Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 4
Hello, yes, hi. The top of the Pac-12 is actually really good. USC, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and Oregon State could all win the Pac-12. I did not envision saying that after three weeks. Also, there’s Washington State just hanging out, with one of the best wins of anyone in the league this year, waiting to wreck someone’s week.
Oregon and Washington picked up top-15 wins. USC once again looked ridiculous on offense. Utah blew another opponent out. Oregon State damn near put up a 70-burger. It’s time to update the power rankings for the new week, and I’m pulling my hair out trying to settle on how to order things at the top.
Let’s get to it.
A note: this is not a prediction of where each team finishes the season, it is a snapshot of where each team is at right now. It’s meant to be reactive.
12. Colorado Buffaloes
Prev. rank: 12
Week 3: 49-7 loss to Minnesota
Week 4: vs. UCLA
A week ago, I was questioning if Colorado could win a game this season. Now, I’m thinking it can’t. And it sure sounded like head coach Karl Dorrell was close to coming to grips with that fact after Saturday’s game. Colorado has given up over 1,000 rushing yards in its first three games. That’s abhorrently bad.
11. Arizona State Sun Devils
Prev. rank: 10
Week 3: Eastern Michigan
Week 4: vs. Utah
The mismanagement at the end of the first half against Eastern Michigan — while trailing by 10 points — was remarkable. Arizona State is a talented and poorly-coached team. The Sun Devils should, in no way, shape, or form, lose to Eastern Michigan at home. The Eagles entered the game 120th in Sagarin ratings. Utah is going to feast. Especially so now that the head coach has been fired and the season has had the white flag waved on it.
10. Cal Golden Bears
Prev. rank: 11
Week 3: 24-17 loss to Notre Dame
Week 4: vs. Arizona
Notre Dame is historically bad and Cal was unable to capitalize on a golden opportunity. The Irish had five first-quarter possessions that ended with four straight three-and-outs and then a fumble. The offensive coordinator was screaming expletives at his quarterback from the booth. And Cal was able to score exactly zero points. Between J.Michael Sturdivant, Jeremiah Hunter, and Jaydn Ott, there’s some fine skill talent in this offense. Things have yet to really click.
9. Stanford Cardinal
Prev. rank: 9
Week 3: bye
Week 4: at Washington
Stanford was idle this week, so no movement needed.
8. UCLA Bruins
Prev. rank: 6
Week 3: 32-31 win over South Alabama
Week 4: at Colorado
UCLA does not look encouraging. Whether that’s because the Bruins lagged through a non-conference schedule specifically designed not to test them, or because this is just an aggressively average team, the first three results have featured red flags amid blowouts and then a full-on struggle bus performance against a Fun Belt team. Maybe the most alarming thing that can be said about a program coached by a guy in his fifth year at the helm and quarterbacked by a guy in his fifth year as a starter is that things look disorganized. UCLA is 3-0, and that’s great, but the Bruins’ 3-0 ain’t the same as Washington’s 3-0. The Huskies come to town in two weeks. UCLA needs a lot of work before then. This team feels a little like 2016 Nebraska, with the major difference being no one has been fooled by the start yet.
7. Arizona Wildcats
Prev. rank: 8
Week 3: 31-28 win over North Dakota State
Week 4: at Cal
A win over North Dakota State is an impressive win. That’s a strong program with a strong culture, a strong staff, and a strong rushing attack. It breaks weak programs. The Bison from the FCS level catch teams whose hubris exceeds their ability, and they bring those teams down a peg. They did it to six straight FBS teams. Arizona took North Dakota State seriously, and fought to one of the more impressive results in a weekend full of impressive results. Quarterback Jayden de Laura looked like a player who took his mistakes a week ago and learned from them. You just can’t help but be impressed with how cohesive Jedd Fisch has this group through three weeks; all that talent infusion, and it has been a blend of the old with the new working to be better than they were. Arizona will be a tough out in conference play.
