Video: USC coach Steve Sarkisian

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6

USC coach Steve Sarkisian talks about the importance of his team's defense following the 14th-ranked Trojans' 13-10 win over No. 13 Stanford on Saturday.

Lee Corso's Pick: Michigan State at Oregon

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
The Oregon Duck and Lee Corso make their predictions for Michigan State at Oregon.

Winston edges Mariota in QB poll

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
Florida State's Jameis Winston edged out Oregon's Marcus Mariota as the nation's top quarterback according to the FBS coaches who voted in ESPN's weekly college football poll #1QFor128.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State's Jameis Winston carried 41 percent of the vote among FBS coaches as the nation's top quarterback this week.
Winston was the choice of 41 percent of the FBS coaches, followed closely by Mariota (35 percent). UCLA's Brett Hundley (9 percent), Baylor's Bryce Petty (6 percent) and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (2 percent) rounded out the top five in the poll conducted by ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Others receiving votes: East Carolina's Shane Carden, Marshall's Rakeem Cato, Notre Dame's Everett Golson, Texas A&M's Kenny Hill, Utah State's Chuckie Keeton, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly and Oregon State's Sean Mannion,

Of the Power 5 coaches (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12), 50 percent picked Winston, compared to only 26 percent for Mariota, 12 percent for Hundley and Hackenberg at 5 percent.

However, the Group of 5 coaches (American, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt), chose Mariota over Winston by a 42 to 34 percent margin. Hundley and Petty tied for third at 6 percent each among the Group of 5 coaches.

Of the 128 FBS coaches, 102 participated in ESPN's weekly confidential poll. Coaches could not vote for their own team. Last week, 51 percent of the coaches predicted Florida State would win the national title, followed by Alabama (18 percent), Oklahoma (11 percent) and Ohio State (7 percent).

Jameis Winston, FSU 41 percent
Marcus Mariota, Oregon 35 percent
Brett Hundley, UCLA 9 percent
Bryce Petty, Baylor 6 percent
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State 2 percent
Shane Carden, East Carolina 1 percent
Rakeem Cato, Marshall 1 percent
Everett Golson, Notre Dame 1 percent
Kenny Hill, Texas A&M 1 percent
Chuckie Keaton, Utah State 1 percent
Todd Kelly, Arizona State 1 percent
Sean Mannion, Oregon State 1 percent

Power 5 coaches
Jameis Winston, FSU 50 percent
Marcus Mariota, Oregon 26 percent
Brett Hundley, UCLA 12 percent
Bryce Petty, Baylor 5 percent
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State 2 percent
Chuckie Keaton, Utah State 2 percent
Todd Kelly, Arizona State 2 percent

Group of 5 coaches
Marcus Mariota, Oregon 42 percent
Jameis Winston, FSU 34 percent
Brett Hundley, UCLA 6 percent
Bryce Petty, Baylor 6 percent
Shane Carden, East Carolina 2 percent
Rakeem Cato, Marshall 2 percent
Everett Golson, Notre Dame 2 percent
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State 2 percent
Kenny Hill, Texas A&M 2 percent
Sean Mannion, Oregon State 2 percent

Note: 102 of 128 FBS coaches participated

Pac-12 viewer's guide: Week 2

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
Fresno State at Utah
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Hashtag: #FRESNOvsUTAH

Utah will try to build off its impressive debut against Idaho State with a visit from the Bulldogs, who got thrashed, 51-13, in a visit to USC last week. Kaelin Clay stood out, returning a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in his Utah debut.

Colorado at Massachusetts
Time: 3 p.m. ET

One of two teams in the conference to lose in Week 1, Colorado looks to bounce back with a rare East Coast trip. The Buffaloes need to shore up a run defense that was shredded in the second half last week against Colorado State.

Sacramento State at California
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

After knocking off Northwestern last week, all is rosy in Berkeley as the Bears prepare for their home opener. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns last week and was spelled by physical running quarterback Luke Rebenzer, who led Cal with 48 yards on 11 carries.

Eastern Washington at Washington
Time: 3:05 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

A rare FCS/FBS that carries intrigue, Eastern Washington features talented quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., while Washington will see quarterback Cyler Miles make his season season debut. WR John Ross scored both touchdowns for the Huskies against Hawaii last week -- one on a 20-yard reverse, the other on a 91-yard pass from Jeff Lindquist.

