It was already a “bragging rights” weekend for Larry's League before UCLA, on Sunday, rallied from 34 points down to beat Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl.
Commissioner Larry Scott, with UCLA trailing by 28 points at the half, all but conceded defeat in the press box while joking he and his staff were researching the greatest comeback win in Bruins' history.
“In general, we’re off to a good start,” Scott, the Pac 12 's major general, said.
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UCLA’s miracle win ran the Pac’s record to a perfect 11-0 for Labor Day weekend and 12-1 overall.
The 11-0 needs context as the non-league competition wasn’t as stiff as it will be this weekend, when Nebraska plays at Oregon, Minnesota visits Oregon State, Washington State hosts Boise State, Houston plays at Arizona and Arizona State hosts San Diego State.
Before UCLA’s win, the league's biggest “get” was probably Cal’s surprising win at North Carolina.
What the Pac did, most of all, was avoid embarrassing defeats that hurt conference credibility down the line.
Last year, it was Alabama’s crushing win over USC, and Washington State’s home loss to Eastern Washington.
Those are “yeah buts” that lose you bar arguments in Tuscaloosa.
Trust me, a Texas A&M romp over UCLA would have been used in any Pac vs. SEC argument the rest of the year.
UCLA not only avoided disaster, but ended up winning. Not too shabby.
Count as progress:
--Oregon State NOT losing at home to Portland State. Oh, it almost happened, but the Beavers hung on to win by three.
--Washington shaking off a slow start but winning, by 16, at Rutgers. No harm, no foul.
--USC struggling at home against Western Michigan, but ultimately winning by 18 points. People back east who only read the final scores will think the Trojans played well.
“I’m happy it wasn’t easy and it was a hard-fought game,” USC Coach Clay Helton said.
--Arizona State escaping at home against New Mexico State and Arizona running it up against Northern Arizona. Hey, last year, Arizona almost lost at home to Grambling.
--Washington State’s home shut out, 31-0, against Montana State. Mike Leach was 0-5 in openers in Pullman, but this year came out ready to play. It didn’t hurt that quarterback Luke Falk completed his first 20 passes.
“We played together in complete fashion,” Leach said.
Huge conference bonus points go out to Cal, in Justin Wilcox’s debut, for holding on to win at North Carolina.
The Bears, who went 5-7 last year, were mystery meat entering 2017.
First-year starter Ross Bowers went 24 for 38 with 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Cal beating anyone, let alone ACC teams on the road, is a positive sign of something.
Oregon, coming off 4-8, scored 77 point and showed renewed spirit in Willie Taggart’s coaching debut against Southern Utah.
Again, it was not Southern Cal.
Colorado also scored an impressive win against Colorado State, which pounded Oregon State the week before.
In other words, so far, so good.
But also so, so early.[/membership]