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PAC 12 Update and Power Rankings: Week 1

How do you rank power following a weekend in which everbody won?

2017 US College Football Sydney Cup
Bryce Love and Keller Chryst starred for Stanford in the Sydney Cup.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Week 1a and 1b is officially in the books. There were a lot of games - 13 in all between this and our last power rankings. Spoiler alert - the PAC 12 won every single game that it played in last weekend (is that some kind of record). Along the way, we saw a little bit of everything: crazy comebacks, heroic individual performances and tight squeezes applied by inferior opponents.

There is a lot of football to digest. Let’s break it down.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Week 1 Power Rankings
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings - Week 1

12) Oregon State (1-1 / 0-0)

Last Result: Portland St 32, Oregon St 35; Oregon St 27, Colorado St 58

A strange scheduling quirk allowed Oregon State to play twice in what was an elongated “week 1” of college football. The good news for Gary Andersen and the Beavs was that the men in orange had the chance to erase the stink of the opening loss to the Colorado State Rams. The bad news? That loss stunk worse room temperature limburger cheese wrapped in sweaty gym socks and dipped in sulfur.

Going on to win a game against an FCS opponent who had the chance to tie it at the end but missed the field goal probably doesn’t feel that much better.

There is a whole bunch going wrong with Oregon State right now. They can’t get their rushing attack going. They are giving up yards in bunches to opposing offenses. They can’t decide if their quarterback is Jake Luton or Darrell Garretson.

It’s kind of a mess. And one that we didn’t quite expect.

I suppose it was nice to see some really strong receiving performances from WR Jordan Villamin and TE Noah Togiai, particularly in the Oregon State game. I also think that MLB Manase Hungalu is popping as a bright spot after the first two games. Beyond that, not much.

Player of the Game(s): Noah Togiai, TE

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because I did. Togiai exploded in the CSU secondary with 7 catches for 67 yards and a TD. True, he did have one lost fumble and one egregious dropped pass in garbage time (that probably would have gone for a TD), but he also had one other TD taken off the board in what was clearly an erroneous replay interpretation. He followed that up with 5 catches for 95 yards (19 yard avg) against PSU. He’s the real deal.

11) Arizona State (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: New Mexico State 31, Arizona State 37

This one wasn’t quite as close as the scoreboard indicated. Still, there were enough things that transpired in the game to give me more pause about ASU. First, Todd Graham caught everybody’s attention by not rotating in a single defensive substitute for most of the first half ... this despite the sweltering desert heat. His rationale? Nobody had earned the right to play in practice.

New Mexico State v Arizona State
John Humphrey was all over the field against New Mexico State.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Second, and this is a big one, the ASU offensive line was awful. They made NMSU look like the second coming of purple people eaters. They were equally offensive in all aspects of the game whether ASU was trying to run the ball or if Manny Wilkins was trying to pass it.

There were some positives. I was very impressed with Wilkins at QB. He’s always had the arm strength. But he was very efficient and patient while under duress. His receivers not named N’Keal Harry - and I’m thinking specifically of John Humphrey and Jalen Harvey - took advantage of all the attention paid to Harry. Finally, I thought LB Koron Crump made a definitive statement about his intentions to compete for all conference honors.

Player of the Game: WR John Humphrey (7 rec, 123 yds, 17.6 avg, 1 TD)

Huge game for Humphrey as he just ate up all of the single man coverage he was afforded all night long. I don’t believe he dropped even a single pass. And kudos to Wilkins for having the patience to progress to him in his reads.

10) Arizona (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Northern Arizona 24, Arizona 62

Interesting stat for Wildcat fans: Arizona has rushed for just over 1000 yards in their last two games. One thousand!!! You think Rich Rod wants to run the ball?

Northern Arizona is an annual punching bag for the Wildcats, so it is hard to draw any conclusions. Nine Wildcats registered carries in the game and six of them averaged double digit yards per carry. Interestingly, there wasn’t much of a passing game to comment on. QB Brandon Dawkins only threw 13 passes all game, connecting on seven of them.

