Your humble #4Pac welcomes you to another installment of what will be a regular feature on the Pac-12 blog. Here's how it works: We take one question or one topic, or maybe it's some other really cool format that we haven't even thought of yet, and all contribute our thoughts.
Have a suggestion for something we should address in a future #4Pac roundtable? Go ahead and send it to our mailbag.
Today, we're identifying the biggest surprise through the first two weeks of the season.
Ted Miller/@TedMillerRK: UCLA is 2-0 so nothing it has thus far done qualifies as shocking. If the Bruins, popular alternative choice to Oregon as the Pac-12's lead candidate for the College Football Playoff, had lost to either Virginia or Memphis, then we would be shocked. Then we would be talking about massive disappointment and the dreaded "overrated" label. Yet the Bruins have been so unimpressive the first two weeks of the season, which has seen them drop from No. 7 to No. 12 in the AP poll without losing, that it almost rates as alarming. Almost.
In Week 1 at Virginia, the offense was awful, particularly the offensive line. In Week 2 at home against Memphis, the offense found its rhythm but the defense yielded 35 points -- 28 actually, as Brett Hundley threw a pick-six -- and 469 yards. Neither of these opponents would rate as a middling Pac-12 team, and both pushed UCLA to the limit.
The glass-half-full side is UCLA is unbeaten, and, really, all it needs to do is bring together the defense from Game 1 and the offense from Game 2. That combination would resemble the Bruins we expected to see this fall. Perhaps we get that on Saturday against Texas in Cowboys Stadium. Or maybe the Bruins wait to unveil that complete effort at Arizona State on Sept. 25.
Or maybe we don't ever get the team we expected to see this fall.
Despite all the hand-wringing, the Bruins are still in good position. If they get to 4-0, it won't really matter how they looked getting there. They'll be firmly back in the top 10 and in the CFP hunt.
Kyle Bonagura/@BonaguraESPN: It’s been a strange two weeks in the state of Washington. If before the season started anyone would have predicted Washington State would start 0-2 or Washington would play tight games with both Hawaii and Eastern Washington, it would have been met with laughs and/or anger. From fans of each team, probably mostly anger.
The degree of the Huskies’ struggles is a little bit easier to explain. They have a new coach, they traveled to Hawaii without their starting quarterback, they played a very good team in Eastern Washington and can still take solace in a 2-0 record. But still. After watching both games, it’s hard -- at this point -- to see Washington taking that next step in the Pac-12 North like many people, myself included, thought was possible this year. Obviously, that can change, but a believe-it-when-we-see-it approach is more appropriate right now.
Across the state, finding the silver lining in an 0-2 start is much more difficult. At times, quarterback Connor Halliday has looked like an All-American and the AirRaid has functioned like a machine, but teamwide inconsistency qualifies as shocking. The assumption going into the season was that in Year 3 under Mike Leach, consistency was one area that would be less of a concern. Outside of the most devout fans, previously realistic bowl expectations have vanished.
Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell: Count me among the folks who didn’t think USC would be 2-0 at this point in the season. I’ll take my crow sautéed with a pinot noir reduction. And, the tiramisu for dessert.
On the field, the Trojans looked phenomenal one week and good enough to get it done the next week. Off the field, it’s been a bizarre soap opera.
Asked on this week’s Pac-12 coach’s teleconference what he would do to have a drama-free week, coach Steve Sarkisian replied: “I don’t think that exists around here.”
And yet despite all of that, the Trojans are 2-0 with a signature win over Stanford and ranked No. 9 in the country. Cody Kessler is playing very efficiently, completing 67.8 percent of his passes and Buck Allen is getting Heisman buzz with 287 yards through two games and 6.4 yards per carry. The freshmen are as advertised and Leonard Williams is a beast.
I was impressed to see how the Trojans handled things in Week 1. But I was surprised to see them out-discipline Stanford in Week 2.
I guess I shouldn’t be. If there is any team in the Pac-12 equipped to handle so much drama, it’s the Trojans. Most of these guys have lived through four head coaches in the past 12 months and enough storylines to give their beat writers carpal tunnel syndrome.
USC draws eyeballs and flashbulbs regardless. And so far Sarkisian & Co. have handled it wonderfully.
Chantel Jennings/@ChantelJennings: I’ve been pretty surprised with how well so many questions have been answered regarding who would step up in the absence of lost talent.
Everyone wondered: Who would replace Brandin Cooks? Who would replace Oregon’s receivers and De'Anthony Thomas? Who would replace Marion Grice? Who would replace Marqise Lee?
And guess what? Most of those questions have been answered. I assumed eventually guys would step up for each of those players, but I thought there might be more of a learning curve. But it’s Week 3 and these names have emerged. Not too shabby, Pac-12.
Oregon State wide receiver Victor Bolden has stepped up in Cooks’ absence and the Beavers are actually putting together a good run game to pick up some of the lost yardage too. And speaking of yardage on the ground, D.J. Foster has already rushed for 363 yards and four scores in two games. Yes, Weber State and New Mexico aren’t exactly run-stopping machines, but still, that has to make ASU fans feel pretty confident. Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith are becoming solid targets for USC quarterback Cody Kessler and through two games their production has been enough to keep the Trojans undefeated.
And De'Anthony who? With the running backs the Ducks have, it’s pretty crazy to feel like they’re missing anything. Byron Marshall has becoming a main receiving threat out of the back field while Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman are the bruisers. And Marcus Mariota doesn’t seem to be having any issues establishing chemistry with young receivers like Devon Allen and Darren Carrington -- they’ve accounted for 249 yards and two touchdowns through two games.