No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Hashtag: #USCvsSTAN

The first conference game of the year also has potential to be one of the best. The USC-Stanford rivalry has been one of the best in college football over the past seven years and according to ESPN's Football Power Index, the game is as even an in-conference matchup as there will be this year.

No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

The nation will be turning its attention to Eugene, where Oregon takes on the defending Rose Bowl champion. Michigan State's physical defense could pose problem's for Oregon's high-octane offense, but a good showing from Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota could vault him to the top of the Heisman discussion.

No. 17 Arizona State at New Mexico
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network

After torching outmatched Weber State in the opener, the Sun Devils should see a stiffer test in a trip to New Mexico. ASU still doesn't figure to have much trouble and will get valuable experience for its young defense heading into next week's conference opener again Colorado.

Memphis at No. 11 UCLA
Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks

UCLA is in need of a solid bounce-back performance after struggling in a 28-20 win at Virginia next week. A win is a win, but the Bruins won't be satisfied with merely getting by again this week in their home opener.

Oregon State at Hawaii
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network

Oregon State needed to overcome a halftime deficit to beat Portland State and now travels to Hawaii, where Washington struggled a week ago. The biggest key for Oregon State: success in the red zone.

This was supposed to be the easy portion of the schedule. The part where Washington State put up big numbers -- both offensively and on the scoreboard -- on its way to a 3-0 record in time to welcome Oregon to Martin Stadium on Sept. 20.

Instead, nine days into a season met with high expectations, the Cougars are in an 0-2 hole without much reason for hope. Not after following up a defenseless loss to Rutgers with a punchless 24-13 defeat to Nevada Friday night -- neither of which figures to be a serious contender in its respective conference.

The Cougars' biggest problem so far? Take your pick.

Last week, they were bullied up front and had no answers for the Rutgers offense. The takeaway then was that at least the offense will give them a chance every week.

Against Nevada, it was surprisingly the defense that took on that role. Nevada found some success offensively -- it finished with 324 yards of total offense -- but this wasn't a loss that'll be pegged on the WSU defense or coordinator Mike Breske.

It was the offense that stalled in the red zone and two missed third-quarter field goals that changed the complexion of the game.

Without something to hang its hat on, this is a team without an identity.

Coach Mike Leach, who is now 0-3 since athletic director Bill Moos approached him with a $500,000-a-year raise, spoke last week about how expectations at the university have been too low and need to change. There's generally been good logic to explain those low expectations and two games into another season, that's again the case.

After losing to Rutgers, it was tough to find six wins on the schedule -- and at that point, Nevada was one of the obvious candidates. Now, discussing possible bowl destinations is wasted breath.

Watch: Spartans need quick start at Oregon

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5

Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler look forward to Saturday's showdown between No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon, and explain why it is vital for the Spartans to get off to a fast start.

Chat: CFB Saturday Live

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
Chat live with our writers from 9 a.m. to noon ET and then again starting at 8 p.m. ET for the primetime games. In between, keep this page open as we bring you all of the latest real-time reaction, analysis, pics and video from our ESPNers scattered throughout the country.

Mailbag: Lyerla and Spartan concerns

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
Happy Friday. This is the mailbag. We have some really, really good games tomorrow, eh? Follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Tim from Atlanta writes: There's been a lot of talk comparing MSU to Stanford from a "scheme" standpoint, but very little about whether the personnel is comparable. Stanford gave Oregon fits due to their NFL-caliber O-lines and TE who could block & catch -- does MSU really have the same talent on the O-line to control the LOS in the same fashion? is it possible the similarities between MSU.

Ted Miller: Comparing the Stanford offense from 2013 and the Michigan State offense from 2014 isn't terribly useful, though both are mostly run-first, pro-style schemes. And Stanford got little production from its tight ends in 2013.

From a Week 2 perspective, Michigan State's probably got a good-but-not-great offensive line, though a verdict on that won't be delivered until season's end. It's replacing three starters from last season's good-but-not-great unit, though center Jack Allen and tackle Jack Conklin are All-Conference type players. Phil Steele ranked the Spartans' line No. 9 in the Big Ten. So, the preseason ratings for the offensive line are not Stanford-esque.

Here's what you need to watch: Third down. Stanford owned third down on both sides of the ball in its 26-20 win last season. It was 14 of 21 on third down -- the Ducks were seemingly helpless vs. the Cardinal's power runs -- while the Ducks were a measly 3 of 10.

