The echoes of preseason clamoring are fading fast as first impressions from all over the college football landscape take shape.
That shape is looking rather lopsided for the Pac-12, with the North Division holding most of the weight. No. 9 Washington, No. 10 Stanford and Oregon, three of the conference’s top four teams, are all on a collision course as they battle for the North title. For Cal, another team in the division, a projected fourth-place finish may actually be more worthy than it sounds, chasing three teams likely to end the season ranked.
What we know about the Pac-12 from Week 1:
The Huskies, the flag-bearers for the Pac-12, started off the season with a loss, albeit to a No. 7 Auburn team in a “neutral” environment that essentially acted as a home game for the Tigers. Even though he did tally 296 passing yards and a passing touchdown, Washington QB Jake Browning ultimately cracked under the pressure, making some fatal mistakes down the stretch, such as a botched pitch in the red zone that led to a fumble recovery for the Tigers.
The Huskies’ biggest challenger in the North are the Cardinal, who looked strong all around in their 31-10 victory over San Diego State. Though quarterback K.J. Costello had no issue throwing the football thanks to his star receiver, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who produced 226 yards on six catches, one has to wonder about Bryce Love, the Heisman front-runner, and his 29 yards on the ground.
As of now, No. 17 USC, with its true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels, looks like the heavy favorite in the South Division. Daniels threw for 282 yards and a score — a respectable start for such a young player — but the 18-year-old may struggle to keep pace when the schedule becomes more difficult. Either way, the Trojans have a very healthy running attack and may be leaning heavily on that until their quarterback develops.
Up North, Oregon’s offense is looking like, well, classic Oregon. The Ducks put up 58 points against Bowling Green and are in position to cruise once again next week against Portland State.
The majority of the rest of the conference enjoyed blowout wins against lesser-known opponents, with a lot of scoring involved. Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry’s name was showcased on a number of highlight reels, thanks to his tackle-breaking antics and a score that featured a complete reversal of the field. Cal also had a moment in the national spotlight, but not for any good reason. One of the Bears’ top receivers, Vic Wharton III, took an unseemly hit on a punt return that had him soar through the air and make a complete flip.
Rounding out the bottom three spots in the conference, Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State each suffered difficult losses in their season openers. UCLA’s new head coach, Chip Kelly, may not be able to make the immediate impact that many were calling for before the season began, as the Bruins seem destined to kick things off 0-2 with a trip to No. 6 Oklahoma next week.
For Arizona, a loss at home to BYU made apparent that Heisman candidate Khalil Tate won’t be able to carry the team all on his own. With opponents likely to key in on him throughout the season, the Wildcats are in need of more from the rest of their squad.
And last (and also least) was Oregon State’s performance in an uphill battle at No. 4 Ohio State. Sure, playing a top-5 Buckeyes squad on the road for a season opener is one tall task, but that doesn’t make it easy to be positive about surrendering 77 points.