Editor’s Note: Each week we combine rankings from all our writers to produce these consensus Power Rankings. Don’t like where your team stacks up? Tell us about it on Twitter.
Who could have predicted last week? Rebounding Washington was supposed to take care of badly banged-up Stanford with relative ease. Oregon was supposed to blow out a Cal team down to its untested transfer quarterback. Oregon State, which hadn’t won in the Rose Bowl since 2012, was supposed to reclaim its perennial spot at the bottom of the Conference.
Guess again. And now that the dust has cleared, the divisional races are shaping up to be just as wild.
Four North teams already have two Pac-12 losses, and the Beavers aren’t among them. Has undefeated Oregon wrapped it up? Not just yet. The North could still be won with two losses, though certainly, the Ducks are in control. The South race remains even more wide open, with four one-loss teams chasing undefeated Arizona.
All of which should serve as ample warning not to take this week’s Power Rankings too seriously. They aren’t likely to age well in the self-consuming Conference of Cannibals.
1. Oregon (2-0, 4-1) — Previous Ranking: 1 ⟺
Yes, the Ducks won ugly against Cal, but the operative word here is “won.” Oregon can work on its shortcomings without the blemish of a Conference loss, and with the knowledge that it can rely on its defense when its offense implodes. Defense kept the Ducks afloat after the offense coughed up three turnovers and couldn’t score in the first half. But credit a disruptive Golden Bear defense for much of that. As Oregon’s coaches and players evaluate what went wrong in those first two quarters, they can’t help but realize how fortunate they were that Cal didn’t bring a more productive offense. A healthy Chase Garbers might have allowed the Bears to escape Autzen with an upset. Realistically, though, the Ducks can’t be expected to blow out everyone, and they showed grit in coming from behind. Future NFL quarterback Justin Herbert turned in his worst performance of the year, tossing his first pick in 175 throws, while also throwing for 214 yards, and extending his streak of throwing at least one touchdown to 33 straight games. Colorado’s struggling defense should give him an opportunity to bounce back. Washington’s loss to Stanford put the Ducks in the driver’s seat in the North. Now all they have to do is keep winning.
2. Utah (1-1, 4-1) — Previous Ranking: 3 ⬆
In past years, teams facing Oregon State after a bye week might have been safe in viewing preparation for the Beavs as an extension of their week off. The Utes can’t afford to make that mistake in 2019. Their matchup with the Beavers could prove much tougher than it looks on paper. Utah will need to be prepared for OSU’s explosive offense, and rush the ball often enough to shorten the game, while also wearing down the Beavers defense. Utah running back Zack Moss, who left the USC game injured, will return for the contest, which should give the Ute offense a boost. Quarterback Tyler Huntley has become a terrific game manager, and there’s no reason to think he’ll have a let-down performance. Preparation will be key slowing down Beavers quarterback Jake Luton, who has posted 14 touchdowns for 1,297 yards and zero interceptions this season. Utah is fully capable of beating the Beavs, but they must not overlook them. A win in this contest would propel the Utes in the direction of another South title.
3. Arizona State (1-1, 4-1) — Previous Ranking: 4 ⬆
ASU had a bye week to prepare for an angry and frustrated Washington State team coming off a tough loss. The Sun Devils hope to carry over the momentum of their upset of the-15th-ranked Cal two weeks ago. To beat the Cougs, ASU must find a way to stop Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack, and not give up the passing plays that got them into a shootout against Colorado. This is an opportunity to see how far ASU’s secondary has come since then, and it will take a solid performance by the entire unit to keep the Cougs from lighting it up. WSU’s system gets multiple receivers involved, so the Sun Devil defense can not lean towards one receiver. On offense, ASU needs to keep riding star running back Eno Benjamin, who willed the Devils to victory over Cal. Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels will have to put up more points against the Cougs. That could mean taking more risks, scrambling and throwing downfield against a WSU defense that finds itself without defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. A win would establish the Devils as one of the top teams in the Conference, and keep their South title hopes alive.