Though turnovers -- the Ducks lost that battle 2-0 against Stanford -- is often the first number to look at in big games, the Spartans' ability to maintain drives and minimize the Ducks' ability to make their up-tempo attack drain the Spartans' defense on what should be a hot afternoon is probably where this game turns.

Seth from Los Angeles writes: what do you guys thin[k] about this article about Colt Lyerla.... Ducks in NCAA trouble?

Ted Miller: Lyerla has managed to make himself look even worse while intending to tell his side of the story. And that is the real sad fact for Lyerla. He still doesn't get it. As for the potential NCAA trouble you allude to, that's from this graph:
Their enthusiasm dampened when an unofficial adviser weighed in. Lyerla declines publicly to identify the man, a powerful University of Oregon booster known to the family. The adviser made the benefits of that decision clear. If Lyerla went to Oregon, "I was promised a house, a car, all these things."

Oregon has said that it will investigate Lyerla's allegations. We have no idea if that is true or not -- Lyerla's track record with reliability is pretty terrible -- and the important part is Lyerla admits he never got any of those things. That appears to be one of the reasons he's angry at Oregon. As in: "I was promised impermissible benefits but I was lied to!"

All Hype? from Oakland writes: I know only time will tell...but Hundley's decision to return to school may hurt him financially, a' la Matt Barkley and have him slip in the draft considerably. Ironically, SC/Barkley also had high expectations and was a Heisman candidate. A bigger concern, may be whether Hundley can remain healthy throughout the season, especially if the O-line & receiving corp doesn't improve! Hundley wishes he had a couple of Cal's receivers. Time will also tell if Virginia's D was actually good or if UCLA's offense was really that bad. This should Not have been close considering Virginia went 2-10, 0-8 (conf.) last year.

Ted Miller: That is certainly a potential storyline, and the performance by Brett Hundley and his offensive line at Virginia did nothing to invalidate it.

Anytime a potential high NFL draft pick opts to return for another season, he takes a chance. Sometimes a player's numbers slip because he presses or his supporting cast is weaker or he is thinking too much about NFL scouts. Sometimes more film ends up hurting if the improvement from year-to-year is nominal. Other times he helps his cause.

But Hundley is a better prospect than Barkley just based on his arm and athletic ability, which are both superior to Barkley's.

Tyler from Portland writes: Ted picked Michigan St. Chantel picked Michigan St. Keven Picked Oregon. So basically Kevin is the only bright one. But it seems that God himself has picked Oregon as well. How so? Weather! For in East Lansing Michigan they have had a very mild cool summer. In Portland, where I am, it is only 68 degrees right now at 2:30 p.m. The normal average for this time of year for Portland-Eugene is around 73 degrees of a daily high. However, come Friday and Saturday, in Eugene they are predicting a high of 97 (according to Weather Underground). That is VERY hot for us Oregonians, but blistering hot for Michigan people. I predict MSU players will be melted by halftime! Look for many MSU cramps- just saying :)

Ted Miller: A really hot day would pretty much be a push in terms of what the players are accustomed to. Here is the Eugene, Ore., weather averages, and here they are for East Lansing.

Yet you are right, and this goes back to third down. The more plays Oregon runs, the better their chances of winning. As good as the Michigan State defense is, it is not used to what Oregon does. If the Ducks extend drives, that will challenge the Spartans' conditioning. No matter how good it is, there would be some effect in the fourth quarter if the Ducks are closing in on 80 plays.
Mike Leach sat at the podium following Washington State’s disastrous defensive performance against Rutgers on Aug. 28 and spoke to the lack of expectations that are generally attached to the program he was hired to turn around.

He’s tired of the coddling.

“For too long around this university expectations have been too low, and I think we as coaches and we as players have to change that,” Leach said. “It’s not going to change from the outside. Everybody is going to have 20 pats on the back before they get back to their house.“

In the past six, seven years or so, that would have been true, but a close game against a Power 5 conference school during that span would likely have been defined as a step in the right direction. Maybe even success.

[+] EnlargeRutgers RB Paul James
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenRutgers' offense dominated Washington State in the season opener.
The 41-38 loss was different. It was the single-most deflating loss for the Cougars since at least 2006, and probably longer. Leach’s assessment that those outside the program would shrug it off and carry on like it was just another loss is simply off base.

