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Canzano: Pac-12 pivots to the unknown in Week 2
Some Sunday thoughts...
The Pac-12 got beat in the two highest-profile games on Saturday and looked shaky in winning some others. The conference posted an overall record of 9-3 in Week 1.
Oregon got blasted by Georgia in Atlanta.
Utah let a win slip away at Florida.
The Pac-12 went 0-2 vs. the SEC. It’s now 1-8 in its last nine Week 1 games against the SEC. It got so bad that Florida fans left The Swamp chanting, “SEC! SEC!”
It was rough. But no worse than last season, when the Pac-12 was historically bad in non-conference games and winless in the bowl season. I think it just felt worse because there are so many discerning eyes on the conference right now.
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff was at the Oregon-Georgia game. So was SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Sankey made an appearance in the press box before the game, and held court with a dozen reporters for an extended period. Kliavkoff is in the middle of a media-rights negotiation and possible conference expansion. He was visible, but far less available.
Meanwhile, Oregon State posted the most impressive victory of the Pac-12’s opening weekend, thumping perennial Mountain West Conference power Boise State 34-17. It wasn’t just that the Beavers won the game — it’s how they did it.
Oregon State’s defense forced five turnovers, had eight tackles for a loss and forced Boise State to bench its starting quarterback. On offense, OSU’s receivers ripped off catches of 74, 47, 41, 27 and 26 yards. And running back/linebacker Jack Colletto ran for a 41-yard TD.
The Beavers have now won seven-straight home games under Jonathan Smith. They play at Fresno State next week. Bulldog Stadium is a difficult place for visitors. But on Saturday night — amid a swirl of college football overreaction — Oregon State sure looked like a team capable of winning eight-plus games, didn’t it?
Week 1 highlights…
• Oregon State is 1-0 for the first time under coach Jonathan Smith.
• Arizona beat San Diego State 38-20 and spoiled the opening of Snapdragon Stadium. Jedd Fisch’s team has 50 newcomers this season, second only to ASU (51) in the Pac-12. San Diego State had won seven of its last nine games vs. the Pac-12.
• Stanford posted a 41-10 win over Colgate. Camping in the end zone must have felt good for David Shaw, who was coming off a 3-9 season.
• USC won in a 66-14 blowout over Rice. Caleb Williams completed 19 of 22 passes in the game. He also ran for 68 yards. I’m not sure we learned much, but the Trojans are still undefeated.
• Washington beat Kent State 45-20. Kalen DeBoer’s offense looked really good and transfer QB Michael Penix Jr. threw for 345 yards and four TDs.
• Washington State squeezed by Idaho, 24-17. Transfer QB Cameron Ward had three TD passes.
• Cal beat the Big Sky’s UC Davis, 34-13. The Aggies moved the ball well, though, piling up nearly 400 yards of offense. It was an uncharacteristic performance by Justin Wilcox’s defense.
• Arizona State ran it up on Northern Arizona, 40-3 in Week 1. NAU managed only seven first downs in the loss.
Week 1 lowlights…
• TCU blasted Colorado 38-13. It’s far too soon for AD Rick George to even think about firing Karl Dorrell, but the Buffaloes’ offense was absent.
• Oregon suffered an embarrassing 49-3 loss to Georgia. I was in Atlanta and filed a column off the game. It was a back-alley whipping. No way around it. After the game, Bulldogs’ coach Kirby Smart said of Oregon and coach Dan Lanning, “They'll bounce back from this, and he knows we have better players. He'll never say that, but he knows we’ve got better players.”
That said, Smart isn’t lying. Oregon needs to get bigger, faster and better if it wants to stay on the field with the top programs in the country. Georgia made it look too easy on Saturday.
I think part of the reason why Oregon’s loss felt so devastating was that the Ducks have failed to show up in a series of big games dating back to last season. They laid an egg in a 38-7 loss at Utah on Nov. 20 of last season. Then, Oregon lost to Utah 38-10 a few weeks later in the conference title game in Las Vegas. Then, the Ducks got beat 47-32 by Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.
I know. I know.
Three of those four defeats weren’t on Lanning’s watch, but UO fans were there for it and the cumulative score of those games isn’t pretty.
