And we wrap up our look at the six major conferences ... expect to see a few of these tidbits in tomorrow's The Numerical column at the mothership...
Washington State (Proj. Scoring Margin: +20.0 | Actual Scoring Margin: +52 | Diff: +32.0)
Don't look now, but Washington State is looking like a real team. We obviously shouldn't glean too much from blowout wins over Idaho State (64-21) and UNLV (59-7), but ... they were indeed blowout wins. Without starting quarterback Jeff Tuel, they outgained UNLV by a startling margin: 610 to 158 (per play: 7.9 to 2.9). Backup (and one-time starter) Marshall Lobbestael averaged 10.7 yards per pass attempt, and 11 Cougar receivers caught a pass, led by Marquess Wilson (eight targets, five catches, 102 yards). In the last three years, Wazzu has gone 3-32 versus FBS teams, with wins coming by three points (Washington 2008), three points (SMU 2009) and 17 (Oregon State 2010). The margin against UNLV was more than double the three other margins combined. The coming game at San Diego State is enormous.
Oregon (Proj. Scoring Margin: +19.3 | Actual Scoring Margin: +49 | Diff: +29.7)
Well that's more like it. Oregon scored touchdowns on seven of their first eight possessions in their 69-20 win over Nevada, and they threw in a LaMichael James punt return touchdown for good measure. Freshman DeAnthony Thomas touched the ball 10 times, gained 174 yards and scored four touchdowns. Darron Thomas threw for 295 yards in just 19 passes, six of which went for touchdowns. This was Duck perfection. Nevada's Tyler Lantrip made his first start after years of backing up Colin Kaepernick, and while his best possible game wouldn't have been enough with how Oregon's offense was clicking, he was far from perfect: 5.8 yards per pass attempt and two interceptions. Nevada backs Mike Ball and Stefphon Jefferson combined for 161 yards on 24 carries (6.7), but this was destrubtion.
Just About Right
Stanford (Proj. Scoring Margin: +26.2 | Actual Scoring Margin: +30 | Diff: +3.8)
As mentioned in the ACC write-up, this wasn't the best version of Andrew Luck, but it would be the best version of most quarterbacks. His 28 passes were aimed at nine different targets (the leader: Chris Owusu with seven catches and 106 yards on nine targets), and he averaged a healthy 9.5 yards per pass attempt despite a pick six and two sacks. Eleven Cardinal defenders registered at least part of a tackle for loss, led by Shayne Skov (8.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks) and Chase Thomas (5.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL/sacks).
Utah (Proj. Scoring Margin: -11.5 | Actual Scoring Margin: -9 | Diff: +2.5)
When I went to bed last night, USC had beaten Utah, 17-14. This morning, they had beaten them, 23-14. Good times. Regardless, Utah slightly overachieved compared to expectations, which is a positive sign considering projections already give them a very good shot at winning the Pac-12 South in USC's absence. USC steadily outgained the Utes, 416 to 319 (per-play: 5.9 to 4.5), but a) Utah improved after a rocky start (2.8 yards per play in the first four drives; 5.3 after that), and b) the Utes kept it close with turnovers. They were +2 in terms of turnovers, +9.1 in terms of turnover points. The passing game is iffy -- Jordan Wynn's oft-injured arm doesn't appear amazingly strong, and in passes not aimed at DeVonte Christopher (16 targets, 11 catches, 136 yards, 1 TD), he completed just 12 of 30 for 98 yards.
Washington (Proj. Scoring Margin: +7.1 | Actual Scoring Margin: +8 | Diff: +0.9)
Power to Washington: they dropped the dagger, but they got it back. They were driving to put the game away, up 28-7 in the second quarter, but a 99-yard pick six later, they were up only 28-14. But they kept moving forward, and they ended up winning, 40-32. Quarterback Keith Price was infinitely better this week after a shaky start, completing 72% of his passes and averaging 11.6 yards per pass attempt. Devin Aguilar caught five of seven passes thrown his way and gained 131 yards, and Washington needed it to hold off a Hawaii offense that looked like Hawaii again. A week after beating Colorado with his legs, Bryant Moniz threw for 333 yards (6.9 per attempt). In the end, Price's arm did a ton of damage, barely more than defensive end Everette Thompson's. He sacked Moniz once and blocked two PAT attempts, one of which was returned for two points.
Arizona State (Proj. Scoring Margin: +0.8 | Actual Scoring Margin: 0 in regulation, +7 in overtime | Diff: -0.8)
Missouri lost three of four starters from the secondary that anchored last year's sixth-place performance in Def. Passing S&P+, true. And one of the other projected starters was, like approximately 84% of other Missouri starters, hobbled. Still ... what quarterback Brock Osweiler and receiver Aaron Pflugrad did to the Mizzou secondary was impressive. Osweiler averaged 10.6 yards per pass attempt, and a good portion of that was because of Pflugrad, who caught all eight passes targeting him for 180 yards and two touchdowns. (Passes not to Pflugrad were still reasonably effective: 16-for-24, 173 yards, 6.8 per attempt.) The ASU run game is still a bit of a concern; Cameron Marshall is adept in short-yardage situations but still isn't showing a lot of explosiveness. His 22 carries generated just a 2.8-yard average. But when the passing game is clicking, you get some leeway with the run.