Unlike in years past, this season carried tangible expectations. Not expectations for signs of improvement, but legitimate expectations for a bowl berth and to be competitive each week in what is widely regarded as the country's second-best conference.

And that's a credit to Leach.

By taking Washington State to a bowl in just his second season, he made the Cougars relevant again. Before last week, it wouldn't have taken much of an imagination to expect a 5-1 start. At that point, the widely-held assumption was that the Rutgers game would essentially serve as an opening act for a nonconference schedule full of routs.

But after watching Rutgers pile up 496 total yards and generally dominate the line of scrimmage -- Leach called it "whipping our defensive line" -- finding six victories on the schedule isn't as easy a task. Not with that defense.

Reflecting on how that unit played Tuesday during the Pac-12 conference call, Leach spoke bluntly about defensive coordinator Mike Breske's game plan and adjustments.

“I think we were one-dimensional scheme-wise. ... I thought we could have thrown more stuff at ’em," Leach said. "I thought we got to a point where we were doing the same thing over and over again."

But not all is lost.

"No question [the problems are] fixable," he said. "I don’t think there’s any doubt about that."

That theory will be tested Friday night against Nevada -- and its Pistol offense -- in a game that will be televised on ESPN at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Nevada remains a bit of an unknown after beating FCS opponent Southern Utah 28-19 last week, but, regardless, figures to serve as an interesting barometer for the direction of WSU's season.

WSU got off to a slow start offensively last week, but after settling in, Connor Halliday looked like a quarterback destined for a 5,000-yard season. He hit receivers in stride and spread it around, coming up one drive short of at least partially masking the defensive liabilities.

The Cougars might chase 40 points per game this year, and they'll need every one.
On a chalkboard, the base offenses of Stanford and USC probably look very similar. Both derive from pro-style philosophies and principles. But if games were played only on a chalkboard, you’d have no idea just how different they really are in application.

When the No. 14 Trojans head to No. 13 Stanford on Saturday for the Pac-12 opener for both teams, the game will feature USC’s up-tempo attack versus Stanford’s methodical ground-and-pound approach.

Think of it as pro-style versus pronto-style.

Last Saturday in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as USC's head coach, the Trojans ran a conference-record 105 plays in a 52-13 pasting of the Fresno State Bulldogs. Leading the charge for the Trojans was quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 25 of 37 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a fifth score as the Trojans amassed 701 yards of offense -- their most in a game since 2005.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Juan Lainez/Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesCody Kessler will try to keep the USC offense humming at Stanford.
“They were what you want to start the season with,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “They were efficient and explosive. Sometimes you get one without the other, but they were both. Cody played well. It’s obvious he’s got some weapons. Like us, they turned the ball over too many times and had some first game issues. But when you watch them play, they can go up-tempo, they have great personnel, they’re big on the offensive line. They are tough to crack and get after the quarterback like we like to because they are big up front. It was an impressive thing to watch.”

Impressive indeed. But duplicating that kind of success will be a chore against the Cardinal. Known for its stout defense and ability to keep offenses sidelined (it held Oregon to just 58 plays last season), Stanford will try to play the ball-control game. Shaw & Co. have their own idea of tempo. And it’s speeding up the game by slowing it down.

“They are a lot more multiple than people give them credit for,” Sarkisian said of Stanford’s offense. “Everyone wants to focus on when they go to their big package and bring in the [extra] offensive linemen. But they do stuff out of the traditional pro-style. They do stuff out of two-tight-end sets. They do stuff out of three-wide-receiver sets. They give you a lot of different looks, and they execute their stuff really well.”

It's also worth noting that Washington integrated this scheme USC deploys last year, when Sarkisian was the coach there. And the Huskies totaled 489 yards of offense in a 31-28 loss to the Cardinal in Palo Alto.

"Tempo" is a word you’re probably going to hear a lot on the telecast and read a lot following the game. Because whoever establishes tempo is, in essence, dictating the flow of the game. And for as much credit as USC’s offense deserves in the first week, Shaw said it’s the USC defense that deserves as much of the praise.

