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Week 2 Pac 12 Roundup and Power Rankings

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An explosion of offense in Troy, the end of a Heisman campaign for a UCLA baller, and another slow start against FCS competition from Mike Riley and co. Welcome back, Pac 12.

Coach Sark was all smiles in his debut as the new USC football coach.
Coach Sark was all smiles in his debut as the new USC football coach.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The world was moving she was right there with it and she was...

The Pac 12 kicked off play to great fanfare last Thursday night when the Cougs traveled into Seattle to meet Rutgers of New Jersey in what was to be the final game in the grand kickoff of the 2014 CFB season.  That game was a wild one that featured several surprises and proved that none of us, not even the great Gekko, has a clue as to how things are going to go until the games start counting.

It was a wild weekend to be sure.  A few Pac 12 teams lost games that nobody was expecting, several teams failed to live up to their pre-season hype, and at least one team had a "hello, we're back" moment.

In other words, the Pac 12 was moving along and we were right there with it while it did.

Here are some of the key round up Dots.

  • USC was the story of the weekend based on the explosion of offense displayed against a decent Fresno State team.  The distractions of Josh Shaw and Anthony Brown seemed meaningless as Steve Sarkisian announced the return of USC to the national discussion

  • UCLA's struggles against a middling Virginia team reminded us all that talent is one thing, but experience and poise are still necessary ingredients to any championships recipe

  • Cal's W in Evanston featured offense (with some twists) and, SURPISE, a little defense

  • Oregon was hard to read, but an early ankle injury to CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu reminded us all that even the cheap games can have an impact on the season

  • Former Husky, Dave Christensen, made a successful return to the Pac in directing Utah's offense to an efficient dismantling of Idaho State

  • Oregon State is still Oregon State

  • The Cuogs are still the Cuogs

  • Washington's struggles, so well documented already on this site, were eye-opening to everybody who thought that Chris Petersen was going to be able to pick up right where Sark left off and continue to build upon it.

  • The Pac 12, which had been hyped to be at-par with the SEC in terms of conference strength, probably took a dive in terms of overall reputation after watching its most hyped team (UCLA) struggle so mightily and its most celebrated coaching hire (Chris Petersen) fail to make an impression. While the SEC showed signs of mortality with the situation in South Carolina, the 'Bama game and the LSU game, its safe to presume that their status at the top is a little more secure than it was a week ago.

