Week 1 of the 2013 College Football season is in the books and it shows again why it is arguably the most interesting and purely entertaining sport in the country. Most week 1 match-ups are filled with meaningless non-conference games and power conference schools stomping on smaller schools that are just playing for a $450,000 check. But week 1 of the 2013 season was filled with big-time matchups, stunning upsets, and intriguing storylines. And all of these things reigned true in the Pac-12 conference. Even though the conference had its share of teams blowing out weak non-conference opponents, it also had its share of interesting storylines as the conference kicked off the 2013 season.
USC has some major problems
The first official day of the season was last Thursday and even though the earlier games didn’t offer much excitement, I was excited to see the USC Trojans kickoff their season against Hawaii. Little did I know that I was about to watch a late-night horror movie instead. The game started at 11 pm et. / 8pm pt. and since it was on CBS College Network, which is not offered with most regular television packages, it is safe to say most College Football fans missed this horrific late night game. Fans likely got up the next morning saw that USC won 30-13 and assumed that the Trojans took care of business in Honolulu. To those fans I would say, don’t be fooled.
It is hard to describe the pure awfulness that ensued in that game, especially at the quarterback position. For a program who has sent its last five starting quarterbacks to the NFL (and 1 backup in Matt Cassel), this was an incredibly sorry sight. Sophomore quarterback, Cody Kessler, got the start in the first half and went 10-19 for 95 yards and a touchdown. Max Wittek, the other sophomore quarterback, played in the second half and went 5-10 for 77 yards. The numbers aren’t terrible, but they don’t do their play justice. Both quarterbacks struggled mightily reading the defense and making simple throws. It also didn’t help that the Trojans couldn’t run the football early on and that star receiver Marquise Lee had two costly drops. Trojans Head Coach, Lane Kiffin, was very conservative with the passing game, yet the quarterbacks still struggled.
The sadder thing about how bad USC played is how bad of a team Hawaii is. Hawaii only won 3 games in 2012, with only one of them being a conference win. And they gave up over 30 points in 7 of their 12 games. Even though the Trojans did not have a sustained drive the whole game, the main reason USC was able to come out with the victory was because they took advantage of four Hawaii turnovers and turned them into points. All in all, it was a very underwhelming performance from the Trojans. However, the Trojans do have time to fix all of their problems. Washington State, Boston College, and Utah State are the Trojans next three opponents (watch out for Utah State). All of those games are at home and all of them should be wins for USC. They have their bye week after the Utah State game before they go off to Tempe to face Arizona State on October 10th. Despite all of their problems USC is still loaded with talent and they have about a month to figure out their quarterback situation. But if the quarterback play doesn’t improve, it could be a long season for the Trojans, and Kiffin’s seat will become hotter than it already is.
Oregon State needs to look for a new defensive coordinator immediately
On the bright side, OSU’s offense looked to be clicking on all cylinders on Saturday against Eastern Washington. Junior quarterback, Sean Mannion, looked almost perfect, completing 37 out of his 43 passes for 422 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior receiver, Brandin Cooks, showed himself not only to the Beavers premiere receiver after Markus Wheaton went to the NFL, but also one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference. He caught 13 passes for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns and was an absolute nightmare for the Eastern Washington defense. The OSU defense, however, was a different story.
OSU probably had its worst defensive performance in the Mike Riley era. The Beavers were far superior athletically than Eastern Washington but were constantly not where they were supposed to be on the defensive side. They gave up numerous big plays, had horrifically poor pass coverage, and could not pressure or contain Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams, who had an incredible 518 total yards by himself (411 passing and 107 rushing). Adams basically did whatever the hell he wanted to against the piss-poor OSU defense. OSU just could not handle Adams mobility. He made incredibly easy throws outside the pocket when coverage broke down and always seemed to run out of trouble when the Beavers got any pressure on him. Give a ton of credit to Eastern Washington. They had an excellent game plan and they just flat out rose to the challenge and played incredibly well. Also keep in mind that Eastern Washington is one of the best FCS schools in the country. However, losing to a team like that is completely unacceptable for the Beavers.
I know it is only week 1 but this season can only go one of two ways for the Beavers. They can chalk this up as an already disappointing season and mail it in the rest of the way or they can use this loss as ammunition. In 2010 Virginia Tech had an embarrassing lost to FCS school James Madison. But the Hokies went on to win the ACC title and make an appearance in the Orange Bowl. In 2007, Michigan had an embarrassing loss to Appalachian St to open their season. But they went on to contend for the Big Ten crown and beat Tim Tebow’s Florida team in the Capital One Bowl. OSU still has a lot to play for, similar to teams of the past that have lost to FCS schools to start their season. Despite the loss, OSU still has the talent to compete for a Pac-12 North championship. But if they don’t fix their problems on defense, it will be a long season for the Beavers.
