Week 3 showdowns loom for Pac-12

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
3:15
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All day Saturday, the question seemed to hang in the air. Who was it going to be this week? Who would be the Week 2 goat?

The Pac-12 was a double-digit favorite in all of its nonconference games. Yet it always seems there is one team that fails to meet expectation, underwhelms and ultimately coughs up one that it shouldn’t. California? Oregon State, again? How about Colorado, which hasn’t been 2-0 since 2008?

Turns out we should have been looking in-conference. Because while Cal, Oregon State and Colorado all got scares, they eventually held serve, and the Pac-12 went 8-0 against nonconference competition. The rest of the league looked dominant against overmatched opponents.

However for the second consecutive week, the league also saw one of its ranked teams fall after Washington State shocked the No. 25 Trojans at home 10-7. It was USC’s first home-opening loss since 2000 -- which coincidentally also came at the hands of Washington State.

Call it a choke job by the Trojans. Call it a gritty effort from Washington State. Call it a testament to the depth of the league and its nine-game conference schedule. Call it kooky that the Cougs won without an offensive touchdown.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireArizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly will face a Big Ten test in next week's opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers.
Outside of the lone conference game, the Pac-12 was hardly perfect. But it still managed perfection, which is exactly what it needed to do. No slipups. No embarrassing upsets. No stubbed toes. Because Week 3 presents a fresh set of challenges that will greatly influence the national perception of the league next week and in weeks to come. By winning the games it's supposed to win, the league has upped the ante for Week 3, making some already-intriguing games that much better.

The lineup looks a lot tougher than the soft serve it scooped in Week 2, including three ranked teams, four Big Ten teams, a 2-0 SEC team and a couple of more undefeateds.

The Pac-12’s Week 3 opponents went 8-2 this week, and the combined record of next week’s competition is 18-2 through the first two weeks. The ranked teams -- Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin -- were all easy winners this week. Illinois is a surprising 2-0. Fresno State embarrassed Colorado last year -- now they meet as undefeated foes.

And that’s the early conference storyline for Week 3: Pac-12 versus Big Ten, quality competition versus quality competition. Had Cal or Colorado fallen to FCS opponents, they would have likely slipped into obscurity. But now Fresno State at Colorado looks pretty fascinating. Jared Goff's performance for Cal makes the Ohio State game, which may or may not include Braxton Miller, look a lot more interesting.

The fact that Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devils looked freakishly efficient in their opener makes their game against Wisconsin a must-see. UCLA and Washington were on byes this week, but both had credible wins in Week 1 that make their road showdowns against Nebraska and Illinois, respectively, potentially thrilling.

The East Coast got a good look at Oregon -- all 557 total yards of them -- and that was with jetlag! Now the Ducks host a Tennessee team that has yet to be tested. (But it’s 2-0 and in the SEC, so it should be in the top 10 when the new rankings come out).

We still don’t have a clue who will start at quarterback for USC against a 2-0 Boston College squad. Maybe it's time to give Morgan Breslin a look under center? It’s worth tuning in to see how/if the Trojans can pick up the pieces.

Even Washington State’s follow-up against FCS Southern Utah is a lot more intriguing after the Cougs ... wait for it ... won with DEFENSE!

Stanford did what it does -- grabbed a lead and then pounded away on a weaker opponent until it broke. And while it shouldn’t have that much of an issue with Army, it should be fun watching that Cardinal front seven go against Army’s run-heavy offense.

And the one conference game next week -- Oregon State at Utah -- is a lot more interesting after the Utes offense pasted 70 on Weber State, and the Beavers eventually pulled away from Hawaii.

Week 2 wasn’t as bromidic as it should have been, but ultimately the league took care of its out-of-conference-business. And that sets the stage for a fascinating Week 3.

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