Two weeks of college football are in the books and what a weekend it was for Pac-12 teams. Despite a few hiccups, it was a strong overall weekend for a conference that showed it may be more prominent than anticipated in the 2012 season.
Only one team towards the top took a tumble (and it was a pretty big loss to say the least), but even with that squad falling apart over the weekend, the Pac-12 actually looks like it could be a tighter conference than expected.
The Trojans didn’t give their best performance against Syracuse over the weekend, but at no point did USC look like it was in any sort of trouble of losing. The Orange attempted to fight back and, despite a sloppy game from Southern California, Syracuse was unable to keep up.
USC is still the clear number one team in the Pac-12 at this moment, but there are several teams in the league (not just Oregon) that could cause problems for the Trojans if Saturday is any indication of how they will perform throughout the season.
The only slight I have against Oregon so far is that they have yet to be tested. Through each of their first two games, the Ducks jumped out to huge lead and cruised in the second half. Even with the lack of quality competition, it’s hard not to be impressed with freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota as well as running backs De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner.
Simply put, Oregon looks like the same squad we’ve come to know in recent years and should battle for the conference title.
Don’t look now, but the Bruins are attempting to be relevant in college football again. UCLA upset Nebraska at home and quarterback Brett Hundley has Bruins’ fans at a level excitement they haven’t been at in many years.
On top of that, UCLA possesses the second strongest rushing attack in the nation after two games led by running back Jonathan Franklin – who has produced consecutive 200-yard performances on the ground. If the Bruins keep it up, USC could be sharing attention with UCLA in Los Angeles for the first time in over a decade.
The Wildcats dominant win over then-ranked Oklahoma State is another victory by a Pac-12 squad that has put a charge into its fan-base and is enough to give them the big leap to four this week. Rich Rodriguez has already made his mark as the team currently ranks ninth nationally in total offense and seems to be moving the ball with little-to-no resistance.
The defense is still shaky, but has been opportunistic at times and is currently a plus-two in turnover margin.
Stanford blew out Duke, but it falls behind Arizona in the rankings due to lack of a strong opponent and a weak showing against a San Jose State school they would have crushed a season ago.
The good news is that Josh Nunes looked much improved in week two, but the Cardinal is going to have to prove they are a contender without Andrew Luck by beating someone of significance.
6. Oregon State
After last week’s season opener against Nicholls State was postponed, the Beavers kicked off their season impressively by beating a ranked Wisconsin team at home at 10-7. OSU’s defense looked very impressive and was able to contain Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball.
The Badgers’ running back ran for just 61 yards with his longest gain going for 14. In a conference that has a large number of high-powered attacks, Oregon State’s defense could potentially be a thorn in the side of many Pac-12 teams this year.
7. Arizona State
Make no mistake, the Sun Devils have been very impressive under first-year head coach Todd Graham. ASU has blown out both Northern Arizona and Illinois, but neither team is strong enough to provide a barometer of how good the Sun Devils really are.
While the opponents haven’t been the strongest, it is pretty obvious that the new staff’s approach is paying off in a similar way that it is with Rodriguez at Arizona and Jim Mora at UCLA. If ASU can come up with a big win over Missouri this weekend, it will turn a lot of heads.
The loss to Utah State took the wind out of the Utes’ sails quickly. Utah allowed the Aggies to pull off the upset and cast a shadow of doubt over a season that looked very promising for the Utes just one week ago. Now with Wynn calling it quits completely, it’s hard to imagine Utah pushing its way into the upper echelon of the conference this season.
The Golden Bears looked pretty bad against Nevada in week one and despite defeating Southern Utah by 19 points, the team has looked like anything but a threat over the first two weeks. Sure, Cal won by three possessions, but the Bears only led by three points going into the fourth quarter.
The competition in the conference looks deeper this year and unless Cal put forth stronger performances, it’s going to be tough for them to hang in the race.
The Huskies were supposed to be a much more competitive team, but getting thrashed on the road at LSU isn’t going to prove any doubters wrong. Sure, it was the Tigers who are a perennial national title contender, but several other squads showed fight in them this past weekend against tough opponents whereas UW rolled over.
Not that Washington should have been expected to upset LSU, but the game should have been much more competitive than that.
11. Washington State
The good news for the Cougars is they won. The bad news is that the opponent was Eastern Washington, the game was in Pullman, and Wazzu won by just four.
The game, once again, showed that Mike Leach has a really tough task ahead of him in a conference where many other programs are simply getting better at a fast rate.
Any time you lose to a squad like Sacramento State, you really need to start questioning whether or not it’s time to start looking ahead to next season, even if the current campaign is just two weeks old.