Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 5: Shuffling the board after league play opens
Pac-12 football in Week 4 absolutely delivered. We got entertaining blowouts, we got a defensive slugfest that was just as enthralling, we got a down-to-the-wire game, and we got a Pac-2 title match that lived up to the hype.
It’s once again time to update the Power Rankings, so let’s dive in.
12. Stanford Cardinal (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12)
The Cardinal lost 21-20 to Arizona at home after a backup quarterback entered the game for the Wildcats and led the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Stanford has now lost three straight since coming back from Hawaii. It plays Oregon this week. A 2-10 season is looking like a very realistic possibility.
11. Cal Golden Bears (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 10
I won’t hammer Cal for giving up 40-plus to Washington because every team has done that so far this season. But Cal gave up 45 points in 30 minutes. Cal gave up 31 points to Washington’s offense on 30 plays. The sixth play of the game was a Washington pick-six, then after Cal’s second drive stalled out, UW’s Rome Odunze returned a punt 83 yards for a score. A disaster of a performance on the road in every phase.
10. Arizona State Sun Devils (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 12
The Sun Devils were in a seven-point game with USC in the fourth quarter with a mash unit on the offensive line and their third-string quarterback. That was an impressive performance in Week 4 from a team that has had everything but the book thrown at them this season. Kenny Dillingham took over play-calling and did exactly what he hoped — lit a spark. Cameron Skattebo is a player you can do some creative stuff with, and ASU finally leaned into that.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 8
Yikes. After Colorado went through the week of prep with its nose relatively low to the ground, maybe there was a thought this could turn into a competitive game and the Buffs would be ready to try and punch first. That could not have been further from the truth. Oregon took it to Colorado in every facet, exposing the Buffs critical weaknesses that were becoming more and more evident over the first three weeks of the season. They can’t stop the run (5.3 yards per play, 125th), they can’t run the ball themselves (1.9 yards, 132nd), and they can’t protect the quarterback (23 sacks in four games, 132nd). Colorado at the line of scrimmage is who everyone thought it was in the preseason.
8. Arizona Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 9
The typical rebuild follows a simple trajectory: you lose big, then you lose close, then you win close, then you win big. Arizona is making its way into the third stage. Is Stanford anything special? No, but the Wildcats trailed in the fourth quarter, inserted Noah Fifita into the game at quarterback after Jayden de Laura was knocked out, and pulled out a 21-20 win. The UA’s defense is no longer a liability. Stanford averaged 3.9 yards per play in the fourth quarter and had to grind for every single point it got.
7. UCLA Bruins (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 6
A 14-7 loss to Utah on the road in Week 4 was painful, but the margin was incredibly thin. UCLA threw a pick-six on the first play of the game. That was pretty much it. The Utah quarterback managed the game. Dante Moore turned the football over twice in his first-ever game on the road. There may not be a tougher place to play out west than Rice-Eccles Stadium. Moore will grow from the experience. UCLA’s defense is a force. Four sacks, 11 tackles for loss. They held Utah to 3.1 yards per run, adjusted for sacks. The Bruins had a chance at the end because of the play of the defense. Utah just made fewer mistakes.
6. Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 5
The main takeaway from a 38-35 Washington State victory over Oregon State was that both teams on the field in Pullman Saturday were very good football teams and seemingly very stable football programs. Don’t write the Beavs off yet because they lost. DJ Uiagalelei has had back-to-back poor games after two strong ones to open the year, and the Oregon State secondary was given fits by the Cougar passing game. Utah won’t stress the defense in the same way this coming Friday, but it’ll certainly put Uiagalelei into a make-or-break spot.
5. Utah Utes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 7
Cameron Rising continues to miss games. Brant Kuithe is without a timetable for a return with a third of the season already played. Ja’Quinden Jackson hobbled off the field in the UCLA win as well. If he misses time, that would put the Utes in a spot where they’re without their top passer, their top receiver, and their top runner. We might just need to come to grips with the fact this is Utah’s offense this year. That lowers the ceiling quite a bit. But this defense. Man. The bottom isn’t falling out anytime soon because this is a championship-caliber defense. Utah sacked UCLA seven times and held the Bruins to just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt (adjusted for sacks). It made Dante Moore look like a freshman for the first time all year and single-handedly won the football game.
4. Washington State Cougars (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 4
This is the best football team in the country that not enough people are talking about. The Cougs went up 35-14 at one point on Oregon State while quarterback Cameron Ward played the role of flamethrower. He completed 28 of his 34 passes for 404 yards and five total touchdowns. On the year, he has zero interceptions. If the efficiency continues, it’s not a question of whether Washington State can upset one of the big ones in the Pac-12, it’s a question of who they’ll take down.
3. USC Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 2
In its first road game of the season and coming off a bye week, USC looked how we should have expected. They never really put away Arizona State despite another five-touchdown, no-interception game from Caleb Williams and a 154-yard rushing performance from MarShawn Lloyd. They fumbled the football away in a bad spot and immediately gave up points, they were sloppy in the penalty department, and they were poor in the tackling department. USC still won, which is good, but the Alex Grinch conversation started up again, which is not good. A Week 5 contest against Colorado will tell us if this team is actually different from last year’s group.
2. Oregon Ducks (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 3
Was there a more impressive win in Week 4? Could make the argument for Florida State on the road. Notre Dame did everything possible to lose to Ohio State. Given the attention paid to Deion Sanders and the sheer quality of quarterback that walked into Autzen Stadium — his offensive line isn’t good, but Shedeur Sanders is awesome — Oregon beating the brakes off of Colorado on Saturday was a statement win. I wrote before the season Oregon could make a run at the College Football Playoff. They’re right in that discussion four weeks in.
1. Washington Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 1
Washington has now scored at least 40 points in every game this season, marking the first time since 1944 the Huskies have opened a year with four consecutive 40-point performances. The 45 first-half points against Cal tied both a UW program record for points in a single half and a Cal program record for points allowed in a single half. You can do the “who have they played, really?” with just about every team in the country this early in the season. And I can make the argument there are only two teams in the entire country with a better résumé than Washington through four weeks. They are absolutely destroying teams.