The West Coast league had two preseason national championship contenders, four new head coaches, the most talented receivers in the country and some regimes in desperate need of winning seasons.
Headed into this weekend's opening action, USC and Oregon were the clear picks to face-off in the Pac-12 title game and few teams looked better nationally than the Ducks and Trojans. In fact, Oregon's first half might have been the best half of football played by any team in any league. These two looked like bonafide national champion contenders and appear to be headed for a massive battle in Los Angeles come Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, the new coaches experienced everything from utter joy to an overtime thriller to complete despair. And Jeff Tedford got his critical season in Berkeley off on the exact wrong foot.
Post-Week 1 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Matt Barkley, USC -Fans shouldn't be shocked if Barkley's name is No. 1 on this list every single week of the year. All he did on his first pass of 2012 was toss a 75-yard touchdown strike to Marqise Lee (yeah, yeah, Lee did most of the work). The Trojan passer finished 23-of-38 for 357 yards and four touchdowns in the blowout win.
2. Marqise Lee, USC - The first play from scrimmage was about a two-yard quick pass to No. 9 in a Trojan uniform. Lee took the pass, hit the sideline and outran the entire Hawaii team for a touchdown. He then caught nine more passes for 122 more yards and returned a kick 100 yards for a second score. He finished with 10 catches, 197 receiving yards and the nation's lead in all-purpose yardage.
3. Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin, UCLA - UCLA has been craving a quarterback for over a decade and, should he stay healthy, Hundley could be that guy. On his first carry, he raced off the right edge for a 72-yard touchdown run. He finished with 202 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-28 passing to go with 68 yards rushing and that long score on the ground. Franklin made life easy for everyone by carrying the ball 15 times for 214 yards and three scores of his own. Yes, Franklin was the big-time performer, but Hundley's performance is dramatically more important to the program.
Post-Week 1 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Hayes Pullard, USC - The sophomore was largely overshadowed by fellow impact freshman Dion Bailey last fall, but Pullard was the star on Saturday. He posted six total tackles including an assist on a tackle for loss to go with his 27-yard interception return for a touchdown.
2. Jake Fischer, Arizona - The junior linebacker posted career highs with 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. He also forced his first career fumble and was a part of a defense that played very well in the second half of the game. Toledo finished the game 10-23 on third downs and 0-7 in the second half.
3. Usua Amanam, Stanford - The Cardinal defense had to lead the way in the first post-Andrew Luck performance. Amanam posted six total tackles, 4.0 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks in the tight 20-17 win over San Jose State.
Post-Week 1 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Lane Kiffin, USC - There was a nice little backstory to the Trojans opener with Hawaii as Kiffin and Warriors' head coach Norm Chow worked together under Pete Carroll. Kiffin took no prisoners as the Men of Troy rolled from the first play of the game. Until someone beats him, Kiffin will top this ballot.
2. Chip Kelly, Oregon - This game was at one point a 50-3 contest and Chip Kelly pulled Marcus Mariota in the second quarter. This team is absolutely stacked with speed and it will be hard for any coach to wedge his way into the Pac-12 Coach of the Year race with Kiffin and Kelly battling it out all year long.
3. New head coaches not named MIke Leach - The Pac-12 welcomed four stellar new head coaches to the ranks this fall and three of them came away from Week 1 with quality performances. UCLA looked reenergized on offense while Arizona State won by a cool 57 points. Arizona posted big offensive numbers and outlasted a gamey Toledo Rockets squad. Leach's bunch had no such luck this weekend.
Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
1. USC (1-0)
Preseason rank: 1
Week 1 result: Beat Hawaii 49-10
There was little Lane Kiffin could be upset about in his drubbing of former co-worker Norm Chow and Hawaii. Matt Barkley was efficient, his receivers made huge plays on offense, special teams were explosive, Silas Redd beefed up the ground game and the Trojan defense got in on the scoring as well. This is the preseason No. 1 team in the nation for a reason and showed zero signs of weakness. Although, the two-point conversion plays could use some upgrading as USC went 0-3 in that department. In fact, the only thing that should concern Kiffin about his team's chances of winning the Pac-12 crown after one week of action would be how his North Division foe played in Eugene Saturday night.
