And we’re back with our rankings of who had the best week in the Pac-12. Remember, these aren’t overall power rankings for the season (those will come in a day or two). They are just rankings of which teams had the best games and weeks. Teams on a bye are left off unless something happens to warrant inclusion.
1. Stanford Cardinal beat WSU 55-17
I had doubts about the Cardinal before the season, and their first few weeks didn’t do a lot to quell them. An offense already short on playmakers lost two excellent tight ends and a star running back. A defense supposed to be among the best in the country looked a bit lackluster for the first couple of games as well. Stanford has changed course in a hurry. The defense pounded WSU, knocking Connor Halliday out of the game, and the offense has added a vertical passing dimension it hasn’t had in a while. I’m still not a complete believer in Stanford, but they look like a completely different offense from the one the Huskies beat last year.
2. Arizona State Sun Devils beat USC 62-41
ASU badly needed a win to maintain any shot at challenging UCLA in the south, and they got it in unexpected fashion. Everyone knows about USC’s offensive woes, but their defense had been excellent. ASU showed all of their offensive weapons in an explosion that cost Lane Kiffin his job. Giving up 41 is concerning, but the win is still big.
3. UW Huskies beat Arizona 31-13
It’s unclear how good the Huskies opponents have been, which makes it tough to know how the Huskies are. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, the Huskies handled what looked like a solid but limited Arizona squad. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the blowout Dawg fans were hoping for, but I think that had as much to do with the first half monsoon as with anything the Huskies did. There was a point where both teams seemed to give up on doing anything more than handing off, and that was a bigger detriment to UW than Arizona. The defense was stingy all day, and the offense exerted its will most of the game. It’s a big win for the Huskies, but it didn’t provide as much clarity on the Huskies ability as I’d hoped. That’ll come soon.
4. OSU Beavers beat Colorado 44-17
After their well-documented slow start, the Beavers are rallying. They haven’t beat anyone of consequence, but they’ve done what’s necessary to get their season back on track. I still think their defense will keep them out of the top half of the division, but the offense is as dangerous as any. Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks is maybe the top duo in the country.
5. Oregon Ducks beat Cal 55-16
Oregon demolished another poor opponent. The main reason they’re at the bottom of the winning teams is De’Anthony Thomas’s injury. It doesn’t sound serious, but he’s likely out this weekend, and hopefully (for the Huskies) the one after.
6. Arizona Wildcats lost to UW 31-13
No one had a “good loss” this week, but Arizona’s wasn’t terrible: on the road, to a ranked opponent, competitive. As I said, the weather made it hard to glean a lot from that game, but Arizona has a solid defense and an excellent running back. Quarterback is what’s going to hold them down. BJ Denker gave no indication he can be any passing threat whatsoever. The Cats can beat the bad teams, but they’re going to struggle greatly against good defenses until they find a semblance of a passing game.
7. Colorado Buffaloes lost to OSU 44-17
The next three are all pretty interchangeable, but we’ll give the Buffs the top spot because we had low expectations of them and they didn’t suffer any notable injuries or embarrassments that I’m aware of. The loss did show how far Colorado still has to go before they’ll be competitive.
8. California Golden Bears lost to Oregon 55-16
No one expected Cal to keep this close, but I thought they’d put up a few more points, or at least yards. They now have a bit of a quarterback controversy as well, for reasons unclear to me. They switched mid-game from starter Jared Goff to give Zach Kline some snaps. Maybe it was just to protect the less mobile Goff, but if they were expecting more from a true freshman against Oregon, they’re crazy. Goff was good enough before Saturday to justify the surprising decision to go with him to start the season, and to change now seems strange to me. I’d expect to see Goff back in there throwing like crazy. It might not get Cal many wins, but a dynamic passing game is all they have going for them.
9. WSU Cougars lost to Stanford 55-17
The Cougars go below the previous two because they actually had hopes of a win, hopes that Stanford tore apart and sent down the storm drains with the rain. WSU’s supposedly improved defense was overmatched, and the offense did next to nothing. I do think WSU’s better than last year, but their improvement has been overstated. A big problem is the quarterback. Halliday can do some things, but he balances his plusses with terrible mistakes. Austin Apodaca looked decent when he came on for the injured Halliday, but he’s not going to be a magical cure should the Cougars go to him more in the future. The Cougars might be on the right track, but Stanford showed it’s going to be a slower journey than Cougar fans had hoped.
10. USC Trojans lost to ASU 62-41
Let’s recap USC’s Saturday/early Sunday. They were demolished by ASU, giving up more points in one game than they had all season up to that point. They lost multiple defenders to injury, depleting a roster already demolished due to scholarship sanctions. All-world WR Marquise Lee, suffering a poor season due to inconsistent quarterback play, had a knee injury that looked bad, although it’s unknown how long he’ll be out. And, to top it off, Lane Kiffin was fired as soon as the plane landed back in LA. It’s been about as bad a week as USC could have imagined. A few positives: USC still has plenty of talent, and it might respond to new coach Ed Orgeron. The running game with Tre Madden and Justin Davis has been a solid plus for an offensive that’s struggled. And whatever else one wants to say about Kiffin, his playcalling this season has been strange at best. A new mind running the offense might get better results. Or it might not. It’s hard to know what the rest of the season will bring, but this was an inevitable move. Let’s just say that as a fan of another Pac-12 team, I’d much rather have Lane Kiffin as USC’s coach than whomever they hire to replace him.