4. USC (2-1, 3-2) — Previous Ranking: 7 ⬆
The Trojans had a bye after their loss to the Huskies, and it came at the perfect time, one week after falling flat in Seattle. In preparing for Notre Dame, USC could have Week 3 starting quarterback Kedon Slovis back, which should take some pressure off the rest of the offense. Slovis looked good when healthy, and he’ll have an opportunity to make a name for himself against the Fighting Irish. Getting the ball to Michael Pittman Jr., the leader of USC’s dangerous trio of receivers will be key. The senior has racked up 501 yards and four touchdowns this year, and should be a handful even for Notre Dame’s stout defense, which has given up less than 15 points per game this season. The Trojans will need to play slightly more aggressive than usual to create big plays. This is a showcase matchup for USC to show what it can do against a talented Top 10 team without Conference implications. A win over the Irish could catapult the Trojans back into the Top 25 and improve their bowl prospects.
— Nicholas Bartlett
5. Arizona (2-0, 4-1) — Previous Ranking: 9 ⬆
Khalil Tate led the Wildcats to just their second road win of the Kevin Sumlin Era, beating Colorado 35-30 in Boulder. The senior passed for a career-high 404 yards and the defense held firm, generating a pivotal fourth-down stop with just over two minutes remaining in the game. In a contest where Arizona’s rushing attack was never able to get going, Nathan Tilford stepped up in a big way, scoring two key rushing touchdowns including the game-winner. Though the Wildcat defense missed numerous tackles and did not record a sack on Steven Montez, they forced three key field goals and five punts while holding the Buffaloes to a 37% conversion rate on third down. Bigger still, perhaps, Arizona committed just one penalty, playing its cleanest game in years. Still, the defense needs to find a way to get sacks when it brings pressure, and the coaching staff needs to place more emphasis on tackling. With Washington coming to Tucson this weekend, the Cats have a chance to strengthen their hold on first place in the South, while also gaining national respect in beating a motivated Husky team that carried the Conference banner last season.
6. Washington (1-2, 4-2) — Previous Ranking: 2 ⬇
Last week’s sub-par performance against Stanford made it clear that the Huskies are not the team they once were, nor the team that most expected to see this season. The Cardinal dominated them from start to finish, making them look overmatched, despite superior experience and talent. Washington’s biggest concern coming out of this contest has to be the inconsistent play of quarterback Jacob Eason. The junior transfer still struggles with his reads, and it’s affecting the play of his receivers as well. In the second quarter, Eason missed an easy pass on second down that would’ve landed UW inside the five yard line. The next play he rocketed a ball through the hands of Hunter Bryant, giving the star tight end no chance of catching the bullet. One has to wonder if Chris Petersen is second-guessing his decision to make Eason the starter in preseason. Not that it matters much now, with backup quarterback Jake Haener having transferred out of the program, leaving Washington paper-thin at the signal caller position. The Huskies stand unsteady at 1-2 in-conference with the Oregon rivalry looming in two weeks. If Washington drops another Pac-12 game in Tucson on Saturday, the Dawgs won’t be playing for much more than pride.
7. Cal (1-2, 4-2) — Previous Ranking: 6 ⬇
Wounded across the board, the Golden Bears continued fighting last week, giving Oregon all it wanted. The Cal team that burst into the Top 15 two weeks ago is now battling injuries at virtually every offensive position. Week 1 starters at quarterback, receiver, tight end, and all across the line are all either unavailable for the rest of the year, or questionable for the coming weeks. Despite the rash of injuries, someone forgot to tell Cal it didn’t stand a chance at league-leading Oregon. The Bears shut down the Ducks for an entire half, making them look frustrated and confused while silencing the normally raucous Autzen Stadium crowd, before falling 17-7. Fortunately, the roughest stretch of Cal’s schedule is now in the rear view mirror, with a bye week forthcoming. Evan Weaver and his wounded comrades will rest and should continue to scratch and claw, keeping Cal in games for the rest of the year. If the Bears can get healthy on offense, and the elusive and talented Devon Modster can eliminate costly mistakes at quarterback, they may have a few more surprises in them.
8. Stanford (2-2, 3-3) — Previous Ranking: 10 ⬆
The Cardinal put together their most impressive performance of the year last week, beating Washington handily. It was a season-saving result, and—as odd as it would have sounded two weeks ago—Stanford stands on the fringe of a long-shot North title run. Backup quarterback Davis Mills doesn’t play like a backup, and his mobility adds a new dimension to an offensive group plagued by injuries. Mills threw for 293 yards and a touchdown against the Dawgs, setting up running back Cameron Scarlett, who ran for 151 yards and a touchdown in his best outing of the year. The defense dominated Washington, keeping its offense off-balance all night. All-World cornerback Paulson Adebo led the way, making timely plays throughout, including a pass breakup on a do-or-die fourth-down try. The biggest takeaway may have been the amazing coaching of head Cardinal in charge David Shaw. Stanford has eight injured offensive linemen, three of them starters, and has had to rally around an unproven quarterback. The Cardinal seemed lost entering the game, but now they are found. Stanford hosts UCLA next in an eminently winnable contest.