Pac 12 Power Rankings:  Week 2

Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
1 1 Oregon_medium
Oregon 1-0 Mich St
Last Week WIN South Dakota 13 @ Oregon 62
South Dakota is so bad, that it is really hard to get anything out of the game against Oregon other than the fact that there does not seem to be anything awry in Eugene. Marcus Mariota was dropping bombs, the rushing attack was pretty much unstoppable and new playmakers in the form of RB Royce Freeman and WR Darren Carrington emerged. I was also surprised at how well Jeff Lockie looked in relief of Mariota. If there were any red flags, I suppose you could look at the minor ankle injury to CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or the fact that South Dakota managed almost 400 yards in total offense. I was a bit surprised that Oregon only managed a single takeaway. But those are all ticky-tack things. Nothing to dissuade one from keeping Oregon atop our rankings.
Week 1 POG: RB Royce Freeman
(10 cars, 75 yds, 2 TDs)
The true freshman RB had a pretty good start to his college career with 10 carries and two TDs. He actually earned more carries than Byron Marshall (though Marshall also had 8 receptions) and only one fewer than starter Thomas Tyner. It looks like the three-headed monster is back in the Oregon backfied.
2 2 Usc_medium
USC 1-0 @Stanford
Last Week WIN Fresno State 13 @ USC 52
Sark haters aren't going to like this, but there was not a single team in the Pac 12 that was more impressive in their opening weekend than USC. The new tempo offense that Sark first unveiled on the shores of Montlake was executed to perfection by his new USC squad to the tune of over 700 yards in total offense and 52 points. Unlike the Huskies, who seemed to be really bogged down by their new playbook, the Trojans flourished in their new scheme under the direction of QB Cody Kessler. The efficiency was off the charts - 11-18 on third down, 3-5 on fourth down, 6 TDs on 7 (7!) trips into the red zone. 10 receivers caught passes (hello, JuJu Smith). 8 rushers ran the ball. It was something else. Next week's trip to Stanford is going to be must-see TV.
Week 1 POG: QB Cody Kessler
(25/37, 394 yds, 4 TDs)
Kessler had a pretty much perfect night as a QB in his first game in his new scheme. 4TDs and a +10 yards per attempt average with no turnovers is Mariota level of production. And, just like Mariota, his night was over in the third quarter. A great start for the "next great QB" in the Pac.
3 4 Stanford_medium
Stanford 1-0 USC
Last Week WIN UCD 0 @ Stanford 45
Playing an opening set against UC Davis is definitely a good way to break in an overhauled D and four new starters on the offensive line. However, it does little to reveal to us anything concrete about this team. There were definitely some sloppy moments from that o-line. However, we also saw that Kevin Hogan seems to have some good timing down with his big playmaking receivers in Michael Rector and Ty Montgomery. We expected Stan to dominate. They did. That's enough for now. But the kid gloves come off in week 2 as USC comes to town. For now, we are bumping Stan in the power rankings.
Week 1 POG: WR Ty Montogomery (5 rec / 77 yds / TD / KR TD) The senior WR came back from a shoulder injury a few weeks earlier than expected and made an immediate impact with a KR for a TD. He was also the big play threat that he was a year ago showing that his breakout in 2013 was no fluke.
4 3 Ucla_medium
UCLA 1-0 Memphis
Last Week WIN UCLA 28 @ Virginia 20
I'm sure that we'll see a better UCLA team in future weeks. Until then, it's hard to ignore the fact that the #7 team in the nation got outplayed by the ACC version of Colorado. Beyond the QB improvisation, nothing about the UCLA offense worked and, more than likely, Brett Hundley's Heisman campaign is now already over. That is through no fault of his own as the Bruins o-line reprised its role from a season ago as, perhaps, the worst line in the conference. The rushing attack behind James Jones and Paul Perkins was pretty weak. On the plus side, there looks like some emerging talent at WR (I was impressed with Massington), Myles Jack has clearly taken a step forward at SLB and the overall state of the Bruin D looks pretty solid. This is, however, an incomplete team and one that is taking a slight dip in this week's Power Poll.
Week 1 POG: SLB Myles Jack (13 tckls; 2 passes def) The mercurial sophomore linebacker did not participate in any offensive plays despite the sluggishness of the Bruins O. This really demonstrated the commitment of the staff to his ongoing development at SLB. While not sexy in any way, his 13 tackles demonstrated just how all over the field he was and his two passes defended showed off his closing speed. He led what was a pretty solid all-around game for the UCLA D.
5 7 Arizona_medium
Arizona 1-0 UTSA
Last Week WIN UNLV 13 @ Arizona 58
