Most of the Pac-12 is a third of the way through their season, so this seems like a good time to do an overall power ranking for the conference. These are based largely on results thus far, both in record and how the teams have played. In at least one case, off-field issues will factor in as well (guess who!). And I’ll admit that I forgot UCLA and Utah are playing tonight, so I might be somewhat influenced by UCLA’s mediocre defensive showing thus far. Alright, here we go.
1. Oregon Ducks
I don’t know if the Ducks are as good as last season, or if they’re better than Stanford. I could certainly see them losing this year. But to my mind, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. They play with such precision and relentlessness that it’s hard to see them ever falling off. My dislike for the Ducks is as strong as ever, but they deserve a great deal of respect for their execution on the field.
2. Stanford Cardinal
As I wrote yesterday, I was a bit skeptical of Stanford to start the year, and that remains to some degree. They’ve looked dominant the last couple of weeks though. The defense is just as good as last year, and the offense is more balanced and explosive. They don’t scare me as much as Oregon does, but they’re still a talented and intimidating team.
3. Washington Huskies
UW and UCLA are pretty interchangeable, but I think UW’s resume is slightly better, and they seem like the more well-rounded team. I could be swayed to flip the two, though.
4. UCLA Bruins
UCLA has won their games handily and overcome the tragic death of one of their players to notch a win at Nebraska. The Bruins look like a huge favorite to win the south at this point. Their pass defense might be their undoing, relatively speaking.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils
ASU has one loss, to Stanford. Their defense has struggled this season, but the offense is explosive, if slightly inconsistent. I think they’re a clear step down from UCLA, but they have plenty of firepower to beat anyone on their schedule.
6. Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers have rallied from the conference’s worst loss (EWU) to win four straight. Their defense is a major weak spot, but the offense, especially the passing game, is rolling at a ridiculous rate. Sean Mannion is making Mike Riley look crazy for considering starting Cody Vaz instead, and Brandin Cooks is having the best season for any WR in the conference, and maybe the country. I think they’ll struggle against better teams, but for now, they’ve done everything they can to get back into the race.
7. Arizona Wildcats
If Arizona could magically find a passing game, they could make some noise. As it is, they’re going to have to rely on a decent defense and a very solid rushing attack. That’ll be enough against the bottom of the conference, but they’ll struggle with the six teams above them.
8. Utah Utes
Utah’s offense has been a huge surprise thus far. Credit the improved play of QB Travis Wilson and the addition of Dennis Erickson. Watching them, it’s clear they still lack the athleticism, especially on defense, to consistently be competitive with the top of the conference. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have any special strengths to make up for those deficiencies.
9. WSU Cougars
These bottom four are vastly different but somewhat interchangeable. The Cougars are improved on defense, but not enough to cover for an offense that is surprisingly ineffective. WSU is making progress, but the path back from the pit they were in is a long and bumpy one. Trust me, Husky fans know this all too well.
10. California Golden Bears
Cal has faced one of the country’s toughest schedules, with expected results. At least they can blame it on youth and coaching change. The passing attack has been mostly excellent, but the defense has been porous at best. They have some talent there, so maybe they’ll make a bit of a turn-around. I doubt it.
11. USC Trojans
All things considered, USC has had the worst season by far, but I don’t think they’re actually the worst team. I’m sure everyone has heard plenty about the Trojans, so I’ll spare you the recap. I’m curious to see where their season goes from here. I could see them rallying and making a bowl game, or they might fall apart even further.
12. Colorado Buffaloes
The Buffs are much better than last season, but that’s not saying a lot. They could very well lose the rest of their games, but I bet they’ll pull out a win or two. The bottom of the conference is much improved, but it’s still a long way from the top.