Pac-12 power rankings: Week One

Andrew Kuo/Staff


1. USC (1-0)
Regardless of the ineptitude of its opponent, No. 1 USC did everything in its power to live up to its billing in an emphatic win over Hawaii on Saturday. Senior quarterback Matt Barkley opened his Heisman campaign by tossing 4 touchdowns to go along with 372 yards in the air, while the defense held the usually potent Rainbow Warrior aerial attack to just 79 yards in the first half. But that secondary could be in line for its first real test this weekend, as it will go on the road and to curb a Syracuse offense that put up 41 points and 482 passing yards last weekend. The good news for the Trojans is that offense will just have to score one more touchdown than Northwestern was able to in order to match last Saturday’s total of 49.
— Connor Byrne

2. Oregon (1-0)
Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner only played in the first of Saturday’s 23-point win over Arkansas State. No point in risking injury to three top players when up 50-10 at the half.
In his first game, Mariota, a redshirt freshman, threw for 200 yards (18-for-22) and three touchdowns, leaving behind no doubt that he can follow in the fast-paced footsteps of Darron Thomas, Jeremiah Masoli and Dennis Dixon. Barner only had nine carries, but two of them were for touchdowns, while Thomas amassed 119 yards of total offense and three scores. With games against Fresno State and Tennessee Tech in the next two weeks, it might be awhile until we see the three athletes in the fourth quarter.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

3. Utah (1-0)
Utah’s defense was heralded as its greatest strength entering this season, and Saturday’s contest against Northern Colorado did nothing to refute the narrative. Led by Star Lotulelei, the Utes held the Bears to just 114 total yards on offense in a 41-0 beatdown. Utah takes on Utah State next week, which will do little to reveal their true talent level. Until their first test against BYU the following week, we’ll have to assume their domination of lesser opponents signifies they’ll be able to hold their own in Pac-12 play. If their smothering ways continue, Utah could solidify itself as the best of the conference’s second tier.
— Michael Rosen

4. Stanford (1-0)
In what might have been the most surprising outcome of the weekend for the Pac-12, the No. 25 Cardinal couldn’t put away a pesky San Jose State team at home on Saturday, scraping out a 20-17 win to open the post-Andrew Luck era. While Stanford looked stout on defense, the offense was not clicking, as junior Josh Nunes only managed 126 yards on 26 attempts — partly due to overly conservative play calling. Senior running back Stepfan Taylor was his usual effective self in leading the offense with 125 yards on the ground, but Nunes will need to start contributing if the Cardinal want to remain a top-25 team.
— Connor Byrne

5. UCLA (1-0)
On his first snap in his first game of his college career, Brett Hundley kept the ball and ran 72 yards for a touchdown. Will the Hundley’s debut, which also included 202 yards and two touchdowns in the air, erase the memory of Kevin Prince, Kevin Craft, Ben Olson and every other ineffective UCLA quarterback of the last half dozen years?
Let’s not forget that the Bruins’ 49-24 season-opening win was against Rice, and UCLA still had two turnovers, including a Hundley interception. Senior tailback Johnathan Franklin was arguably the biggest star, with 214 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries. Saturday’s visit from No. 16 Nebraska will be the real test.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

6. Washington (1-0)
The Huskies are lucky that San Diego State had absolutely no confidence in any of its placekickers — otherwise Saturday’s 21-12 win could’ve easily gone the other way. The Aztecs went for two unsuccessful 2-point conversations and passed up a gimme field goal for an unconverted 4th and long to spot Washington a handful of points. The Huskies new defensive scheme did look vastly improved, however, forcing three turnovers and four sacks to go alongside a 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown — Washington’s first defensive touchdown since 2010. However, the Huskies’ rushing attack will need to be much more visible if they want to have a shot at taking down No. 3 LSU at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
— Connor Byrne

7. Cal (0-1)
If you’re reading this blurb, you probably already know what went down at Memorial Stadium this past weekend. A heavily favored Bears squad took a leisurely stroll into their newly renovated stadium and were surprised to find a highly motivated, skilled Nevada offense already running laps around the stadium. With quarterback Zach Maynard on the bench for the first quarter, backup Allen Bridgford was unable to get the offense going, and Cal never recovered. A loss to a mediocre Mountain West team has Bears fans’ storming the streets with more pitchforks and torches than ever before. A sluggish performance against Southern Utah next week might make the screams for coach Jeff Tedford’s head even louder.
— Michael Rosen

8. Arizona (1-0)
That the Wildcats needed overtime to get past Toledo is not a good sign for Rich Rodriguez’s squad. Then again, Arizona still won, which is more than can be said for many other Pac-12 teams. Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 147 yards, and Matt Scott threw for 387, as the Wildcats’ offense piled up 624 yards. The blowout was prevented by three Arizona turnovers and seven penalties, two of which forced touchdowns to be called back. Kicker John Bonano missed 24 and 25-yard field goal tries, the latter of which would have won the game in regulation. The Wildcats won’t be able to simply outscore their next opponent, No. 18 Oklahoma State, coming off an 84-0 drubbing of Savannah State.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

9. Arizona State (1-0)
The Sun Devils took care of business against Big Sky opponent Northern Arizona this past Saturday, bleating the inferior opponent to death with a 63-6 route. The lack of a clear starting quarterback was one of ASU’s biggest question marks coming into the season, but Taylor Kelly showed he could be, at the very least, competent. Kelly completed 15-of-19 passes for 247 yards, and the Sun Devils’ offense bragged that its muscles were so much stronger than their 12 year old brother. If ASU can take down a decent Illinois team next week, they may be in for a jump up the power rankings.
— Michael Rosen

10. Washington State (0-1)
The Cougars don’t appear to be the offensive juggernaut that many pegged them as in the preseason — or at least aren’t there yet. Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel did manage to rack up 229-yards through the air, but had to throw the ball 45 times to do so, and tossed two picks along the way. More surprising was the play — or lack thereof — from junior wideout Marquess Wilson, who was a complete non-factor with just 4 catches for a modest 63-yards. Head coach Mike Leach has his work cut out if his squad wants to have any kind of relevance this year, as the offense will need to find some rhythm to overcome a defense that doesn’t look to have an ability to stop anyone.
— Connor Byrne

11. Oregon State (0-0)
Oregon State’s battle with Nicholls State was cancelled on account of Hurricane Isaac, which provides little material for analysis. Reports out of practice are positive for the Beavs, and if quarterback Sean Mannion can repeat his second-half performance from last year OSU could be leaping over their underachieving peers in the coming weeks. A faceoff with Wisconsin next week will likely be ugly for the Beavers, but an inspired performance could lift the expectations of one of the Pac-12’s assumed bottom-feeders. Getting blown out by the Badgers, however, would confirm what people are already whispering behind the Beavers’ backs.
— Michael Rosen

12. Colorado (0-1)
58,607 fans in Denver witnessed a thrilling contest between arch rivals. Unfortunately, Colorado and Colorado State are middling teams, and the Rams’ five-point win wasn’t exactly memorable. Jordan Webb threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions, but he completed only 22-of-41 passes. The Buffaloes rushed for only 58 yards as a team, with a paltry average of two yards a carry. The teams combined for 149 yards in penalties. Colorado’s two fumbles to Colorado State’s one cost the Buffs the game.
— Jonathan Kuperberg