• Utah blew it in a 29-26 loss to Florida. The Utes got the ball with 1:25 left in the game and drove to the Florida 6-yard line. On second-and-goal, quarterback Cam Rising had a variety of options. He could have thrown the ball out of bounds. He could have tossed it in the stands. He could have chucked it off the scoreboard. He could have tucked it and run. But the one thing Rising could not do under any circumstance in that moment was throw an interception.
So yeah — he did.
The normally reliable QB made a poor throw. Florida intercepted his pass. I didn’t love the play call. Utah’s situational awareness just wasn’t functioning for some reason. It was jarring to watch. Because we’ve all become so accustomed to seeing Kyle Whittingham’s team routinely perform with poise under pressure and make the right play.
Utah had two plays to score a TD and win the game. If not, it had a gimme field goal and overtime as a fall-back option. It walked off with neither outcome. On two occasions in the game, in fact, the Utes got inside the 6-yard line and came away with zero points.
The loss crushed the Pac-12.
After the game, it got even worse for the Utes. Due to a mechanical malfunction, Utah’s charter didn’t leave the Gainesville Regional Airport on time. The team got stuck in Florida overnight and players were sprawled around the airport, studying and napping.
NO-SHOW: If Chip Kelly’s team wins and nobody is there to see it, did it really happen? Discuss. UCLA set a record-low on Saturday for single-game attendance at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins beat Bowling Green 45-17.
Tickets sold: 27,143.
Actual attendance: Far lower.
UCLA’s fall quarter doesn’t start until Sept. 19. So no students. Saturday’s temperature at kickoff was 98 degrees. Also, locals will tell you there just isn’t a lot of enthusiasm for the Bruins football. But some of those factors have lined up before and UCLA had never sold fewer than 32,513 tickets for a game at the Rose Bowl.
They sold exactly that many tickets for a 26-14 win over Oregon State in November of 1992. So the Bruins didn’t just eke out a new record-low on Saturday, they smashed the previous record by 5,370 tickets. I think the apathy around UCLA football is going to be a storyline for the rest of the season.
Is it possible there are additional factors?
The Bruins announced they are leaving for the Big Ten in 2024. Maybe some of the fans and boosters don’t support the move and are checked out? USC is getting all the headlines, too. Is it possible that front-running college football fans without a connection to UCLA are going to instead show up at Trojans’ games this season? Also, what of Kelly’s 19-25 record as the Bruins’ coach, is that a factor?
I think it’s an amalgam of reasons. I’d include that UCLA’s cupcake non-conference schedule — vs. Bowling Green, vs. Alabama State and vs. South Alabama — makes a college football fan think about spending a Saturday mowing the lawn, taking a nap and washing the car instead.
COMING UP: The research team is already looking ahead at Oregon’s Week 2 opponent. Gunnar Talkington is the great name of the quarterback for Eastern Washington. At home against Tennessee State, “Gunnar” threw for five touchdowns (29 of 46 for 348 yards) and ran eight times for 68 yards. He provided 408 of EWU’s nearly 500 yards of offense.
• USC and Stanford play the first head-to-head Pac-12 game of the season. It’s a home game for the Cardinal. Trap game for USC and Lincoln Riley?
• Mississippi State and coach Mike Leach travel to Arizona in a game that could be really entertaining. I’m efforting Leach for my statewide radio show this week.
• Oregon State plays at Fresno State, where rabid home fans were once accused by Hawaii of throwing a screwdriver and batteries at the visiting bench.
• Washington State is at Wisconsin. I suspect we’ll find out if the Cougars will contend for a berth to the Pac-12 title game.
• ASU goes to Oklahoma State in what could be the biggest non-conference game of the weekend for the Pac-12.
• Portland State travels to Washington. The Vikings gave San Jose State a Week 1 scare, but lost 21-17.
• Bay Area News Group star Jon Wilner and I will post at least one new podcast episode this week. “Canzano & Wilner” is presented by Alpha Media and aims to post twice a week during the college football season. If you’re not already subscribed make sure you do via Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
TAKE A PICTURE: If you missed the news, I’ve hired a photographer. Serena Morones is a terrific sports shooter and was on the scene at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday. Morones is one of the best around on a live sporting event, but what I love most about her work is the humanity in it.
Her photo gallery off the Oregon-Georgia game was a real treat. It captured so much more than the game itself. Give it a look.
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