Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Opening Week … Might as well be closing for a few Pac12 teams

   I’ve let everything fester, or ferment, or something long enough. If I wait another day I’ll start making my thoughts about two games for some teams. While much clearer in my mind, it wouldn’t be a fair way to trot out my prescient thoughts. I’d look better but feel worse, maybe. Anyway my conscience says I must plunge ahead with a review of the games last week.

   Starting with the Northern division favorite, which got a whole lot more favoriter, Oregon took on Eastern Washington in a game that would not have been as interesting if the QB for the Ducks hadn’t abandoned Oregon’s first week opponent, Eastern Washington, as a graduate transfer. The Eagles might have challenged with him still there but, on the other hand, he couldn’t have been a lot more successful than the two QB’s  EW still has in hand, who put up monstrous passing numbers. Their running game was less impressive and their defense even less so.

   Meanwhile Oregon ran and passed at will, piling up over 700 yards of offense, mostly via the ground game. Adams (the itinerate QB) threw for a high percentage of completions, a couple of which were TD’s, and ran for just under one hundred yards. He probably ran for at least one too many times, providing an EW defender an opportunity for a cheap shot that took him out of the game which was already well under control

   Oregon hid two facets from their 2nd week opponent, pass defense and punting. Neither did much. The punter might as well have worn flip flops to the game. The defense just flopped.

   USC, the consensus favorite, but not mine, played “Fight On” and probably left a trail of road apples on the sidelines. After 60 minutes of clock time they had a big win over a little team, Arkansas State, at home. I don’t like the Trojans so I’m not got going to write anything good about them, at least this week.

   Arizona State was the apple of a lot of eyes, but they were a small minority in a ‘neutral site’ game in Houston where Texas A&M made apple sauce out of them. The inevitable ‘but it wasn’t really a neutral site’ excuse fell pretty flat as far as I am concerned. Didn’t anyone in Tempe know they would be more than slightly outnumbered in the stands playing a Texas team in Texas.

   That the Sun Devils were out-numbered on the field wasn’t much of a surprise either. They have not demonstrated the ability to stop up-tempo spread type teams in the past, and continued to write that story in game 1. ASU always looks like a strong contender, and then underperforms up through their annual loss to Arizona during the last day of the scheduled season.

   Speaking of Arizona, they have a better scheduler. A decent test with UNLV provided the opportunity for a winning warm-up. They might have picked the best week possible to lose Scooby Wright for a few weeks. He may be the best defender in the conference. If he returns after sitting out, with an injury, a couple of games vs cupcakes, in time for the UCLA game. If not, things could get ugly early in conference play. UCLA is not going to lose many games this year.

Which, of course, segues me right into the Bruins. UCLA returns what could be the most impressive group of returning players south of Eugene. What they might have been missing is a quarterback who could handle the opportunity. It’s hard for a freshman quarterback to step into the starting spot at the Pac-12 level. If last week was an indicator, Josh Rosen just might do it. His composure and skills were all the Westwood faithful could have hoped for, vs a decent opponent. One more week like that and the Bruins will be my new Southern favorite.

   A little farther north the press is always looking for excuses why Stanford is going to eclipse Oregon in the north. Most of the excuses on the field, vs a mediocre Northwestern, were playing for the Indians’ (I will never go PC and call them the Cardinal) version of offense. It was a little more than a run run pass failure, a game plan which the Boilermakers see regularly in the Big-10ish. They evidently overcame their disappointment at not becoming the Boilermaker Union and sent Stanford home to their schoolbooks, which I presume they handle much better than they did the football. Kevin Hogan must have had his mind on the first day of class rather the first football game of the season. Go figure. He’ll probably make a whole lot more money doing something else next year.

   Utah, who most Michiganans designated the opening cupcake, probably due to Big Blue’s usual scheduling pattern, surprised them much more than they did me. After all of the Harbaugh hype, everyone ignored the probability that a team who sunk as far Michigan did is probably in a submarine rather than a battleship. Coach recruited well but has a bit more work to do.

 They’ll have a better idea of how big that job is when they host Oregon State this week, led by a very familiar, very successful coach they faced as he coached Wisconsin last year, and his new Beavers who are in a transition of style, with players not recruited to run the new game plan, The Corvallis crowd did better than expected in their opener. Seth Collins was the other Pac-12 Freshman quarterback who stood like a man in his first college game. Neither team is ready for prime time. Which one will nose ahead this week? I have a premonition they will be wearing Orange and Black, or whatever color Nike hangs on them now that they have joined the new age. The Beavs played a little better defense.

   Something else (well, one of the many somethings else) I don’t have a clear picture of is the California Bears team. They used a good quarterback and an undefinable rest of the team to a steamrolling of Grambling, who has not been a big challenge for quite a few years now. This week they will get some more practice time vs San Diego State, and I still won’t have a good handle on them. When they play Texas after that, I should be able to sound a little more like I know what I am talking about when they are the subject of my babble. Good scheduling, Bears.

   And now to the wait til next year squads.

   A couple of years ago Washington brought over Boise State’s miracle worker, Chris Petersen, but this is not a league peopled by such as the little sisters of the poor. He has well over half of his team with two or less years experience.  That may or may not have been a good plan. During Year 2 of the experiment the Huskies are going to be challenged by all but their next two opponents, at least in theory.

   Opening away, on the Smurf Turf in Boise, very little promise emerged for his offense. His version of a first year quarterback looked more like that deer-in-the-headlights frosh you’d expect. While UW defense kept them in the game, Jake Browning, seemed to have little idea where he was. Recruiting windows close quickly at the Pac-12 level and Petersen’s is closing really quickly, especially when about the best class he can hope for this season (without a BIG turnaround) could well be between sixth and ninth best in the conference.

   Even so, Washington may not be the worst in the state. WSU has at least an equal grip on the honor after a loss to Portland State to open the season. The Vikings people a mediocre team in the next best division in major college football, the one at the bottom. Maybe the Cougars should recruit a running back and draw up some plays for him.

   When looking at the teams in the conference, a lot of people forget about Colorado. This would be a good year to do that.