Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 4

Cal and Washington swapped places in this week's Power Rankings after their thrilling matchup on Saturday.
Emma Lantos/Senior Staff
Cal and Washington swapped places in this week's Power Rankings after their thrilling matchup on Saturday.

NORTH DIVISION

No. 1: Stanford (3-0, 1-0)

The Cardinal did not have a game this week. But since the squad is still undefeated and Andrew Luck is still the quarterback, Stanford nonetheless tops the power rankings. The team faces the daunting challenge of UCLA this weekend.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 2: Oregon (3-1, 1-0)

The Ducks are up to their old ways as evidenced by their 56-31 thrashing of Arizona last Saturday in Tucson. We already knew that LaMichael James was one of the most versatile weapons in the conference, but even he seemed to outdo himself with an eye-popping 288 yards rushing on 23 carries for an astonishing 12.5 yards per carry. Though the loss to LSU will likely hang over the Ducks’ beaks for the whole season, coach Chip Kelly clearly has his team playing with swagger again. Oregon has a bye this week before welcoming Cal to Autzen Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 6.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 3: Washington (3-1, 1-0)

While Washington’s defense is too feeble to vault the team into the upper echelon of the Pac-12, it’s found its quarterback of the future — and the present — in Keith Price.

Former starter Jake Locker graduated to become the No. 8 pick in the latest NFL Draft, but Price has done enough so far to maintain the Huskies’ dynamic attack. He appears to be just as quick as Locker, and has actually been more accurate.

In his first season commanding the offense, the sophomore is tied for the national lead in touchdown passes. He hasn’t put up gaudy numbers — his average of 245.8 yards rank eighth in the Pac-12, and his 28 attempts per game 10th — but with one of the conference’s top running backs in Chris Polk, he doesn’t need to.

— Jack Wang

No. 4: Cal (3-1, 0-1)

It wasn’t a terrible loss, but the Bears showed that they still have a fairly long way to go on the defensive side of the ball before they can be considered a contender in the conference. The upside is that Cal is playing in exciting games this season, a stark difference from the several blowouts that the team suffered last season. The offensive side of the ball is a different story. Keenan Allen looks like one of the best players in college football, Zach Maynard appears to be improving his consistency and Isi Sofele’s mechanics have vastly improved.The Bears have a bye this weekend but will then travel up to Oregon, where the Ducks will be coming off of a bye week as well.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 5: Washington State (2-1)

This Saturday will be an important one for the Cougs. If they beat Colorado on the road to open Pac-12 play, a four-win season is a very likely possibility. It’s no bowl game, but it’s a total that Washington State hasn’t reached since 2007 — a five-win season that ended with an Apple Cup victory and the firing of coach Bill Doba.

The Buffaloes have traditionally played well at home, and the game will be one with shootout potential. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen averages 344.5 yards per game passing in Boulder, and Cougars senior Marshall Lobbestael is on a torrid pace through three games, matching 10 touchdowns with two interceptions to earn the Pac-12’s best pass efficiency rating.

Neither program has been successful recently, and the loser will likely be staring down another lost season.

— Jack Wang

No. 6: Oregon State (0-3, 0-1)

Is it more embarrassing to lose on your home turf to Sacramento State or UCLA? Well, the Beavers have done both this season, with a 35-0 shellacking by Wisconsin in between.

Oregon States is 12th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, averaging 15.7 points per contest. The team ranked 11th, Colorado, averages over eight more points. The Beavers’ two quarterbacks, Sean Mannion and Ryan Katz, have thrown one touchdown collectively.

Going back to Oregon State’s losses, the Sacramento State one would seem to be pretty devastating. After beating the Beavers in their season opener, the Hornets lost back-to-back games to Southern Utah and Weber State by a combined 53 points.

The Beavers are unequivocally one of the worst teams within the six power conferences.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

 

SOUTH DIVISION

No. 1: Arizona State (3-1, 1-0)

Welcome to this year’s Pac-12 surprise. They’ve got a man’s man at quarterback (Montana-bred Brock Osweiler), a fast man at running back (Cameron Marshall) and a crazy man at linebacker (Vontaze Burfict). This team looks like it is primed to make a run at the first ever conference championship game, but it can’t let pesky foes like Oregon State, who ASU faces this weekend, get in the way of their aspirations.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 2: USC (3-1, 1-1)

After close calls against Minnesota and Utah, the Trojans seem to have had more of a wake-up call against Arizona State. In Tempe, the Sun Devils ended their 11-game losing streak to USC due mainly to the Trojans’ four turnovers. And USC’s No. 23 ranking disappeared.

Offense wasn’t a problem for the Trojans. They gained 402 yards of total offense, including 149 yards rushing from Marc Tyler and 131 yards receiving from Robert Woods. The problem was the turnovers, three of which came from quarterback Matt Barkley.

