The second and third weeks of the 2012 college football season featured plenty of surprises. Here’s a quick look back on the past two weeks of Pac-12 action, centered around my 12th Annual Picking the Winners Pac-12 preview, which appeared prior to the season on USCFootball.com. To recap my initial picks:
After a shaky second week (7-5) – mainly due to a series of big Pac-12 surprise victories – things returned closer to normal in week three (8-2). Let’s take a look back.
Cal over Southern Utah, 50-31 (picked at 44-10); Oregon over Fresno State, 42-25 (picked at 49-14); Stanford over Duke, 50-13 (picked at 38-13); USC over Syracuse, 42-29 (picked at 41-20); LSU over Washington, 41-3 (picked at 31-17): While these four were winners, all by predicted double-digit margins, I only came within 10 points of the final spread on the Trojans’ sloppy victory over the Orange. On the other hand, the Huskies did the conference no favors by laying a massive egg in already provincial SEC-land. My other two wins, Arizona State’s 45-14 whipping of Illinois and Washington State’s too-close-for-comfort 24-20 win over FCS Eastern Washington, were flip-flopped from predictions (I had ASU tight and WSU big).
Two of my five losses were pretty disappointing for the conference. Utah’s horrific performance in a 27-20 loss at Utah State was only overshadowed by Sacramento State taking down a Pac-12 foe for a second consecutive season in a 30-28 win over Colorado (the Hornets toppled Oregon State in 2011).
The other three losses in week two were all Pac-12 upsets that gained the conference some national respect. As I said in my preview, before picking Nebraska in a close one against UCLA, “this type of game – early September, traditional football power opponent, at the Rose Bowl – has been when the Bruins play their best.” That they did, notching a 36-30 upset. Arizona gained a measure of revenge for a pair of blowout losses to Oklahoma State the past two seasons by hammering the Cowboys, 59-38, in Tucson – and also serving notice that the Rich Rodriguez Regime is truly underway. And Oregon State, opening its season after the postponement of a Sept. 1 game vs. Nicholls State, stunned two-time defending Big 10 champion Wisconsin, 10-7.
Washington over Portland State, 52-13 (picked at 56-10); Oregon over Tennessee Tech, 63-14 (picked at 69-6); UCLA over Houston, 37-6 (picked at 34-14): It’s always intriguing to me to see how close my picks come in games with an overwhelming favorite. In week three, I did pretty well in the Huskies’ and Ducks’ victories over FCS foes, as well as in UCLA’s win over Houston. Not so impressive were my picks in a couple of other victories that also appeared to be lopsided. I underestimated Arizona’s firepower, picking them only by 27 in an eventual 56-0 win over FCS South Carolina State. In reverse, Washington State’s closer-than-expected 35-27 win at UNLV was far less than the three-TD win I’d called for.
My other victories included a pair of hard fought losses for the conference. I picked Ohio State to whip Cal by 18. The Bears fought hard, dropping a 35-28 decision. I also picked Missouri to notch a 10-point revenge victory for last season’s loss in Tempe, but the Sun Devils rallied to make it close before losing, 24-20. I also had Utah over BYU, 31-21 – not the craziest call in the Utes’ eventual (and, by eventual, I mean Utah fans rushed the field three times before the game was officially over) 24-21 win.
Speaking of rushing the field, it’s time to wonder when Stanford’s fans will come to expect a win against USC as their coaches and players seem to? The Cardinal’s fourth consecutive win in the series, 21-14 in Palo Alto, was an upset – sure (I had USC, 38-27, in my preseason picks). But, No. 16 beating No. 3 in an ugly, error-filled early season game sure didn’t seem like a rush-the-field moment. My other Week 3 loss featured, unsurprisingly at this point, Colorado. What was surprising was the score: a lower-divisionesque 69-14 loss to Fresno State. The Buffs will have to pull off one heck of an upset during conference play to avoid an 0-12 season.
Record through three weeks: 24-9
Enjoy this weekend’s games!