The Pac-12 held serve in Week 1. But just barely.
Most of the contenders — Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, USC, Arizona and Utah — crushed overmatched opponents to start the year. But UCLA had to fight to top Virginia, and Washington barely held on for a win over Hawaii. Both are considered disappointing showings despite each achieving victory. Oregon State also had to fight to beat FCS cellar dweller Portland State.
Washington State and Colorado also began the year in disappointing fashion as well. The Cougars were upset in Seattle by a Big Ten bottom feeder, while the Buffaloes fell to an instate rival.
This Pac-12's saving grace came from an unlikely source as Cal pulled off one of the bigger upsets of Week 1 over Northwestern.
Here is what we learned from the Pac-12 in Week 1:
There are a lot of new faces on the sidelines out West. Don Pellum debuted as Oregon's defensive coordinator by allowing 13 points and 370 yards to South Dakota. Lance Anderson debuted as Stanford's defensive coordinator by pitching a shutout and allowing just 115 yards against UC Davis. And Jeff Ulbrich's first game as UCLA's defensive coordinator netted three defensive touchdowns on the road against Virginia. But the two biggest debuts came in the form of two head coaches forever interwoven at USC and Washington. Steve Sarkisian's Trojans were masterful over Fresno State on both sides of the ball despite a short roster. Meanwhile Chris Petersen's Huskies barely topped a bad Hawaii team on the Islands. While fans in Los Angeles needed this type of showing after a rough week of news, those in Seattle are looking forward to the return of quarterback Cyler Miles in Week 2. Washington's Jeff Lindquist completed just 10-of-26 passes as UW mustered just 336 yards of offense. Cody Kessler, meanwhile, posted 422 yards of offense. The Trojans are clearly talented but will need to stay healthy to get into the Pac-12 title mix.
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Cal scores road upset
Sonny Dykes is a well-respected coaching mind but had an extremely rough first campaign in Berkeley. He's already matched his win total from last year by pulling off a big road upset over Northwestern. Cal opened up a 31-7 third-quarter lead before holding on for the seven-point upset. His Bears held the heavily favored Wildcats (-11) to just 354 yards of offense after allowing 529.5 yards per game last season. Jared Goff finished 21-of-34 passing for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Alongside Dykes in the 2013 Pac-12 head coaching narrative, Colorado's Mike MacIntrye didn't start his second season nearly as well in a disappointing 31-17 loss to instate rival Colorado State.
Arm race heats up
This league has the best signal callers in America but it might be even better under center out West than we expected. Kessler and USC posted 701 yards of offense and 37 first downs on a Pac-12 record 105 offensive plays. He finished with 394 yards passing and wasn't even one of the top two passers in the league. Washington State's Connor Halliday threw for 532 yards, while Arizona's Anu Solomon posted 425 in his first career game (more on him in a minute). Marcus Mariota also rolled up 310 total yards, while Sean Mannion posted 328 yards through the air. This deep and talented collection of passers might actually be deeper and more talented than believed. In fact, one of the few players who struggled in the season opener was UCLA's Brett Hundley. But was that really his fault...
Hundley's supporting cast not ready
Brett Hundley was the most sacked quarterback in the nation over the last two seasons (87). He was running for his life once again facing a team that lost 10 times last fall. Virginia isn't your average last place team as it does have some young talent on defense, but UCLA's lack of overall skill on offense was exposed. This team doesn't have a proven playmaker of any kind to support Hundley, and the offensive line was abused for four sacks. If UCLA wants to win the Pac-12 it will have to prove that it has the ability to slow the opposing pass rush or teams will simply pin their ears back and attack the star quarterback.
RichRod has found a QB
There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats. Against his hometown team, the first-time starter didn't disappoint. He used a barrage of big plays to roll up 425 yards passing and four touchdowns while adding 50 yards rushing on eight carries. In all, Arizona set a school record with 787 total yards of offense, breaking the previous mark of 691 set back in 1969 against New Mexico. Two different Cats (Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson) topped 100 yards rushing but Solomon was the clear star of the show and appears to be the next big thing in RichRod's offense.
Pac-12 Power Rankings:
W, 62-13, S. Dakota
W, 45-0, UC Davis
W, 28-20, Virginia
W, 52-13, Fresno St
W, 45-14, Weber St
at N. Mexico
W, 58-13, UNLV
W, 17-16, Hawaii
W, 29-14, Portland St
W, 56-14, Idaho St
W, 31-24, N'Western
L, 41-38, Rutgers
L, 31-17, CSU