This week: at Syracuse (0-1)
2. Oregon (1-0)
Preseason rank: 2
Week 1 result: Beat Arkansas State 57-34
Even though Oregon scored 57 points, the score wasn't indicative of just how electric Oregon's offense was in Week 1. Without LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, the Ducks didn't miss a beat, scoring 50 first-half points and ultimately taking a 50-3 (with seven minutes to go in the second quarter) lead before starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was pulled from the game. De'Anthony Thomas was up to his old tricks by scoring three times on seven offensive touches, but the story was the quarterback. Mariota was poised and looked the part of a leader, taking charge of the huddle and supporting his teammates at every turn. He finished 18-of-22 passing with 200 yards and three touchdowns to go with 24 yards rushing and could be Chip Kelly's best all-around QB as only a redshirt freshman. Certainly, the high-powered Red Wolves attack which won the Sun Belt last fall finally got on the board, but the 24 second-half points were essentially meaningless as Kelly got his reserves into the game.
This week: Fresno State (1-0)
3. Washington (1-0)
Preseason rank: 4
Week 1 result: Beat San Diego State 21-12
So far, so good for the newly rebuilt Washington defense. With an entirely new coaching staff and plenty of new faces in the starting line-up, Husky fans were hoping for marked improvement from a unit that was downright atrocious last fall. The Justin Wilcox-led defense forced three turnovers, registered four sacks, provided a big touchdown of its own and 450 fewer yards on Saturday than it did the last time it was on the field (777 to 327). Keith Price wasn't elite but did his job by tossing a scoring strike to emerging star Kasen Williams. All cylinders will have to be firing if Price and Wilcox expect to go into Baton Rouge and simply be competitive, much less win.
This week: at LSU (1-0)
4. Stanford (1-0)
Preseason rank: 3
Week 1 result: Beat San Jose State 20-17
For the first time in four years, Cardinal fans saw a team without Jim Harbaugh or Andrew Luck leading the way. And the offensive issues were painfully obvious. Quarterback Josh Nunes had issues moving the football all day, converting only 2-of-13 third-down attempts. The Aztecs actually out-gained the Cardinal 288-280 in total yards and David Shaw needed a late San Jose State fumble deep in its own territory to score the game-winning field goal. The defense was solid and Stepfan Taylor was the lone bright spot for the Stanford offense. He carried the ball 26 times for 116 yards and a first-quarter touchdown.
This week: Duke (1-0)
5. Utah (1-0)
Preseason rank: 5
Week 1 result: Beat Northern Colorado 41-0
If there is a team assembled in such a way to stop USC or Oregon, it might just be the Utes. This team boasts one of the best power running attacks west of the Mississippi — John White rushed 24 times for 119 yards and a score Thursday night — and plays strong defense at the point of attack — Utah allowed a total of 114 yards in the season-opening shutout. If this team can get balanced offense from the passing game, it could easily pull the biggest upset of the season. Jordan Wynn finished 19-of-27 for 200 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while heralded back-up Travis Wilson rushed for two touchdowns as well. This weekend, however, finds the Utes on upset alert against in-state foe Utah State.
This week: at Utah State (1-0)
6. UCLA (1-0)
Preseason rank: 7
Week 1 result: Beat Rice 49-24
The UCLA Bruins have been looking for a quality quarterback since 1998 and it might have found one in redshirt freshman Brett Hundley. He took the game's first play 72 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for a host of long scoring runs for the Bruins. Running back Johnathan Franklin also scored on runs of 74 and 78 yards, leading to an absurd 14.3 yards per carry clip on 15 carries (214 yards). Hundley was also efficient passing the ball and led an offense that topped the 300-yard mark in both rushing and passing. Jim Mora Jr. saw his offense roll-up 646 yards of total offense. Fans should learn a lot more about the growth of UCLA under Mora after Nebraska comes to town this weekend.