USC should bounce back next week in its home game against one-dimensional Arizona.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 3: Utah (2-1, 0-1)

The Utes seem to be the forgotten team in the upper echelon of the Pac-12 South. Their loss to USC in the second week dropped them down, but with the Trojans’ recent loss, things are looking up for Utah. Before it faces Arizona State on Oct. 8 — for what appears to be a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game — the Utes will need to get past Washington this weekend. The contest in Salt Lake CIty should be an epic battle of the Huskies’ potent offensive attack versus the Utes’ stingy defense that gives up just 14.3 points per game.

As long as Utah isn’t looking ahead to the Sun Devils, they should be able to Washington, though don’t expect a rout.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 4: Arizona (1-3, 0-2)

Nick Foles is probably wondering where it all went wrong. At the end of last October, his team had a 7-1 record, helped along by his emergence as one of the most accurate quarterbacks. Then the Wildcats were steamrolled at Stanford, 42-17. They haven’t beaten an FBS team since.

Foles, a senior now, is completing over 70 percent of his passes. Arizona, meanwhile, is in the midst of a 1-8 stretch that dates to Nov. 6, 2010, with the lone win coming over Northern Arizona.

Arizona’s last three trip-ups all came against top-10 teams — Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon — and could perhaps be excused had the loss margins not been 23, 27 and 25 points. Besides Foles and the passing game, the Wildcats have been stunningly inept, the conference’s second-best aerial attack sunk by its worst running game and total defense.

— Jack Wang

No. 5: Colorado (1-3)

It’s not clear whether conference play will be any more forgiving for the Buffaloes, who faced a really nasty non-conference slate that included trips to Hawaii and Columbus (a grand total of over 10,000 miles roundtrip) as well as Cal and in-state foe Colorado State. The Buffs could hardly keep pace with flailing Ohio State last weekend, and now coach Jon Embree will prepare his squad for upstart Washington State in the team’s first-ever (official) Pac-12 game.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 6: UCLA (2-2, 1-0)

UCLA is coming off a win over Oregon State, so Bruins fans can at least celebrate not being the worst team in the conference. Worst team in the division, though, still seems like a good lock.

The team appears to have settled on the mediocre Richard Brehaut as its starting quarterback, but the junior only managed seven completions against the Beavers. He has a reliable, two-back run game to rely on, with Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman splitting carries, but the defense is about as porous as it was a year ago.

The Bruins might be able to scratch out another win or two, but it’s not hard to imagine them going winless the rest of the way. Either way, Rick Neuheisel’s tenure is nearing the end.

— Jack Wang

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  • Anonymous

    Hey Jack, we might be the worst team in Pac-12.  We can’t gain a yard or two in four tries.  Also, an untested first year QB had no trouble moving the ball down field on us.  I’d worry about any team we play.  I would not be surprised if we don’t win a Pac-12 game this year.  But I’ll still go to the games because I bleed blue and gold and I hate SC and Stanford.

  • Anonymous

    Oregon seems to be paying lots of attention to Cal’s D line. A quote from their blog

    On Cal’s D-Line
    Pendergast now has extra time to work with Tipoti and other D-Lineman on how to properly execute a fake injury. Last year, the line attempted multiple fake injuries to slow us down but the coaches were horrible in getting the signals from the sidelines to stop, drop and roll.  We got word they will now be using a 4 quadrant sign system similar to ours for their D-Line play calling. 

    We anticipate Cal’s first sign to go something like this….
    Upper left, picture of Linda Blair (code for, “start spinning your head around like Regan in the Exorcist”)….upper right, picture of Scott Hamilton, ice skater (code for, “whirl around like you are crazy dizzy”) … lower left, picture of twisted pretzel (“grab upper leg like it is cramping”)…lower right, picture of sumo wrestler (“drop to the ground and cry like a baby”)  Now Break!

  • Anonymous

    The wake up call for USC is that they are not very good. USC will have at least 3 loses if not 4. Oregon will keep playing hurry up offense till some team stops their running game, and the passing to their running backs. Force Oregons QB to throw to his wide outs and you will win the game. The hard part is covering the running backs. Most Pac-12 teams have one quality receiver on their team, Cal has 2 ranked in the top 40 in the country. Tell me why mediocre defenses are able to stop Cal’s offense with all their weapons and Cals defense can’t handle stopping fewer opponents weapons on other teams?

    • MondayQB57

      When you play a 3-4 defense, you end up chasing the ball because you can’t win the line of scrimmage.  The only way to win the line of scrimmage with a 3-4 is with a nose tackle that is so explosive and strong that he requires a double team (remember Michael Carter of the 49′ers?) or if you have linebackers who are as big as an end such as a Worrell Williams, Desmond Bishop or Ray Malauga (spelling??).  We have a better chance of winning if we control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  As they say, that’s what separate the men from the boys.