6. Washington State Cougars
Prev. rank: 7
Week 3: 38-7 win over Colorado State
Week 4: vs. Oregon
A week after grinding out a signature road win over Wisconsin, Washington State had the exact opposite of an emotional hangover, and that might be as strong an endorsement of coach Jake Dickert as you can get. The Cougars exploded out of the gates against the Rams on Saturday. Quarterback Cameron Ward threw three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the game to put Washington State up 21-0 after the first quarter. Given the way this defense is playing — 30 tackles for loss, 14 sacks in three games, both of which lead the Pac-12 — teams can’t afford to give Washington State any kind of head start.
T-3. Oregon Ducks
Prev. rank: 4
Week 3: 41-20 win over No. 12 BYU
Week 4: at Washington State
I will tell you this right now: I have absolutely no idea how to rank these next three teams. Oregon has the best win between the Ducks, Beavers, and Utes. Oregon also has the worst loss. Oregon State has a 3-0 record while Utah and Oregon both have a loss. Utah has the best loss, but no top-25 win. Putting each of the three in a three-way tie feels like a cop-out, but let’s say I rank them 3-5. Utah might end up at No. 5, dropping three spots for winning a game 35-7. Oregon might stay in the same spot after a three-score win over a nationally-ranked No. 12 team. Or I move a 2-1 team ahead of a 3-0 team that has looked consistently strong every week. Oregon answered some questions against the Cougars and coach Dan Lanning learned quite a bit about his offense. Bo Nix made a compelling case to finally put your trust in him. Once again, I’m saying the Week 1 result said more about Georgia than it did the Ducks. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see Lanning go for it on fourth down from his own 30. That kind of belief means something to a locker room.
T-3. Oregon State Beavers
Prev. rank: 3
Week 3: 68-28 win over Montana State
Week 4: vs. USC
Chance Nolan has 746 passing yards and eight total touchdowns through three weeks. After a pair of interceptions in the opener, he hasn’t turned the ball over since. The deep ball is a legitimate weapon, but Oregon State needs tight end Luke Musgrave to be healthy. The Beaver defense has produced eight takeaways. Oregon State is the best team no one is talking about, and it’ll have a chance against USC this week to wake people up.
T-3. Utah Utes
Prev. rank: 2
Week 3: 35-7 win over San Diego State
Week 4: at Arizona State
Florida nearly lost to South Florida on Saturday. While I don’t necessarily think that means we should knock the Utes, that Week 1 loss does look a little weirder the further we get removed from it. Utah’s defensive line was really poor in that game. It has played much better since. All the while, Cam Rising has gotten even more comfortable with Brant Kuithe in the pass game and the duo of Money Parks and Devaughn Vele have flashed. Utah is just chugging along, addressing and correcting Week 1 flaws that were exposed. I wrote after Week 1 that playing the Gators in Gainesville, even if it resulted in a loss, would help Utah. We’re seeing that come to pass.
2. Washington Huskies
Prev. rank: 5
Week 3: 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State
Week 4: vs. Stanford
Only the Trojans are playing better football right now than Kalen DeBoer’s Huskies. Yes, I’m aware of the fact two teams that both went 4-8 a season ago are currently No. 1 and No. 2 in a Power Ranking after three weeks. Yes, it’s a little weird. But let’s just break it down. Washington is unbeaten, something neither Utah nor Oregon can say. Washington has a top-15 win, something Oregon State can’t say. The Huskies left no doubt in their gimmes and then rocked the 11th-ranked Spartans. Hard to overstate how impressive they’ve looked through three weeks.
1. USC Trojans
Prev. rank: 1
Week 3: 45-17 win over Fresno State
Week 4: at Oregon State
In terms of points scored, this 2022 USC squad has the best offense any USC team has had since 2005. That was a pretty good team. And that’s a terrifying thought for the rest of the league. Travis Dye and Austin Jones both topped 100 yards on the ground; it’s going to be a new star showing out every week. USC is just absurdly stocked on offense. Folks are going to continue to talk about the defense — Fresno State had 421 yards — and say, “Well, when the points slow down things will get hairy.” I pose a counter: what if the points don’t slow down? Through three games, they’re averaging .775 points per play — what would be the best mark for any offense this century. That includes a not-insignificant chunk of plays where they were trying to bleed clock rather than trying to score. If they’re trying to score, they’re going to score. And you’ll get yards, but you’re going to have to match their points. Good luck.