Instant reaction to Pac-12 developments on the field …
1. It could have been worse
On the surface, Week One was a success for the Pac-12.
The conference went 9-3 and was perfect against both the Group of Five (5-0) and FCS competition (4-0).
Washington showed off a real offense and smashed Kent State in coach Kalen DeBoer’s debut.
The Los Angeles schools combined for 111 points and 1,164 yards in blowouts of Bowling Green (UCLA) and Rice (USC).
Two of the three defeats were courtesy of double-digit underdogs (Colorado and Oregon), so expectations were low before the weekend began.
The third loss came as a slight favorite on the road against an SEC opponent (Utah).
2. It could have been better
That said, college football success isn’t defined on the surface. It’s rooted, first and foremost, in College Football Playoff participation.
By that measure, Saturday was rough for the Pac-12.
Two of the three teams given the best chance to reach the CFP sustained losses that were brutal in different ways.
Oregon was embarrassed by Georgia (49-3) in a manner we didn’t think possible. The Dawgs did to the Ducks what we would expect Oregon to do to Western Oregon.
Utah’s loss at Florida came in the final seconds of a fabulous game. Cam Rising’s pass was intercepted in the end zone with the Utes in range of an easy field goal that would have forced overtime.
As the CFP goes, the Ducks are done: Even if they run the table, the 46-point loss will undermine their playoff bid.
Utah is alive but without margin for error. If Florida produces a quality season, then the three-point loss won’t be held against the Utes — so long as they don’t lose again.
As we see it, the conference has two paths to the CFP:
— Utah wins out and finishes 12-1.
— USC finishes 13-0 or 12-1.
No other team has the talent or schedule juice (hello, UCLA) to be considered potential contenders.
3. Northwest newbies
We typically reserve judgment on head coaching hires until the end of Year Three, but it was difficult to watch Washington and Oregon perform without thinking about the stark contrast in moves last winter.
The Ducks opted for the hottest coordinator on the market in Dan Lanning, fresh off his national title as Georgia’s defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, Washington went with the most mundane hire possible: DeBoer had spent two years in charge at Fresno State.
Comparisons would be grossly unfair after a single game, especially given the disparity in competition. So we’ll connect each coach to his own team: Based on what we witnessed, it’s not hard to envision the Huskies exceeding expectations and the Ducks underperforming by a tick.
They don’t have Georgia’s talent, but the performance in Atlanta was a hot mess. Oregon was not properly prepared.
In Seattle, the Huskies were more precise, creative and diverse offensively than they have been since former play-caller Jonathan Smith departed in 2017 to take over Oregon State.
UW will undoubtedly hit some rough patches. But even if Michael Penix Jr. and Co. are merely half as good as they were Saturday night, the offense will be twice as effective as it was last year.
4. Standouts, stand downs
The most impressive player we saw today? There were two, actually: Utah tight end Brant Kuithe and Arizona receiver Jacob Cowing.
Kuithe had nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown and was a one-man passing attack in The Swamp.
Cowing had eight catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns and, according to the Wildcats, became the first player in 15 years to have three touchdown catches in his Power Five debut.
There were other notable showings, including UCLA tailback Zach Charbonnet, but Cowing and Kuithe were a cut above.
On the flip side: Colorado delivered the worst performance of the week by a team not facing the defending national champions.
The Buffaloes made TCU look like a playoff team during their 38-13 loss in Boulder.
The Hotline figured it would be a long year for CU. From the looks of it, we underestimated just how dire the situation could become.
5. Unrecognizable Arizona
It was jarring to see the transformation of Washington’s offense from the incompetent unit of 2021 to the efficient machine that ran up 45 points and 525 yards against Kent State.
But Arizona’s performance in a 38-20 win at San Diego State was next-level different from anything we’ve seen from the Wildcats in several years.
They did it on both sides of scrimmage and, in particular, at the line of scrimmage.
The Wildcats weren’t pushed around — they did the pushing against a program that typically gets the better of Pac-12 foes.
Combine that transformation in the trenches with an efficient quarterback in Jayden de Laura and a playmaker like Cowing, and the Wildcats could finish in the middle of the pack.
That would be quite the leap for a team that was 1-16 the previous two seasons.
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