Arizona and Oregon steamrolled FCS opponents to start the season, while Oregon State wasn't as lucky. Utah and USC took out the frustration of last season's disappointments in different ways, but it was Washington that made the most emphatic declaration as the Pac-12 opened the 2013 season.
1. Washington makes statement
Steve Sarkisian has had big wins at Washington -- the upset of USC in his first season, the Holiday Bowl triumph over Nebraska -- but never before have the Huskies delivered a statement victory like the one Sarkisian presided over Saturday night.
In a rocking renovated Husky Stadium, Washington walloped Boise State, 38-6, the worst defeat of Chris Petersen's Broncos tenure. The UW defense continued its steady rise under coordinator Justin Wilcox, but the new no-huddle offense posted 592 yards and quarterback Keith Price finally had the time to distribute the ball to his myriad weapons, not including suspended tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
This was a team that looked ready, willing and able to challenge Oregon for Pacific Northwest supremacy and bragging rights, something UW has not done in nearly a decade. This was a team that looked ready to challenge for the conference championship, something UW has not done in more than a decade.
As if the Pac-12 North wasn't loaded enough, with BCS title challengers Oregon and Stanford on top, UW looks ready to climb back to the mountain's peak.
2. James steps right in
Johnathan Franklin was the all-time leading rusher in UCLA school history and a true face of the program. Head coach Jim Mora expressed skepticism that any one player could replace Franklin's production, let along his leadership.
Jordon James took care of the on-field part against Nevada, ripping the Wolf Pack for 155 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. With the redshirt junior doing the heavy lifting, quarterback Brett Hundley was an efficient point guard distributing the ball.
3. Sacramento State redux?
In 2011, Oregon State was shocked by Sacramento State from the FCS and never recovered. The season spiraled down in a 3-9 disaster that had many in the Beaver state questioning head coach Mike Riley's future.
After losing to a much, much better FCS opponent Saturday in Eastern Washington -- the Eagles almost knocked off Washington and Washington State the last two seasons -- Oregon State cannot let this defeat torpedo this season in similar fashion.
The defense was an absolute mess, despite the presence of defensive end Scott Crichton, linebacker Michael Doctor and corner Rashaad Reynolds. The offense more than held up its end of the bargain, so even minimal improvement on the other side of the ball can salvage this season.
4. Mamba carries the mail
Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas carried the ball a career-high 18 times Saturday against Nicholls State. The Black Mamba has to do it against the likes of Stanford and UCLA to really calm fears about how the undersized, electric all-purpose threat will translate to the next level, but this was a good start.
5. Bear Raid lives up to hype
The first showing of head coach Sonny Dykes' Air Raid spread offense in Berkeley delivered unreal numbers -- 99 plays, 64 pass attempts, 455 passing yards, 548 yards of total offense -- and should have delivered an unreal win. Unfortunately for Cal, quarterback Jared Goff had two tipped passes returned for touchdowns by Northwestern linebacker Collin Ellis to negate a strong showing from the true freshman. Goff distributed the ball well, with sophomore wide receivers Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs totaling 24 receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Golden Bears are going to put up stats and threaten every opponent on the schedule. Ohio State should be on upset alert ahead of its Sept. 14 trip to Berkeley.
6. Targeting rule run amok
Cal played the last 10 minutes of the game without top pass-rushing defensive end Chris McCain after the junior was tossed under the new targeting rule. His hit on Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian wasn't malicious, it wasn't flagrant and it wasn't even a hit to the head.
Now McCain will also miss the first half of Cal's next game, which shouldn't matter against Portland State. Substitute Portland State with Ohio State and that becomes a really big deal.
Another obvious blow to the head that forced Cal running back Brendan Bigelow out of the game went unpunished. The rule, as currently constituted, is too vague to truly be effective, even with the supposed safeguard of video replay to review every ejection.
7. Exit one NFL defensive coordinator, enter another
Monte Kiffin is one of the all-time great NFL defensive minds, but he simply wasn't cut out to handle the rise of tempo-based spread offenses in the college ranks. So USC head coach Lane Kiffin turned to former University of California and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to revive the Trojans and the early returns Thursday against Hawaii were positive.
USC had seven sacks: two each for defensive linemen Leonard Williams and George Uko, and one apiece for safety Dion Bailey and linebackers Devon Kennard and Marquis Simmons. Even during last season's meltdown, this team has never lacked for talent. If Pendergast can keep the pressure on, USC can stage a major turnaround, even with the uncertainty at quarterback.
8. Utah's passing fancy
After fielding one of the nation's worst aerial offenses over the past two seasons, the Utes finally have the quarterback and pass catchers to rebound. Quarterback Travis Wilson was 17-of-28 for 302 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, working without starter Kenneth Scott. Scott broke his ankle and is out for the season, but 6-foot-6, 222-pound senior Anthony Denham stepped in with 113 receiving yards. The defense is always stout under head coach Kyle Whittingham, so pair it with a real offense and Utah can make some noise in the Pac-12 South.
9. Cougin' it
Washington State showed dramatic improvement to open Year 2 under head coach Mike Leach but made too many mistakes to come away with a program-defining win in SEC country, giving up a 100-yard kick return touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown run and turning the ball over three times in a 31-24 loss to Auburn.
10. The Walking Dead
Arizona sleepwalked through its opener against Northern Arizona. Any real judgments about new quarterback B.J. Denker and the defense will have to wait until the 'Cats finally face a team with a pulse in their Pac-12 opener at Washington on Sept. 28.