After one of the softest slates of games ever in week 2, the Pac-12 steps up to what is, top to bottom, one of the better schedules any conference will face all year, including 4 games against Big Ten teams.
You can tell its a big day for the conference when 7 of the 11 games were picked up by networks with actual nationwide distribution, instead of falling to the Pac-12 channels.
It's also an unusual weekend in a season with an extra bye for everyone but USC, in that not only is everyone in action, all of the games are on Saturday, another relative rarity in the era of games during the week for tv's convenience. Much of the country can't wait to see 2 time FBS National Champion Alabama's visit to College Station, to try to avenge last year's loss to Johnny Football, and Texas A&M, but there's also an overload of interesting and relevant Pac-12 action. Time to program that recorder!
UPDATE: The Fresno St.-Colorado game originally scheduled for Noon Saturday MDT (11 AM PDT) has been postponed due to flooding and its after affects in Colorado, including on the University of Colorado campus.
The schools have indicated they want to reschedule the game, but the teams do not have a common open date the rest of the season. Both the Pac-12 and Mt. West have conference championship games this season, so if neither team wins their division, it could be a situation similar to last year's Oregon St.-Nichols St. game, played on that weekend.
Otherwise, it will take some more creative rescheduling of other games as well.
The day starts with #16 UCLA (1-0) visiting #23 Nebraska (2-0) at 11 AM CDT (9 AM PDT). The Bruins-Cornhuskers rematch of one of last year's most significant early season games, one UCLA won 36-30, is the only game involving 2 top 25 teams other than #1 Alabama at #6 Texas A&M this week, and ABC will be there.
The Bruins had last week off to prepare, after having pulled away from Nevada in the second half for a 58-20 win on opening weekend. The trip to Lincoln is the first on a road slate for for UCLA that will be one of the toughest in the country.
The Cornhuskers rebounded from a 37-34 scare of a win over Wyoming to run over Southern Mississippi, both literally as well as figuratively, on their way to a 56-13 win.
The Cardinal were the last team to open their 2013 campaign last Saturday night, and Stanford had put the extra time to good use, physically overpowering San Jost St. 34-13. Kevin Hogan threw for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Tyler Gaffney ran for 104 yards and 2 more scores.
The Black Knights jumped to an early 7-0 lead when Larry Dixon ran for a 71 yard touchdown in the first minute of the game against Ball St. But Army couldn't compete in the passing game, and the Cardinals ran off 37 consecutive points, on the way to a 40-14 win.
This will be one of the few games where both teams want to run the ball to a sizable imbalance over passing it.
Fresno St. (2-0) was to visit Colorado (2-0) at Noon MDT (11 AM PDT) in what probably surprised some as a meeting of unbeaten teams. So much so that only the Pac-12 Mountain channel had this live. It was to be replayed at 12:30 AM Sunday morning on the Pac-12 National channel, and some but not all of the other regional channels, for those few who get more than one of them. That's a moot point now.
It was shaping up to be a great game, and may yet be, if a reschedule date can be found.
The Bulldogs backed up their opening night 52-51 overtime win with a 41-25 win over Cal-Poly, another Big Sky FCS team capable of causing trouble for FBS foes, and now make their first road trip of the year. It's Fresno's biggest non-conference game, and comes less than a week before their showdown with Boise St. back in Fresno next Friday that could be a preview of a rematch in the Mountain West Conference Championship game.
The Buffs got long touchdowns passes to Paul Richardson to start the game, and again in the 4th quarter, on their way to pulling away from a pesky Central Arkansas FCS team for a 38-24 win. The Bears had a touchdown lead in the 4th quarter before Colorado ran off 3 unanswered touchdowns of their own to take control of the game in the final minutes.
Richardson finished with 11 catches for 209 yards, making him the first receiver in Pac-12 history to have back to back 200+ yard receiving games. Given the caliber of some of the other receivers that covers, that's one very impressive accomplishment.
Last year, the Bulldogs routed the Buffs 69-14 in the valley.
