Pac-12 Week 1 Breakdown

Pac-12 Week 1 Breakdown

Best Game:

 #6 Oregon vs. #3 LSU in Irving, Texas

This is a fantastic week one matchup between two teams in the top 6. Expect LSU to be reeling a bit from the loss of star quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Joshua Johns. Luckily for the Tigers they have a credible backup quarterback in Jarrett Lee. He is not much of a scrambler, but he has thrown 18 touchdowns as a backup and played a key roll in wins over Alabama and Florida last season.  

We all know about Oregon’s offensive power with LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, but let us not forget about backup running back and return man, Kenjon Barner. He will certainly have an impact as a 10-carry, change-of-pace back and explosive returner. Expect to see linebacker Casey Matthews blitzing Lee on a regular basis in an attempt to rattle the first time starter.

In the end, LSU will rely enough on their stout defensive unit to gain a lead and keep it. A loss in week one for Oregon does not eliminate the chances of a National Championship berth, but a mid-season win against Stanford will become that much more dire.


Honorable Mention:

California vs. Fresno State in San Francisco

The “Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere” philosophy of Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hill, brings them to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to play the Cal Bears.  Cal did not have a great season last year, only amassing five total wins. However, three loses came to quality opponents (Arizona, Oregon, and Washington) by three points or less. They know how to stay in games and this year they could just as easily have the pieces fall their way.

Fresno Sate will be relying on running back, Robbie Rouse to lead the charge against the Bears. He rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2010 and will look to carry the load for the Bulldogs again this year.

California will ride their defensive middle in this game with linebackers D.J. Holt and Mychal Hendricks. Hendricks had 8.5 sacks last season and will put heavy pressure on Fresno State’s new starting quarterback, Derek Carr, younger brother of the NFL’s David Carr.

Expect California to overpower Fresno State on the defensive side of the ball and force Carr to make plays with his arm. Rouse should have his yards, and possibly a touchdown or two, but ultimately the Bears’ defensive unit will force Fresno to balance its offense more than it is comfortable with.


Do Not Overlook:

UCLA @ Houston

UCLA is coming off a disappointing 2010 (4-8) and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel is on the hot seat. They return eight starters on defense, although Rahim Moore and Akeem Ayers both signed contracts in the NFL. The offense will rely heavily on running back Johnathan Franklin who rushed for 1,127 yards last season and can carry the ball 20+ times if necessary.

Houston will pass, pass, and then pass some more. Case Keenum is an early season Heisman Trophy candidate and will be looking to break the all-time NCAA passing yards record in his sixth (granted two redshirt seasons) and final year. Wide receiver Patrick Edwards will be Keenum’s main target and should see lots of action against an untested UCLA defense.

UCLA will struggle to defend the Cougars and we should expect to see Keenum throw for over 350 yards in this contest. Technically a Houston win would be considered an upset, but considering the imbalances between the UCLA defensive backs and Houston’s passing attack, there should be no surprises. Defensively, UCLA will try to attack Houston’s offensive line early and often to get at Keenum and disrupt his flow, with limited success.


Upset Alert:

Utah hosting Montana State

We’ve seen it several times before, an FCS team being overlooked by an FBS contender and losing. Appalachian State ended Michigan’s hopes for a championship season, James Madison embarrassed Virginia Tech, and Jacksonville State edged Ole Miss in double overtime. Montana State (#6 FCS) put up a great showing against Washington State last season before losing a heart-breaker in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Sophomore quarterback DeNarius McGhee was overlooked by all FBS teams due to his smaller stature (5’11”), but he performs well beyond his size. Utah is in its first year in the Pac-12 and may be overlooking its early-season competition in hopes of having a strong conference presence. Potentially this could be a high scoring affair with the underdog quarterback proving himself to the big-time program that once overlooked him.


Players to Watch:

RB Rodney Stewart, CU: The lone bright spot for an otherwise dismal team

DL Nick Perry, USC: Yet another amazingly athletic defensive lineman for the Trojans

WR Marquess Wilson, WSU: A potential All-American on a bottom-scraping program

WR Juron Criner, AZ: At 6’4”, can go up and get the ball from anyone

LB Vontaze Burfict, ASU: Could be the hardest hitting player in college football