Power rankings are often all the same, so we’re mixing things up. Each week you’ll get a rundown of 12 or fewer highlights, storylines and anything in between from the Conference of Champions.
Trivia question: Which Pac-12 South team has the best overall record?
Answer: The Colorado Buffaloes
Who saw that coming? Things are not good in L.A., and the 1-2 (USC) and 0-3 (UCLA) records are only the beginning.
Plus, Jake Browning’s incredible gaffe was upstaged mere seconds after it happened, the Oregon State Beavers bust out a turnover toy and the Arizona State Sun Devils lose due to a targeting penalty....on the other team.
Let’s take a trip around the Pac-12!
1. What’s going on in Los Angeles?
Last week we were perplexed by the contrasting—and unexpected—situations for the two schools in the desert. This week we turn our attention to Hollywood.
The USC Trojans look incredibly beatable, and the UCLA Bruins are making Coug fans wish they were on our schedule. For all of Sam Darnold’s faults, it seems he really did mask USC’s deficiencies. Now with a true freshman quarterback, those faults are completely exposed. Plus, USC now needs a new kicker and linebacker and health freak Porter Gustin is suspended for the first half of Friday’s game against WSU.
UCLA probably has a longer runway with its fan base, I assume. Unlike USC, the Bruins weren’t entering the season with high expectations. But the Bruins did have hope and hype now that Chip Kelly is at the helm.
It might be a long season for college football fans in Los Angeles. At least they have the Rams! And LeBron!
2. Daddy issues arise in Westwood
Speaking of UCLA, an unnecessary controversy arose after the Bruins dropped an uninspiring game to Fresno State.
Michael Robinson, the father of UCLA freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, publicly blasted Chip Kelly and the UCLA coaching staff:
He is speaking on and about the factual... It is all about the coaching, lousy coaching and play calling... Coaching that is so bad that it demands closed practices... Million dollar coach who bares no responsibility... Just random observations from a frustrated dad!— Michael Robinson (@DoriansDAD) September 17, 2018
This, curiously, comes after the elder Robinson spoke positively about the program.
As if Chip Kelly didn’t already have enough issues at UCLA.
3. Jake Browning and Pita Tonga provide this year’s best blooper
This was an outrageously bad decision by Jake Browning pic.twitter.com/QpjuxIJ4Bz— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) September 16, 2018
The worst part? Utah turned it over on downs on the ensuing possession.
WSU’s punting folly against Wyoming was atop the blooper list, but Browning and Tonga now hold the clubhouse lead.
4. The Pac-12 South is the 1994 American League West
Does any team in the Pac-12 South want to play in the Pac-12 Championship game?
As the headline suggests, this reminds me of the 1994 American League West Division where all four teams had losing records. The player’s strike ended any possibility that a team with a losing record would qualify for the playoffs.
I don’t anticipate all six teams in the South to have sub-.500 records, but it feels like whoever takes the division crown would be third—at best—in the North.
Of course, I may be underselling the Colorado Buffaloes, who are currently 3-0, but who expects them to contend? Stay tuned!
5. Arizona State loses on game-winning targeting call
This is vicious:
My view of Frank Darby’s non-catch. pic.twitter.com/JbmmlqK9Nb— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) September 16, 2018
It also helped the San Diego State Aztecs hold on to beat the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Frank Darby comes down with the ball and is hit with a headshot. The completion brought ASU to the two-yard line with six seconds left facing a seven-point deficit and one last shot at the end zone.
The play was flagged—correctly—for targeting, and the officials went to the replay booth to confirm. While the replay booth was looking at it, officials saw the ball moving as Darby fell to the ground and ruled it incomplete (and also targeting).
So, that targeting penalty ended up ultimately ensuring the Aztecs would win the game, as ASU’s Hail Mary on the next play fell incomplete.
This all brought up an idea that I’ve heard before, though it hasn’t caught much steam: Making targeting penalties spot fouls.
Speaking to The Athletic ($$$), Pac-12 Network analyst Evan Moore had this to say:
“We can never have a situation, especially in hindsight, where it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, it ended up working out for us,”’ he said. “It should never work out for you if you launch at a kid’s head — ever.”
Is making targeting a spot foul a good idea or a bad idea?
6. Arizona gets a much-needed win in dominating fashion
A cynic might point out that the Arizona Wildcats were only up 24-17 over FCS Southern Utah at halftime before blowing the gates open. But we’re not cynics.
The Wildcats started a hopeful season in just about the worse way imaginable and once they took only a seven-point lead into halftime against the Thunderbirds, I’m sure the Wildcat fan base was in full butt-clench mode.
Alas, Khalil Tate finished with five touchdown passes in the rout. Tate still only rushed for 18 yards, making it odd that someone with his athleticism isn’t being unleashed yet. It has to happen sometime, right?
7. We’ll find out this week if Oregon is for real
The Ducks are 3-0 and nationally ranked after falling from college football’s pedestal the past two seasons. They have a popular quarterback and welcome a Stanford squad for the first big matchup in the Pac-12 North.
But are the Ducks worthy of their no. 20 ranking? They can definitely score. They put up 58 against Bowling Green, 62 against Portland State and 35 against San Jose State. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents, so it’s difficult to project what the Ducks will do the rest of the way.
Stanford will provide a formidable foe, and Bryce Love should be refreshed after taking a week off.
8. Oregon State breaks out the Turnover Chainsaw
beavers with the turnover chainsaw OH HELL YEAH pic.twitter.com/RFOn7Ng9kE— nick (@nick_pants) September 16, 2018
I’ve attended one game in Corvallis and that chainsaw sound they play over the P.A. on third downs gets real annoying real fast. Now the Beavers have busted out a real chainsaw, as they become the latest college football team to reward takeaways with toys.
I’m now taking suggestions for what WSU should use for its turnover toy. I’ll start:
The Turnover Keg ®
9. Who thought putting games in three-hour time windows on the Pac-12 Network was an OK idea?
Did nobody think to step in and suggest this was a bad idea? If so, who overruled him or her?
Pacific Standard Time already hurts the league enough. Why does the league continue to drop a hammer on its toe time and time again? Forcing fans to scramble to find the regional network isn’t good customer relations and some of us don’t even have the regional channels (raises hand).
One of these days the Pac-12 will get it right (hahahahahaha!).
10. USC – Arizona buried at 7:30 p.m.
Kickoff times were announced this week for games kicking off on Sept. 29. I bet at the beginning of the season, Pac-12 brass and many others figured the USC-Arizona game on Oct. 29 would be the conference’s game of the week. Instead, it’s the late night game on ESPN2.
I guess that’s better than being on the Pac-12 Network at the same time, but still.
11. Pelluer spurns Alabama for Wazzu
Peyton Pelluer was an admirable young man before we found out he decided to stay at WSU for a sixth year rather than play at Alabama.
Now he’s cemented his legacy as tremendous Coug and we just might petition the government to make it a state law for his offspring to attend WSU.
12. Bye weeks begin for four Pac-12 Teams
Stanford-Oregon is the main attraction, and of course WSU-USC is the headliner for readers of this site, and possibly others who tuned in last season and saw WSU’s win.