The opening weeks of a new season in the Pac-12 Conference confirmed some initial suspicions—the Stanford defense is still stout, the Oregon offense remains explosive, and replacing Matt Barkley at USC is an arduous task indeed.
The season's first two weeks have also provided plenty of revelations.
It's not all just air raid at Washington State
Drink it in, Washington State fans. Your Cougars stand alone atop the Pac-12 standings.
OK, so Washington State is the only Pac-12 team with a conference win, by virtue of its 10-7 defeat of the USC Trojans. Nevertheless, the team with the league's dubious distinction of carrying the longest bowl drought opens the season with a big road win against an opponent it hasn't defeated since 2002.
Perhaps even more encouraging for the Cougars is that they learned they can win a game without scoring an offensive touchdown. Washington State is a team built on head coach Mike Leach's uptempo, air-raid offense. To wit, Saturday's outcome marked the lowest-scoring win a Leach-coached team has ever notched in his career.
Mike Leach had coached 140 games before tonight. This was the 1st win of his career when scoring 10 points or less.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) September 8, 2013
Washington State showed some defensive resolve to keep pace with Auburn in Week 1, holding the Tigers to just six second-half points. Holding USC without an offensive score is obviously on another level.
Cornerbacks Damante Horton and Daquawn Brown were both outstanding. The freshman Brown recorded 11 tackles and broke up a pair of passes in his Pac-12 debut, while Horton intercepted a pair of Trojan passes. Either are worthy candidates for the conference's Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Colorado may have the conference's—if not the nation's—best receiver
Standout Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson missed the entire 2012-13 season due to a knee injury.
"It was a humbling experience not being able to compete with my teammates," Richardson said at July's Pac-12 media day. "During the offseason I took time to gain weight, get stronger, faster, get healthy so I would be able to help my guys."
To say Richardson is helping his Buffs teammates is an understatement. Through two weeks, Richardson is college football's most productive pass-catcher by a wide margin. His 417 yards are 118 more than No. 2, Georgia State's Albert Wilson.
Saturday against Central Arkansas, Richardson hauled 209 of them, as well as his third and fourth touchdowns of the season.
"[Richardson] is the most explosive [player] I've seen, for sure," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said in his postgame press conference, per CUBuffs.com.
Richardson has been critical to the Buffaloes opening 2-0 and building the program's first winning streak since November 2010.
"I think we have great confidence, but it’s stemming from these coaches," Richardson said, per CUBuffs.com. "Coach Mac and his staff have been encouraging us and criticizing us constructively. They changed our whole attitude."
Oregon may need to take a long look at Thomas Tyner
Byron Marshall has been Oregon's primary running back alongside De'Anthony Thomas and, in Saturday's 59-10 deconstruction of Virginia, he garnered the majority of carries. However, exciting true freshman Thomas Tyner came on in the second half and dazzled.
In his collegiate debut, Tyner demonstrated some of the moves that gained him national attention last year, when he scored 10 touchdowns in a single game at Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha High School.
Two of Tyner's four carries Saturday went for touchdowns, including one of 31 yards. Conversely, Marshall struggled to just 31 yards on 15 carries.
Tyner's scores came in garbage time, long after the Ducks slammed the door on the Cavaliers. Still, the electric first-year running back could be worth a look against stiffer competition and in a higher-pressure situation. He could get it next week against Tennessee.
Ka'Deem Carey is unfazed after a tumultuous offseason
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez suspended All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey for five quarters, effectively. Carey was sidelined throughout the Wildcats' Week 1 rout of Northern Arizona, and he did not appear Saturday against UNLV until the second quarter.
But when Carey's No. 25 was called for the first time in 2013, he demonstrated the same explosiveness off the line that made him the nation's leading rusher in 2012.
Carey went 58 yards to the end zone on his very first touch, operating out of the two-back formation Arizona coaches promised during fall camp.
Daniel Jenkins took the majority of carries, with 17 to Carey's 16. But Carey made the most of his opportunities with a pair of scores on 10.7 yards per carry for a game-high 171 yards.
There's no "D" in "California"
On the heels of an impressive debut against nationally ranked Northwestern, Cal nearly became the second Pac-12 team to fall victim to the Big Sky Conference on the young season.
The Golden Bears trailed visiting Portland State by double digits in the first half and could never keep the Vikings more than a score away from a tie. PSU ran for 245 yards on the Cal defense, rolling off 6.3 per attempt. This comes one week after Northwestern went for 209 yards on the ground, and 508 total.
Portland State reached the end zone on scoring plays of 25, 46 and 81 yards.
Cal countered with another impressive outing for the true freshman quarterback, Jared Goff, who passed for 485 yards. Seventy-five came on the decisive scoring strike to Richard Rodgers. But relying primarily on a first-year player to throw the Bears out of trouble won't work long in Pac-12 play.
Of note is that while head coach Sonny Dykes oversaw the nation's highest-scoring offense in 2012 at Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs also ranked No. 116 in points surrendered per game.
Someone ship these guys some In-N-Out
There were probably some sweaty brows and heightened pulses around Reser Stadium Saturday, when Hawaii forced a 14-14 tie with Oregon State. The Beavers, coming off the aforementioned 49-46 loss to Big Sky member Eastern Washington, successfully did what they failed to in Week 1 and responded to the initial adversity.
Sean Mannion's hot start continued, as he threw four touchdown passes to lead the Beavers to a 33-14 win. Mike Riley's tradition of a celebratory In-N-Out stop after road wins does not apply Saturday, but after rebounding from a tough loss, the Beavers deserve a shipment of Animal Style French fries.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.