June 16, 2024
From Colorado's upset of CU to Washington's blowout of Boise State, the conference delivered on the preseason hype.

A quick-hitting recap of the Week 1 action across the Pac-12. It was all about Colorado …

Theme of the week I: Roaring success

Oregon State dismantled San Jose State on Sunday to complete a perfect weekend for the Pac-12. All 12 teams were victorious, marking just the third undefeated week since 1980 (with a minimum of four games played), according to STATS. The prior two perfect weeks were in 1992 and 2017. The Pac-12 is the only Power Five conference with an unblemished record against non-conference competition. Including USC’s victory in Week 0, the conference is 13-0. Only two games have been decided by single digits.

Theme of the week II: Arm strength

The best collection of Pac-12 quarterbacks in eons delivered on the hype, combining for 37 touchdowns and just five interceptions. (UCLA accounted for three of the interceptions.) Add the Week 0 production from USC’s Caleb Williams, and the Pac-12 totals to date are 41 touchdowns and five picks. Not bad.

Theme of the week III: Better bottom

The worst teams in the conference last season (Colorado and Stanford) appear vastly improved under new coaches,  which means the search for new cellar-dwellers is underway. And what if there are no dregs? Then life at the top just got much more difficult.

Team of the week I: Colorado

The Buffaloes recorded one of the biggest season-opening upsets in conference history, slaying TCU as a 20-point underdog. Now, the Horned Frogs very well could be a mediocre team this season, but that’s immaterial. Colorado’s performance provided rocket fuel for every aspect of Deion Sanders’ rebuilding project. The eyes of the sport were on CU, and it delivered in masterful fashion.

Teams of the week II: Washington State and Oregon State

The Cougars and Beavers were losers in the realignment game and face uncertain futures. But both were intensely focused on the business at hand, easily winning road games against (likely) future conference opponents: WSU dominated Colorado State while OSU blitzed San Jose State. One subplot to this season: The size of the chips on the shoulders of WSU and OSU.

Game of the week: Colorado 45, TCU 42

This hotly-anticipated season opener had everything, and more — including an incredible two-way performance by CU’s Travis Hunter. After an entertaining but mostly routine first half, the pace ramped up with eight touchdowns in the second half, a handful of lead changes and too many big plays to count. The teams combined for 1,106 yards and 57 first downs.

Victory of the week: Utah 24, Florida 11

If viewing the Week 1 results only through the playoff lens, then Utah’s victory stands out: It came against an SEC school and is one of two huge non-conference games for a team that has designs on the CFP and cannot afford a loss outside of league play. The Utes’ other major challenge, a trip to Baylor, awaits next weekend.

Victory of the decade: Arizona 38, NAU 3

Within an otherwise routine victory over an FCS opponent lies a telling comparison. Back in 2021, in the third game of coach Jedd Fisch’s first season, the Wildcats suffered a humiliating 21-19 loss to Northern Arizona that underscored the depths of the program’s regression. On Saturday, in the first game of Fisch’s third season, the Wildcats dismantled NAU 38-3 and pulled quarterback Jayden de Laura in the fourth quarter. How’s that for progress?

Coach of the week I: Deion Sanders

His unprecedented, controversial roster overhaul proved a stroke of genius, at least for one week. And following the breakthrough victory, Sanders fired back at critics in an unusual postgame news conference. (Which is his right, as long as he’s willing to face tough questions when CU loses.) It’s all a reminder that nothing about the Sanders era will be standard fare for college football.

Coach of the week II: Cal’s Justin Wilcox

The Bears ventured to northern Texas and hammered North Texas, scoring 58 points in the process. (That’s the equivalent of 90 points for everyone else.) They did so with a new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback, who was injured early and replaced by a backup playing his first game for the program. This is a critical year for the Wilcox tenure, and it could not have started in more favorable fashion.

Player of the week: Colorado WR/CB Travis Hunter

In an otherworldly two-way performance, Hunter took 129 snaps at receiver and cornerback and excelled at both: He caught 11 passes for 119 yards and recorded an interception. And he did it in the Fort Worth heat. Whether Hunter can keep it up (and avoid injury) remains to be seen. But the former No. 1 recruit in the nation served notice that he’s unlike anyone we’ve seen since forever.

Offensive player of the week: Washington Michael QB Penix

We considered Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Oregon’s Bo Nix and USC’s Williams, who were superb. But Penix faced a tougher defense (Boise State) than the others and fired missiles all over the field. His pursuit of the Heisman is alive and well after the 56-19 victory, with a critical trip to Michigan State in two weeks.

Defensive player of the week: Stanford DE David Bailey

Expect to hear Bailey’s name throughout the season as the former blue-chip recruit from prep powerhouse Mater Dei demolishes quarterbacks across the conference. Bailey’s sophomore season began Friday in Honolulu with three sacks, four tackles-for-loss and six total tackles as the Cardinal opened the Troy Taylor era with an impressive 37-24 victory over Hawaii.

Not-to-be-overlooked player of the week: USC QB Caleb Williams

It speaks volumes about the standard Williams set last season that a five-touchdown, 300-yard performance — and 66 points — would be considered standard fare. But such was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s effort in a blowout victory over Nevada. Spectacular, except in his universe.

Freshman QB of the week I: ASU’s Jaden Rashada

The touted rookie fought off nerves and a two-hour, mid-game weather delay to lead the Sun Devils to a 24-21 victory over Southern Utah in the debut of the Kenny Dillingham era. ASU had nine penalties and short-circuited on numerous occasions. But with Rashada at the joysticks, the Devils survived under difficult circumstances — the self-imposed postseason ban, announced by their administration five days before kickoff.

Freshman QB of the week II: UCLA’s Dante Moore

The five-star recruit showed off the talent that made him the third-ranked quarterback prospect in the country during the 2022-23 recruiting cycle (per 247Sports). Moore played sparingly but nonetheless tossed two touchdown passes, including a brilliant 62-yarder to receiver J.Michael Sturdivant, and energized the Bruins in their 27-14 win over Coastal Carolina.

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Stat of the week I: Oregon’s offense

The Ducks set a modern-era school record with 81 points against Portland State. Under new offensive coordinator Will Stein, they had 50 in the first half and then eased off with a mere 31 in the second. (It was more points than coach Dana Altman’s basketball team scored in all but a handful of games last season.) The Ducks gained 729 yards and averaged 10.1 yards per play.

Stat of the week II: Utah’s defense.

The Utes were their suffocating selves, holding Florida to one third down conversion in 13 attempts, 13 yards rushing and three points during the first 50 minutes of the game. We didn’t expect much from the Gators’ offense, which failed to clear the low bar.

Stat of the week III: Washington’s receivers

For our money, the best tandem of wideouts in the country resides in Columbus, where Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka work wonders for Ohio State. But the best collection of receivers anywhere can be found on Montlake, where Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk and Germie Bernard combined for 21 catches, 375 yards and four touchdowns in UW’s thrashing of Boise State.

Stat of the week IV: The Pac-12

Not only did the conference win all 12 games this weekend, it was a remarkable 8-1 against the spread in FBS games. If that’s not the sign of a juggernaut, we don’t know what is.

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