Five things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 2.
The Pac-12 can rally: After going 7-3 in Week 1, the most disappointing of those losses being Oregon State’s loss to Eastern Washington, the Pac-12 bounced back in Week 2, going 8-0 in its nonconference games. Most were blowouts. Some were dicier (cough, Cal, cough, Colorado, cough, Oregon State, sort of), but they were wins nevertheless. It was the kind of week the Pac-12 needed heading into a Week 3 that will see a significant uptick in the competition. The Pac-12 faces four Big Ten teams, three of which are ranked. And through the first two weeks of the season, the combined record of the nonconference foes in Week 3 is 18-2. The bar is raised. Despite the close calls, some very strong performances from ASU, Arizona, Utah and Stanford should not go unmarked. And does anyone else get the feeling that when Central Arkansas took a 24-17 lead in the fourth, the old Buffs would have wilted? Kudos to Mike MacIntyre for rallying his team (getting turnovers helps).
Good can be better: We know Oregon is good. We also know the Ducks can be better. For the second straight week, De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota rushed for at least 100 yards (124 for DAT, 122 for Mariota) and the scoreboard shows a dominating performance over Virginia. But there were uncharacteristic drops. Four drives stalled and turned into punts. And while we concede that Oregon will in fact have to punt from time to time, we certainly don’t expect drives of three plays, 2 yards; three plays, minus-1 yard; three plays, minus-9 yards. Take it as a compliment that you can beat a BCS conference opponent, on the road, 59-10 and still have things to work on.
Lane Kiffin is on fire (not in a good way): The hottest seat in America just got a healthy dusting of thermite. The quarterback soap opera, which is now turning into horrific reality TV, is overshadowing what should be a couple of great performances from USC’s defense. And it’s actually gotten to the point where the quarterback play is hurting the defense. In USC's loss to Washington State, Cody Kessler was 8-of-13 for 41 yards with a pick-six. Max Wittek was 3-of-8 for 13 yards with an interception. Through two games, the quarterbacks are a combined 26-of-50 for 226 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Want some perspective? Arizona safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant has more interceptions returned for touchdowns (two) than both USC quarterbacks have touchdown passes. This make-or-break season for Kiffin is breaking, rapidly. Hats off to the Cougs, who have beaten two Top 25 teams in their last three games.
Goff and Wilson, young guns: The Utes have been star-crossed at quarterback the last couple of seasons, but they appear to have something special in Travis Wilson. Per ESPN Stats and Information, Wilson’s showing against Weber State was one of the finest quarterback performances in the last decade. His raw QBR rating was 99.7. Raw meaning it will be adjusted to reflect quality of competition -- so it will drop. Still, he averaged 16.2 yards per play, accounted for five touchdowns and his rating of 99.7 is the eighth-ranked single-game score by any quarterback with at least 25 action plays since 2004 (fifth in the last five seasons). It’s the highest total QBR with that many action plays since Andrew Luck posted a 99.9 versus Cal back in November 2010. If you still aren’t up on the QBR, click here. You’ll be seeing it a lot on the blog this season -- especially with quarterbacks like Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, Kevin Hogan, Keith Price and apparently, Wilson. Speaking of bright young quarterbacks, also per our friends at Stats and Info, Cal's Jared Goff has 930 passing yards in two games. That’s the second most by a quarterback in his team's first two games since 2000 (Colt Brennan had the most in 2007).
Stanford owns Cali: Stanford coach David Shaw improved to a perfect 10-0 against schools from California. The Cardinal’s 34-13 win over San Jose State moved him to 3-0 against the Spartans since taking over in 2011. He’s also 2-0 against USC, 3-0 against UCLA and 2-0 against California. If anyone is curious, the margin of victory in those 10 games is 16.1 points. But that’s a bit skewed by a pair of 2011 victories over San Jose State (57-3) and UCLA (45-19). There have been some tight ones, like the three-overtime USC game in 2011, 31-28 over Cal in 2011, 20-17 over San Jose State in 2012, 27-24 over UCLA in 2012 and 21-14 over USC in 2012. Still, perfect is perfect.