Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 4: The bottom of the conference separates
Pac-12 conference play begins around the league this upcoming week. What promises to be one of the most entertaining league schedules in recent memory is finally here.
The very top of the league is incredible. There are two teams that look like they could win a Playoff game tomorrow. Spots 3-8 in this power ranking have become so ridiculously close. It’s almost like having to split hairs between the seventh and fourth-place teams. But it’s once again time to update the Power Rankings, so let’s dive in.
12. Arizona State Sun Devils (1-2)
Last week: 12
The Sun Devils turned the football over eight times in a 29-0 loss to Fresno State at home. It was the first time ASU has been shut out at home since the 80s. To make matters worse, starting quarterback Jaden Rashada was confirmed to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks by coach Kenny Dillingham after the game. With a bowl ban and what is frankly an unfair rash of injuries to chunks of the two-deep, Year 1 under Dillingham has quickly become a lost season. I feel for the seniors on that team. It was going to be a struggle, but none of them signed up for this.
11. Stanford Cardinal (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 11
While losing to a fine Sacramento State team isn’t on its face cause for concern in Stanford, looking as poor as the Cardinal has looked on offense over the last two weeks is a different story. After facing Arizona this week, Stanford will close out the year against seven ranked opponents in eight games. If coach Troy Taylor had any hope of fighting for a bowl game in Year 1, Sac State, Arizona, and Cal all had to be wins. The Cardinal might get one.
10. Cal Golden Bears (2-1)
Last week: 10
It looked for a minute like Auburn broke Cal. Down tailback Jaydn Ott and down 17-0 on the scoreboard early to FCS Idaho, it was reaching red-line territory for coach Justin Wilcox. But the Bears answered, rallying behind a run game and a dominant defense. Cal scored 31 unanswered to win. The ground game produced 256 rushing yards and the defense forced three turnovers to pitch a second-half shutout. Disaster averted.
9. Arizona Wildcats (2-1)
Last week: 9
Arizona is knocking on the door, but it’s on the outside of the middle jumble in the conference looking to get in on the fun. Jayden de Laura was much cleaner in a 31-10 Week 3 win over UTEP. Three touchdowns, only six incompletions in 29 tries, 9.8 yards per pass, and no interceptions. That’ll do.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (3-0)
Last week: 5
Shedeur Sanders was magnificent in dragging Colorado back into the game in the fourth quarter and then winning the game in double-overtime, but I see two issues developing for the Buffs. It takes a ton of emotional stamina to be as amped every single week as Colorado has been through the first three. They looked slow to start the game against Colorado State after there were fireworks before kickoff for the second consecutive week. It might be a good time to just lay low and focus on trying to find cracks in the Oregon armor. The Ducks are near-impenetrable at home. The second thing: Colorado has no run game. Zero. Zilch. Dylan Edwards should be able to get something working on the ground, but Colorado hasn’t figured out how yet. That places a huge burden on Sanders’ shoulders. He has gotten CU over the line so far, but Colorado State and TCU pale in comparison to the top teams CU will meet in league play.
7. Utah Utes (3-0)
Last week: 7
Utah did what it was supposed to do in beating Weber State 31-7 with a ton of key guys out of action. It wasn’t overly impressive. It wasn’t concerning. It just was. If Cam Rising isn’t full-go by Saturday, we’ve got issues. In a perfect world, he would have gotten a couple of series in against Weber State before having to face UCLA, Laiatu Latu, and the Murphy twins. A big week awaits.
6. UCLA Bruins (3-0)
Last week: 8
Dante Moore is the starter. Let’s just all let Chip do his Chip thing and “not commit” to naming a starter. Moore is the starter because Moore is a star. And in being so right away, he completely reframes what is possible for UCLA this season. The defense isn’t a liability anymore. And the offense has a ton of weapons. Just like that, UCLA is lurking as a team capable of causing chaos. Pac-12 play opens with a three-game salvo against ranked teams but not the ranked teams — Utah, Washington State, and Oregon State. Two of them are on the road. We’re going to learn a lot about this team in the next three weeks.
5. Oregon State Beavers (3-0)
Last week: 3
After convincing wins over San Jose State and UC Davis, the Beavers looked a little less convincing against San Diego State on Saturday in a 26-9 victory. A holding penalty in the red zone led to an early field goal. The Beavs missed a field goal, too. And DJ Uiagalelei threw his first two interceptions of the season in the second half. But the Beavs still averaged nearly 8 yards per play and held a second consecutive opponent under 10 points.
4. Washington State Cougars (3-0)
Last week: 6
You don’t get flowers for beating a team of Northern Colorado’s caliber — 64-21 on Saturday — but the Cougars deserve some recognition for how they blasted their way through their nonconference slate. They blew the doors off a Colorado State team that nearly upset Colorado in Boulder. They beat a ranked Wisconsin team for the second consecutive year. And then they dropped a 60-spot in Week 3. Quarterback Cameron Ward is playing like a top-15 quarterback in college football this season.
3. Oregon Ducks (3-0)
Last week: 4
Oregon’s offense is elite. The Ducks are seventh nationally in yards per play, they’re one of only two teams in the FBS that have yet to turn the football over, and they’ve given up just one sack so far. I’m less convinced about the defense, but it’s hard to argue with a team that outscored its nonconference slate 174-47.
2. USC Trojans (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 2
USC was on a bye last week, so this section was as well.
1. Washington Huskies (3-0)
Last week: 1
I’m not usually a big “complain about the AP poll” guy — especially this early in the season — but Washington has no business being ranked anywhere lower than fifth based on the product it has put on the field through three weeks. The Huskies are No. 1 in ESPN’s Game Control metric. They have yet to play in a competitive game in the second half. Regardless of how you feel about Michigan State, that’s a talented Big Ten team and Washington just dismantled it on the road. Excluding two drives where the goal was running out the clock in the fourth quarter, UW is averaging 4.24 points per possession. It is going to take a special defense to beat this UW offense.