If you were concerned at all about the Arizona defense, you ought to remain so. NAU racked up 562 total yards and boasted both a 300 yard passer and two running backs who went over the 100 yard mark. Not bad for an FCS opponent.

Player of the Game: KR Tyrell Johnson

Johnson had 175 all purpose yards which included a 55 yard TD rush and a bunch of kickoff return yards. In a game where just about everybody played, he stood out.

9) Utah (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: North Dakota 16, Utah 37

Just as there are not any moral victories in football, there shouldn’t be any moral defeats. That said, I doubt Utah fans filed out of Rice Eccles on Thursday night overly pumped up about what they saw out of their Utes against a run of the mill FCS program.

QB Tyler Huntley, in his first college start, definitely had the butterflies. He was almost entirely ineffective passing the ball unless his target happened to be Darren Carrington. His feet were happy and his accuracy was questionable. That he was pretty effective as a ball carrier is small consolation given how offensive coordinator Troy Taylor wants to run his offense.

I was also struck at how lackluster the Utah defense was. It wasn’t that they were bad, but North Dakota was able to move the ball enough to generate some first downs and some points. Not what I was expecting from what I pegged as one of the top two defenses in the league.

There were some bright spots. I was impressed with RB Zack Moss (128 yds, 1 TD, 6 ypc) and not only because he is on my fantasy team. You also cannot overlook the contributions of Carrington. There were times where he was literally the only offense that Utah had.

Player of the Game: WR Darren Carrington (10 recs, 127 yds, 1 TD)

Normally, you like to take advantage of FCS matchups by getting lots of players involved and spreading the ball around. That Carrington caught 10 of Utah’s 23 completed passes probably wasn’t what Taylor had in mind for his offense. It is encouraging, however, for Utah fans to know that they have a clear #1 go to guy who can carry the day when he’s called upon.

8) Cal (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Cal 35, North Carolina 30

Cal had the most impressive win of the weekend with their road upset over UNC in Justin Wilcox’s head coaching debut. While the formations were different, the manner in which Cal won the game was quite familiar to Cal fans: lots of offense with just enough defense.

California v North Carolina
Give it up for Ross Bowers!
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There were definitely some star performances in this one. New QB Ross Bowers played out of his mind. WR Vic Wharton III averaged 32 yards per catch on five catches. LB Devante Downs had 13 tackles and an INT. Safety Danny Tartabull had 8 tackles and two pass breakups.

There are some question marks. The rushing attack produced very little while the defense allowed North Carolina to be on the field a long time - 99 snaps in all. Still, when you turn all three of your red zone trips into 21 points and average nearly nine yards per attempt in the passing game, things are normally going to turn out all right. Good win for Cal.

Player of the Game: QB Ross Bowers (24-38, 368 yds, 4 TDs, 2 INT)

With apologies to Downs, we have to acknowledge Bowers here. After barely squeezing past Chase Forrest in the preseason QB race, not many people thought Bowers would make such an immediate impact. Now the comparisons to Jared Goff are inevitable. The numbers speak for themselves and the win over a good ACC team on the road is a great confidence booster.

7) Oregon (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Southern Utah 21, Oregon 77

Do you think that Oregon had a little frustration they needed to take out? The Ducks exploded all over the Thunderbirds with overwhelming offense and a little defense to boot.

There really isn’t a ton to analyze here given the lopsided nature of the game. The rushing attack was the story with two players - Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit - passing the 100 yard mark and scoring 7 TDs between the two of them. It is interesting to note that Oregon had real difficulty in establishing its receivers for QB Justin Herbert. Charles Nelson was a clear number one with 5 catches for 99 yards. Only nine other passes were completed to wide receivers, two of which were caught by a player who started out as a safety in camp.

