Four Pac-12 Football Teams Ranked, Top-25 Matchup opens Conference Play
PAC-12 FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK:
THE RANKINGS: Four Pac-12 teams are ranked in the AP poll, three in the Coaches poll. WASHINGTON (9/11), STANFORD (10/9), USC (17/12) and OREGON (23/nr) ... WASHINGTON has now appeared in the AP Top 25 for 34 consecutive ranking periods ... UTAH is the top team among others receiving votes in the AP poll, while Oregon is just outside the Top 25 in the Coaches poll.
GOOD HANDS TEAM: The Pac-12 had several key performances from wide receivers during the opening week of the season. STANFORD’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside and COLORADO’s Laviska Shenault were just two of three FBS receivers to record 200 or more receiving yards. Arcega-Whiteside turned in a career-high 226 yards on 6 receptions, with 3 TDs. Shenault had 11 receptions for 211 yards and one score. Four other Pac-12 receivers collected at least 100 receiving yards - ARIZONA STATE’s N’Keal Harry (6 rec., 140 yds, 2 TDs), WASHINGTON’s Aaron Fuller (7 rec., 135 yds), COLORADO’s K.D. Nixon (6 rec., 112 yds, 1 TD), OREGON STATE’s Trevon Bradford (6 rec., 104 yds, 2 TDs).
100-100: 12 FBS teams had a least one 100-yard rusher and one 100-yard receiver in the same game during the opening week. The Pac-12 led all conferences with three such occurrences. Those three were:
Arizona State - Eno Benjamin (131 rushing yards) and N’Keal Harry (140 receiving yards)
Colorado - Travon McMillan (103 rushing yards) and Laviska Shenault (211 receiving yards)
Oregon State - Artavis Pierce (168 rushing yards) and Trevon Bradford (104 receiving yards)
EXTRA YARD FOR TEACHERS (#CFPExtraYard): The College Football Playoff Extra Yard for Teachers Week is set for Sept. 15-22 where teachers and schools in the local community will be recognized during games on Sept. 15 and Sept. 22. However, with ARIZONA STATE on the road for both those dates, it will get a jump on the festivities this weekend by recognizing several Maricopa County elementary schools during Saturday’s game with Michigan State.
PAC-12 HEADLINERS: Among 177 returning starters are a number of headliners, including a total of 10 first-team and 12 second-team All-Pac-12 performers. Nine of the 12 squads return at least six starters on offense, and seven squads return at least six starters on defense.
Returning are the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in Stanford senior running back Bryce Love, as well as the Freshman Co-Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in Arizona running back J.J. Taylor and Stanford offensive lineman Walker Little, and Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler. Four teams have multiple returning First Team all-conference performers - USC linebacker Cameron Smith, defensive back Marvell Tell and all-purpose/special teams Michael Pittman Jr.; Stanford’s Love and offensive lineman Nate Herbig; Washington offensive lineman Kaleb McGary and defensive back Taylor Rapp; Utah placekicker Matt Gay (Lou Groza Award winner) and punter Mitch Wishnowsky. Additional returning first team performers include Arizona State junior wide receiver N’Keal Henry and Oregon junior all-purpose/special teams Brenden Schooler.
THE COACHING RANKS: Five new coaches enter the league this season. It’s the highest number of new coaches to grace the sidelines in one season for the Pac-12. Well, one is not so new as UCLA’s Chip Kelly returns for his second stint in the Pac-12. Kelly posted a 46-7 record in four seasons at Oregon (2009-12) and led the Ducks to the 2010 BCS title game ... ARIZONA’s Kevin Sumlin has averaged 8.7 wins over 10 seasons, including back-to-back 10-win seasons at Houston (2011) and Texas A&M (2012) ... ARIZONA STATE’s Herm Edwards moves from his role as an ESPN analyst back to the sidelines where he last coached in the NFL for eight seasons (2001-08 - five with the Jets, three with the Chiefs) ... OREGON’s Mario Cristobal moves from co-offensive coordinator to head coach. Cristobal has reached the pinnacle of college football with a pair of national titles as a player for Miami (1989, 1991) and one CFP title as an Alabama assistant coach (2015) ... OREGON STATE’s Jonathan Smith returns to his alma mater for his head coaching debut. Like his Civil War counterpart, Smith achieved success as a player (MVP of the 2000 Fiesta Bowl/BCS) and as a Washington offensive coordinator (2016 Peach Bowl/CFP semifinal) ... Add the seven other league coaches who have a combined FBS record of 399-259 (.606) and Pac-12 football is in good hands.
TAKE IT ON THE RUN: Among the Power 5 conferences, the Pac-12 returns the most players (5) who rushed for 1,000 or more yards last season.
Bryce Love, Stanford - 2,118 yards (needs 1,145 to set Cardinal career rushing mark)
Khalil Tate, Arizona - 1,411 yards (3 200-yard rushing games last year are more than all other Pac-12 quarterbacks combined have tallied in the history of the league)
Myles Gaskin, Washington - 1,318 yards (has rushed for at least 1,300 in each of his first 3 season)
Zack Moss, Utah - 1,173 yards (Utes have had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last 4 seasons.
Patrick Laird, California - 1,127 yards (last Bear with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons was Marshawn Lynch in 2005-06)
AIR IT OUT: Among the Power 5 conferences, no other conference has more returning quarterbacks that averaged better than 200 yards passing per game last season than the Pac-12 (5).
Ross Bowers, California - 253.2 yards per game
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State - 251.5 yards per game
Steven Montez, Colorado - 247.9 yards per game
Tyler Huntley, Utah - 241.1 yards per game
Jake Browning, Washington - 209.2 yards per game
BALANCE: CALIFORNIA, UTAH and WASHINGTON are three of only six Power 5 teams to return a quarterback/running back combination where the quarterback threw for at least 2,000 yards and the running back rushed for at least 1,000 yards (also Alabama, Florida State, Wisconsin).