With a visit from Colorado coming in 2 weeks, this one will be of particular interest to Oregon St. followers.
Boston College (2-0) visits USC (1-1, 0-1) at Noon PDT, and the rest of the Pac-12 channels will have the coverage here. Interestingly, the Pac-12 Mountain channel was going to pick up the end of this game, but that audience wouldn't have been able to see it in its near-entirety until a replay at 7 AM PDT Sunday morning, if they get also get the national channel. The Pac-12's general failure to get full distribution has not only left many in the dark, and even many of those who do get some of the service still have holes in it. (Did Larry Scott do a rain dance to get out of this corner?)
The Eagles downed Wake Forest 24-10, behind a 204 yard rushing performance on 35 carries by Andre Williams. It was the second week in a row that BC boarded 24 points in a win. Williams' yardage total actually exceeded what the Eagles gained, due to sacks and other losses.
The scrutiny on USC coach Lane Kiffen, and quarterback Cody Kessler, named the starter again this week, will be intense, after the Trojans dropped the Pac-12 opener to Washington St. 10-7, despite the fact that the USC defense didn't allow a touchdown, and only 7 yards rushing.
The reason was an offensive effort by the Trojans that only accumulated 193 yards, and just 54 passing yards. Both Kessler and Max Wittig also threw interceptions. Once again, Tre Madden was the Trojan offense, with 151 yards on 32 carries.
When the schedule came out, few thought the Eagles would be the only unbeaten team in this game, and the heat on Kiffen will become an inferno if he can't get the USC offense going against Boston College.
The Vols tuned up for their trip with a 52-20 win over Western Kentucky, sparked by 5 turnovers in 6 plays by the Hilltoppers, including interceptions returned for touchdowns by Justin Coleman and Cameron Sutton. Tennessee would run off 31 points in less than 5 minutes.
The Ducks dominated Virginia early, as Marcus Mariota took off for a 71 yard touchdown not 2 minutes into the game, and De'Anthony Thomas added 2 of his 3 touchdowns before the first quarter was over. Both Mariotta and Thomas finished with over 120 yards rushing, and Mariota was just 1 yard shy of a 200 yard passing day as well, but he did throw 3 touchdown passes.
Oregon got far enough ahead to give heralded freshman Thomas Tyner his first action of the season, and he responded with 2 more touchdowns, as the Ducks flew past the Cavaliers for the 59-10 win.
Oregon won the only previous meeting, running off 45 unanswered points in Knoxville to win 48-13.
The Huskies had last weekend off to get ready for the trip, and to enjoy their opening night 38-6 win over Boise St. that re-opened renovated Husky Stadium. They will get TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins back this week as well, and Washington is looking forward to finally being able to be as effective on the road as at home.
The Illini impressed with their 45-17 thrashing of Cincinnati, as Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns. But Illinois was also solid on the ground, rushing for Scheelhaase and a half dozen others combining for 210 more yards rushing, and another pair of touchdowns.
Southern Utah (2-0) takes on Washington St. (1-1, 1-0) at 3:30 PM, and the Pac-12 channel will be there. The Pac-12 leading Cougs will be the favorite here, but they best be careful, the Thunderbirds may be an FCS team, but they are one of the ones who already have one of those wins over FBS teams this year, a 22-21 win over South Alabama on a field goal as time expired. Imagine the prestige of being the first Big Sky team to get 2 FBS teams in the same season.
The Thunderbirds tuned up with a 49-0 win over Division II Fort Lewis, as Aaron Cantu threw for 4 touchdowns, and Southern Utah also came up with 7 turnovers. The Thunderbirds also ran for 208 yards while limiting the Skyhawks to just 48 yards on the ground.
The Cougs' offense never crossed the USC goal line, but Damante Horton's second quarter pick-6 and a late gameAndrew Furney field goal provided all the points Washington St. needed to down the Trojans 10-7. If Connor Halliday has another 2 interception, no touchdown day, head coach Mike "We Win With Defense" Leach might just need another sub-200 yards allowed effort from his Coug defense, that leads the conference in pass defense efficiency. (Did you ever think you would see those things written?)
