Here's what to watch in the Pac-12 in Week 2.
Which Pac-12 team is facing the most pressure Week 2: Oregon, Stanford or USC?
Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell: No doubt, all three are facing a lot of pressure. But I’m leaning toward the Trojans simply because their bar has now been set extremely high. Oregon’s game obviously has playoff implications. But if they can’t get through the Pac-12, none of that will matter. Yes, that game is big. No, it won’t help them win the league, which should be priority No. 1. Stanford is the two-time defending champs. You want the crown? Come take it. Enter the Trojans, who have had as rollercoaster of a season so far when you combine what happened on and off the field. The Trojans looked like a top 10 team last week. Can they do it against a defense that is going to punch back?
Kyle Bonagura/@BonaguraESPN: A strong case can be made for each team, but I'll go with Oregon because of what the game means for the conference as a whole. Because it's by far the most high-profile nonconference game involving the Pac-12 this season, Oregon's performance will, by default, be the single-most important game in determining how the conference is perceived nationally. I think we'll see the eventual Pac-12 champion have at least one conference loss and still be a virtual lock for the playoff. If Oregon were to win the conference and have two losses (including Michigan State), that would leave things up to chance.
Which is the game you’re most interested in watching outside the big two?
Gemmell: Call me crazy, but I’m really looking forward to the Friday night showdown between Washington State and Nevada. Obviously, the Cougs defense needs to get off the mat after giving up 215 yards on the ground. Up next is the underrated yet always dangerous Cody Fajardo, who threw for 303 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 68 and a score. I think WSU’s offense will overwhelm the Pack, but it’s going to be interesting to watch how the Cougs defend Fajardo, seeing as they’ll be facing a few dual-threat quarterbacks this season.
Bonagura: This one was easy for me: Washington versus Eastern Washington. Yes, I realize it's an FCS-FBS game, but this EWU team has the talent to be competitive against most FBS teams. The primary reason for intrigue here is to see how the return of quarterback Cyler Miles affects how the Huskies look on offense. Obviously last week's showing against Hawaii didn't inspire much optimism about the direction of the offense, but all will be forgotten if Miles comes in and has a big game.
Which team is on upset alert?
Gemmell: Everyone needs to be on upset alert at all times -- but especially early in the season as we learn more about teams. With that said, Washington better figure some stuff out. Eastern Washington isn’t your run of the mill FCS team. They are ranked No. 2 in the FCS top 25 and have already played twice (scoring 56 and 41 points in their first two games). Washington’s quarterback play should improve with Cyler Miles at the helm. Washington is clearly the better all-around team with the better athletes. And the hope is that the Week 1 jitters will all be worked out. Because if they aren’t, Eastern Washington is a team that’s had a taste of success against FBS teams and they will pounce.
Bonagura: Last week, Oregon State struggled with FCS Portland State and Hawaii nearly beat Washington. Those results are enough to indicate this week's Hawaii-Oregon State game is a prime upset candidate.
Which team or player needs to rebound most in Week 2?
Kevin Gemmell: No question in my mind, it’s the UCLA Bruins. Offensively, things went about as bad as possible in Virginia. The makeshift offensive line looked leaky, the wide receivers were dropping balls and the Bruins were anything but efficient. I believe the Bruins are a much better team than they showed. But nationally, critics are starting to backpedal on the preseason praise. The Bruins need to regroup in a big way and start showing they are a team worthy of top 10 status.
Bonagura: Yeah, it's UCLA, no question. For a team that became a trendy pick to make the playoff, last week's win was about as deflating as possible. However, it did allow for an entertaining line of questioning on the sideline from coach Jim Mora that made it into this week's episode of The Drive on the Pac-12 Networks. To offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Mora said: "Ney Noel, do you guys think you'll ever score?" Then to QB Brett Hundley: "Hey Brett, do you guys plan on scoring today or what?"
Most intriguing matchup (player versus player/player versus position group)?
Gemmell: Looking forward to seeing Oregon State’s red zone offense back in action. Last week against Portland State, the Beavers were just 1-of-9 in touchdown opportunities when they got inside the opponent’s 20. And while they were 6-of-9 overall, Mike Riley knows five field goals (and three missed opportunities) aren’t going to cut it in the Pac-12. Finishing drives has to be an area of emphasis for the Beavers as they head into Week 2.
Bonagura: I wrote about it earlier today, but USC DL Leonard Williams versus Stanford LT Andrus Peat will be the one I'm watching for. It's rare to see potential top-5 picks square off on the line in a college football game -- here's to hoping it happens as many times as possible on Saturday.
Week 2 would be a surprise if ... (fill in the blank)?
Gemmell: ... the league loses more than two nonconference games. I think the Pac-12 has the superior team in every nonconference game. But that doesn’t always mean they’ll win. This league has taught us that there are always a couple of teams that will underperform for one reason or another. On paper, the league should sweep. But we know better. So who is it going to be the team that trips over itself this week? Prove me wrong, Pac-12.
Bonagura: ... Oregon doesn't end Michigan State's streak of 28 consecutive games holding its opponent to 28 points or less. Hard to see that streak continuing against a healthy Marcus Mariota on the field at Autzen Stadium.