Solid wins for UCLA, Colorado and Utah
The Utah Utes entered the 2013 season with not a ton of promise. They finished the season 5-7 in 2012 and they lost their best player in defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. But things are looking up for the Utes after a solid win over a Utah State team that went 11-2 in 2012 and finished with a #20 ranking in the USA Today poll. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson went 17-28 for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns in the victory and the Utes defense was able to hold an explosive Utah State offense to 26 points. If Wilson is able to keep up his strong play, the Utes could be a dark horse threat in the Pac-12 South.
UCLA’s dynamic offense did not disappoint in their opening matchup against Nevada. The Bruins exploded for 58 points 647 total yards in the rout of Nevada. Many thought Nevada would be a viable opponent for the Bruins because of a respectable 7-6 record in 2012 including a road win over Cal, and giving Arizona all they could handle in the one-point loss in the New Mexico Bowl. But the Bruin defense kept the Nevada pistol offense in check and the Wolfpack could not contain sensational sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley was 22-33 for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns as well as rushing for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Hundley and the Bruins keep up their play don’t be surprised to see them in the Pac-12 Title game for the third year in a row.
Let’s be real, anytime Colorado wins a football game it is a big deal for them. The Buffalos were an abysmal 1-11 last year and wins have been an incredibly rare thing for them as of recent. But new head coach, Mike Macintyre, seems to have a rejuvenated group of players and they showed it in week 1. Colorado has been so desperate to find a decent quarterback and an offensive weapon over the last few seasons, but they might have found an answer in junior quarterback Connor Wood and junior receiver Paul Richardson. Wood threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns while Richardson caught 10 balls for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns in a surprising victory over non-conference foe, Colorado State. Don’t expect the Buffalos to make a ton of noise in the Pac-12 South this year, but for the first time in years, Colorado is heading in the right direction under Macintyre.
Watch out for the Huskies
In the Steve Sarkisian era (since 2009) a lot of preseason hype has surrounded the Washington Huskies, but it seems like they can never live up to it. Despite having one of the best recruiting classes in the conference, Sarkisian has never won more than 7 games in a season. After losing to Boise State 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Huskies were eager for revenge as they played the Broncos in their home opener and their first game in their brand new stadium. And the Huskies did not disappoint.
Senior, Keith Price, showed why he is one on the best quarterbacks in the country, going 23-31 for 324 yards and 2 touchdowns. Highly touted junior running back, Bishop Sankey did not disappoint either, rushing for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 38-6 rout of Boise State, giving Boise State head coach, Chris Petersen, the worst loss of his career. One really impressive aspect of this game for the Huskies was that they held a highly prolific Boise State offense to just 6 points. They flustered veteran quarterback, Joe Southwick, all night and kept the Broncos out of the end zone. The other impressive aspect of this was that the Huskies did all of this without Austin Seferian-Jenkins, their starting tight end and arguably their best player. Seferian-Jenkins was suspended for the opener because of a DUI but he is back with the team and hopes to make a huge impact for the Huskies and his NFL Draft stock.
It will be very difficult for the Huskies to win the Pac-12 North because of Oregon and Stanford, but because of their schedule and talent, look for the Huskies to have their first 10-win season since 2000.
Oregon still has some concerns
You wouldn’t think that the Ducks would have any concerns based on their 66-3 thrashing of Nicholls State on Saturday. Oregon had an incredible 500 yards on the ground and a school record 772 total yards on Saturday and yet there is a feeling of uneasiness about the 2nd ranked Ducks. Granted this is the team’s first game and they do have time to improve but that doesn’t mean they don’t have legitimate adjustments to make. The inexperience of the Oregon offensive line was evident on Saturday. Nicholls State got way too much pressure on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota; it just didn’t show up in the stat book because Nicholls State does not have the athletes to keep up with a player such as Mariota. If a team like Nicholls State is able to get pressure on Mariota, what will a team like Stanford do? The Ducks do have veteran lineman like Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu, but it is evident that offensive line coach, Steve Greatwood, has his hands full with this group.
The other thing that Oregon really struggled with is putting their linebackers in pass coverage. Granted, the Ducks played in a soft zone coverage basically the entire game, but the linebackers constantly left the middle of the field exposed and struggled to cover receivers out in the flat. The Ducks have so much talent and speed that it is almost guaranteed that they will have a successful season in 2013. But it they want to win that coveted BCS National Title, they will have to make these adjustments on both sides of the ball.
Matchup to watch in week 2
The Oregon-Virginia game is definitely the most intriguing matchup of week 2. The Ducks have to travel cross-country to take on the Cavaliers who are coming off a solid victory over BYU in week 1. Virginia, who struggled in 2012 with a 4-8 record, is a heavy underdog in this game, but they do have a talented and experienced defensive line. If the Ducks are able to protect Mariota and run the ball consistently, the Ducks will take home the win comfortably.
The thing about College Football is that it keeps getting better every week. If we had this much excitement in week 1 I can’t wait to see what week 2 will bring.
This is great piece of work that Matt has written. Whether you are a college football expert, or simply just an avid fan, this article has something for everyone. I feel like I have a comprehensive, educated Pac 12 handle on this league. And, this new information brings more excited anticipation for this season. Matt is not only obviously knowledgeable, but he writes in such a way that this reader can't wait for more!