Fans need to prepare for a wild season out west if the first weekend was any indication. Sure, division contenders Stanford and Arizona State were on bye while Oregon, UCLA and Arizona rolled to typically one-sided wins against over-matched opponents. But the rest of the league was in a dog fight.
Cal lost a tough one to Northwestern. Oregon State got upset at home against regional FCS opponent Eastern Washington. Utah barely scraped by an in-state rival. Washington State showed marked improvement on the road against an SEC blueblood. And the Washington Huskies made a bold statement that the rest of the Pac-12 better take notice of. Welcome back, college football.
The Oregon quarterback might be the most enjoyable player to watch in the entire nation. He is simply effortless in all that he does. Yes, Keith Price and Travis Wilson posted equally impressive numbers against tougher competition but Mariota is the leader of the Pac-12 front-runner and he was brilliant on Saturday. He completed 12-of-21 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown while rushing five times for 113 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. That's a 22.6 yards per carry average. His offense totaled 772 yards and scored 66 points for Mark Helfrich in his head coaching debut.
Defensive Player of the Week: Dion Bailey, USC
Dion Bailey moved from undersized linebacker to head-hunting safety this off-season and the move paid off in a big way in week one. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast watched his unit stifle former coordinator Norm Chow's offense all night led in large part by Bailey. He led the Trojans in tackles with seven and added both a sack and an interception to his stat sheet. The Trojans allowed just 231 yards of offense and only 32 yards rushing in the 30-13 win over Hawaii.
Team of the Week: Washington
Many thought Washington could pull the slight upset over the ranked Broncos but few saw this type of domination coming for the Huskies. As new Husky Stadium was christened in style by handing Boise State their worst loss since 2005 (48-13, Georgia). Both side of the ball looked excellent as Keith Price threw for over 300 yards while Bishop Sankey rushed for 161, each scoring two touchdowns along the way. The defense held Boise State to three points in each half and kept the Broncos out of the endzone all night long. This might have been the most impressive win nationally (other than maybe Clemson) and it could not have come at a more critical time for Steve Sarkisian.
Coordinator of the Week: Justin Wilcox, Washington
Chris Petersen doesn't know what the Woodshed looks like but he found out in a large way against one of his own. Wilcox coached under Petersen as the defensive coordinator of the Broncos from 2006-09 before moving to Seattle by way of Tennessee. Well, the pupil taught the master a few things late on Saturday night as the Huskies defense dominated the game. The six points were the fewest scored by Boise State since being shutout in 1997 by Washington State and it was just the third time since that blanking that Boise State failed to reach at least 10 points in a game. Needless to say, what Wilcox accomplished Saturday night doesn't happen very often.
Freshman of the Week: Andy Phillips, K, Utah
Kickers won't get this award often but Utah's redshirt placekicker deserves a nod for his work against rival Utah State. The former apline skier had never played football before taking the field in a crucial Thursday night game with the Aggies and he was basically perfect. He nailed all three field-goal attempts, including two clutch fourth-quarter kicks, made all three extra points and flipped the momentum of the game with a elegantly placed successful onside kick. Welcome to the world of football Mr. Phillips.
How times does any team on any level produce over 500 yards of offense, convert on 50-percent of third downs, not turn the ball over a single time and get beat? That is what happened to Oregon State this weekend when it lost in heart-breaking fashion to lower-tier power Eastern Washington. To fans outside of Corvallis, it was a game to remember featuring six lead changes in the final 20 minutes of game time. A big tip of the cap to EWU starting quarterback Vernon Adams who had the game of his life time. He threw for 411 yards and four touchdowns while running for 107 yards and two more touchdowns. Those numbers would be sick against lower level competition but in Reser Stadium against a Top 25 opponent? Oregon State has some flaws it needs to work through and after one weekend, it appears Washington might be the top challenger to Oregon/Stanford Pac-12 North supremacy, not the Beavers.