Arizona submitted the most impressive season-opening performance in the Pac-12, and we’re not sure it was even close given the state of the Wildcats’ program in recent years.
Oregon State was superb Saturday night in a takedown of Boise State, but the Beavers went bowling last season.
USC and UCLA rolled to victories, but both teams are expected to have quality seasons and were facing third-rate competition at home.
The Wildcats, who were 1-16 the past two years, dominated San Diego State on the road one year after being embarrassed at home by the Aztecs.
What’s the ceiling for Arizona in Year Two under coach Jedd Fisch? That’s anyone’s guess at this early stage.
But we can at least define the bar.
The Hotline examined every Pac-12 season since 1978, when the Arizona schools joined the conference, to identify teams that won less than two games.
There are 18 of ‘em across the decades.
Then we charted how those 18 fared the following season to determine the greatest year-over-year improvement.
Of note: Only three teams improved to at least five wins.
Stanford went 1-10 in 1987, then 5-6 the ensuing year, while Washington went 0-12 in 2008, then 5-7 the next year.
But the best turnaround resides in Berkeley.
Cal was 1-10 in 2001, the final year of coach Tom Holmoe’s tenure. The Bears hired Jeff Tedford and went 7-5 the following season with a team that featured four players selected in the ensuing NFL Draft, including quarterback Kyle Boller.
The transfer portal has changed the reloading speed and made swift turnarounds far more manageable. Largely because of two newcomers, quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Jacob Cowing, the Wildcats could challenge Cal’s benchmark if they remain healthy and receive a few favorable bounces.
It’s not like they’re playing in the SEC West or Big Ten East.
And even if the seven-win bar proves far beyond Arizona’s grasp, what’s the harm in pondering?
After all, Week One is in the books, which means it’s time for overreactions.
Power ratings are based entirely on the scoreboard, except when they aren’t …
1. Utah (0-1)
Result: lost at Florida 29-26
Next up: vs. Southern Utah (10:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The cross-country trip ended poorly, and we don’t mean the game (although that was certainly suboptimal). The Utes had issues with their flight, were forced to spend Saturday night in Gainesville and didn’t return to campus until Sunday evening.
2. USC (1-0)
Result: beat Rice 66-14
Next up: at Stanford (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: With three Pick Six touchdowns, USC’s defense scored more points in Week One than 35 FBS teams.
3. UCLA (1-0)
Result: beat Bowling Green 45-17
Next up: vs. Alabama State (2 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: For those who thought the super-soft early schedule meant a true assessment of the Bruins would have to wait until the conference opener, well, the conference opener is Colorado.
4. Washington (1-0)
Result: beat Kent State 45-20
Next up: vs. Portland State (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: For all the understandable hubbub about the revitalized offense, we would like to report a Sav’ell Smalls sighting.
5. Oregon State (1-0)
Result: beat Boise State 34-17
Next up: at Fresno State (7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network)
Comment: The balance sheet from Week One reads like this for the Beavers: 37 runs, 24 passes. Since when did they install the Air Raid?
6. Arizona (1-0)
Result: won at San Diego State 38-20
Next up: vs. Mississippi State (8 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: Anyone else wondering if the best receiver in the conference isn’t named Jordan Addison? It’s early, sure, but it’s also a distinct possibility.
7. Oregon (0-1)
Result: lost to Georgia 49-3
Next up: vs. Eastern Washington (5:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The disparity in talent didn’t fully account for the disparity in the score. The Ducks were out-coached as badly as they were outplayed. Ol’ Kirby laid one on young Dan.
8. Arizona State (1-0)
Result: beat Northern Arizona 40-3
Next up: at Oklahoma State (4:30 p.m. on ESPN2)
Comment: ASU has the personnel to hang with the Cowboys for four quarters, so long as the Sun Devils don’t kneecap themselves with penalties and turnovers.
9. Cal (1-0)
Result: beat UC Davis 34-13
Next up: vs. UNLV (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Jack Plummer’s delivery and arm strength give the Bears more options in the aerial game than they had with Chase Garbers. Now all they have to do is take advantage of him.
10. Stanford (1-0)
Result: beat Colgate 41-10
Next up: vs. USC (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: It appears the son of Emmitt Smith is, in fact, better than the son of Barry Sanders but, obviously, not as good as the son of Ed McCaffrey.
11. Washington State (1-0)
Result: beat Idaho 24-17
Next up: at Wisconsin (12:30 p.m. on FOX)
Comment: If the plan was to look as bland, disjointed and vulnerable as possible in order to lull Wisconsin into a false sense of security, the Cougars executed marvelously.
12. Colorado (0-1)
Result: lost to TCU 38-13
Next up: at Air Force (12:30 p.m. on CBS)
Comment: Karl Dorrell said he would “get some film evaluation on both” quarterbacks before deciding on a starter. We’ll save him the time: It’s JT Shrout or bust in Boulder.