Coming off a disappointing bowl season, the Pac-12 looked to turn the page and begin 2018 on a high note. As a whole, the conference of champions was 8-4, including a record of 1-2 against power conference opponents. There were some highs and some lows scattered throughout. Among the possible surprising disappointments, this weekend may have been the final box score for Heisman Trophy hopefuls Bryce Love and Khalil Tate.
Love, Stanford’s running back and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2017, entered the new season as Bovada’s betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this fall, with 13/2 odds. After rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season though, teams will look to clamp down on him a little bit more this season. San Diego State did just that in their Friday night season opener on The Farm. Although Stanford won, 31-10, Love only managed to carry the ball for 29 yards on 18 carries, and he caught three passes for 18 yards. Love, a year after scoring a rushing touchdown in all but one game he played, was held out of the end zone in the season opener. Last year, in a loss to San Diego State, Love rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Is this a sign of what is to come from opposing defenses playing Stanford this season? We’ll see. Next up for Love is a big early-season matchup on national television against USC.
Late last night, against BYU, Arizona’s dynamic QB Khalil Tate (12/1 Heisman odds) ushered in the Kevin Sumlin era with a 28-23 setback at home, and Tate’s final line left room for some improvement as well. Tate completed 17-of-34 passes on an erratic night for 197 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 14 yards on eight rushing attempts. It was the lowest rushing total for Tate in his time at Arizona since back-to-back games against Colorado and Oregon State toward the end of the 2016 season as a backup. Credit BYU for not allowing Tate to get in a rhythm, but that was not the kind of performance that Heisman Trophy voters with a ballot may have wanted to stay up late to see.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning (25/1) had the toughest draw among the Pac-12’s top Heisman favorites according to the oddsmakers at the start of the season. Browning had two costly turnovers against a ferocious Auburn defense in Atlanta, and Browning and the Huskies returned home with a tough loss to open the season.
It has only been one week, and even Heisman Trophy winners have been known to have one letdown performance at times, so it would be unwise to rule out Love or Tate in the Heisman picture after just one full weekend of college football. There was a possible bright spot, however, with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (30/1) helping Oregon shrug off a slow start against Bowling Green and celebrate a 58-24 win against the Falcons in Eugene. Herbert completed just 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 281 yards and five touchdowns, and he added 41 rushing yards and a touchdown to help overcome his two interceptions thrown.
Among the Pac-12’s finest, Herbert had the best opening weekend as far as the Heisman race is concerned, but this race is barely even just begun. If a Heisman Trophy cannot be won in early September, then it should not be lost in the first full weekend of college football either.