Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez complained bitterly last year about late-night starts in the Pac 12, but he should be thankful only a few night watchmen saw his team burn midnight oil last Saturday night in Tucson:
The dozen or so people who may have cared about the final score, Arizona 31-21 over Grambling State, probably thought Arizona got up 31-0 on a FCS opponent and let off the gas.
Ghastly was more like it.
Grambling State led, 21-3, at the half and probably would have won had quarterback DeVante Kincade not been in injured in the first half.
Arizona stormed back because quarterback-challenged Grambling committed six, second-half turnovers. The Wildcats scored 28-unanswered point and escaped what would have been, by far, the most embarrassing result in Pac 12 history.
“I love stress,” Rodriguez sarcastically said afterward.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Someone asked Rich Rod if a tougher-than-expected game might have been a good thing early in the season?
“Are you kidding me?” he said. “I wanted to take the headsets off at halftime.”
Arizona had to start Brandon Dawkins at quarterback in place of starter Anu Solomon, but, still: the bottom line is the Wildcats were 45-point favorites.
It’s possible Arizona has replaced Colorado as the Pac 12’s worst team, which is not something anyone would have predicted with Rodriguez in charge.
Rich Rod gutted his entire defensive staff after Arizona finished 115 in total defense last year.
So how are the new guys wrapping up?
“Our tackling,” Rodriguez said after Grambling, “was gross.”
Ready or Not
It’s a huge week for Larry’s League:
USC at Stanford. The Trojans, after a humiliating 46-point loss on national television to Alabama, bounced back last week against Utah State but it may take more time to convince the home folks. The announced Coliseum crowd of 62,487 was the lowest since the home opener in 2001.
Stanford has had a week off to prepare and is, basically, a mini-version of Alabama with a better running back: Christian McCaffrey. The Cardinal should also get running back Bryce Love back from injury this week.
Stanford beat USC twice last year, the second time in the Pac 12 title game.
It's going to be difficult holding a pep rally this week for the benefit of USC’s chances.
UCLA at BYU: If Josh Rosen thinks he’s the best quarterback in America, he’ll need to prove it this weekend against a tough, angry Cougars team coming of a one-point loss at Utah. UCLA’s last trip to Provo, 2008, resulted in a 59-0 drubbing.
Oregon at Nebraska. Poor Mike Riley, who left Oregon State two year ago in part to get out of Oregon’s giant Nike shadow. Now look who’s coming to town? This is a season-definer for both schools. Nebraska is 2-0 but still not ranked while Oregon has garnered little love despite a roster filled with stars. Rankman’s assessment after watching Saturday’s win over Virginia. Fifth-year transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop is better than I expected. He’s a natural leader and knows how to run the up-tempo. Oregon’s defense, however, doesn’t look that much improved under new coordinator Brady Hoke.
Texas at Cal. The Bears pulled off a shocker last year in Austin but Texas is much improved this year after wins over Notre Dame and UTEP. Cal is a 1-1 work-in-progress. The Bears appear in capable hands with transfer Davis Webb in place of Jared Goff, but four turnovers killed their chances in a 45-40 loss to San Diego State. The Aztecs had lost 23 of 24 previous meetings against the Pac.
Colorado at Michigan: This might not be the walk-over I thought it would be. Colorado (2-0) is threatening to become the most improved team in the Pac 12. Hanging close to Jim Harbaugh’s team in the Big House would prove it.
Remember Kordell Stewart and Michael Westbrook, in 1994, winning at Michigan on a Hail Mary pass? Ah, who are we kidding?
Heisman head scratcher
What are we missing about Royce Freeman? The Oregon tailback has already rushed for 3,495 yards in his career, third most in school history, yet can’t seem to draw a sniff in early Heisman Trophy straw polls.
Freeman had 201 yards in 21 carries last Saturday against Virginia, which included a career-long 85 yard run in which he outraced the Cavs’ secondary.
Do voters think one Heisman at Oregon is enough after Marcus Mariota? Or that the Pac 12 should be happy with one non-USC candidate in Christian McCaffrey?
You think Freeman would be ignored if he was the tailback for USC?
Bottom line is this guy is a beast—the closest thing the league has to an SEC-style power runner in the mold of Leonard Fournette or Derrick Henry.
Freeman gets a rare chance to sun shine on Saturday in a marquee, mid-day kick at Nebraska.[/membership]