The Pac-12 has four teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, third-most among the Power 5 conferences. That’s great for PR, but the big concern again for the league is that it might not have a serious contender for the College Football Playoff.
Following the 2017 season, the Pac-12 took a hit for its teams going 1-8 in bowl games. But with four teams in the national rankings and new coaches like Chip Kelly, Herm Edwards and Kevin Sumlin, things should be looking up, right?
Now, it’s early, and even though Pac-12 teams are 8-4 after the first full weekend of the season, there is reason for concern that the conference will be shut out of a playoff spot for a second straight year.
Starting at the top
Washington opened ranked sixth with a chance to make a statement against then-No. 9 Auburn. Instead, the Huskies’ best offensive weapon was kicker Peyton Henry. Jake Browning completed just 56.3 percent of his passes and was sacked five times in the 21-16 loss.
Of course, there is plenty of time for Washington to get back on track. However, falling short to another national power is reason to believe the Huskies don’t have what it takes to relive their special 2016 playoff campaign.
Stanford moved into the top 10 after it avenged last season’s loss to San Diego State, but led 9-7 at halftime. More alarming was that Heisman candidate Bryce Love managed 29 yards on 18 attempts – his worst performance when rushing at least 10 times.
The good news for Love, tonight he faces a No. 17 USC team that beat UNLV last week, but allowed an astonishing 308 rushing yards to the Rebels. While the Trojans-Cardinal matchup might be the league’s best game all season, both squads have already shown some flaws that could linger.
No. 23 Oregon rolled over Bowling Green, but it might be hard to judge the Ducks, who won’t be tested until they host Stanford on Sept. 22. Edwards’ Arizona State is not ranked, but has a chance to make a statement when it hosts No. 15 Michigan State tonight.
Utah, meanwhile, trailed Weber State 10-0 before pulling away. The Utes are a team that can contend for the league crown considering it gets Washington, USC and Oregon at home.
Perhaps the biggest headlines made from Week 1 in the Pac-12 were the disappointing debuts of Kelly and Sumlin. The two, along with Edwards, brought even more credibility to the conference, but two of the three are in need of a major bounce back. That will be tough for both Kelly’s Bruins and Sumlin’s Arizona Wildcats.
UCLA, which blew an early 10-0 lead and was outscored 9-0 in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s home defeat to Cincinnati, visits No. 6 Oklahoma where it’s a heavy underdog. Fresno State the following week may also pose a serious challenge for the Bruins.
After yielding 21 third-quarter points in a 28-23 loss to BYU, Arizona plays at Houston where All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver awaits. If the Wildcats are to prevail, they’ll need quarterback Khalil Tate to be more of a versatile threat than he showed while throwing for 197 yards and only 14 against BYU.