This week: Nebraska (1-0)
7. Cal (0-1)
Preseason rank: 6
Week 1 result: Lost to Nevada 31-24
Jeff Tedford is going to have nightmares about the Nevada Wolfpack. For the second time in as many games, Nevada has beaten the Cal Golden Bears on the back of a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. Quarterback Cody Fajardo and his offense out-gained the Bears 450 to 365 and two key completions on their final drive of the game led to the game-winning touchdown. Cal finished 3-of-14 on third-downs and failed to get the ground game going at all. Meanwhile, the reworked defensive front seven clearly had issues stopping the Pistol rushing attack of Chris Ault.
This week: Southern Utah (0-1)
8. Arizona (1-0)
Preseason rank: 8
Week 1 result: Beat Toledo 24-17
Rich Rodriguez' debut at Arizona had a little bit of everything for everyone. Quarterback Matt Scott waited his turn for this moment and he delivered in a big way in the season opener. He threw for 387 yards, completed 30 passes in 46 attempts and added 74 yards on 14 carries rushing. His backfield mate Ka'Deem Carey sprinted up the gut for a key third-quarter 73-yard touchdown run and finished with 147 yards on 20 carries. These are the two staples of the RichRod patented zone-read option. Arizona survived three turnovers and doubled the Rockets in total yards but still had to fight into overtime to clinch the win. Linebacker Jake Fischer had a monster game as the Wildcats' defense stepped up in the second half. They will be called upon again this Saturday against a team that scored 84 points last weekend.
This week: Oklahoma State
9. Arizona State (1-0)
Preseason rank: 10
Week 1 result: Beat Northern Arizona 63-6
Winning by 57 points is a good thing, right? Todd Graham got his tenure as the ASU head coach off to a roaring start by rolling-up 63 total points and 305 yards rushing this Saturday. The Sun Devils new quarterback, sophomore Taylor Kelly, had by definition the best game of any Pac-12 quarterback this weekend. Kelly finished with a 205.52 QB rating by completing 15-of-19 passing for 247 yards and one touchdown pass. He also added 43 yards on six carries rushing as well. The rest of the backfield took it from there. Cameron Marshall scored twice, Marion Grice scored three times and rushed for 107 yards and newcomer D.J. Foster had 99 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his first-ever college action. This team has some ability and Graham knows offense, but it will have to prove it against solid competition before it can start thinking about bowl games. Like maybe Illinois?
This week: Illinois (1-0)
10. Oregon State (0-0)
Preseason rank: 11
Week 1 result: Postponed
The Beavers were set to kickoff the 2012 season with what should have been a relatively easy win over FCS opponent Nicholls State. Instead, Mike Riley's quest to return to the postseason now must begin with the reigning Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers. This turn of events was clearly an unlucky break for Oregon State.
This week: Wisconsin (1-0)
11. Washington State (0-1)
Preseason rank: 9
Week 1 result: Lost to BYU 30-6
A Mike Leach-coached team has failed to reach 10 points in a game only five times in 128 games. Washington State's performance against BYU in Provo Thursday night was one on the worst performances of the entire Week 1 slate. The running game was non-existent and Leach's air raid never took off. Meanwhile, the defense still has major issues as Riley Nelson was able to pick apart the Wazzu defense pretty much at will. Many thought the Cougars could make a run at a postseason game in Leach's first year, however, Week 1 indicated that WSU is still a ways away from bowl contention.
This week: Eastern Washington (1-0)
12. Colorado (0-1)
Preseason rank: 12
Week 1 result: Lost to Colorado State 22-17
Jordan Webb barely completed half of his passes (22 of 41), the running game averaged exactly 2.0 yards per carry (29 for 58) and Jon Embree began his second season as the head coach in Boulder with a crushing loss to in-state rival Colorado State. The Buffs allowed five sacks and turned the ball over twice in one of the worst outcomes of the week. Jim McElwain had a decidedly different debut for the Rams.
This week: Sacramento State (0-1)
by Braden Gall
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