It didn’t take long for Pac-12 bowl dreams to start getting crushed.
Four teams started with a loss, four others had less-than-convincing wins, and one team lost its starting quarterback to injury. Not the stuff of dreams. At least not good dreams.
What does all this do to the early-season Pac-12 bowl bubble?
Before the season we gave three schools credit for their expected success and left everyone else (minus USC) to prove it (or disprove it) on the field.
The field has started to speak:
I only see four eligible teams going 3-0 in non-conference games. Stanford and Arizona State aren’t surprises, but I think Cal (at Colorado, Presbyterian) and – brace yourself – WSU (UNLV, at SDSU) get there.
Yeah, the Cougars lost their starting QB, but if you have to play a backup, a fifth-year senior isn’t a bad option.
If you do get to 3-0 in non-league games you have to be really bad in conference not to get to six wins. I bumped up Cal to Bubble In status since the Bears get both Oregon State and WSU at home.
On the flip side, going 1-2 in OOC games leaves an uphill climb toward bowl eligibility. I don’t see UCLA beating Texas a second time and OSU (at Wisconsin, BYU) could end up 0-3. Colorado (Cal, Colorado State, at Ohio State) needs to win seven times to make the postseason because of its 13-game schedule.
And Arizona? The path of least resistance is much clearer after week one: at Oregon State, UCLA and Utah at home, at Colorado, and Louisiana-Lafayette at home. Six wins and a fourth straight bowl. Anything less is a disappointment; anything more is a very nice bonus.
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It was interesting that on the very first play against NAU the UA unveiled a new formation, the “Pistol.” This alignment, with the quarterback in a modified shotgun and a single running back directly behind him, was invented by Nevada coach Chris Ault and was used in the Pac-10 last year by UCLA.
The Pistol was certainly firing on the first play as Nick Foles faked a handoff to Keola Antolin and threw 42 yards to Juron Criner down the sideline.
Criner’s big night gave him 2,054 receiving yards and moved him past Derek Hill and Richard Dice into 6th place on Arizona’s career list. His 22nd career touchdown grab tied him with Mike Thomas for the 4th most in Wildcat history.
Foles was even busier in the UA record book. The 412 passing yards against NAU were the 11th highest single game total in school history while his career-high five touchdown passes tied Willie Tuitama and Keith Smith for the 2nd most ever (Tom Tunnicliffe had six against Pacific in 1982). Foles also posted a 202.64 quarterback efficiency rating for the game. Don’t ask me how that’s calculated but I do know it was another personal best.
On the career charts, Foles now has the 2nd most completions in Arizona history (580), passing Tunnicliffe. He jumped four guys (Dan White, Jason Johnson, Smith and Alfred Jenkins) on the career passing yards list to move into 3rd place with 6,089. The current UA signal-caller also hurdled White, Smith and Ortege Jenkins to move into 4th place with his 44 career TD passes. Not a bad night’s work.
Foles-to-Criner will have to remain in high gear if the Cats hope to keep pace with Oklahoma State this week. That is, of course, if Criner plays.
Thanks to Ka’Deem Carey’s 4th quarter debut Antolin didn’t lead the team in rushing in the season opener but he is trying to become just the sixth running back to lead the UA three straight seasons. Here’s the list:
Now that week one is wrapped up we have the long, long 24-hour wait until week two. Hang in there.
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