We can all talk about this being an FCS foe and no big deal. But losing to FCS teams was a big deal to a few other programs last weekend (right, Baylor? correct, UNLV?).

Player of the Game: Royce Freeman (23 rushes, 150 yds, 4 catches, 50 yds, 4 TDs)

I’m not sure that Freeman’s explosiveness is back, but he was a bully among boys in against Southern Utah. That he was such as strong factor in the passing game is a good thing for a team with receiver problems.

6) Colorado (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Colorado State 7, Colorado 17

I’m not sure too many people were expecting a defensive struggle knowing what we know about Colorado and after having watched the Rams go crazy against Oregon State the week before. But a defensive struggle was what we got.

QB Steven Montez couldn’t get on track for most of the night completing just 202 yards worth of passes for 1 TD and 2 INTs. Fortunately, Phillip Lindsay was on the case and ready to carry the team offensively.

The real story was a Colorado defense that most figured would take a huge step backwards following the graduation of a bunch of seniors and the loss of DC Jim Leavitt. For the most part, they were excellent against the high-flying Rams. They completely shut down the rushing attack, they generated three turnovers and, though they gave up over 300 yards passing, they did not surrender much in the way of big plays.

This was a momentum-generating win for the Buffs.

Player of the Game: RB Phillip Lindsay (19 rushes, 140 yds, 1 TD)

Though this was a defensive game, you have to give Lindsay credit for putting the Buffs in a position to win. He was the one constant for an offense that just couldn’t get clicking for most of the night.

5) Washington State (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Montana State 0, WSU 31

Montana State isn’t exactly a good FCS team - they only won four games a year ago - but this result was surprising. Firstly, that Mike Leach has won his first season opener in six tries as a Coug head coach is surprising. That the Cougs completely shut out MSU is surprising. That WSU “only” managed 31 points is also surprising.

There is a lot to unpack about this game. But I don’t have the energy to fully break down what was a late game against an FCS foe. I’ll simply note a few observations. One: that defense looked really, really good. Two: James Williams may be their best running back AND their best receiver (he caught 13 passes on 13 targets for 163 yds and two TDs). Three: it isn’t clear that they have any other receivers really ready to take a leadership role on the perimeter.

Player of the Game: DE Hercules Mata’afa (5 tackes, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFLs, 1 QBH)

Montana State’s QB managed 28 yards. Not 28 yards on a pass. Or 28 yards in a quarter. 28 yards. For the entire game. That’s not good. Bottom line: it’s hard to be a QB when Hercules is in your grille all night long. He was simply dominating.

4) UCLA (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Texas A&M 44, UCLA 45

Words cannot do justice to the drama that played out Sunday night in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins were down 44-10 in the third quarter before one of the most furious comebacks in NCAA history was mounted.

There are many heroes to credit. We could go down the list: QB Josh Rosen (of course) was brilliant. TE Caleb Wilson was extraterrestrial. Receivers Jordan Lasley, Darren Andrews and Theo Howard all made huge plays. RB Soso Jamabo was a spark plug off the bench and, in the process, probably displaced Bolu Olorunfunmi as the Bruins' starting RB. It was an amazing outcome.

Still, the journey to get into that hole cannot be ignored. For most of the game, the UCLA front seven was a hot mess. In particular, the interior of the line was completely man-handled (looking at you, Boss Tagaloa and Matt Dickerson). In fact, TAMU boasted a rushing advantage of 362 yards to UCLA’s 63. So that’s an issue.

We cannot ignore the awful performance of the offensive line. That UCLA was able to take advantage of TAMU shifting to a three-man rush in the third quarter doesn’t really alter the perception that the Bruins' line was totally overmatched for most of the night. Rosen was beaten like a piñata in this game and, obviously, the rushing attack was non-existent.

Player of the Game: TE Caleb Wilson (15 catches, 203 yds, 17 targets)

There were two players that I thought kept UCLA in the game even when things were at their worst. S Adarius Pickett was one. Wilson was the other.

