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Pac-12 the good, the bad & the unknown week one: Washington falls short of making statement

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The good, the bad and the unknown of the first week of Pac-12 football.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game-Auburn at Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

  • Washington went 10 rounds with an SEC power on the road - The Huskies traded blows with one of the SEC’s best in their backyard. They didn’t pull out the win that the Huskies, and the conference desperately needed, but they got about as close as you can without winning in a tough match-up. The Huskies look to at least be a Playoff CONTENDER for right now and the conference didn’t embarrass itself.
  • Washington’s defense is still stiff (especially in the red zone) - The Husky defense should still be one of the nation’s best yet again, even without Vita Vea. Their red zone defense kept the Huskies in the game in the first half and, outside of a final TD drive, completely shut down Auburn’s offense for about the final 2.5 quarters of the game.
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - I think most people expected JJAW to continue to progress in 2018, but oh my god, I don’t think anyone anticipated 226 yards and three TDs. On 6 CATCHES. He has the best balance I’ve seen for a receiver in a long time and had that unstoppable quality that Bryce Love had for the Cardinal last year.
  • Stanford’s defense - The Cardinal didn’t snuff out Oklahoma’s offense or anything, but holding San Diego State to just 10 points was a great step forward for the Cardinal. They will make major strides forward this season if their defense is strong enough to where they don’t have to have their offense outscore everyone each week.
  • Arizona State, Colorado, and Washington State taking care of business against the mid-majors - The conference needs to show it can handle mid majors, especially Mountain West teams this year, and ASU, Colorado and WSU did that in games that looked like at least mild challenges going into the season. These middle-to-lower-middle Pac-12 teams impressed in their opening outings.
  • Cal’s pass defense - The Bears’ pass defense put on a show against North Carolina and got the Bears a big opening weekend win. The Bear pass defense held North Carolina to just 15 completions on 35 attempts and 137 yards. They also picked off North Carolina QB Nathan Elliott four times with Cameron Goode taking one back for a score.

The Bad

  • Washington lost - Washington taking Auburn down to the wire was a positive for the conference, but the cold hard fact is they lost. The conference’s best Playoff contender now likely needs to run the table in the conference (something no team has done since the conference expanded to 12 team and only four teams have since 1998).
  • Washington’s offense in the red zone - As good as Washington’s defense was in the red zone, their offense was just as good (or Auburn’s red zone defense was just as good). The Huskies squandered chance after chance to pull away from Auburn in the third and fourth quarters and somehow managed to score just three points in a second half where they moved the ball up and down the field over and over again. It wasn’t much better in the first half either, actually.
  • The conference’s best Heisman candidates - Bryce Love’s senior season debut was an absolute disaster. The guy who averaged 8.1 yards per-carry last year put up just 29 yards on 18 carries. Khalil Tate didn’t fare much better. He completed just 50 percent of his passes and ran for just 14 yards on eight carries in a loss to BYU. Washington’s Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are probably already out of the running as well. Let’s hope for major bounce backs or put all hope in Justin Herbert.
  • Starts - Pac-12 teams started slow in week one. Washington looked on the verge of getting blown out by Auburn until the second quarter, Stanford and USC took a while to pull away from San Diego State and UNLV and Washington State from Wyoming. Even Oregon and Utah fell behind their far inferior opponents early.
  • The Chip Kelly era starts with a thud - Chip’s first game as head coach at Oregon was an absolute disaster (complete with LaGarrette Blount punching players and trying to attack Boise State fans), but UCLA’s loss to Cincinnati somehow feels even worse with how unspectacular it was. Cincinnati was Bad with a capital B last year and they went all the way across the country and beat UCLA. Kelly has a ton of work to do in Westwood and now faces a road trip against a scary Oklahoma team.
  • Arizona can’t get off the ground - The Wildcats fared much the same as UCLA, getting beaten at home by an opponent that was really bad in 2017. The biggest problem for the Wildcats was Khalil Tate’s struggles and their inability to put up points. I thought that even if the Wildcats struggled, it would be because they got outscored, not because they couldn’t score points. Also, the Wildcats now have to play at Houston and have a great shot at starting out 0-2.

The Unknown

  • Is the conference better? I don’t always love the non-conference and bowl games serving as the only barometer for how good a conference is. Individual games in college football are so dependent on match-ups, but after one week, I don’t know if the conference is any better. I think Washington (the conference’s likely flag bearer) is better and a CFP candidate if they can win out, but that’s about it.
  • Can the Huskies bounce back? The Huskies looked very good, at worst against what should be a very good Auburn squad, but will losing a hard physical battle like that carry a hangover? They should have no problem with North Dakota this week, but a test at Utah the week after is even more important to them than the Auburn game and should be another hard-fought test on the road. They’ll have to fight to avoid starting 1-2 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play.
  • Is there a legit Pac-12 CFP candidate? Yes, Washington is in a decent spot, sticking in the Top 10 even with an opening loss, but the chances of them running the table from here, or getting in with two losses is so small. Oregon, Stanford, USC, and Utah are the other candidates. Can one of them step up and lose just one game through the whole season?

What’s the deal with Bryce Love? Was Love’s first game disaster just the result of some good scheming and execution by San Diego State or is there a chance that the off-season provided all defenses a chance to game plan against Stanford?