I predicted last week that the Wildcats 'anu' QB, Anu Solomon, was going to take that QB job and never give it back. Consider game one versus UNLV as a huge step in that direction. Solomon was an absolute stud in executing that Arizona offense and bringing the forward pass back to Tuscon. Solomon, who is a big, mobile kid who "lumbers" more than he "runs", has a cannon of an arm and showed better-than-expected accuracy. It wasn't perfect, but 4 TDs and 425 yards passing is a great start. Layer in two 100 yard rushers and two 100 yard receivers and, well, Arizona couldn't have hoped for a better start. Oh, and welcome back Austin Hill. Great to see him pick up right where he left off two seasons ago. Going into Week 2, this is a top 5 power team in the Pac.
Week 1 POG: QB Anu Solomon (425 yds passing, 4 TDS) The redshirt freshman was a revelation in the 'Cats 58-13 win over UNLV. He showed off a cannon, he showed off accuracy and he showed off the "it factor" all in his first playing time as a collegiate. As one of just two QBs making his college debut in the Pac (hello, Jeff Lindquist), Solomon immediately established himself as a factor going forward.
6 6 Arizonast_medium
ASU 1-0 @New Mexico
Last Week WIN Weber State 14 @ ASU 45
Week 1 against Weber State was a bit more of a struggle than the pundits would have expected from the #19 Sun Devils. The defense surrendered over 300 yards of total offense to a really bad Weber St team, including allowing a 100 yard performance from an opposing RB. That wasn't surprising given all of the new faces for ASU on that side of the ball. More surprising was the sluggishness of the offense. RB D.J. Foster was his same, excellent self. However, Taylor Kelly was inaccurate much of the night. It's hard to say how much was Kelly, how much was the o-line and how much was the receiving corps. I will say, Jaelen Strong had a huge night. Otherwise, there wasn't anything else going in the passing game. I'm dropping ASU below Arizona as a result, but holding them at #6.
Week 1 POG: WR Jaelen Strong
(10 recs; 145 yds)
I thought Strong would emerge as the best WR in the Pac in 2014 and, at least in Week 1, he did nothing to disappoint. Sure, it would have been great if he had scored. But the big ASU receiver accounted for 10 out of the 24 completions thrown by ASU quarterbacks in an easy routing of Weber State.
7 10 Utah_medium
Utah 1-0 Fresno St
Last Week WIN Idaho State 14 @ Utah 56
Utah moves up in the power ranking mostly because nobody else really seized this 7 spot. Of the remaining candidates, Utah really was the only team that went out and did what they had to do in all facets of the game, even if the competition was as lowly as Idaho State. Just like USC and Washington, the Utes were breaking in a completely new playbook on offense. They handled it pretty well and turned in a complete all around effort. I was particularly impressed with the debut of RB Devontae Booker, who had a couple of scores, and with the return of QB Travis Wilson. We'll reserve judgment on the offensive and defensive lines, but, at first blush, they looked solid. And, don't forget about special teams. WR Kaelin Clay, a senior, looked very impressive housing both a punt and a kickoff in the same game, the latter going for 100 yards. That hasn't been done since Deltha O'Neal did it in the late nineties. Good week for Utah.
Week 1 POG: WR Dres Anderson
(4 recs, 111 yds)
While he didn't get in the endzone, Anderson showed off the field stretching capabilities that Utah is desparate for. His ascension as a top-tier playmaker can only help guys like Wilson, Booker and RB Bubba Poole do what they need to do in restoring a functional offense to Salt Lake.
8 12 Cal_medium
Cal 1-0 Sac State
Last Week WIN Cal 31 @ Northwestern 24
Of all of this week's performances, I was most surprised with Cal's. Predictably, the Bear Raid soared against a pretty porous Northwestern D. What surprised me was the effectiveness of the Cal D - at least as far as the first half of the game. I get that NU isn't fully stocked, but that shouldn't have mattered against what we thought was a Cal D in tatters. Wrong. After some funny schemes around the LOS to start the game, the Cal D went into their base most of the way and did a pretty decent job. They weren't world-beaters, but more than adequate, even after you account for the comeback that NU mounted in the second half. The fact that Cal almost gave the game away at the end is the only thing that keeps them behind Utah in the rankings this week. I do wonder if Sony Dykes gave away too much of his playbook in playing his Jared Goff / Luke Rubenzer QB carousel, especially given all the various spurts of sloppiness that the Cal O showed at times. However, when you were winless in the FBS a year ago, I suppose there is no reason to hold anything back. Nice start for Cal.
Week 1 POG: LB Jalen Jefferson
(16 tckls, 1 sack, 1 int)
Jefferson was the star of a surprising defense in Cal's win. His INT on the final play of the game sealed the victory and stopped what was looking like a NU comeback.
