Ten of the Pac-12 Conference's members kicked off the 2013 season in Week 1 and provided some insight into a few of the most burning questions of the offseason.
USC will build off of defense
The ongoing quarterback competition, wide receiver Marqise Lee's Heisman candidacy and the health of running back Silas Redd all took center stage for USC in the offseason. However on Thursday vs. Hawaii, the Trojan defense was the story.
Coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 52 defensive scheme opened 2013 with a bang. The aggressive blitz packages resulted in seven sacks of Hawaii quarterback Taylor Graham. George Uko and Leonard Williams had two apiece. All that pressure up front also led to four interceptions.
The Trojans kept Hawaii out of the end zone until the waning minutes, well after the outcome was no longer in doubt. USC may have its myriad of questions on offense, but the defense will buoy the Trojans until they are up to speed on the opposite side of the ball.
Two heads are better than one for the Utah offense
Kyle Whittingham's hire of veteran coach Dennis Erickson to co-coordinate the Utah offense with Brian Johnson was among the conference's more intriguing staffing changes.
The two-coordinator approach paid immediate dividends in the Utes' 30-24 defeat of Utah State. UU's 30 points were almost double the Aggies' seventh-ranked point-per-game yield of a season ago.
Quarterback Travis Wilson threw for 302 yards with two touchdowns, and he looked comfortable when the Utes needed big drives.
Oregon State has a lot of work to do defensively
Head coach Mike Riley voiced concerns about the Beaver defensive front prior to Oregon State's 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington. His worries were validated, as Eagle quarterback Vernon Adams had a field day, totaling 518 yards both through the air and on the ground, and six total touchdowns.
"We were a step behind," Riley told reporters in his post-game press conference. "[Adams] was eluding tackles, which I think was a major factor in the game, the number of tackles that he made us miss and number of missed opportunities we had to sack him."
Though the Beavers notched three sacks—including two by linebacker Michael Doctor—OSU failed to generate any turnovers. Takeaways were key to the Beavers' 9-win in 2012.
Mark Helfrich is a Chip off the old block at Oregon
Chip Kelly may have left Oregon for the NFL, but his high-speed, offensive philosophy remains with former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich taking over as head coach.
Kelly introduced a variation of the spread offense played at an unprecedented tempo, and the Ducks actually took it to another level in Helfrich's debut. UO racked up a program-record 772 yards of offense, including 500 on the ground.
The Ducks dropped 66 points on overmatched Nicholls State in just 19:46 of possession—the equivalent of a touchdown every 3:16.
Rich Rodriguez has plenty of options in the Arizona run game
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez suspended All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey for the Wildcats' Week 1 date with Northern Arizona. No matter, as senior Daniel Jenkins carried the slack with 139 yards on 11 carries.
Jenkins was one of three Wildcat ball-carriers to reach the end zone, as quarterbacks B.J. Denker and Javelle Allen also broke off long rushes for score. Denker and Allen—two of three Wildcats listed as "or" No. 1 quarterbacks in the first depth—carried for 71 and 67 yards.
When Carey returns, he'll be the centerpiece of a multifaceted ground attack in Rodriguez's spread offense.
Bullish on Cal's "Bear Raid"
Cal made a great hire when it tabbed former Louisiana Tech front man Sonny Dykes to replace the program's most winning coach ever, Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bear offense had grown stagnant in Tedford's latter years, whereas Dykes led the nation's most prolific scoring unit in 2012.
Dykes' "Bear Raid" showed its promise in the late game of Week 1 on Saturday. True freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw for 445 yards in his debut, 18 percent of the Golden Bears' entire pass production in 2012. He also spread the ball among nine different receivers—two of whom eclipsed the double-digit catch mark.
Both Goff and the nuances of Dykes' scheme need some fine-tuning for the Golden Bears to be a legitimate threat in the Pac-12 North, but the team's promise is evident when stacked up against a top 25 opponent like Northwestern.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.
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