Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's Best Performances from Week 1

Bill N@@Bill_N1Correspondent ISeptember 6, 2011

Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the Conference's Best Performances from Week 1

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    Fresh from a record $2.7 billion television contract and recent talks of further expansion possibly including Oklahoma and Texas among others, the new Pac-12 conference had an ugly opening week to the 2011 football season.

    The Pac-12 was 8-4 in Week 1, but only thee wins were over FBS opponents (California, Stanford and USC). However, Oregon and Oregon State are the only Pac-12 teams that were favored to win and lost.

    B/R Contributor Michael Tierney has put together an excellent review of Pac-12 Week 1 notes, quarterbacks, running backs and predictions that complements this article.

    Here is a ranking of the conference's best performances from the first week of the college football season.

12. Oregon State Beavers

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    Score: Oregon State 28, Sacramento State 29 (OT)

    Oregon State fell behind FCS team Sacramento State 14-3 at the half, then came back and tied at 21-21 in the fourth quarter.

    However, the Beavers scored a TD in overtime and kicked the extra point. The Hornets matched the TD, but QB Jeff Fleming made the two-point conversion with a pass to Brandyn Reed to upset the Beavers, who were 27.5-point favorites.

    Fleming threw for 257 yards and three scores, while completing 22-of-35 passes. He led the Hornets to their first win over a FBS team in 10 tries since 2002.

    Oregon State’s true freshman Malcolm Agnew ran for 223 yards and three scores to succeed Jacquizz Rodgers, who left after his junior year for the NFL. The Beavers played seven true freshmen in the game due to attrition and injuries.

    Oregon State’s QB Ryan Katz had a poor first half with only 11-of-22 passes for 87 yards, one INT and two sacks. Redshirt freshman Sean Mannion started the second half and completed 8-of-12 passes for 143 yards.

    Both teams had two turnovers, and Oregon State out-gained Sacramento State 496 yards to 367.

    Losing to an FCS team is embarrassing, and Oregon State has joined the few FBS teams from BCS AQ conferences that have lost to FCS teams.

    There is no question the Beavers have issues. Injuries are a major factor with 14 players making their first career starts and eight true freshmen playing.

    However, Oregon State does not appear to be a threat in the Pac-12 North.

11. Colorado Buffaloes

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    Score: Colorado 17, Hawaii 34

    Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz completed 20-of-33 passes for 178 yards and one TD, while running for a career-best 121 yards and three TDs. He sealed the victory with a 22-yard TD pass to Joey Iosefa in the fourth quarter.

    Colorado suffered its 19th straight loss on the road dating back to October 2007.

    After punting in all five possessions of the first half, the Buffs woke in the second half behind QB Tyler Hansen, who ended up completing 16-of-30 passes for 223 yards, two TDs and one INT. His two TD passes in the third quarter and an early fourth-quarter Hawaii turnover cut the lead to 24-17 before the Warriors scored the final 10 points.

    Colorado had only 240 yards, including 17 yards rushing. Hansen was sacked seven times, and the Buffs made only two of 12 third downs.

    The Buffs' OL is a big concern. It struggled to open holes for the running game and gave up all those sacks. The defense was pretty solid against a rebuilding Hawaii offense though.

    Colorado did not have a strong performance against Hawaii, and that was a surprise.

10. Washington Huskies

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    Score: Washington 30, Eastern Washington 27

    Washington avoided a loss to FCS team Eastern Washington when Desmond Trufant intercepted QB Bo Levi Mitchell in the end zone with 29 seconds left. The Eagles are the defending FCS national champions.

    The Huskies were out-gained 250-504 yards by the Eagles, showed a very poor pass-rush and could only sack Mitchell once.

    Mitchell completed 39-of-69 passes for 473 yards, three TDs and two INTs. He led a drive from the 5-yard line with 1:17 left and no timeouts. Eastern Washington went for the winning TD instead of a FG to force overtime. The ball was thrown well, but Trufant was in the perfect position to intercept and save the game for the Huskies.

    Washington’s Chris Polk ran for 125 yards only three weeks after minor knee surgery. Huskies QB Keith Price threw three TDs on 17-of-25 completions with no INTs and did a great job of spreading the ball around.

    Huskies kicker Erik Folk was 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting on kicks of 53, 47 and 40 yards.

    Eastern Washington had four turnovers, which may have cost them the game.

    Good thing for the Huskies, because they were otherwise outplayed by the Eagles. While Eastern Washington is a very good FCS team, losing would have been embarrassing for Washington (just ask Oregon State).

9. Washington State Cougars

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    Score: Washington State 64, Idaho State 21

    Washington State junior QB Jeff Tuel suffered a fractured left clavicle in the first quarter, and backup senior QB Marshall Lobbestael threw for 230 yards and two TDs with no INTs to lead the Cougars over badly out-manned FCS Idaho State.

    The Huskies out-gained the Bengals 590-453 yards, while holding Idaho State to 23 yards rushing. The Bengals also had two turnovers.

