Opening weekend did not treat the Pac-12 well. The conference went 6-5 overall, and it saw several upsets (UCLA, Washington State) and numerous underwhelming performances (Utah, USC, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona). With the exception of the Washington Huskies, it is unclear which programs are ready to step up and challenge for the Pac-12 Championship.
Utah 24, Southern Utah 0
What Happened: The Utah Utes started slow against the Southern Utah Thundercats. The Utes barely managed to put together a 3-0 lead late into the 2nd quarter before going on to win the game 24-0. The Utes’ new quarterback, Troy Williams, excited fans in attendance by completing 20 of 35 passes for a total of 272 yards and two touchdowns. Spectators and coaches were less enthused by the veteran offensive line, which struggled to establish any sort of running game against an FCS defense (the Utes averaged a mere 3.7 yards per carry). Despite an uninspiring offensive effort, Utah’s defense played well, holding the Thunderbirds to a measly 158 yards. Marcus Williams, a junior defensive back, had a strong individual effort when he intercepted a pass and forced a fumble.
What’s Next: Utah hosts BYU next week in the 2016 edition of the Holy War.
Minnesota 30, Oregon State 23
What Happened: After taking a 23-17 lead late into the 3rd quarter, Oregon State gave up two touchdowns and the victory to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Darrell Garretson, the Beaver’s new quarterback, played well in his Pac-12 debut. A transfer from Utah State, Garretson threw for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns with a 63% completion rate. But Oregon State’s offensive line did a poor job of protecting their quarterback, giving up four sacks to a swarming Minnesota defense. The Gopher’s Tai’yon Devers made Garretson fumble the ball twice with a pair of brutal hits. Yet despite the loss, Oregon State still had a few positive takeaways. The Beavers outgained the Gophers in total yardage (317 - 280), had fewer penalty yards (55 – 70), and exhibited a decent rushing attack behind Ryan Nall, who carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards.
What’s Next: Oregon State will get a week off to lick their wounds before returning to action at Reser Stadium against Idaho State.
(8) Stanford 26, Kansas State 13
What Happened: Christian McCaffrey carried the ball 22 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns as he led the Stanford Cardinal to a victory against Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats. But while McCaffrey had a good game, Stanford’s offense struggled in its first outing of the season. After going up 17 to 3 at the end of the first half, the Cardinal only gained 30 yards offensively before McCaffrey sprinted for a 41 yard touchdown with 2 minutes left in the game. In fact, Kansas State outgained Stanford in total yards (335 to 272). Ryan Burns, the Cardinal’s new quarterback, started off strong by completing his first ten passes, but he struggled to generate the same level of productivity in the second half. Burns finished the day with 156 yards and one touchdown on 14/18 passing.
What’s next: Stanford will get a week off before facing a humbled USC squad in Palo Alto on September 17th.
Colorado 44, Colorado State 7
What Happened: The Colorado Buffaloes dominated the Colorado State Rams in this year’s edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, outgaining their in-state rivals 578 yards to 225. The Buffaloes scored 31 points in the opening half, and kept the Rams out of the end zone until the start of the 4th quarter. Sefo Liufau, the Buffs’ longtime quarterback, turned in a strong performance by tossing the pigskin for 318 yards and broke Cody Hawkins’ career passing record in the process. Colorado’s pass defense completely shut down the Colorado State air-attack, holding the opponent to a dismal average of 2.2 yards per pass attempt. After the game, Colorado’s head coach called this year’s squad the best he’s had in his four year tenure.
What’s next: Colorado will host Idaho State next week.
Eastern Washington 45, Washington State 42
What Happened: For the fourth year in a row, Washington State lost its opening game under Mike Leach. And for the second year in a row, they fell to an FCS team. Luke Falk led a potent passing attack by scoring 4 touchdowns and gaining over 400 passing yards through the air, but the Cougar’s anemic pass defense gave up nearly 500 yards to the Eastern Washington Eagles. The Cougars also surrendered a sizable 110 yards to Eastern Washington’s rushing attack. For a team that entered the season with high hopes (and several AP votes) following a 9-4 season, the Washington State program took a step backward on Saturday.
What’s Next: Washington State will look to rebound against Boise State in Idaho next week.
(1) Alabama 52, (20) USC 6
What Happened: In one of the biggest games of college football’s opening weekend, the USC Trojans led the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 3-0. But midway through the 2nd quarter, referees ejected USC’s senior defensive end Jabari Ruffin for stomping on Alabama sophomore Minkah Fitzpatrick. After that incident, the returning champs throttled the Trojans en route to a 52-6 demolition. USC’s new junior quarterback Max Browne struggled to do much against the Tide, completing only 14 of 29 passes for 101 yards and a pick. Ronald Jones II led USC’s runningbacks with 46 yards rushing on 7 touches, but the team struggled to average 2.1 yards per carry.
What’s Next: USC will play Utah State at the coliseum next week.
(14) Washington 48, Rutgers 13
What Happened: The Huskies lived up to their hype in Week 1 by cruising to an easy win against Rutgers. Jake Browning, who returns to the quarterback position following a solid freshman campaign in 2015, started off the game with a series of deep bombs to Chico McClatcher and John Ross that put Washington up 24-0 by the end of the 1st quarter. Rutgers responded with a short field goal near the end of the first half, but John Ross returned the following kickoff 92 yards for a Huskies touchdown. While Washington struggled to put together a consistent rushing attack, it didn’t matter too much as Browning averaged 10 yards per pass attempt.
What’s Next: Washington will host the Idaho Vandals next week.
Texas A&M 31, (16) UCLA 24 (OT)
What Happened: After struggling to move the ball against a suffocating Texas A&M defense through three quarters, UCLA tried to rally in the 4th quarter but ultimately fell short against the Aggies in overtime. Josh Rosen, the Bruin’s notoriously outspoken quarterback, had an inconsistent game. He threw for 343 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed three picks and was sacked five times by the Aggies. UCLA’s run defense also struggled throughout the day, as their opponent averaged 5 yards per carry.
What’s Next: UCLA will have an opportunity to snag its first win of the season against UNLV this coming Saturday.
Arizona State 44, Northern Arizona 13
What Happened: Arizona State delivered an underwhelming performance and waited until the end of the game to pull away from the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. With the score tight at 10-6 midway through the 3rd quarter, Arizona State went on a scoring flurry to put the game out of reach. But for those in attendance, the game raised concerns about the Sun Devil’s offense and defense, especially since Arizona State barely outgained its in-state foe 456 to 425. One bright spot in an otherwise worrying effort was the play of new quarterback Manny Wilkins, who threw for 180 yards and ran for an additional 89.
What’s Next: The Sun Devils will face Texas Tech in Tempe next Saturday.
BYU 18, Arizona 16
What Happened: The BYU Cougars kicked a field goal with four seconds remaining to pull out a win against the Arizona Wildcats. Anu Solomon, the Wildcats starting quarterback, blamed himself for the loss after he threw a pair of picks and barely managed 213 yards through the air. Solomon received little help from his offensive line, however, which allowed BYU defenders to pressure the quarterback throughout most of the evening. The Arizona defense also failed to stop BYU from quickly moving down the field in the game’s closing minutes.
What’s Next: Arizona will play host to Grambling State next weekend.