Some of you have observed that the Gekko has recently relocated to SEC country. I now reside in the great state of Tennessee and the city of Memphis. It's a bit of a culture shock for a boy who was born and raised in the Northwest. The locals here are uniquely hospitable and, as it happens, they speak their own language. I haven't learned most of this strange language but for one phrase. When a large person with a thick, syrupy accent says something that sounds like "L-OWW-dee, L-OWWW-dee, L-OWWW-dee", I know that this is an expression of exasperated relief. When Desmond Trufant intercepted that pass in the endzone, I had my first opportunity to recite that expression. It felt damn good.
Now we move on to Week 2. Measuring Stick Saturday as Ted Miller has called it. Given the lackluster performances that we saw across the Pac 12 last weekend, I've got some sightlines that I'll be focusing on. You can read them after the jump.
There are lots of storylines in this matchup. Utah's first Pac 12 game. Lane Kiffin vs Norm Chow in a matchup of peers. Monte Kiffin vs Norm Chow in a matchup of fogies. Hollywood vs Mormontown. Both teams disappointed their fanbases in Week 1 despite puling out victories over their opponents. In LA, the story was Matt Barkley to Robert Woods in the first half and no Barkley to Woods in the second. In Salt Lake, the story was the arrival of RB John White and the so-so performance by QB Jordan Wynn. This weekend, I'll be watching all of that as I find this the most interesting of the games on this week's slate. I'll particularly be focused on what Utah does to stop Robert Woods. Minnesota shut down Woods in the second half last week. Can Kiffin adjust? Will Utah's young secondary, including speed burner Ryan Lacy be able to handle the pressure? We shall see.
Arizona at Oklahoma State
This is an excellent Thursday night matchup and an excellent opportunity for the Pac 12 to clear the stench that Oregon left in the air following their faceplant in Dallas. Arizona's Nick Foles started popping up on some Heisman radar screens after his performance against the Brotherhood of Flagstaff. His road gets a little more bumpy this week. My sightline will be focused on Mr. Foles. Is he a Heisman contender or is his line too weak to give him a chance?
Nevada at Oregon
Like many of you, I watched the game against LSU. I thought the Ducks didn't look quite as bad as the scoreboard indicated. The precipitous drop in the polls following the loss was completely unjustified and, frankly, is a statement about how the national media feels about the entire Pac 12. The reality is that UO was done in by a true freshman's two fumbles and a very poor showing by their inexperienced WR corps. Darron Thomas was not all that sharp (which is not unusual) and LMJ was bottled up by an athletic defensive front that was coached to shut down the outside read and force the action into the middle of the defense. I did think Oregon's D looked very fast (if not a little small) and I think they are coming into week 2 with a Chip on their shoulder (see what I did there? very clever). My sightline is the scoreboard as in how many effing points can the Ducks score in 60 minutes? It won't be pretty.
UNLV at Washington State
The Cougs looked like a real football team this weekend, even with something called Lobster playing QB. Marshall Lobbestael had the best day that he will ever have playing football for the rest of his life as the Cougars annihilated Idaho State. UNLV brings better athletes to the field this weekend and they bring a coach in Bobby Hauck who has matched up with Paul Wulff before. Paul has the more charming personality while Bobby has, by far, the hotter wife. My sightline will be focused on WSU's QB play. Is Lobster a reliable caretaker of the offense or is he the same old Lobster who once drove drunk to a police station and passed out in the front seat? We shall see.
California at Colorado
Both teams performed about as expected in week 1. Clearly, Cal is much further ahead than Colorado and I expect the result from this game to reflect that. The fact that the game is in Colorado is an interesting twist, but probably not a huge factor. While I am intrigued by Zach Maynard, my sightline will be the front seven of the Cal Bears. They came into this season as a projected strength and this will be their first test against an O-Line with some legit Pac 12 talent on it, including celebrated sophomore David Bakhtiari. Cal is an intriguing underdog in the Pac 12. If they rise it will be driven by their D. We should get a sense of how stiff a test Cal is going to be after this one.
San Jose State at UCLA
Sure, UCLA looked as lost as Kim Kardashian in a college classroom in their matchup against Houston. Their method of suckiness, however, was not what was expected. That pistol offense that languished under Norm Chow exploded under the guidance of reserve Richard Brehaut. It was the Westwood Defense that got shredded by an outstanding Case Keenum. The secondary was particularly bad last week and they are my sigthline for UCLA in Week 2.
Stanford at Duke
I can't say I understand exactly why Stanford scheduled a game in North Carolina, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the mutual attraction that emanates from the campuses of schools that are known for their elitist snobbery and academic pompousness. Whatever it is, I'll be watching to see if Stanford can improve on their rather pedestrian 5 of 13 third down conversion rate that they posted against San Jose State. I also wouldn't mind seeing Shayne Skov actually make a football play as opposed to walking around and showing off his snarling face to the crowd and ripping off his helmet to mug his mohawk for the cameras. But, hey, he is a bad-ass.
Missouri at Arizona State
Arizona State put up a sound showing against UC Davis in week 1. The speed that they demonstrated on Defense, especially around the line of scrimmage, was impressive. The question I have is whether or not they still look that fast when matched up against a ranked Big 12 opponent. In particular, I'll be watching how the injury riddled ASU secondary handles Missouri's spread offense. Mizzou is not quite the same team that they were with Blaine Gabbert was manning the helm, but they still have some great talent under coach Gary Pinkel.
Oregon State at Wisconsin
Everyone now knows that Oregon State got embarrassed as they became the first Pac 12 team to ever lose a game to Sacremento State. Where embarrassment leads, QB controversies follow. Ryan Katz, once thought to be the future of the Beaver program, has now laid eggs against a few inferior opponents in his career (pop quiz: what do WSU and Sacremento State have in common?). His job is now a jobshare program with youngster Sean Mannion. My sightline is on Katz - will he rise to the occassion and make a statement against a powerhouse in Wisconsin or will he crumble and lose control of the QB job in what might result in a permanent seat on the bench?
Hawaii at Washington
After getting sliced and diced by something call Bo Levi, the Huskies come into week 2 with a new level of intensity hovering around Montlake. There are not a lot of happy campers hanging around the locker room. The Dawgs pulled out a victory, but they were embarrassed in the process. Coach Sark has acknowledged it and the demeanor of the players in practice has demonstrated it. There are a lot of unanswered questions coming out of week 1. The one that I'm looking for an answer to against Hawaii is whether or not the right side of our O-Line can establish a pocket for Keith Price. Not that the left side was much better, but I was particularly stressed by how that right side got pushed around on Saturday. I noted before that Hawaii's D-Line is an active, hyper bunch that demonstrate a relentless zeal in pursuing the QB. They don't quit despite some of their physical limitations. Can our RG and RT handle the step up in competition a week after getting owned by an FCS school? I hope so.
Those are my sightlines for Week 2. Leave your comments on what you will be watching.