The Pac-12 opened the season with five rated teams and was supposed to compete in a competitive race for the conference championship, possibly even bringing a team into the college football playoffs for the first time in five years.
The big league from the west got off to a shaky start.
The Pac-12 was the first Power Five conference to lose six games on the opening weekend since the SEC in 2016. All six also went to non-ranked teams, in second place at a Power Five conference for 21 years.
“Sometimes we look at paper, but paper has never won a soccer game. It’s actually what you do out on the soccer field, ”said Herm Edwards, Arizona state coach. “I think if you look at what happened in college football and I said when I first got this job there is a lot of excitement in college football and no one can ever find out.”
Edwards was one of the lucky ones. His team beat Southern Utah by 27 points despite a series of mistakes.
Other programs at the conference didn’t do quite as well, particularly the North Division which went 1-5 on the opening weekend.
No. 12 Oregon was the only team from the north to win their opener, but even the Ducks struggled to shake Fresno State and needed a 2:57 touchdown to win at 31:24.
The biggest surprise in Pac-12, perhaps in college football as a whole, was No. 20 Washington’s 13-7 home loss to Montana. The Huskies, slated to battle for the Pac-12 North title, stuttered during opening night and became the first FBS team to lose to an FCS opponent in five years.
The unexpected loss knocked Washington out of this week’s AP Top 25.
“We shouldn’t have played the way we played on Saturday night and that’s why I’m so sorry for our fans, for our fans,” said Washington coach Jimmy Lake. “You should be disappointed. … All we can do now is move forward and make amends. And that’s what we’re trying to do. “
The rest of the Pac-12 North also opened with disappointment.
Washington state lost at home to Utah state. California allowed Nevada to score 22 straight points in a 22-17 defeat. Stanford scored a touchdown with just over three minutes to go to avoid his first shutout in 15 years in a 24-7 loss to Kansas State. Oregon State lost 30-21 to Purdue.
In the South Division, Arizona started the Jedd Fisch era with a 24-16 loss to Brigham Young.
The rest of the South won, albeit mostly against smaller conference programs: No. 14 Southern California over San Jose State, No. 21 Utah over Weber State, Colorado over northern Colorado.
The best performance in a prelude went to UCLA.
The Bruins were ranked sixth in the preseason poll, beating LSU # 16 38-27, becoming the first Pac-12 team to beat an SEC school in 13 years. UCLA had one of the best rushing defenses last season and choked this year, capping Hawaii and LSU to 75 yards – the Bruins’ best consecutive games against the run since 2006.
The start put the Bruins in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2017 and gave coach Chip Kelly his biggest win in four seasons at UCLA.
“I think our players understand that if you accept the process, the process will embrace you again,” said Kelly. “But the great thing about football is that nobody cares about tomorrow. Our next opponent doesn’t care. “
No. 16 UCLA gets a break before their next game, September 18, against Fresno State.
For several Pac-12 schools, the path doesn’t get any easier in week 2.
Oregon gets a big test at the start of the season and faces Ohio number 3 in Columbus. Colorado has an equally great challenge to host No. 5 Texas A&M. Washington has a tough impact game and must beat Michigan in the big house to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2008.
Utah has a rivalry game against BYU next and the conference schedule begins with Stanford at USC.
After the uneven start of the season, the Pac-12 could mean that something good is happening this weekend.