    Washington State had a 47-0 lead in the third quarter before the Bengals scored on 3-yard run. It was the first time the Cougars scored 60 points in a game since 1997.

    It is not known how long Tuel will be out of action, but such injuries normally take 6-8 weeks to heal. His loss is a huge blow to WSU’s bowl hopes and maybe the future of Coach Paul Wulff.

8. UCLA Bruins

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    Score: UCLA 34, Houston 38

    Houston QB Case Keenum threw for 310 yards, two TDs, no INTs and 30-of-40 completions to lead Houston past UCLA. This was his first game since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in the loss to UCLA last September.

    UCLA finished with 554 yards, but could not stop Keenum or senior running backs Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes with three rushing TDs.

    Bruins QB Kevin Prince left in the second quarter with a concussion, and Richard Brehaut replaced him with a very good performance, going 17-of-26 for 264 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Brehaut also ran for 87 yards on 13 carries and one TD.

    UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin had 16 carries for 128 yards and one TD.

    The Bruins had 10 penalties for 80 yards, and both teams had one turnover.

    Houston was leading 31-14 at the half, so give credit to UCLA for working their way back in to the game to 31-28 at the end of the third quarter.

    A fumble recovery in the end zone led to a Cougar TD in the fourth quarter. UCLA then chewed up seven minutes on a drive only to have Kip Smith miss a 32-yard FG. The Bruins scored a TD on an 11-yard TD pass to Anthony Barr with 1:19 remaining to close the gap.

    UCLA hoped to win this game, but expected a shootout and close game. Their offense played better than expected, so that is good news for Bruins fans.

7. Utah Utes

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    Score: Utah 27, Montana State 10

    Utah opened its Pac-12 membership by beating FCS opponent Montana State when converted LB Brian Blechen intercepted two passes, Matt Martinez blocked a punt and John White rushed for 150 yards with two TDs in his debut. The Bobcats are a preseason No. 5 FCS team.

    QB Jordan Wynn recovered from shoulder surgery last December to complete 15-of-23 passes for 101 yards and two TDs under Norm Chow’s pro-style offense.

    Utah out-gained Montana State by 292 yards to 258. Bobcats sophomore DeNarius McGhee is one of the best FCS QBs, but the revamped Utes secondary held him to 183 yards with the two INTs.

    Utah was without starting left tackle John Cullen who will be back against USC next week.

    The Utes jumped out to a 24-0 lead before allowing the Bobcats to score in the second quarter. Utah could manage only a FG in the second half.

    The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham was not happy with his team’s performance, calling the offense, "Abysmal." He noted, "We won’t win a game in the Pac-12 if we play like this the rest of the way."

    Utah was penalized seven times for 65 yards and only made four of 13 third downs. Chow kept things pretty simple prior to the USC game, and Montana State is a good enough FCS team to keep it close when that happens.

    However, the Utah defense appears to be fast and play hard.

    A horrible tragedy happened after the game when Utah player Ron Tongonevai’s wife, Janelle, was killed in a car accident after the game. Coach Whittingham said everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with the family.

6. USC Trojans

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    Score: USC 19, Minnesota 17

    Week 1 AP No. 25 USC had a record-setting day, but barely beat the Big Ten’s Minnesota.

    WR Robert Woods set a Trojan record for receptions with 17 for 177 yards and three TDs, and QB Matt Barkley broke the record for completions with 34-of-45 (including eight drops) to lead the Trojans.

    Woods was named Pac-12 Player of the Week and National Wide Receiver of the Week.

    This was a tale of two halves, as the Trojans dominated the Golden Gophers in the first half and led 19-3. USC was driving for another score to open the second half when a bad snap by new center Khaled Holmes resulted in a 35-yard turnover and a Minnesota TD.

    The Trojan offense stalled during the second half due to untimely penalties (most of the eight penalties for 75 yards) and lack of adjustments by the coaching staff, while Minnesota’s new coach, Jerry Kill, got his team fired up.

    The USC defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage with four sacks and eight tackles for a loss, and handled the Minnesota spread offense very well.

    However, when Gopher QB MarQueis Gray went down with leg cramps in the fourth quarter, true freshman QB Max Shortell led Minnesota for an 83-yard TD drive when the USC defense played soft to close the gap to 19-17.

    USC drove the field, but four penalties prevented a score and gave the ball back to Minnesota. This time, assistant head coach Monte Kiffin called a man-to-man defense, and sophomore CB Torin Harris intercepted Shortell’s pass at the 40-yard line.

    The rebuilding Trojan OL did not play as well as hoped, especially inside the tackles. This affected the offensive play-calling and limited the running game to 24 carries by freshman D.J. Morgan and junior Curtis McNeal for 104 yards.

    The Trojans were disappointed and surprised by the second half and have a lot of issues to address before the first Pac-12 conference game in history this Saturday against the Utah Utes.

