The entire nation was watching the Pac-12 in Week 2 and the league didn't disappoint.
The Ducks won what was being billed as "the most important game of the year" by FOX over a top 10 team. USC won the first of what is surely to be many Pac-12 conference bouts in dramatic fashion. And, as expected, offenses were on full display around the league as four teams scored at least 50 points and seven scored at least 40.
What could make this league the best in college football isn't just the depth, talent and coaching that is clearly among the nation's best but the week-in, week-out pure entertainment the Pac-12 has to offer. In fact, even the league's athletic directors are must-see TV.
Here is what we learned from the Pac-12 in Week 2:
Ducks confirm front-runner status
The only real questions about the Ducks entering the season were the overall level of coaching and leadership from the sidelines. Despite a "sluggish" first half, Marcus Mariota proved that not only is he the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy but that Oregon is clearly the class of the Pac-12. Oregon matched Michigan State's level of physicality — no easy feat — in what turned out to be a relatively easy win. Dropping a heavy fourth quarter hammer has become a standard storyline in Eugene as Oregon rattled off 28 unanswered points to end the game. Mariota finished with 360 yards of total offense and consistently danced around and escaped a very talented and well-coached Spartans front seven. In what was the first of many potential College Football Playoff elimination games, Oregon won decisively.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
Let's not overreact to USC, Pat Haden
The Trojans are really, really talented and are going to be really, really fun to watch every week. This, of course, includes the bizarre behavior of USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and head coach Steve Sarkisian. The AD left his suite, jogged to the USC sideline and had an unprecedented emotional exchange with officials during his program's dramatic win over Stanford. Many began calling for Haden to resign from the Playoff Committee. While Haden's behavior was inappropriate and should never happen again, the idea that he should resign from the committee is absurd. Just like, despite UCLA's early season struggles, fans shouldn't be crowning USC as the South Division favorites. Depth is still a major issue for the Trojans and they needed a 53-yard field goal to win a game that Stanford gave away with extremely poor red zone play. Coach Sark's third-down play-calling and sideline demeanor should also give fans pause before penciling the Men of Troy into the Pac-12 title game.
Balance of power shifting
It's still extremely early so avoiding overreaction is important but after two weeks, the Pac-12 South appears to have closed the gap on the North significantly. USC beat Stanford on the road and looks extremely dangerous, both Arizona schools look like division contenders and even Utah looks like it's much improved. Meanwhile, up North, Stanford is already a game back in the loss column, Washington State has played atrocious football (more on that soon) and neither Washington nor Oregon State — who have won four games over bad competition by 7.7 points per game — look capable of being mentioned among the league's better teams. Oregon is as advertised and Cal looks to be improved but it is clear that the South has, at best, drawn even with the North and, at worst, narrowed the gap significantly after two weeks of action.
What do we make of UCLA?
UCLA is 2-0. But it has beaten two teams that combined for 19 losses last year by a combined 15 points. The Bruins' defense looked outstanding against Virginia in Week 1 but the offense looked pedestrian and lacking in overall talent other than Brett Hundley. In Week 2, at home, Hundley was outstanding — try 33-for-44, 396 yards and three touchdowns. But the defense allowed 24 first downs, 469 yards of offense and nearly six yards per play against a Memphis team that was more than a three touchdown underdog. While the Bruins have survived and are unbeaten, this schedule will get dramatically more difficult in coming weeks with Texas, Arizona State, Utah and Oregon in the next four. The Bruins need to establish consistency on both sides of the ball or the phrase "playoff contender" will disappear from the UCLA commentary in rapid fashion.
Washington State has major issues
The Cougars entered the season with bowl aspirations, were completely healthy and had a quarterback poised to set more Pac-12 passing records. After two weeks, all of that has virtually disappeared. If Mike Leach wanted to make a bowl, wins over Rutgers and Nevada were must-haves but Wazzu has lost both. More concerning is how it lost to the Wolf Pack on Friday night. Nevada's defense completely outplayed Leach's high-powered Air Raid, holding Washington State to one touchdown. Leach's squad turned the ball over, was 5-of-17 on third and fourth downs and was penalized 10 times. Seven of the Cougs' remaining 10 opponents are virtual locks for bowl games and two others (Cal, Utah) appear to be much improved, so if Wazzu wants to make the postseason it will have to pull off more than a few upsets.
Pac-12 Power Rankings:
W, 46-27, Michigan St
W, 42-35, Memphis
W, 13-10, Stanford
at Boston College
L, 13-10, Stanford
W, 58-23 New Mexico
W, 26-23, UTSA
W, 59-52, E. Washington
W, 38-30, Hawaii
W, 59-27, Fresno St
W, 55-14, Sacramento St
W, 41-38, UMass
L, 24-13, Nevada