The Buckeyes dropped a spot in the polls despite winning for the second week in a row, and in convincing fashion this time, with a 42-7 thrashing of San Diego St., Oregon St.'s host next weekend. And they did it after Braxton Millersuffered a sprained left knee.
Miller strained, but did not tear, his MCL, and will be in Berkeley Saturday, though how much he plays remains an unknown.
The Bears barely escaped with a 37-30 come from behind win over FCS Portland St., thanks mostly to Jared Goff throwing for 485 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the 75 yarder to Richard Rodgers for the go-ahead score midway in the 4th quarter.
Goff has now thrown for 930 yards in 2 games, a 2 game total is just 8 yards short of the Pac-10/12 record 2 game total set by former Cal Bear Pat Barnes in 1996.
Last year, the Buckeyes barely held off the Bears, winning 35-28 in the Horseshoe.
Oregon St. (1-1) visits Utah (2-0) at 8 PM MDT (7 PM PDT) for the second Pac-12 game of the season, and the conference opener for both, and Fox 1 will be there too. It's not a blackout, but it is Homecoming, one of the earliest of the year.
The Utes routed neighborhood FCS foe Weber St. 70-7, as Travis Wilson threw for a pair of touchdowns, and a half dozen Utes combined to have a field day, running for 338 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
Former Beaver head coach Dennis Erickson, now the co-offensive coordinator for Utah, has the Ute offense running smoother, as well as adding a flavor of familiarity to the meeting.
Last year, Oregon St. prevailed 21-7, and in each of the last 2 seasons, the winner of this game has gone bowling, and the loser hasn't. It's a possibility that could happen again, making this potentially something of a playoff game even this early in the year. Utah has won the last 3 meetings in Salt Lake City.
The day winds up with a pair of try to beat the heat evening games in Arizona.
#20 Wisconsin (2-0) visits Arizona St. (1-0) at 7:30 PM AST (7:30 PM PDT), the second year in a row the Big Ten champions have come calling on a Pac-12 team, after visiting Corvallis last season, and ESPN will be in Tempe too.
The Badgers are still unscored upon, after backing up their 45-0 opening weekend win over Massachusetts with a 48-0 runaway from FCS Tennessee Tech last Saturday.
Joel Stave completed 24 of 29 passes, for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the really impressive numbers are typical of Badger ball. Wisconsin ran for 387 yards against the Golden Eagles, and had 3 players all over 100 yards; Corey Clement with 149 yards and 2 touchdowns, Melvin Gordon, with 140 & 1, and James White, with 109 & 1. Monte who?
The Sun Devils had a successful scrimmage in their opener last Thursday, breezing past FCS Sacramento St. 55-0. A 28 point second quarter, which included 3 of Taylor Graham's 5 touchdown passes, did most of the damage.
This game starts a 4 game run "National Respect Tour" for Arizona St., which will also include a trip to Stanford next weekend, a visit from USC a week later, and then a trip to Texas to take on Notre Dame.
The Roadrunners dropped a 56-35 shootout in the Alamo Dome against now #12 Oklahoma St., but UTSA is an offensive threat that could match the 'Cats. The Roadrunners, who were an 8-4 team last year, rolled up over 500 yards against the Cowboys, including 369 in the air.
UTSA is an up and coming team, upwardly mobile through the old WAC into their new home in Conference USA, and a road win over an FBS AQ conference opponent that would be a big program boost is something they are looking and working hard for.
The Wildcats routed UNLV in Las Vegas 58-13, and they did it on the ground; B.J. Denker only completed 8 of 21 passes, for just 81 yards.
But Arizona welcomed back Ka'Deem Carey, last year's national rushing leader, after a 1 game suspension, and Carey celebrated his return with 16 carries that yielded 171 yards, and 2 touchdowns, one from 58 yards out. Collectivey, the 'Cats came up just 3 yards shy of a 400 yard rushing night against the Rebels.