“If you don’t stay on the field on offense, they are going to run a ton of plays,” Shaw said. “For me, that’s not a function of tempo, that’s a function of playing good defense and getting Fresno State off the field very quickly with a bunch of three-and-outs. Small time of possession, very few plays, and that gives their offense more opportunities with the ball. [USC defensive coordinator] Justin Wilcox is as vital to how many plays they get on offense and how many points they get on offense as what they do on offense. USC is a very good defense. One of the best in the country. And they are going to give that offense a lot of opportunities.”

Last Saturday, the Trojans forced Fresno State into three three-and-out drives and six punts. Stanford forced UC Davis into nine three-and-outs. Offensively, Kessler was the model of efficiency on third down, completing 9 of 10 passes for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns on third down. Davis was just 1-of-13 on third-down conversions against the Cardinal and didn’t cross midfield until the final play of the game.

And when you throw in the fact that Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is 10-1 in his career against ranked teams and that the Cardinal are riding a 17-game home win streak (including nine straight against ranked teams) and that the series has been a thrill ride of late, you have all the trappings for another fantastic showdown.

“It’s been really, really good football,” Shaw said of recent games with USC. “When both teams have been ranked or one team has been ranked, it doesn’t matter.”

The skinny: No. 7 MSU-No. 3 Oregon

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
This weekend, Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, is going to be rocking with one of the biggest nonconference matchups of the year -- No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan State. It’s the first-ever top-10 out of conference matchup that will be played in the stadium and there are playoff implications on the line.

Here are a few different things to watch for as the Ducks and Spartans take the field at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Michigan State offensive player to watch: RB Jeremy Langford. The Spartans hope to use their running game to eat some clock and keep Oregon's offense on the sidelines, and Langford is key to that. But Langford is dealing with an ankle issue, and Michigan State's rushing attack was a little off in the opener against Jacksonville State.

Oregon offensive player to watch: QB Marcus Mariota. The Heisman candidate has been a model of efficiency for the Ducks over the past few seasons and against the Spartan defense, he’s going to need to be at his best. He’s going to have some tougher matchups with his younger wide receivers. Look for him to get the ground game going -- along with Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman -- for Oregon.

Michigan State defensive player to watch: LB Taiwan Jones. The senior gets his first big test as the team's starting middle linebacker. The responsibility for getting the defense organized and aligned against the Ducks' hurry-up attack falls on him. He also needs to provide plenty of help against the Oregon zone-read. The outside linebackers have to control the edge, where Oregon is so dangerous, but they'll look to Jones for leadership.

Oregon defensive player to watch: CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. He’s going to be crucial for the Duck defense. If Connor Cook chooses to throw at him, he needs to make him pay -- or at least make sure Cook doesn’t make a big play. The Ducks like to blitz Ekpre-Olomu from the corner, so look for him to contribute all over the field.

Michigan State wins if: It can win first down, on both sides. A big key to slowing down Oregon's offense is to get it in third-and-long situations that force the Ducks to pass the ball. The Spartans' defense, which has been so good against the run in the past few years, needs to be at its best on early downs. On the flip side, if Michigan State's offense can put itself in manageable down-and-distance scenarios, it can stick with the running game and control the tempo.

Oregon wins if: Mariota can connect with his young wide receivers and the Duck defense can get off the field in crucial situations. They weren’t happy with their defensive performance against South Dakota last weekend and they struggled with tackling. That can’t be the case if the Ducks are going to pick up a win over MSU.

Outlook with a Spartans win: Michigan State immediately becomes a top College Football Playoff contender. With its most difficult remaining games at home -- Nebraska and Ohio State -- the Spartans would have a real chance to run the table.

Outlook with a Ducks win: Mark Helfrich gets that signature win as a head coach, Mariota is provided some Heisman fuel and Oregon is an early favorite to play in the College Football Playoff.

Outlook with a Spartans loss: As long as they don't get blown out, the Spartans aren't necessarily toast if they go down in Autzen. Remember last year, they lost in September at Notre Dame but would still have been in position to make the playoff at the end, had one been in place. But they would need a lot of help and would have to hope Oregon goes on to have a great season.

Outlook with a Ducks loss: They’ll need to run the table convincingly in the Pac-12 conference if they want to be considered for a spot in the playoffs. Even an early loss could lessen the chances for Oregon depending on how other conferences shake out. The Ducks best bet is to leave nothing to chance and not even have to consider that alternative.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
While the SEC is the proud owner of 10 home games this weekend, the Pac-12 will host just six Saturday matchups this week. While this drives the quantity of big visit weekends down, it does not dilute the quality. After less than a handful of official visitors across the conference last weekend -- thanks to only four Saturday home games -- this weekend boasts the first full-fledged huge recruiting weekend at -- where else? -- the showdown between Michigan State and Oregon. Here is a look at the top three visit weekends across the Pac-12 for Week 2 of the college football season.

