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Pac-12 the good, the bad, and the unknown week two: Stanford makes early statement against USC

The Pac-12 started slow in week two, but picked up things as the day went on.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Stanford’s first two weeks - The Cardinal have come out the gate as impressive as anyone in the country. They’ve beaten San Diego State and USC by a combined 35 points in the first two weeks.

Stanford’s defense - The Cardinal were held back by their poor defense last year, but that doesn’t look like it will be the case in 2018. They held USC’s young, but talented offense to just 3 points. The Cardinal could easily be the Pac-12’s best shot at a Playoff berth if their defense plays like this the whole season.

Bryce Love is back - Love didn’t run for 300 yards or anything against the Trojans, but he ran for well over 100 and led the Cardinal offense with more than six yards per-carry. Looks like Pac-12 defenses aren’t close to figuring him out yet.

Arizona freaking State - Was Michigan State probably overrated and ripe for an upset? Yes, but this was exactly the kind of win the Pac-12, and Arizona State needed. The Sun Devils played tough, physical defense and got just enough offense to get a huge upset win at home. They look to at the very least be a major contender in the South as non-conference play wraps up.

Manny Wilkins - Wilkins looks like one of the most-underrated senior QBs in the country. He put up almost 400 yards against a tough defense and made plays down the stretch that pushed the Sun Devils to the win. They’re in good hands with their veteran QB.

The Pac-12’s second half of the day - Saturday started ugly for the conference with Arizona and UCLA getting bashed on the road, but then the tide started to turn - Colorado won at Nebraska, Cal won at BYU, Arizona State upset Michigan State, and every other team avoided an upset. It wasn’t a great day, but it was a decent day for the conference.

Colorado’s first two weeks - The Buffs also quietly had a great start to the season. Bashing their hated Mountain West rival is one thing, but going into Lincoln and beating their former rival in their new head coach’s game is another thing. The Buffs put themselves in great position to get back to a bowl game with their second win, but more-importantly look right there with Arizona State, Utah and I assume USC as the contenders in the South.

Cal’s first two weeks - How about another Pac-12 team with a great start? The Bears scored a tough, impressive win at BYU that looks great given that BYU won at Arizona the week before. The Bears look like a team that should give the Pac-12 offenses trouble in 2018 and have a great shot at getting to a bowl.

Utah fighting through a trap - I don’t know why the Utes were playing a game AT Northern Illinois, but the good news is their defense pushed them through it and got them to 2-0 setting up an early-season in-conference showdown with Washington in Salt Lake City next week. Winning at NIU was an underrated win for the Utes, and the Pac-12.

The Bad

USC doesn’t look good - The Trojans were the South favorite going into the season and a Top 25 team, but the Trojans simply don’t look good two weeks into the season. They struggled to get past UNLV in their opener and scored just three points against what should be a good Stanford defense, but one that still has a lot of question marks. Clay Helton is already in hot water as the Trojans head to Austin to take on an also-struggling Texas squad in a game they really need to win.

Arizona and UCLA are disasters - Now to the bad opening two weeks...Arizona wasn’t even competitive against a good, but not great Houston team and UCLA got shelled against Oklahoma (thought not as bad as I thought they would). A team many thought had a good shot at winning the South and one with a coach that was supposedly the hottest commodity on the college market have started horribly and their new coaches have a ton of work to do.

The Unknown

Are Pac-12 offenses bad? The conference has struggled to score this season, especially in big games. Stanford beat USC 17-3, Washington scored 16 in their marquee loss to Auburn, Bryce Love did nothing in Stanford’s opening win, Arizona State scored just 16 to get past Michigan State, and the conference has struggled to put up points in other wins, and losses, alike. Might the conference have trouble with offense this year?

Is Stanford the best team in the conference? The Cardinal avenged their two losses to 2017 Pac-12 champion USC and beat Washington last year. The Cardinal have impressed in their opening two games, K.J. Costello looks strong at QB, Bryce Love is Bryce Love, and their defense has given up just 13 points against two good teams. Are they the new Pac-12 favorite?

How good is Washington? Wondering if Stanford is the conference’s best has to do with how Washington looks at the moment. The Huskies look to have lost star tackle Trey Adams for the season and Jake Browning looks like 2017 Browning and not 2016 Browning. They took Auburn to the wire in Atlanta, but we don’t know how good Auburn is and they blew out North Dakota 45-3, but it was an ugly 45-3 and FCS outcomes mean almost nothing. Are the Huskies as good as their preseason billing?

Is Utah ready for prime time? The Utes are looking like a smart preseason pick to win the South with USC stumbling and they get a great chance to prove their a force to reckoned with in 2018 with Washington coming to town Saturday night. Can the Utes pick their offense up at home and get past the Huskies and pull out ahead in the race for the South, and the entire conference.

How good is Arizona State? A couple things, one...not taking anything away from ASU’s great win over Michigan State. Two...the Sun Devils confirmed they are at least not the joke some thought they would be under Herm Edwards. Now...the Sun Devils got a great win, but by three points, at home, against a team that might have been very overrated given how they also performed against Utah State. Are the Sun Devils a South title contender? We might find out this week as they don’t get any time to breathe and have to play at a San Diego State that gave Stanford 3.5 tough quarters in Palo Alto. Horrible scheduling by the way ASU.

Can Arizona and UCLA bounce back? We already touched on Arizona and UCLA’s tough starts, but now is the time to see if they can turn it around. They both opened with home losses to decent mid majors coming off bad seasons and then got embarrassed on the road. The goals are now low for both teams and they get some room to breathe next week with more winnable games. Can they start to turn it around?