Though Wilson couldn’t find paydirt all night, he was the one constant that was always available to Josh Rosen no matter how much pressure he was exposed to. Rosen kept turning to him and he kept moving chains. For long stretches of the game, he was the only offense that existed. The comeback in the third quarter started after Wilson converted two straight 20+ yard plays.

Excellent night for a man who wants to lay claim to the title of the best TE in the conference.

3) Stanford (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Stanford 62, Rice 7

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that this was a weird one. It was played in Australia at the same time that friends and family of the Rice program were at home getting devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Caveats now stated, it was still an impressive showing for Stanford.

2017 US College Football Sydney Cup
Conor Wedington emerged as a playmaker for Stanford in Week 1
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

62 points and 656 yards in total offense - very evenly spaced between the run and pass, I might add - is very impressive no matter who the opponent. Bryce Love, with 180 yards rushing, showed that he is ready to be McCaffrey 2.0 at the same time that QB Keller Chryst demonstrated zero lingering effects from his ACL tear. Husky fans will be interested to note that one-time commit Connor Wedington got into the game as a receiver and led the team in receiving with 6 catches for 82 yards.

Great start for Stanford.

Player of the Game: Bryce Love (13 carries, 180 yards, 1 TD, 13.8 ypc)

I think most observers expected a big game from Love. That it was THIS big is icing on the cake. Get ready to see a whole lot of love this season.

2) USC (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Western Michigan 31, USC 49

I know UW fans were frustrated by the Huskies and their lackluster win over Rutgers. USC fans can feel your pain. The Trojans literally traded score for score blows with WMU before breaking away in the fourth quarter to seal the home victory.

This was a typical “rust breaking” type of game that we saw all over the NCAA this past weekend. The Trojan defense was pretty effective from the get go. But QB Sam Darnold struggled with accuracy most of the night which nullified what was otherwise a very strong showing for the USC rushing tandem of Ronald Jones III and freshman Stephen Carr (69 yds, 2 TDs).

Player of the Game: RB Ronald Jones III (18 rushes, 169 yds, 3 TDs)

Along with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, I thought Jones was among the best of the PAC 12 running backs last weekend. His productivity spoke for itself and, as of right now, he has to be considered the top Heisman candidate for the Trojans (ooooo, dig on Sam Darnold)

1) Washington (1-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Washington 30, Rutgers 14

Maybe UW would have come out with more spark had they opened up at home. Or against an FCS opponent. As it was we saw UW put up a really stout defensive effort, a decent rushing attack and a cruddy passing game.

So, what do we make of it?

I don’t really know. I can say that our first road game from last season (Arizona) was a decidedly worse effort against a team that was similar in stature if not style to what Rutgers presented last weekend. I also know that traveling coast to coast is a difficult task for any team to endure.

I take heart in the fact that UW got through the game with a solid W and having gotten a number of new players their first playing experience. It was also good to see that the secondary - which most thought would be UW’s weakness - was dominating with Taylor Rapp, Bryant Murphy (2 INTs) and Myles Bryant all having excellent games.

I’m leaving UW at #1 for now because among the top three, they still had the toughest task (a road win) against a power 5 team. But this could easily be construed as a “1a” to USC’s “1b” kind of scenario.

Player of the Game: RB Lavon Coleman (51 total yds, 1 TD, 3 tackles)

Since special teams was clearly the best unit on the field for UW, I thought it fitting to pick the POG from that unit. P Joel Whitford gets special consideration here since he was able to drop a couple of beauties inside the three yard line. But I still have to give the nod to Coleman.

I thought Coleman played like a man with his hair on fire on special teams. This is especially encouraging given that he is a senior and, essentially, a co-starter on offense. That he rushed for forty yards and caught a TD pass is just gravy for UW’s Mr. Versatility.