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.
The Pac-12 had a decent showing this week. Not great, but not awful, either. The best team fell to a good SEC team and the worst team got slaughtered by a good Big Ten team. Everybody else—except for you guys, Arizona and UCLA—made the conference proud.
And Mike Leach did a Mike Leach thing.
Let’s start our weekly installment with a rundown of some thoughts from Week 1.
1. UW failed on the big stage again
I’m definitely not feeling sorry for them.
The Pac-12 has had a PR problem for a while (more on that in a second) and last year’s football season made things worse. Heading into 2018, UW was expected to carry the Pac-12’s flag and be the conference’s best hope of making it to the playoff. Saturday’s matchup with Auburn was UW’s latest chance to show it can play with the big boys on the big stage.
Well, thanks to some red zone horrors, UW is now 0-1 and it almost guarantees that they’ll have to run the table the rest of the way to have a shot at the playoff—and even then it’s no shoo-in.
Again, you won’t find any sympathy here.
2. Somebody named Mark Jones resurrects UW’s ESPN feud
Washington Huskies took one one on the chin. Where’s Montana ?— MarkJonesESPN (@MarkJonesESPN) September 2, 2018
I’ll admit to not remembering who Mark Jones was, but this tweet sure caused a stir.
And here’s some context: Jake Browning took a vicious hit to the jaw in the Auburn game. I have no idea if Jones had that hit in his head when he pressed “SEND TWEET,” but if he did…..dude.
We can go around and around discussing the merits of the tweet, whether it was smart to tweet something like that (it wasn’t), whether we enjoy the shade thrown UW’s way (we do), etc. The story ends with Jones reportedly being banned from UW games (lucky him).
Know this: There will be ramifications for the Pac-12 from this and just about none for ESPN. The Worldwide Leader loses nothing from this spat, while the Pac-12 is reminded, once again, how much of the country views the conference.
3. Pac-12’s Heisman Trophy hopefuls get off to so-so starts
Khalil Tate was on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated’s season preview and his Arizona Wildcats lost an uninspiring game against BYU at home to open the season. Tate was just 17-of-34 for 197 yards passing and only 14(!) yards rushing.
Meanwhile, Bryce Love of the Stanford Cardinal had just 29 yards on 18 carries. Yeah it’s early, but the conference’s two Heisman hopefuls didn’t provide much hope this weekend.
4. Arizona’s loss was all sorts of bad
Kudos to Arizona for scheduling two solid programs to open the season. Of course, that kind of scheduling only gets you anywhere if you win those games.
Losing at home to open the season to a BYU team that underachieved last year is bad enough. Now Arizona has to go on the road to Houston and face the nation’s top defensive lineman in Ed Oliver.
The Wildcats had some hype heading into the season. Kevin Sumlin trying to turn Khalil Tate into a pocket passer probably won’t last.
5. Big Gulp Left
Been working with a Microsoft engineer and Coug grad who has some innovative ideas. Stay tuned. We call this one Big Gulp left, named after a friend of mine. https://t.co/jui2PvlYul— Mike Leach (@Coach_Leach) September 3, 2018
“A friend of mine.” Clever trolling.
6. A Jonathan Smith offense succeeds against an Alex Grinch defense
Hmmmmm. This seems familiar. Smith ran UW’s offense against WSU’s Alex Grinch-led defense that past three years to futile results for the Cougars. While Grinch deserves all the credit for WSU’s defensive turnaround, he couldn’t quite outsmart Smith’s UW offense. Things didn’t seem to change on Saturday when Oregon State put up 392 yards and 31 points against Ohio State. Sure, the Buckeyes ran all over the Oregon State defense en route to a 77-31 blowout, but as The Athletic’s Chris Vannini noted ($):
9. Ohio State allowed five plays of at least 40 yards in 2017. The Buckeyes allowed three to Oregon State on Saturday.
Last year’s mark was fifth-best nationally for the Ohio State defense. Saturday’s 77-31 win was comfortable, but the Beavers broke off a 49-yard TD pass, an 80-yard TD run and a 78-yard TD run.
Perhaps I’m being unfair to Grinch. It was his first game with Ohio State, and he isn’t solely running the Buckeye defense. But I thought it was interesting, given the head coach on the other side of the field.
7. Now all of a sudden recruiting a long snapper doesn’t seem so bad
Some eyebrows were raised when WSU landed a commitment from the nation’s top long snapper. It appears to be a good idea.
The snafu that ended up—thankfully—being only a safety was one of two bad snaps on the day. Later, long snapper Kyle Celli nearly rolled one to punter Oscar Draguicevich, who luckily got the punt off with no problem.
In our season preview, this is what I wrote on Celli:
“Also, we never even noticed long snapper Kyle Celli last season and let’s hope we don’t notice him this year, either.”
Maybe he didn’t drink enough beet juice, I don’t know. Celli had zero problems last season, so I see no reason why this should be a concern going forward.
8. N’Keal Harry is not fair
Arizona State's N'Keal Harry beats the entire defense to score a TD— RedZoneSports (@GoRedZoneSports) September 4, 2018
Good thing WSU doesn’t play Arizona State this year.
9. Chip Kelly era gets off to a rough start
Kelly is in a tough spot with a young roster. The Bruins lost their starting quarterback early to injury against Cincinnati and inserted a true freshman, which isn’t ideal. The loss was bad and the season probably won’t be much better for UCLA, but Chip Kelly is still Chip Kelly, so it’s only a matter of time until he gets things going.
Also, they play at Oklahoma this week. Prayers.
10. Pivotal Stanford-USC matchup comes early
The no. 10 Stanford Cardinal and no. 17 USC Trojans get together this weekend in what is essentially an elimination game for the two dark horse playoff candidates. Remember: USC doesn’t have UW on its schedule this year, so any matchup with the Huskies would come in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Both teams have games against Notre Dame, so going undefeated through the regular season—perhaps the only way either team gets to the playoff—will be tough.
With Arizona starting on the road at 9 a.m. PST and WSU probably not leaving the field until about midnight, you can watch Pac-12 football for 13 hours Saturday in this time zone, if that’s your thing.
Many of the games will be duds (North Dakota vs. UW, Portland State at Oregon, San Jose State at WSU) but there are a few worth watching, specifically that Stanford-USC game. We can also see if Cal will be BYU’s next Pac-12 victim and if Khalil Tate can avoid Ed Oliver.
12. Get this clown out of here!
For the love!