Pac-12 Football Notes: Winners, Losers; Utah Stuck in Florida – Sports Illustrated

It’s customary to draw grand conclusions after one game, even though those conclusions often seem silly in retrospect at the end of the season. But we’re in the business of drawing conclusions based on limited information so here we go after one week of Pac-12 football.
1. ARIZONA. The Wildcats were the worst team in the Pac-12 last year, its only win coming when Cal was without its starting quarterback and a number of other starters. Picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason poll, the Wildcats went on the road for their 2022 opener against a San Diego State team picked to finish second in its division of the Mountain West and playing its first game at its new stadium. Not only did the Wildcats pull the road upset, but they dominated the Aztecs in a 38-20 victory. Arizona outgained San Diego State 461-232.
2. OREGON STATE. The Beavers took another bite out of the Mountain West with a convincing 34-17 over Boise State, the preseason choice to win the Mountain West. The win ended Oregon State’s six-game losing streak in season openers, and the Beavers did it by forcing five Boise State turnovers. Oregon State held a 24-0 lead at halftime and coasted home, outgaining the Broncos 470-311.
1. OREGON. The 11th-ranked Ducks’ 49-3 loss to No. 3 Georgia looked bad in a number of ways.
—The score.
—It was Dan Lanning’s first game as a head coach at any level.
—Oregon's strength supposedly was its defense, and Georgia scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions, on drives of 85, 92, 56, 75, 64, 75 and 89 yards. That’s getting it shoved down your throat.
—It was the first time in the history of college football that a team scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions when the opponent was a nationally ranked team.
—Georgia coach Kirby Smart explained the blowout by saying simply that Georgia had better players. That’s not a good sign when you consider that Oregon’s last five recruiting classes from 2018 through 2022 were ranked either first (three times) or second (twice) in the Pac-12, and three of them ranked in the top 10 in the nation, according to
2. THE PAC-12. The two highest ranked Pac-12 teams lost high-profile games, reflecting poorly on the conference, as Oregon got hammered by Georgia, and seventh-ranked Utah lost to unranked Florida 29-26. It suggests the Pac-12 will have a sixth straight season without a representative in the College Football Playoff. Utah could still make it, but there are two things to remember: No two-loss team has ever made it to the CFP in its eight years of existence, and no Pac-12 team has gone unbeaten through conference play since it was expanded to 12 teams in 2011.
Utah suffered a heart-breaking loss in Gainesville, Fla., then couldn’t get out of town.
An interception thrown by Utah quarterback Cameron Rising two plays after the Utes had a first-and-goal at the Florida 6-yard line with 29 seconds to play ruined their chance for a good win in a tough environment in a 29-26 loss to unranked Florida.
But the bigger problems came later. The Utes charter flight out of Florida was scheduled to leave around midnight, but mechanical problems prevented it from taking off, as players sat in the plane for four hours before getting off. The flight was rescheduled for 4:10 a.m. but it did not take off then either. A twitter photo posted at 6:25 a.m. Sunday morning shows the players trying to sleep in the airport. The University of Florida offered accommodations.
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan tweeted this at 10:39 a.m. Sunday:
1. Jayden de Laura, Arizona (from Washington State): 22-for-35 for 299 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in a 38-20 upset of San Diego State
2. Michael Penix Jr., Washington (from Indiana): 26-for-39 for 345 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions plus 27 yards rushing in a 45-20 victory over Kent State.
3. Caleb Williams, USC (from Oklahoma): 19-of-22 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions plus 68 rushing yards in a 66-14 victory over Rice, which is a lousy team, but it is an FBS program.
1. Kedon Slovis, from USC (now at Pittsburgh): 16-for-24 for 308 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a 38-31 win over West Virginia. He went 6-for-6 for 73 yards on a game-tying, 92-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
(Assume you knew nothing about preseason expectations; losing teams can’t qualify)
1. USC (1-0) – Rout of Rice suggests Lincoln Riley has things flowing properly
2. Arizona (1-0) – The best win by a Pac-12 team this week
3. Oregon State (1-0) – Second-best win by a Pac-12 team this week
4. UCLA (1-0) – Overcame 17-7 deficit to handle Bowling Green
5. Cal (1-0) – Bears handled a UC Davis team ranked 22nd in FCS and picked to finish second in Big Sky
*We still think Utah is the best team in the conference but 0-1 is 0-1. Listen to the video atop this story for an explanation of our rankings.
(Yes, it’s way too early, but …)
1. Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing – UTEP transfer had eight receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ upset of San Diego State.
2. USC quarterback Caleb Williams — 19-of-22 for 249 yards, two touchdown and no interceptions plus 68 rushing yards in a 66-14 rout of Rice
3. Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura – Four touchdown passes in upset of San Diego State.
4. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. – Four touchdown passes in a victory over Kent State
5. Stanford running back E.J. Smith – Emmitt’s son had 118 rushing yards on 11 carries, for a 10.7-yards-per-carry average in a 41-10 rout of Colgate.
Cover photo of Arizona's Jacob Cowing by Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports
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Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years.


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