Despite an 8-4 record on opening weekend, it was an auspicious start to the 2018 season for the Pac-12 Conference, which, first and foremost, squandered its best chance at qualifying for the College Football Playoff when No. 6 Washington fell to No. 9 Auburn in Atlanta. Jake Browning, Bryce Love and Khalil Tate didn’t do much to enhance their Heisman Trophy bids and three teams – UCLA, Cal and Oregon State – left the weekend with more quarterback concerns than they had entering it.
The season’s young, but the conference already has lots of ground to make up.
1. Washington (0-1; preseason ranking: 1): Considering the level of opposition, one might still be able to make an argument the Huskies had the best opening weekend of any team in the Pac-12. We’ll see about those College Football Playoff chances, though …
2. USC (1-0; preseason ranking: 2): At the start of the week, USC fans were buzzing about a true freshman, J.T. Daniels, who was named the Trojans’ starting quarterback. At the end of it, they were buzzing about another one, Amon-Ra St. Brown, a wide receiver who caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown against UNLV.
3. Oregon (1-0; preseason ranking: 6): A few of the conference’s Heisman hopefuls saw their candidacies take hits this past weekend, but not Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw five touchdown passes and ran for another score in a week-one rout of Bowling Green.
4. Utah (1-0; preseason ranking: 5): We’ll wait until the Utes play a true opponent before attempting to gauge them, but you can’t help being impressed by the defensive fortitude they showed against Weber State, conceding just 13 passing yards and 46 rushing.
5. Stanford (1-0; preseason ranking: 4): The best offensive player at Stanford this season is … J.J. Arcega-Whiteside? OK, we won’t go there yet, but the wide receiver did overshadow Bryce Love in a win over San Diego State with six catches for a mind-blowing 226 yards and three touchdowns, while Love rushed 18 times for only 29 yards.
6. Washington State (1-0; preseason ranking: 8): Mike Leach and the Cougars can afford to be a bad second-quarter team this season if they’re able to dominate the other three quarters like they did in Saturday’s 22-point win at Wyoming. Also, stock up on first-year WSU starter Gardner Minshew.
7. Arizona State (1-0; preseason ranking: 11): For all the excitement the Herm Edwards Experience has generated these past nine months, the ASU coach’s debut was probably somewhat anticlimactic – but in the best way possible. The Sun Devils led from start to finish and didn’t concede a touchdown until the fourth quarter of their 49-7 blowout of UTSA.
8. Cal (1-0; preseason ranking: 9): Good news for the Golden Bears: they’re 1-0 after playing an ACC opponent. Bad news for the Golden Bears: second-year starter Ross Bowers may not be the answer at quarterback after all.
9. Colorado (1-0; preseason ranking: 10): Steven Montez showcased his arm in another one-sided Rocky Mountain Showdown, completing 22 of 25 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-13 win over Colorado State. The Buffaloes were hardly tested at Mile High Stadium, but they should be this Saturday against Big Ten foe Nebraska.
10. Arizona (0-1; preseason ranking: 3): Arizona concocted a challenging nonconference schedule for first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, and while it should help prep the Wildcats for the Utahs and USCs of the Pac-12 South, they’ll have to come a long way from Saturday’s loss to BYU if they have designs on competing for the South division.
11. UCLA (0-1; preseason ranking: 7): The Bruins’ blur offense is still in its infant stages – as evidenced by a 17-point showing against Cincinnati in the season opener. To make matters worse, starting QB Wilton Speight is questionable for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma with a back injury.
12. Oregon State (0-1; preseason ranking: 12): Even with all the turmoil brewing in Columbus, Ohio, nobody expected Oregon State to give Ohio State a close game. But few probably thought it would turn out like it did. In a 46-point loss, the Beavers gave up nearly 80 points, conceded 721 yards of total offense and possibly lost starting QB Jake Luton long-term.
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