    Coach Lane Kiffin admitted that the Trojans could not beat the Utes with a repeat performance from Saturday.

5. Arizona Wildcats 41 – Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 10

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    Score: Arizona 41, Northern Arizona 10

    Arizona QB Nick Foles threw for 412 yards and five TDs to lead the Wildcats over FCS opponent Northern Arizona. Foles completed 34-of-42 passes with no INTs.

    The Wildcats started quickly with two TDs in the first quarter, but stalled in the second quarter when the Lumberjacks closed to 14-10.

    However, Arizona owned the second half with 28 unanswered points.

    Northern Arizona QB Cary Grossart threw for 179 yards on 20-of-26 passing, and RB Zach Bauman added 99 yards on 27 carries.

    This was a solid start for Arizona, who had plenty of newcomers including the entire OL. Their defense dominated in the second half.

4. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Score: Arizona State 48, UC Davis 14

    Arizona State dominated FCS opponent UC Davis with 517 yards, while holding the Aggies until the backups gave up a couple late scores.

    Junior QB Brock Osweiller threw two TDs to Aaron Pflugard and completed 19-of-26 passes for 262 yards and one INT before leaving the game with leg cramps in 104-degree weather. Jamal Miles opened the second half with a 98-yard kickoff return.

    Arizona State returned 20 starters, but injuries are an issue, including starting CB Omar Bolden, LB Brandon Magee and RB Deantre Lewis. The Sun Devils had two turnovers, but only had four penalties for 40 yards.

    Arizona State looked good with solid defense and an improved offense over a FCS team.

3. Oregon Ducks

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    Score: Oregon 27, LSU 40

    Week 1 AP No. 3 Oregon laid an egg instead of taking advantage of a major opportunity against No. 4 LSU.

    The loss, naturally, inspired more of the same talk about Oregon not being able to physically keep up with an elite team. In the past two-plus years, Oregon has lost to Boise State, Ohio State, Auburn and now LSU with almost four TDs and 200 yards fewer than their other games. Coach Chip Kelly noted after the game that the D-Line of LSU and Auburn are very different than Oregon players.

    Oregon true freshman De’Anthony Thomas carelessly fumbled on consecutive touches late in the third quarter, which resulted in two LSU TDs in less than four minutes. The game went from a 16-13 LSU lead to 30-13, and the Ducks could not catch up as both teams scored two TDs in the fourth quarter.

    Both teams had key players suspended, but the game was pretty even without the Thomas turnovers. Oregon had a total of four turnovers compared to one for LSU.

    Ducks junior QB Darron Thomas completed 31-of-54 passes for 240 yards, one TD and one INT. The LSU defense held Heisman Trophy candidate junior RB LaMichael James to 54 yards on 18 carries and one TD.

    LSU’s substitute senior QB Jarrett Lee completed 10-of-22 passes for 98 yards, one TD and no INTs. Sophomore Spencer Ware ran for 99 yards on 26 carries and one TD, and sophomore Michael Ford had 96 yards on 14 carries and two TDs.

    LSU’s total offense was 273 yards compared to Oregon’s 335.

    Oregon played the best team of any Pac-12 opponent in Week 1 and still looked good despite the turnovers.

2. California Golden Bears

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    Score: Cal 36, Fresno State 21

    Cal QB Zack Maynard had a tough start, but came back to lead the Golden Bears over Fresno State, bouncing back well from an early interception.

    Maynard completed 16-of-35 passes for 266 yards with two TDs to receiver Marvin Jones and one INT. Jones had five catches for 118 yards, while his half-brother, Keenan Allen, had eight receptions for 112 yards.

    Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks piled up a game-high nine tackles with 2.5 coming for a loss against a solid Fresno State team. He also broke up a pass, as the Bears held the Bulldogs to 218 yards and 11 first downs. Cal may have the best defense in the Pac-12.

    Both teams struggled with penalties, and both had two turnovers. Cal had 11 penalties for 86 yards, and the Bulldogs had nine penalties for 75 yards.

    The Cal OL struggled at times, but the Bears made a solid statement against the Bulldogs, who some thought might upset them.

1. Stanford Cardinal

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    Score: Stanford 57, San Jose State 3

    Week 1 AP No. 7 Stanford was cruelly efficient in dispatching the out-manned San Jose Spartans. The Spartans were 1-12 last season.

    As expected, Stanford Heisman candidate QB Andrew Luck was efficient with 17-of-26 completions for 171 yards, two TDs and no INTs. Luck also ran one yard for a TD. He felt that a lot of the scoring was the Cardinal defense and special teams putting the offense in a good position.

    Luck and the rest of the starters were removed in the third quarter with a 43-3 lead, and the backups kept piling up points.

    San Jose State fumbled six times and lost three of them. The Stanford defense held the Spartans to 237 total yards, including 27 rushing and 12 first downs.

    While the outcome of this game was no surprise, Stanford looks very good.