This is a week for the Pac-12 to assert its swag, flex its considerable muscles and wake up Sunday morning feeling pretty darn good about itself.
After all, consider the Week 2 lineup: a quartet of FCS teams in Sacramento State, Portland State, Central Arkansas and Weber State. A Vegas team that’s been anything but lucky. A turnover-proned Hawaii team and a Mac-less San Jose State team. Oregon at Virginia? Puhleaseeee.
It’s like the CEOs of Hostess, Little Debbie and Sprinkles (uhhmmm, Sprinkles) had a meeting of the minds and planned out the Pac-12’s Week 2 schedule. The league has some very good nonconference games on the 2013 slate. Just not this week.
Yep, the Pac-12 should run the nonconference table, with USC and Washington State the only two teams playing a conference tilt. Every Pac-12 team is favored by at least 10 points in its nonconference game and six of the eight are favored by 20 points or more.
Just a walk in the park, Kazansky.
Then again …
Remember the bowl season of 2012? The Pac-12 was favored in seven of those eight games. The final record was an underwhelming 4-4. The league went 7-3 in Week 1. But most were expecting at least eight wins.
For all of the talk about the Pac-12 being one of the top two conferences in college football, and I believe it is, it's not immune to unexpected disappointments.
“Anybody can beat you, I can guarantee you that,” said ASU head coach Todd Graham, whose team opens the season Thursday night with FCS Sacramento State. “If you don’t play well and you have penalties and turn the football over, you can very easily get beat. And that’s what I think we saw happen on Saturday.”
Lest we forget, Sacramento State has a two-year winning streak against the Pac-12.
So who is on upset alert this week? Everyone. Yes, even you, Oregon, facing a Virginia team that knocked off BYU last week. Safety Anthony Harris was named the National Defensive Player of the Week. Win the day, indeed.
San Jose State has plenty of talent -- despite the departure of its coach -- who now heads up the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes (did anyone else just feel a chill down their spine?). But the new one, Ron Caragher, followed Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at the University of San Diego and he brought in former Washington assistant Jimmie Dougherty to run his offense. Caragher was Pac-12 trained and SEC seasoned. He knows his stuff. And with David Fales, the FBS’s most accurate passer last season returning, the Spartans could be another top 25 team this year.
What about those pesky FBS schools, who take the money and run? Week 1 saw seven FCS teams pull off wins, including one in the Pac-12’s backyard. Oregon State’s loss, while disappointing in Corvallis, serves as a cautionary tale to the rest of the league.
“Oregon State and the [six] other games,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who faces an FCS team this week in Weber State. “We had a team meeting yesterday and put those scores and the game results up there and it caught their attention. We understand you can’t just show up. You have to play well and do what you do to win games. This week is no different. Hopefully we got that message through.”
The chances of an epic collapse, or even a tiny collapse, are minimal -- given the talent the Pac-12 will have on the field versus its opponents. But talent isn’t always enough.
“We’re honest with them about our evaluation of each opponent,” Graham said. “And we expect to go out and play the best game we can. You only get 12 opportunities to play two more. You better maximize and get better with every rep.
“We talk about how you should respect this game … you should respect your opponent. If you don’t you are going to get humbled.”