This Week in Pac-12 Football

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PAC-12 FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK:

THE RANKINGS: Five Pac-12 teams are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls. STANFORD (9/9), WASHINGTON (10/12), OREGON (20/23), USC (22/21) and ARIZONA STATE (23/25) ... The Sun Devils appear in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2015 preseason poll (No. 15) ... WASHINGTON has now appeared in the AP Top 25 for 35 consecutive ranking periods ... UTAH is the top team among others receiving votes in the AP poll, and is 27th in the Coaches poll.

REMAINING PERFECT: There are 53 FBS teams that are a perfect 2-0. Seven of those teams are from the Pac-12. Only the 14-team SEC and Big Ten have more teams with nine and eight, respectively, sitting at 2-0.

IT’S EARLY, BUT...: Just two weeks into the season and the Pac-12 finds several players and teams among the FBS leaders in various statistical categories:

Completions per game: Gardner Minshew II, Washington State (36.0)
Receptions per game: Laviska Shenault, Colorado (10.5)
Receiving yards per game: Laviska Shenault, Colorado (194.0)
Interceptions per game: Jaylinn Hawkins, California (1.5)
Rushing defense: Arizona State (32.5 yards allowed/game)
Passing defense: Utah (68.0 yards allowed/game)
Total defense: Utah (143.5 yards allowed/game)
Punt returns: Oregon State (46.0 per return)

PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR: Pac-12 wide receivers are grabbing the headlines early into the 2018 season. Six receivers are averaging better than 100 receiving yards per game, while 12 different players have hauled in 10 or more receptions this season ... Receivers have garnered the season’s first two Pac-12 Offensive Player of Week honors, while just two receivers claimed those same honors over the previous three seasons combined. In fact, Pac-12 receivers collected back-to-back Conference honors just three times since 1983 (2011 - Robert Woods, USC and Paul Richardson, COLO; 2007 - Mark Bradford, STAN and Yvenson Bernard, OSU; 2001 - Reggie Williams, WASH and Bobby Wade, ARIZ).

GOING THE EXTRA YARD: The CFP Extra Yard for Teachers (#CFPExtraYard) campaign kicks off as teachers will be recognized during games over the next two weekends. The mission of Extra Yard for Teachers is to elevate the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering teachers.

NFL OPENING DAY ROSTERS: The Pac-12 had 211 former players listed on NFL Opening Day active rosters (see page 7 for complete list, which includes players on practice squads). The Pac-12 led all conferences with seven former quarterbacks getting the start on opening day - Arizona - Nick Foles (Eagles); California - Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Jared Goff (Rams); Oregon - Marcus Mariota (Titans); Stanford - Andrew Luck (Colts); USC - Sam Darnold (Jets); Utah - Alex Smith (Redskins).

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 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. 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).

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 1,009 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. No Pac-12 player has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons)
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)

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

OFFENSE: Laviska Shenault, WR, COLO
In CU’s 33-28 win at Nebraska, Shenault caught 10 passes for 177 yards and the game winning touchdown, a 40-yard reception with 1:06 remaining. ... Rushed twice for 5 yards and a touchdown, but picked up key first downs on 4th-&-1 (his TD) and 4th-&-2 ... In two games, he now has 21 receptions (FBS-leading 10.5 per game) for 388 yards, the latter the second-most receiving yards in back-to-back games in CU history.

DEFENSE: Chase Hansen, LB, UTAH
Finished the game with 12 tackles (2.0 sacks, 2.5 TFL), an interception return for a touchdown and a key fourth-quarter fumble recovery that stopped an NIU drive on first and 10. It was his third career game with 10-plus tackles ... With Utah clinging to a 10-6 lead with under 3:00 remaining, Hansen scored the final points of the game on a 40-yard return of an interception for a touchdown ... One of Hansen’s two sacks came on NIU’s last offensive drive of the game, sending the Huskies back 15 yards on a first-and-10. He secured the victory with a 5-yard tackle for loss on fourth down for the Huskies.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Brandon Ruiz, PK, ASU
Connected on all three of his field goal attempts (49, 24, 28), including the game-winning kick from 28 yards as time expired in ASU’s 16-13 upset of then-No. 15 Michigan State ... Scored ASU’s first points of the game with a 49-yard field goal to cut MSU’s lead to 6-3 in the third quarter. Hit his second field goal (24 yards) early in the fourth quarter to get ASU within a touchdown, 13-6, of the Spartans.

POLL NOTES: WASHINGTON’s preseason AP No. 6 ranking was its highest preseason ranking in the AP poll since 1997 when the Huskies opened the year at No. 4. The Huskies have now appeared in the AP Top 25 for 35 consecutive ranking periods ... STANFORD has appeared in the AP preseason Top 25 for the eighth consecutive year. The Cardinal are one of eight teams to have appeared in the preseason AP poll in each of the last eight seasons, joining Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia ... USC has appeared in each of the last 17 presesaon AP polls and 58 preseason polls overall. Only Ohio State (65) and Oklahoma (60) have appeared in more preseason AP Top 25 polls.

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