success of the “Blur” offense is predicated on the quarterback — in this case, Heisman co-favorite Marcus Mariota — determining and exploiting the defense’s holes. Contrary to popular belief, Oregon prefers running to passing. Always has. Even most of their passes are short hitch or slant routes as opposed to going down the field. Stanford and other teams have beaten the Ducks by taking away the first five yards and not allowing the Ducks to have that initial space for the burners to get up to speed once they get the ball. MSU defensive end and captain Shilique Calhoun, one of five returning starters, will be trying to lead that Sparty attack against an Oregon O-line that returns four of its five starters. If Calhoun and Mariota meet often enough in the backfield, Sparty can succeed in Autzen.
#17 Arizona State (-23.5) at New Mexico — 4pm PT Saturday, CBS Sports Net
A convincing argument could be made that New Mexico is the worst D-1 football team of the past dozen years. Their current head coach is Bob Davie. Yes, the former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst. I’m not buying ASU for the season, but man, if they lose to the Lobos …
Memphis at #11 UCLA (-23) — 7pm PT Saturday, Pac-12 Network
A great basketball game, as a football game not so much. The Bruins offense was awful last week at Virginia, but they still won because the defense scored three times. If preseason Heisman hopeful QB Brett Hundley and the rest of the UCLA offense can’t get it going against a team that went 3-9 last year, a long season in Westwood becomes a distinct possibility.