After a ten-month hiatus Pac-12 football returned to the gridiron and the action did not disappoint, well at least the games that weren’t cancelled.
In most college football seasons, week 1 is traditionally an afterthought, many teams schedule cupcakes to help their players gain confidence.
But not this year …
The Pac-12 is already in a competitive state due to the opener taking place in early November. This means it’s time to talk about College Football Playoff implications and what week one meant for the elite programs in conference.
Here’s are three things to consider in regards to a Pac-12 team winning a National Championship.
The Ducks are the conference’s only chance at making the CFP, but that doesn’t mean they did enough in week one.
Due to the shortened season, Oregon probably needs to blow out every opponent in style if the selection committee is going to put them in the top 4. They did not perform well enough in the opener to make this happen.
UO opened up the season against Stanford which could’ve proved a trap game, luckily the Ducks faced the Cardinal without their starting quarterback Davis Mills. Most fans probably don’t realize that Mills was the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation in the 2017 class, he missed the game due to Covid protocols.
Jack West filled in for Mills, but West had only attempted 32 passes in 2019 and wasn’t ready for the striped turf of Autzen Stadium.
Facing the Cardinal without their potential savor at quarterback, should have proved a blowout win for Oregon, and while it kind of did, they still underperformed.
The Ducks struggled in the first quarter getting off to an extremely slow start, committing an untimely turnover, and really just an all-around lack of execution. They also benefited from the fact that Cardinal kicker Jet Toner had a nightmareish 0-4 day kicking field goals.
As the game went on, the Ducks athleticism proved too much for the Cardinal and UO coasted to victory.
In most seasons this would have been a perfect week 1 performance: they beat a solid program, played well in the opener, and protected home turf comfortably. But this isn’t most years, this is 2020.
The Ducks will need to execute better going forward if they’d like to be selected to the CFP.
That’s not saying that UO didn’t have a thoroughly impressive performance, there were many positives to take away.
The running back combination of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye will likely be the best duo in the conference, the defense looked phenomenal, and quarterback Tyler Shough is more mobile than Ducks fans may have realized.
Oregon is the best team that we’ve seen on the field thus far, although this may be skewed because of the cancellations of Washington, Cal, and Utah’s respective matchups.
The bottom line for the Ducks is they cannot have anymore slow starts. They need to demolish every opponent by 21 plus points with the exception of the week 6 Washington matchup, total domination is a must.
Next week they face WSU in Pullman.
While the Trojans did pull out a thrilling come from behind victory against the Sun Devils, their performance was absolutely embarrassing.
They were outmatched throughout the first 57 minutes of the game and if it wasn’t for an onside kick and three fourth down conversions, they would’ve suffered an opening week loss in The Coliseum.
USC fans probably want their team to be graded on the highest curve, based off their showing against the Sun Devils, this may not be appropriate.
The Trojans pre-COVID were scheduled to open up their season against Alabama. Instead, they lucked out hosting ASU in a contest that should have proved much easier.
The Sun Devils are a solid team led by three coaches with NFL experience in Herm Edwards, Antonio Pierce, and Marvin Lewis, but their not elite.
This performance likely eliminated USC from the CFP. To say otherwise would be extreme west coast bias.
Their defense is still unproven, their running backs aren’t Reggie Bush, and many fans believe coach Clay Helton is shaky at best.
This team is not on par with Oregon, and it showed on the field in week 1.
Putting aside the miraculous comeback. There were a couple other positives to take away from the Trojans opening matchup.
Most notably, USC has the best trio of receivers in the Pac-12 in Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, and Drake London. This group should prove hard to stop for most secondaries in conference.
London’s touchdown catch on that game deciding 4th and 8, was thoroughly impressive.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis also showed poise leading SC to two touchdowns in just under three minutes to seal the victory for the Trojans.
Even in a bad showing, Slovis threw for 381 yards.
Looking at the rest of their schedule, SC is definitely the team to beat in the South, the division is theirs to lose.
But Trojan fans expect National Champions and this team has likely already eliminated themselves from contention.
Barring a major upset, USC’s only remaining difficult contest is their week three matchup in Salt Lake City against the Utes.
Cancellation of Games
As we’ve seen throughout the NCAA this year, no football game is guaranteed to be played due to the pandemic. This trend continued forcing the Pac-12 to cancel two week-one matchups: Utah vs. Arizona and Washington vs. California.
While Arizona is probably going to be one of the worst teams in the conference, the three others were outside threats to win their respective divisions.
Even though it was highly unlikely, some may say UW had a slim chance of being selected to the CFP.
But none of that matters now. These teams have all been eliminated from National Championship contention, a six-game schedule is not going to suffice, seven was cutting it close enough.
What this means for the conference in totality is that Oregon is our only hope. This may not excite fans in Corvallis and Seattle, but it’s the Pac-12’s only path to a National Championship.
Time to start rooting on the Ducks.