Pac-12 Football – Week 3 Power Rankings

Editor’s Note: Each week we combine rankings from all our writers to produce these consensus Power Rankings. Curious to know how each writer ranked the teams? Scroll down to the table at the bottom of the page. Don’t like where your team stacks up? Tell us about it on Twitter.

What a difference a week makes. With Cal’s upset of Washington and USC’s rout of Stanford, both Pac-12 divisional races seem far less settled. A lot can still change, but Oregon and Washington State—big winners against lesser opponents—appear to be the new favorites in the North, with the Bears breathing down their necks. And while the Utes remained unscathed last week, the dramatic re-emergence of the Trojans makes them seem a little less of a lock in the South.

But as we anticipate those scenarios playing out in the pivotal matchups of weeks Four and Five, the Conference has several big opportunities on its plate for this week: ASU travels to No. 18 Michigan State, Stanford visits No. 17 UCF, and UCLA hosts No. 5 Oklahoma. A win in any of those contests would be a big boon to the Pac-12’s reputation and pride.

1. Utah (0-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 2 ⬆

After a slow start defensively, the Utes looked solid in their Week Two-win over Northern Illinois. The biggest takeaway was Tyler Huntley’s continued production and leadership at quarterback. The senior completed 14 of 19 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, keeping his cool throughout. Running back Zack Moss rushed for a tough 80 yards, despite Utah’s offensive line struggling at times to create holes. The Huskies may have exposed a potential vulnerability in the secondary as well, with ex-Cal signal caller Ross Bowers connecting on some deep throws. But ultimately, Utah’s defense, led by Francis Bernard’s 12 tackles, could be counted on to shutdown NIU in the second half, as expected. While the Huskies didn’t have the stamina or talent to hang with Utah the entire contest, they did provide a few checkpoints for the impressive Utes to work out. Look for that happen this week against FCS opponent Idaho State. 

—Nicholas Bartlett

2. Oregon (0-0, 1-1) — Previous Ranking: 3 ⬆

The Ducks answered their Auburn loss with a resounding statement-game that produced 623 total yards of offense and an Autzen Stadium-tying 77 points. Heisman candidate Justin Herbert returned to optimal form, throwing for 310 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, six UO running backs combined for 221 yards on the ground, contributing to a barrage of 11 different Ducks scoring touchdowns. Oregon’s defensive performance was no less impressive, holding the Wolf Pack to two first-half field goals before shutting them out in the second half. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong threw for less than 100 yards and tossed two interceptions, with Duck Linebacker Mase Funa tagging him for two sacks. This was a nice bounce-back performance for the Ducks against a team that had outplayed Big Ten foe Purdue the previous week. Oregon has one more tune-up game against Montana before getting its first Pac-12 test on the road against Stanford.

—Nicholas Bartlett

3. Washington State (0-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 4 ⬆

Washington State’s offense was clicking on all cylinders once again, totaling 649 yards in a blowout of Northern Colorado. Anthony Gordon threw for 464 yards to go with his four touchdown passes, and the wideout corps continued to impress, with nine different receivers catching balls. The Wazzu onslaught also included three scores on the ground, with Max Borghi claiming two. The defense still has plenty of work to do, however; the Cougars gave up 355 yards of offense, and 17 points, to the under-matched FCS Bears. In particular, WSU needs to tighten up its rushing defense after allowing 216 yards. On the bright side, the Cougs forced four turnovers, two of them as Northern Colorado neared the end zone. This week’s road test at Houston should prove much tougher, providing the Cougar defense a chance to show it’s able to do its part in supporting WSU’s explosive offense. 

—Jace McKinney

4. USC (1-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 7 ⬆

In what may have been the most impressive performance of the week, new USC quarterback Kedon Slovis dismantled Stanford, throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The true freshman played more like a veteran, and he seems to be a perfect fit for Graham Harrell’s offensive scheme. It doesn’t hurt to have three-star wideouts in Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown: The trio combined for 19 catches and 285 yards. Beating the Cardinal gives USC a real shot at winning the South title, especially with Utah coming into the Coliseum in two weeks. There could be much more riding on that game with the undefeated Trojans back in the Top 25, and the Utes ranked so high. But USC can’t afford to look past next week’s trip to BYU, where a hostile crowd will be laying in wait.  If the Trojans play like they did against Stanford, they should come home 3-0. 

— Nicholas Bartlett

5. Cal (1-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 9 ⬆

The Golden Bears claimed their first road win over a ranked road opponent in 10 years, and the timing couldn’t have been better. In upsetting No. 14 Washington, Cal took control of the North Division race, and came within a few votes of cracking the AP Top 25. As usual, it was dominant defense that put the Bears in a position to win, forcing two turnovers and allowing just one touchdown. But the Cal offense sealed the deal, mounting a poised and efficient 72-yard final drive with 2:05 left, showing it might just be ready to break out. Dependable Cal running backs Chris Brown Jr and Marcel Dancy contributed a combined 192 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Chase Garbers rushed and passed for 153 more, looking relaxed and confident throughout. Plenty of work remains to be done on that side of the ball, but if the offense continues to develop, the Bears may have a chance against just about anyone.

—Kamron Azemika

6. Washington (0-1, 1-1) — Previous Ranking: 1 ⬇

For the second straight year, the Huskies fell just short in a tight defensive battle with Cal. Could it be that Bears head coach Justin Wilcox, once the defensive coordinator at UW, has special insight into Chris Petersen’s game-plan? Regardless, this early-season performance should have Husky fans worried. Washington played well enough to win defensively, but couldn’t capitalize offensively on key red zone opportunities. New quarterback Jacob Eason, so impressive last week, struggled against Cal’s elite pass rush and secondary, throwing for less than 200 yards without connecting on a touchdown. He also tossed an interception, fumbled, and had several passes dropped. But as troubling as this loss may seem, it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. While the Huskies have some issues to resolve, and almost no margin for error, they can still win the Conference title, if all goes well. We’ll see what the Dawgs are made of these next three weeks against Hawaii, BYU, and a vastly improved USC.

