Sep 04

Week 1 Musings Around the Pac-12

After what much of the national college football media is seemingly celebrating as a rough opening week for the new Pac-12, here are a few thoughts:

  • There is much handwringing over USC’s second-half performance in a 19-17 win against Minnesota at the Coliseum. The Trojan offense, whether you want to blame scheme or execution (Lane Kiffin had no shame pointing the finger at his players), allowing what will likely be a subpar Golden Gopher defense to hold it to zero second-half points is simply unacceptable.
  • I’ll be seeing bubble screens in my sleep for weeks. Your team would be easy to defend, too, if what seemed like half of the plays were a sideways pass followed by crossed fingers that Robert Woods or Marqise Lee would make a freak athletic play to gain yards.
  • I feel badly for Minnesota’s fans, who are likely hopeful that they may have a decent team this season. I’m guessing by the time the Gophers are 1-6 or 2-7 in late October, they’ll feel otherwise.
  • Kudos to Matt Barkley and Woods (whose Twitter handle seems far from presumptuous after his 17-catch opener) for their record-setting performances. Let’s hope they get a little more help from their coaches and teammates on offense next week in the Pac-12 opener against Utah, also 1-0 after a similarly underwhelming win over Montana State in Norm Chow’s debut as offensive coordinator.
  • The new video board at the Coliseum is, to put it simply, fantastic. A bigger surprise: it actually worked without malfunction for the entire game.

The Coliseum's new videoboard may have been the best part of USC's season-opening win over Minnesota

  • Now if they can only fix the thermometer. It’s been 70 degrees in the Coliseum since at least 1991.
  • If people in L.A. are concerned that the Trojans needed a last-minute Torin Harris interception to hold off the Gophers, what are people in Seattle thinking after UW needed a last-minute Desmond Trufant interception to beat defending FCS champ Eastern Washington, 30-27, in Seattle? The Huskies gave up 473 passing yards to the Eagles. Up next: pass-happy Hawaii, which used a surprising running attack to whip new Pac-12 member Colorado, 34-17, last night.
  • What’s the name of the QB who engineered Eastern Washington’s near upset, you ask? Well, it’s Bo Levi Mitchell, of course. No, really, it is. His nickname: Gunslinger.
  • Oregon’s Chip Kelly is quickly becoming the anti-Pete Carroll. In his time at USC, Carroll’s teams became known for not showing up once or twice a year for apparently inconsequential games, but always showing up on the big stage. USC’s lone loss in the Carroll Era in what one would consider a “big game” came with 19 seconds left in one of the greatest college football games ever played. Kelly’s Ducks, on the other hand laid their latest egg on a big stage in Dallas, being run around, over and through by a well-prepared – and simply faster and more athletic – LSU team. That’s four shots on a big stage, against a big-time opponent with time to prepare for the Ducks “revolutionary” attack. And that’s four losses – the 2009 opener at Boise State, the 2010 Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State, the BCS title game against Auburn and now LSU. And, worse, only the defeat by Auburn in the BCS title game in January avoids the tag of “embarrassing.”
  • According to reports from friend and Oregon alum Aaron Cooper, LSU fans on the scene in Dallas once again lived down to their national image. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to attend the 2005 Capital One Bowl, when LSU faced Iowa – Hawkeye fans being the worst I’ve ever had to deal with at any college football game, until USC dropped the hammer on them in the 2003 Orange Bowl. I’m happy the world survived the possible meltdown of rancor and stupidity a meeting of those two fan bases could cause.
  • Arizona State’s defense looked predictably vicious in a decimation of FCS team UC Davis. If the Devils can keep from suffering any more injuries – they’ve really been snakebitten – that defense can keep them around against just about every team on their schedule.
  • Uh-oh: Is Oregon State back? And by back, I mean the futile Oregon State we all grew to know during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An overtime loss to Sacramento State – an FCS rival of none other than UC Davis – does not bode well. Nor does this week’s trip to defending Big-10 champion Wisconsin, which looked lethal in their Thursday night opener against UNLV.
  • Apparently only 31,000 folks showed up at Candlestick Park to watch Cal beat Fresno State on Saturday night. And the AP report circulating about the game almost gleefully pointed out that Fresno fans outnumbered those from across the bay. No word on whether former Bear and Bulldog running back Tracy Slocum (or his bottom bitch) was in the house.
  • Jeff Tuel’s fractured clavicle may spell the end of Paul Wulff’s brief tenure at Wazzu. The Cougars were looking to the junior quarterback to team with stud sophomore receiver Marquess Wilson in an effort to break a 5-32 run the past three seasons. Though WSU predictably hammered Idaho State, the loss of Tuel cannot be understated looking ahead.
  • Speaking of coaches whose tenures may soon be over, UCLA’s defense was overmatched (again) in its opening loss to Houston. Though the Bruin offense had a big day – even with the loss of QB Kevin Prince to a concussion – UCLA’s defense resembled the embarrassing mess it was for much of 2010. And, by embarrassing, I mean watch this. The road to six wins and a bowl berth – likely the bare minimum that would keep Rick Neuheisel on the job in Westwood – just got that much longer.

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