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Pac-12 looking back and looking ahead week two: Cal proves themselves and raises questions about Washington

And don’t forget about USC...

NCAA Football: California at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back

Cal steps up - I thought the Bears could be a Top 25 team this season if they got just a little bit more offense. They proved that to be right in Seattle late-late Saturday night. The Bears clamped down on Washington’s offense in the red zone and had their offense come alive just when they needed to and grabbed an early huge win in-conference.

The Bears are capable of beating anyone in the Pac-12 and have a great shot at taking the entire Pac-12 if they can play the way they did against Washington.

Washington’s rebuild might be challenging - The preseason narrative, heavily pushed by people like me, was that Washington might actually improve my reloading after losing a ton of talent and experience to graduation and the NFL. It certainly looks like Washington’s rebuild is going to be tougher than many thought, especially on defense, where the Huskies looked like a different team in the second half against Cal as their new starters struggled.

I expect Washington’s youngsters to grow up during the season and I think their offense actually did fairly well against what could easily be the best defense they play all year, but things aren’t going to be easy for the Huskies and 7-9 wins might be in the cards.

USC isn’t dead, in fact they are very alive - I, like most, completely wrote off USC after JT Daniels went down. Then Stanford comes to town and the Trojans go off on the Cardinal, albeit with a back up quarterback themselves. It wasn’t so much just in the fact that USC beat Stanford by 25, but the way that they did it. With freshman Kedon Slovis looking like another potential Sam Darnold-style underrated revelation for them.

The Trojans look to be a serious candidate to win the conference right now. It’s going to be electric when they play Utah in LA in two weeks.

But Stanford might be dying - We’ve declared the David Shaw Cardinal dead so many times and they’ve risen before our eyes, but this felt a little different, even with a back up QB (thought Mills is a blue chip recruit who should be at least solid). The Cardinal have played USC really well in recent years and got a Trojan team that was recovering from a devastating injury and a tough game the week before and got boat raced in the second half.

The Cardinal haven’t won 10 games in three seasons and they will need to turn things around and hopefully get KJ Costello healthy very soon if they hope to remain a Pac-12 title contender.

Colorado clutch against Nebraska again - The Buffs scored a really nice win for the Pac-12 again, taking down a ranked Nebraska team in an electric game. I don’t think this means that Buffs are going to win the Pac-12 or anything, but it was a huge win to give them some national attention, make getting to a bowl in 2019 much easier and to show that they’re a team that has enough good pieces to take down anyone in the Pac-12 on any given Saturday.

Chip Kelly starts off slow again - The Bruins had their best chance to get a non-conference win this season hosting a San Diego State team that struggled against Weber State in week one and they not only lost, but by more than one possession, at home. It seems that the Bruins could go 0-3 in non-conference games for the second-straight season and the heat will be turned up on Chip Kelly as they head into Pac-12 play, unless they can pull off a miracle against Oklahoma next week.

Contenders prove it some more - I’m trying not to get too deep into teams winning games that they should win convincingly, convincingly, but Oregon showed well by bouncing back from their Auburn heartbreak and shredding a solid Nevada team, Washington State looked good again against an FCS opponent, and Utah took care of business against a MAC team that gave them trouble last year.

All three still look like teams that could win the Pac-12.

Hawaii 2-0 - It’s not a good look for the Pac-12 that neither Arizona or Oregon State could win at Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii is decent, and yes those are probably the two worst teams in the Pac-12 this year, but still.

Looking Ahead

What to make of Cal? I said earlier that the Bears can certainly beat any team in the Pac-12 on any week, but that was the case last year and their lack of offense and consistency lead to them going 7-6. Did the Bears turn a corner in Seattle or did they just show that their defense makes them good enough to beat anyone in the Pac-12, but they’re still a flawed team overall?

Can Washington recover? Many people’s preseason favorite in the conference is already 0-1 in Pac-12 play and things don’t get much easier from here. Can the Huskies put things together week-to-week, the way a lot of David Shaw Stanford teams have done in this decade, and build themselves back into a championship contender at the end of the season?

Ready to take USC serious? I was certainly impressed with USC on Saturday night. Any signs of life at USC should always be scary for the rest of the conference as the Trojans still have talent the rest of the Pac-12 would kill for. Still, it would be a huge breakthrough to have an unheralded true freshman quarterback continue to play the way Slovis did against Stanford and there’s still a tough schedule ahead of them for about a month. Are we ready to trust them yet?