9 5 Washington_medium
Washington 1-0 Eastern Washington
Last Week WIN Washington 17 @ Hawaii 16
The Huskies were pretty fortunate to beat an outmanned Hawaii team in the debut of Chris Petersen. Unlike the other teams (USC, Utah) that were breaking in new offensive playbooks, the Huskeis looked anxious, unprepared and uncomfortable under the leadership of Jeff Lindquist. The sloppiness of the offensive effort seeped into the defensive side of the ball as the Huskies failed to generate even a single turnover and struggled all night in stopping the run. In fact, Hawaii ran more than 90 offensive plays on the night. If not for a Hawaii missed FG and knucklehead error on a clear TD pass, we'd be debating whether or not UW deserves to be in last place in this week's power ranking. The good news for UW is that the wake-up call has been issued, but they didn't have to endure a loss to earn it.
Week 1 POG: DT Danny Shelton
(2 Scks, 12 Tckls)
Shelton was really the only bright spot on a d-line that couldn't create much push against a veteran but less accomplished Hawaii offensive line. His 2 sacks and 12 tackles are both career highs.
10 9 Oregonst_medium
Oregon State 1-0 @Hawaii
Last Week WIN Portland St 14 @ Oregon St 29
Wow. What else can you say about Oregon State other than "wow". For what seems like the hundredth straight year, the Beavs looked remarkably sluggish against a completely overmatched opponent. Part of this, I'm sure, ties to the dependence that OSU has every season on new JC players. However, some of it has to have something to do with the prep. Whatever it is, it's disconcerting. Against an FCS opponent, the Beavs went into the half trailing before getting their collective act together and scoring just enough points to pull out the win. From a numbers perspective, the Beavers did some nice things (if you take away the turnovers and penalties). Sean Mannion looked comfortable distributing the ball to a bevy of receivers while the rushing attack was able to make some hay. Storm Woods was a standout there. Still, this kind of opening start is frustrating for Mike Riley and costs them a bit of ground in this week's poll.
Week 1 POG: TE Connor Hamlett
(5 recs, 86 yards)
Though Woods had 125 yds rushing, I like Hamlett as the POG based on the fact that there was a huge question mark as to how Brandin Cooks' production was going to get replaced. Hamlett really stepped up as a receiver and showed off both good hands and an ability to generate decent YAC for a TE.
11 8 Wsu_medium
WSU 0-1 @Nevada
Last Week Loss Ruters 41 @ WSU 38 (Seattle)
Last week, I noted that Rutgers was going to be a tougher out than most WSU fans were projecting. Slap my face and call me friggin' Nostradamus. The Cougs offensive line was as bad as advertised as Connor Halliday, who ended up throwing for over 500 yards against one of the worst pass defenses in all of CFB a season ago, got roughed up snap after snap. Equally as bad was just about every level of the Cougar defense. Despite the fact that the Cougs got shocked by an 80 yard bomb for a TD on the first play of the game, it was the Coug inability to stop the Rutgers rushers that really surprised. The Scarlet Knights were running a pro-style attack into the teeth of that huge Cougar d-line and were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted. I wonder how much having to practice against the Air Raid all fall hinders the Cougars ability to adjust to defending the run.
Week 1 POG: QB Connor Halliday
(40/56, 532 yds, 5 TDs)
When he was upright, Halliday was pretty good in tossing 5 TDs and completing passes to 10 different receivers. Let's hope he doesn't get killed before P12 play starts.
12 11 Colorado_medium
Colorado 0-1 @UMASS
Last Week Loss CSU 31 @ Colorado 17
Colorado had a rough go of it in their opening night loss to rival Colorado State. In this one, we saw a few new things (such as an incredibly slimmed down coach Mac!) including the emergence of Nelson Spruce as a big WR playmaker. However, we also saw a lot of the "same old" Buffs. The o-line wasn't really that good, the d-line couldn't keep CSU off of the linebackers and the general state of the secondary was marginal, in particular in supporting the run. While I'm leaving them at 12 in the rankings, I'm curious to see where Colorado goes from here. In truth, their D wasn't that bad if you consider that CSU's Dee Hart, an Alabama grad transfer and former 5-star recruit, is a legit NFL RB prospect and also considering what we saw in terms of production from guys like Spruce, LB Addison Gillam and QB Sefo Liufau. Colorado may not stay in this spot too much longer.
Week 1 POG: WR Nelson Spruce
(7 recs, 104 yds, 2 TDs)
Spruce had a stellar night as Liufau's new favorite target. His 52 yd 1st quarter TD was a work of art that was only overshawdowed by his acrobatic one-handed TD grab in the 3rd. This guy is one to watch this season.