1: Home Field Advantage Is King: Never hype a team up so much as to think they can’t be beat, if they’re on the road in this conference. Doesn’t matter who it is, road teams are in serious peril when taking a trip to someone else’s turf. In the first 3 weeks the Pac has a 3-7 record on the road, with 2 of the wins coming against sub 100 ranked teams. Meanwhile, the home mark is an astonishing 22-3, with 2 of the losses coming by woeful Colorado. Much like the past few seasons, this league is fueled by HFA and it is no more evident than in last night’s “shocker”, when Stanford iced down USC’s perfect season 21-14 in Palo-Alto. The West Coast just has the knack for making things tough at home, while possessing the same knack for finding the most outrageous ways to lose as the visitor. The SEC is 22-9 in home contests, while the B1G is 22-4 and the Big 12 holds an18-2 mark (with by far the easiest non-conference schedule of all the conferences).
2: The Pac Still Possesses the Run Game: And it was on full display yesterday! Here were the 100 yard rushing performances from week 3: In Columbus, Brendon Bigelow went for 160 and 2 tds on just 4 carries! Byron Marshall went for 125 and 1 td for Oregon over Tenn Tech. Bishop Sankey scored twice and ran for 103 against Portland State. Stepfan Taylor ran over USC for 153 and a touchdown. Jonathan Franklin went for 110 yards at the Rose Bowl.
3: The Conference Is As Evenly Matched As It Has Ever Been: As it stands today, USC, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Utah all have a shot at the title right now. If Cal goes to USC and plays like it did yesterday, they could very well be a dark-horse in the conference after a win in the Coliseum next week. In my opinion there are 6 legitimate title contenders if that happens, even though USC would have 2 losses, because the conference is so brutal on the road. And yes, I do think that could happen after seeing what I just saw from both of those teams yesterday.
4: We May Have Jumped On Their Bandwagons Too Soon: ASU and USC are at it again, with 2 big losses yesterday (both on the road) in the same fashion as last year. Both losses hurt the credibility of the conference and in particular USC’s loss takes 1 of 2 Pac-12 teams out of the National Championship picture altogether. I’m not a believer at all in UCLA’s abilities on the road, and Oregon is starting a freshman quarterback who’s best opponent so far has been his own defensive unit in practice. Don’t be so sure those teams are ready for the big time road tests.
5: We May Have Jumped Off Their Bandwagons Too Soon: Cal and Utah surprised everybody yesterday. Cal kicked the OSU game away by missing 3 field goals and failing to play out 2 plays on defense. They really out-shined and out-muscled the Buckeyes in the trenches on the road. While they found a way to lose, Zach Maynard played his best game as Cal qb, the Bears found some missing weapons and the effort and close outcome really makes Cal dangerously confident as they enter the Pac-12 slate. Meanwhile, Utah’s fans tried to give BYU an extra life by running out on the field while play was still live, but the blue Cougars hit the upright. Utah became a real player last night in the South because Jon Hayes (their qb) was able to win them a tough game, even without John White III on the field. Hayes kept them in it until the end last season and I think after the loss to USU and then the loss of Wynn people jumped ship on Utah. Not so fast my friends!
Psst, also don’t jump off the USC train just yet, they’re not a nice team when they’re mad. Oh and I’d just like to mention that the conference’s only win on the road this week was by Wazzu!