(And yes, Arizona State is still destroying themselves with penalties. But that basically goes without saying at this point.)
California (Proj. Scoring Margin: +1.9 | Actual Scoring Margin: 0 in regulation, +3 in overtime | Diff: -1.9)
You have to say this for Cal: they showed some resiliency Saturday afternoon in Boulder. A year after laying repeated eggs on the road, they responded every single time Colorado looked like they were about to seize control of the game, eventually winning 36-33 in overtime. Colorado took the lead on three occasions, and Cal responded with immediate touchdown drives each time. Quarterback Zack Maynard had an old school passing line of low efficiency and high per-catch averages: 18-for-35, 243 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks. The inefficiency hurt at times, but he found big plays when he needed to, especially when Keenan Allen (10 targets, six catches, 104 yards) was involved. And for what it's worth, defensive back Steve Williams, who spent a good portion of his afternoon getting toasted by Colorado's Paul Richardson, did break up three passes. He still lost the one-on-one battle, but California won the war.
Colorado (Proj. Scoring Margin: -1.9 | Actual Scoring Margin: 0 in regulation, -3 in overtime | Diff: +1.9)
Note to future Colorado opponents: guard against the post route. Richardson destroyed Cal with posts and slants, resulting in the following devastating stat line: 17 targets, 11 catches, 284 yards, 2 TD. He was ridiculous, and he helped Tyler Hansen (474 passing yards, 9.7 per attempt) to a career day. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was able to get the ball to running back Rodney Stewart (73 rushing yards, 86 receiving yards) in creative ways as well. Richardson and Stewart are basically the only weapons in Colorado's arsenal (those two and Hansen's incredible ability to avoid sacks). For the game, Colorado outgained Cal by a 582-370 margin, but they couldn't pull out a win in this non-conference conference game.
USC (Proj. Scoring Margin: +11.5 | Actual Scoring Margin: +9 | Diff: -2.5)
USC outgained Utah, 416-319. Matt Barkley completed 63% of his passes for 264 yards. Marc Tyler rushed for 113 yards. Robert Woods caught another eight passes for 102 yards, giving him 25 receptions two weeks into the season. So ... why in the hell is USC only winning these games by two or three points? For series at a time, this looks like the USC you've come to expect, but they fall asleep. A lot. In the end, USC's defense dominated early and made enough plays late to preserve the win (by whatever margin), but the Trojans have underachieved at least slightly for two consecutive weeks (they beat Minnesota by only a 19-17 margin, a win that looks infinitely less impressive after the Gophers lost to New Mexico State at home). They're not really playing for anything but pride this year, but apparently pride-as-motivation starts to fade after the first quarter.
UCLA (Proj. Scoring Margin: +18.8 | Actual Scoring Margin: +10 | Diff: -8.8)
Stanford just ran San Jose State off the field a week ago, so it has to be disconcerting that when the Spartans came to UCLA a week later, they were able to keep the game quite close. SJSU and the Bruins were tied at 17-17 heading into the fourth quarter before a field goal and a good-looking touchdown drive gave UCLA a 27-17 win. UCLA running back Derrick Coleman managed 135 yards on just 14 carries, but that was matched by the SJSU combination of Brandon Rutley and David Freeman (17 carries, 133 yards). Luckily the Spartans couldn't pass (3.3 per attempt). Two UCLA fumbles (worth 9.8 EqPts) could have spelled doom for the Bruins (and Rick Neuheisel), but after each, the Bruins' defense responded with interceptions (worth 9.1).
Arizona (Proj. Scoring Margin: -11.8 | Actual Scoring Margin: -23 | Diff: -11.2)
The bad news is obvious: Arizona couldn't stop Oklahoma State's efficient, clinical offense even if they put 13 men on the field. There was good news too, however. In Juron Criner's absence, Texas transfer Dan Buckner (11 targets, 10 catches, 142 yards) stepped up with a nice game, and though it may not look like it at first glance, Arizona's defensive backs tackled rather well. OSU generated few huge plays, just a bunch of shorter, unstoppable ones. In the end, I guess that wasn't any better, but still.
Oregon State (Proj. Scoring Margin: -19.3 | Actual Scoring Margin: -35 | Diff: -15.7)
Oregon State's freshman running back Malcolm Agnew led the Beavers with 223 rushing yards last week versus Sacramento State. With Agnew out after injuring his hamstring, Jordan Jenkins got the majority of OSU's carries ... and produced 20 yards. Quarterback Sean Mannion (25 for 38, 244 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks) could have done worse, though sacks limited him to a 5.3 per attempt average.