1. Oregon

It's no surprise that recruits would flock to this game, even though the visitor list will still likely rank well behind the group that shows up for Oregon's home game against Stanford later this season. The Ducks are scheduled to receive official visits from three committed prospects: safety P.J. Locke and offensive tackles Brady Aiello and Calvin Throckmorton. Locke will have an opportunity to do some serious recruiting, as uncommitted ESPN 300 defensive backs Marvell Tell and Micah Abernathy are slated to be in Eugene on official visits as well. Stanford defensive tackle commit Rex Manu should be on campus taking an official visit, and the Ducks appear to be doing very well with the talented defender. But the focus won't just be on 2015 talent this weekend, as 2016 ESPN 300 quarterback Seth Green -- the No. 155 overall prospect and No. 15 pocket passer -- will be on hand for an unofficial visit. The Ducks got a quick commitment from Malik Lovette on an official visit last weekend, and there could be an opportunity to make a big impact with Manu, though both Tell and Abernathy are likely to take their time with the recruiting process.

Pac-12 morning links

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
Happy Friday!

Leading off

Behind a 174-yard rushing performance and a touchdown from freshman running back Nick Wilson, the Arizona Wildcats improved to 2-0 with a 26-23 win over UTSA Thursday night.

It wasn't always pretty. After quarterback Anu Solomon connected with Cayleb Jones on an 85-yard touchdown strike to start the game, the redshirt freshman was just 16-of-31 passing the rest of the way for 146 yards.

Twice the upstart Roadrunners came back from a 10-point deficit to get to within one score. But each time the Arizona defense stiffened.

Here's the rundown.

One more game tonight as Washington State travels to Nevada looking to shake off last week's fourth-quarter loss to Rutgers. The Cougars are 2-0 all-time against Nevada, with the last meeting coming in 2005. Wazzu quarterback Connor Halliday was 40 of 56 for 532 yards and five touchdowns in the loss to Rutgers.

Ducks distractions?

Earlier this week, former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla made some fiery accusations at his old school. John Canzano of The Oregonian fired back. From his column Thursday:

What do you do when you feel abandoned by your university? How do you respond when you see your former team talked about as a playoff contender while you struggle? What is your response when you've fashioned a reality that announces you as the victim yet again?

If you're Colt Lyerla, you burn it all down.

There's never a good time for a story like this to break, true or not. But the timing does seem a little suspicious with Michigan State coming to town for the biggest nonconference game in college football to date.

Make your pick

Here's what some folks across the country are saying about the two biggest games in the Pac-12 this week. News/notes/practice reports
Just for fun

"Attention passengers, if you look to your right, you'll see someone who is a big fan of the the movie The 300." What else could it be?

I know the game was last night, but this is still kind of cool.

Teams with the most to prove in Week 2

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4

After struggling in the opening week, South Carolina, UCLA and Boise State all need to prove themselves with home games this week.
Here's what to watch in the Pac-12 in Week 2.

Which Pac-12 team is facing the most pressure Week 2: Oregon, Stanford or USC?

Kevin Gemmell/@Kevin_Gemmell: No doubt, all three are facing a lot of pressure. But I’m leaning toward the Trojans simply because their bar has now been set extremely high. Oregon’s game obviously has playoff implications. But if they can’t get through the Pac-12, none of that will matter. Yes, that game is big. No, it won’t help them win the league, which should be priority No. 1. Stanford is the two-time defending champs. You want the crown? Come take it. Enter the Trojans, who have had as rollercoaster of a season so far when you combine what happened on and off the field. The Trojans looked like a top 10 team last week. Can they do it against a defense that is going to punch back?

Kyle Bonagura/@BonaguraESPN: A strong case can be made for each team, but I'll go with Oregon because of what the game means for the conference as a whole. Because it's by far the most high-profile nonconference game involving the Pac-12 this season, Oregon's performance will, by default, be the single-most important game in determining how the conference is perceived nationally. I think we'll see the eventual Pac-12 champion have at least one conference loss and still be a virtual lock for the playoff. If Oregon were to win the conference and have two losses (including Michigan State), that would leave things up to chance.

