The week following the first full weekend of football season is the single week of the year, never mind the season, when the most over-reactions occur. We finally have something tangible to react to, but we don’t have much context to judge opening weekend results against. Its why week 2 is when we really begin to learn about where teams stand, as we begin to find out which teams lacking in recent success, preseason hype, or historical prestige are going to have a better season than many expected, and which ones who have had recent success or some history that got hype were in fact over-hyped.
At the same time, its not as simple as who won and who lost; are surprisingly close games more about problems with the winner, or the losing team being better than expected, even if they weren’t good enough to get the W. And then there is always the question of whether what we saw with any team is indicative of things to come, or was it the anomaly that every team experiences at some point during the season.
The Pac-12 went 11-0 for the weekend, but 5 of those games were wins over Big Sky FCS opponents. BTW, there are 3 more of these games still to come in the conference. Good news for sure, but only 2 wins, by UCLA over Texas A&M and California at North Carolina were surprises. The latter, a big surprise, and the former, a big surprise in how it unfolded.
People are calling for Kevin Sumlin’s head, never mind his job, after the Bruins, and mostly Jake Rosen, staged the second biggest comeback in college football history, and given the context, arguably the most significant one ever.
And while Rosen should have silenced doubters, at least for a week or two, its worth noting that UCLA couldn’t stop a power running team (doesn’t bode well for a team that has Stanford and USC on their schedule), or run the ball themselves.
Also, Sumlin was the victim of the same things that befell Bruce Barnum, and Portland State, which saw Jake Luton complete 6 of 6 passes on the 7 play game winning drive. Betting tip, when faced with a choice between a team with a legit Pac-12 quarterback, and one with an injured quarterback, and a problematic kicking game, go with the Pac-12 quarterback.
At least the Aggies won’t see another Pac-12 grade quarterback the rest of the year while they try to recover.
I also need to see more before becoming concerned about my choices of Washington and USC to win their divisions, and meet in the Pac-12 Championship game with a College Football Playoff spot on the line.
The Huskies’ offensive line did get pushed around for a lot of the game, and Rutgers ran on Washington’s defensive front more than expected. But Washington won going away by 16 points, after coming from behind, and did so on the east coast against a Power 5 opponent.
USC got a battle for most of the game as well from Western Michigan, but though PJ Fleck has rowed across the lake, the Broncos still have a lot of pieces left from a team that won 13 games and went to a New Years’ 6 bowl. Yet the Trojans also won by a double digit margin, pulling away at the end.
This weekend’s Pac-12 opener between Stanford and USC should be more informative than any of the 13 games the conference teams have played so far, and probably more impactful than any of the other 10 games to be played this Saturday.
The Holy War in Provo might come close though, although BYU’s offensive struggles against both Portland State and LSU suggest it might be more about the Cougars than their opponents.
The return of Riley, as Mike Riley and a number of other ex-Beavers on his staff bring Nebraska to Oregon, is going to get plenty of attention as well, as it should. Nebraska’s narrow win was over a consistently better than most people realize Arkansas State team, which we won’t learn more about, thanks to Hurricane Irma, which has cancelled their game against Miami.
Oregon’s blowout of Southern Utah, and their modern era record 77 points, has made the Ducks substantial favorites, but it will take a close review of how they fair against the Huskers to divine anything more than that Oregon has a ridiculous amount of team speed.
One reaction that’s not an over-reaction is that Washington State’s Luke Falk really is a contender for best of the best in the conference of quarterbacks, Rosen heroics not withstanding. Falk opened the Cougars’ win over Montana State by completing 20 of 20 passes. That’s hard to do against air, or in pregame warmups.
Whether it means he and the Cougs can beat Boise St. remains to be seen though. This is a 4th game that will tell us much more than opening weekend did.
Same thing for Arizona State against San Diego State, where the Sun Devils can actually build some momentum, or find them selves already in relatively desperate straights. Possibly all over a play or two.
One thing that was not an over-reaction was the reaction of Oregon State fans to the Beavers’ struggling to win against Portland State. The Beavers already had a game against a quality opponent at Colorado State, the Rams subsequent 17-3 loss to Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Rumble not withstanding. (And for those doubting the Buffs, and especially their offense, Colorado did get a double digit win in a rivalry game, never anything to under-react to.)
So any doubts about what the issues the Beavers have were already cleared up. That they didn’t do much to address them, at least defensively and in the rushing game, is what warranted Beaver Nation’s skepticism, which has carried over to this week, and rightly so.
With the gauntlet of Washington State, Washington, USC, Colorado, and Stanford to follow, Andersen needs to figure out how to sink Fleck’s boat, and not just beat, but out-play Minnesota, and Beaver fans know it. Lose, and another losing season is likely assured before the students even get to campus. The reaction to that won’t be pleasant.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)