—Nicholas Bartlett

7. Colorado (0-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 8 ⬆

Colorado’s win over Nebraska last week was as important in affirming Mel Tucker’s new culture as it was in keeping the Buffs undefeated. Down 17 points at halftime, CU showed no signs of panic, and refused to quit, despite the noisy red sea of Husker fans that had taken over Folsom Field. Senior quarterback Steven Montez set the tone with his calm demeanor and steady hand, passing for 375 yards and two touchdowns. K.D. Nixon stepped up at receiver as well, logging 148 receiving yards, including Colorado’s longest-ever play from scrimmage, a 96-yard touchdown off a flea-flicker. But while the Buffaloes showed grit in outscoring the Huskers 31-14 in the second half, they won’t be able to start as slow as they did against tougher foes and survive. CU will be looking to change that, and work out some other bugs, while going 3-0 for the fourth time in five years against Air Force next week.

—Ian McCollam

8. Stanford (0-1, 1-1) — Previous Ranking: 5 ⬇

The Cardinal got off to a hot start in the first half before falling apart in the second. Their downfall was their usual strength: a sure and steady defense that failed to play up to its own expectations. Stanford allowed a whopping 45 points on the night, giving up nearly 400 yards through the air. Granted, USC has some speedy playmakers, but the Cardinal defense collapsed at the worst possible time, with starting quarterback K.J. Costello out of action. Stanford figures to improve dramatically on offense with him back behind center on Saturday, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks. After playing UCF on the road, the Tree hosts Oregon before finally getting what should be a break against Oregon State in Corvallis the following week. One loss doesn’t end Stanford’s hopes for a North Division title, but its defense will have to improve to finish in the upper tier. A victory at UCF, where the Knights have won 16 straight, would give the Cardinal the confidence and momentum it needs to turn things around. 

—Nicholas Bartlett

9. Arizona State (0-0, 2-0) — Previous Ranking: 6 ⬇

Few expected the Sun Devils to struggle the way they did against Sacramento State last week. But whether the Hornets exposed some bona fide weaknesses, or simply caught ASU looking ahead to Michigan State, the Devils will take an undefeated record to East Lansing. Along with the offensive miscues there were some impressive performances as well, most notably that of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The senior hauled in four catches for 98 yards and returned a punt 38 yards. It will be critical for him to put up strong numbers this week against a much tougher defense to help ASU’s young Jayden Daniels. The true freshman quarterback struggled through some teachable moments last week but didn’t make any huge mistakes in throwing for 304 yards and a touchdown. The key will be learning from what amounted to a throwaway game in preparation for one that could shape the entire season for Arizona State. Whatever happens, we’ll get a much better sense of what the Sun Devils can do against the Spartans. 

—Nicholas Bartlett

10. Arizona (0-0, 1-1) — Previous Ranking: 11 ⬆

Arizona needed to rebound after a gut-wrenching loss to Hawaii two weeks ago, and they did so in a big way. The Wildcats started fast against Northern Arizona last week, putting up a school-record 51 points in the first half before the momentum changed. The Lumberjacks found more success in the air over the final two quarters, outscoring the Cats 28-14. While many of those points came against Arizona’s second and third units, giving up 41 points to an undersized FCS team that finished 4-6 the year before is cause for concern. Arizona’s lack of defensive depth could pose a problem this week, with high-octane Texas Tech bringing its spread offense to Tucson. The Wildcats can’t afford to fall too far behind, and will need to make more stops and continue forcing turnovers to avoid a shootout. The Cats are home underdogs, but with the crowd behind them, and a break here or there, that could work to their advantage.

—Dane Miller

11. UCLA (0-0, 0-2) — Previous Ranking: 10 ⬇

The Bruins somehow played even worse against San Diego State than they had against Cincinnati in Week One. After scoring on the first drive of the game, the offense seemed to shut down and, once again, put up just 14 points. Joshua Kelley’s return from injury gave UCLA fans reason for optimism, but he clearly was not 100% healthy, rushing for just 53 yards. The Bruin defense was equally ineffective, allowing Aztec quarterback Ryan Agnew a career-high 293 yards passing. The result? An inability to get off the field on third downs. Before the season, UCLA’s schedule seemed to line up well for Game 3, with the Bruins being able to work out the kinks in two victories before hosting Oklahoma. It didn’t quite work out that way, and Chip Kelly needs to make some adjustments to get the offense in rhythm, as well as give the pass rush a boost, to avoid being blown out by the No. 5 Sooners.

— Andrew Corbett

12. Oregon State (0-0, 0-2) — Previous Ranking: 12 ⟺

The Beavers had a golden opportunity to turn around their fortunes against Hawaii last week, but let it slip away. After building a 28-14 lead in the first half, Oregon State gave up 17 excruciating unanswered points. There was plenty of blame to go around, starting with the offense’s inability to score in the second half, and ending with the defense’s inability to make one or two more stops. In any case, changes may be in order. One possibility could be starting sophomore quarterback Tristian Gebbia over sixth-year senior Jake Luton, a potentially risky move that would at least shake things up. On the bright side, running back Jermar Jefferson rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown, with Artavis Pierce adding two more. Wideout Isaiah Hodgins shined as well, catching seven passes for 96 yards and a score. The bottom line for Saturday: OSU must improve on both sides of the ball to come away with what should be a sure win against Cal Poly.

—Nicholas Bartlett

This story was originally published at Syndicated with permission.

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