9. Colorado (1-1, 3-2) — Previous Ranking: 5 ⬇
The Buffaloes still haven’t solved the riddle of how to stop Khalil Tate, missing an opportunity to take control of the South Division race in Boulder last week. The Arizona quarterback first took the college football world by storm in Folsom Field, and he made the scenic stadium his personal playground once again, throwing for 404 yards and three touchdowns. It was his third-straight win over the Buffs. The Colorado offense played well enough for the most part, despite a slew of injuries, with Steven Montez throwing for 300 yards. But on the whole, the Buffs did not play up to their standards. Nor did they play as mistake free as they have in recent games, committing an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 85 yards. Defensively, both Arizona and Colorado performed poorly, but Arizona was able to make stops when it mattered most, including a key fourth-down drive with 2:30 left. Colorado now has nine starters sidelined with injuries, including top receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. and KD Nixon, and defensive end Mustafa Johnson. The Buffs have a chance to set things right, and pull off another big road upset, Friday night in Eugene against the Ducks.
10. Washington State (0-2, 3-2) — Previous Ranking: 8 ⬇
Wazzu is coming off a much-needed bye week following a loss to Utah, and on the heels of controversial comments from Mike Leach accusing his players of being ‘fat, dumb and happy and entitled.’ This week, the Cougs were hit with still more drama when defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys unexpectedly resigned. The former Minnesota head coach helped Wazzu to a 11-2 record last year with the nation’s fourth-best defense, but has struggled to duplicate that success this season. His retooled group gave up an average of 30.6 points and 444 yards per game in the first five weeks. No one knows how the Cougs will respond against Arizona State, a team that has played hot and cold itself: ASU held Michigan State to seven points in a road win, and gave up 34 in a home loss to Colorado before upsetting then-No. 15 Cal. Wazzu will be hungry, and it has the offensive firepower to hang with any team in the Pac-12. But the Utes may have provided ASU with a blueprint for rendering that power less effective. Expect the Devils to limit Cougar possessions with time-consuming drives in a game that could make or break WSU’s season. The Cougs can’t afford another loss if they intend to stay in the Pac-12 North hunt.
11. Oregon State (1-1, 2-3) — Previous Ranking: 12 ⬆
The Beavers dominated UCLA from start to finish for their first Pac-12 win of the year. OSU quarterback Jake Luton played brilliantly throughout, throwing for 285 yards and five touchdowns, while adding another score with his feet. The senior’s signature victory, following a tough loss to the Cardinal last week, earned him a nomination for the National Comeback Player of the Year award. Luton’s favorite target, wideout Isaiah Hodgins had a stellar game as well, catching 10 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. One of the most dependable receivers in the Conference, Hodgins is looking more like an NFL prospect each week. Head Coach Jonathan Smith kept the Beavers focused against the Bruins, dismissing their difficult history at the Rose Bowl, where they hadn’t won in 12 years. The Beavers played their best game of the season, and may be peaking at the right time. A win over No. 15 Utah this week in Corvallis would be earth-shaking. If they play like they did against UCLA, they might just have a chance.
12. UCLA (1-2, 1-5) — Previous Ranking: 11 ⬇
The Bruins have officially hit rock bottom, falling to 1-5 overall after a 17-point home loss to Oregon State. UCLA’s only win, you remember, came in a miracle comeback against what has since proven to be a mediocre Washington State team. The Bruin defense is abysmal, and the offense is just as bad, with the exception of that one game in Pullman. Star running back/wide receiver Demetric Felton, who averages over 155 yards from scrimmage per contest, has been a bright spot when he gets significant playing time. Chip Kelly’s job is widely believed to be safe for at least another year, whether due to his substantial buyout, or UCLA’s expectation that his efforts are yet to bear fruit. Still, there needs to be some changes somewhere, and fast. Changing coordinators in midseason probably isn’t the answer either, but defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro’s scheme has come under heavy criticism, and that might be an area where short-term alterations could come.
— Andrew Corbett
*This story was originally published at sportspac12.com. Syndicated with permission.