[+] EnlargeCyler Miles
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonCyler Miles returns for the Huskies after serving a one-game suspension.
Which is the game you’re most interested in watching outside the big two?

Gemmell: Call me crazy, but I’m really looking forward to the Friday night showdown between Washington State and Nevada. Obviously, the Cougs defense needs to get off the mat after giving up 215 yards on the ground. Up next is the underrated yet always dangerous Cody Fajardo, who threw for 303 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 68 and a score. I think WSU’s offense will overwhelm the Pack, but it’s going to be interesting to watch how the Cougs defend Fajardo, seeing as they’ll be facing a few dual-threat quarterbacks this season.

Bonagura: This one was easy for me: Washington versus Eastern Washington. Yes, I realize it's an FCS-FBS game, but this EWU team has the talent to be competitive against most FBS teams. The primary reason for intrigue here is to see how the return of quarterback Cyler Miles affects how the Huskies look on offense. Obviously last week's showing against Hawaii didn't inspire much optimism about the direction of the offense, but all will be forgotten if Miles comes in and has a big game.

Which team is on upset alert?

Gemmell: Everyone needs to be on upset alert at all times -- but especially early in the season as we learn more about teams. With that said, Washington better figure some stuff out. Eastern Washington isn’t your run of the mill FCS team. They are ranked No. 2 in the FCS top 25 and have already played twice (scoring 56 and 41 points in their first two games). Washington’s quarterback play should improve with Cyler Miles at the helm. Washington is clearly the better all-around team with the better athletes. And the hope is that the Week 1 jitters will all be worked out. Because if they aren’t, Eastern Washington is a team that’s had a taste of success against FBS teams and they will pounce.

Bonagura: Last week, Oregon State struggled with FCS Portland State and Hawaii nearly beat Washington. Those results are enough to indicate this week's Hawaii-Oregon State game is a prime upset candidate.

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBrett Hundley and the UCLA offense will need to improve on their Week 1 performance.
Which team or player needs to rebound most in Week 2?

Kevin Gemmell: No question in my mind, it’s the UCLA Bruins. Offensively, things went about as bad as possible in Virginia. The makeshift offensive line looked leaky, the wide receivers were dropping balls and the Bruins were anything but efficient. I believe the Bruins are a much better team than they showed. But nationally, critics are starting to backpedal on the preseason praise. The Bruins need to regroup in a big way and start showing they are a team worthy of top 10 status.

Bonagura: Yeah, it's UCLA, no question. For a team that became a trendy pick to make the playoff, last week's win was about as deflating as possible. However, it did allow for an entertaining line of questioning on the sideline from coach Jim Mora that made it into this week's episode of The Drive on the Pac-12 Networks. To offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Mora said: "Ney Noel, do you guys think you'll ever score?" Then to QB Brett Hundley: "Hey Brett, do you guys plan on scoring today or what?"

Most intriguing matchup (player versus player/player versus position group)?

Gemmell: Looking forward to seeing Oregon State’s red zone offense back in action. Last week against Portland State, the Beavers were just 1-of-9 in touchdown opportunities when they got inside the opponent’s 20. And while they were 6-of-9 overall, Mike Riley knows five field goals (and three missed opportunities) aren’t going to cut it in the Pac-12. Finishing drives has to be an area of emphasis for the Beavers as they head into Week 2.

Bonagura: I wrote about it earlier today, but USC DL Leonard Williams versus Stanford LT Andrus Peat will be the one I'm watching for. It's rare to see potential top-5 picks square off on the line in a college football game -- here's to hoping it happens as many times as possible on Saturday.

Week 2 would be a surprise if ... (fill in the blank)?

Gemmell: ... the league loses more than two nonconference games. I think the Pac-12 has the superior team in every nonconference game. But that doesn’t always mean they’ll win. This league has taught us that there are always a couple of teams that will underperform for one reason or another. On paper, the league should sweep. But we know better. So who is it going to be the team that trips over itself this week? Prove me wrong, Pac-12.

Bonagura: ... Oregon doesn't end Michigan State's streak of 28 consecutive games holding its opponent to 28 points or less. Hard to see that streak continuing against a healthy Marcus Mariota on the field at Autzen Stadium.