Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 2

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1. USC (2-0)
The No. 2 Trojans didn’t exactly light up the world against Syracuse in a 42-29 win on Saturday, but even a relatively subpar performance included six touchdown passes from Matt Barkley and 20 combined catches between Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. USC takes on No. 21 Stanford next Saturday in a litmus test of sorts for the Trojans  if Barkley and co. handily defeat the Cardinal, the legitimacy of the Trojans’ preseason hype will have its confirmation. But if the linebacking duo of Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov can neutralize the lethal Trojan offense, the Pac-12 picture becomes very muddled.
— Michael Rosen

2. Oregon (2-0)
Any lingering worries that the No. 4 Ducks’ running game would suffer without LaMichael James have vanished, as Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have shown they’re more than capable of keeping it potent. While Barner has been the workhorse thus far — carrying the ball 34 times Saturday against Fresno State for 201 yards and three touchdowns — Thomas has continued to show why he’s so scary in the open field. The Mamba touched the ball just seven times on Saturday, yet his presence was felt to the tune of 102 yards — and touchdowns of 51 and 39 yards. Things will stay easy for Oregon until Arizona and its revamped defense come into Eugene in two weeks, when that running game will gets its first chance to prove that it’s just as high powered as the 2011 version was.
— Connor Byrne

3. UCLA (2-0)
Brett Hundley is getting all the publicity after UCLA upset No. 16 Nebraska, 36-30, last Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl that put the squad into the top-25 rankings. The freshman quarterback is certainly deserving of praise. By completing 21-of-33 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, he looked like a battle-tested veteran running the No. 22 Bruins’ fast-paced offense against a traditionally stout Big Ten defense. But let’s not forget about Johnathan Franklin.
Franklin, the unsung senior running back, put together his second consecutive 200-yard game. He racked up 217 yards rushing on 26 carries and also caught three passes for 59 yards and a score. UCLA is second in the country in rushing (343.5 yards per game). Franklin is first — and it’s not even close. The next highest rusher is 82 yards behind him.
As of now, the Bruins look like the conference’s clear first option behind USC and Oregon; perhaps, with their showing so far, they have a chance to knock off their cross-town rivals. UCLA’s next eight games are all winnable. While the Bruins are unlikely to go 10-0, they are likely to continue to move up in the polls before they host the Trojans on Nov. 17.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

4. Stanford (2-0)
After a shaky collegiate debut, Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes came back this past weekend and gave Stanford fans a familiar performance. Duke was committed all game long to stopping the run — often putting eight or nine men in the box — and Nunes made the Blue Devils pay for it by throwing for 275 yards and three scores. But the junior completed just 16 of his 30 passes and threw a pic, and he will need to be significantly more accurate next weekend if he wants to keep pace with Matt Barkley and USC.
— Connor Byrne

5. Arizona (2-0)
Where did that one come from? The Wildcats took on No. 18 Oklahoma State on Saturday and hung up 59 points in a 21-point victory. Leading the charge was running back Ka’Deem Carey, rushing for 126 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Scott threw for 320 yards, and Arizona pulled off an upset that nobody saw coming. The Wildcats take on Oregon in two weeks in a game that will serve as an initial barometer for the legitimacy of this team as the season progresses.
— Michael Rosen

6. Washington (1-1)
Well, that was ugly. A 41-3 loss at the hands of No. 3 LSU featured an inept Huskies offense and a whole lot of Tiger touchdowns. These power rankings will give Washington the benefit of the doubt this week, but if the offensive ineptitude continues next week against FCS opponent Portland State, they could see themselves falling faster than a skydiving Tony Siragusa.
— Michael Rosen

7. Oregon State (1-0)
Who said you need to warm up? Maybe it was a good thing Oregon State’s season opener against Nicholls State was cancelled, as Wisconsin couldn’t scout the Beavers. Or maybe Oregon State is for real, and its previous two bowl-less seasons were aberrations and not the beginning of the end for Mike Riley in Corvallis.
The Beavers stunned the No. 13 Badgers, 10-7, at Reser Stadium on Saturday. Heisman hopeful Montee Ball rushed for just 61 yards in a true defensive affair. Oregon State will need another repeat performance from its front seven when the squad travels to Pasadena next week to take on the nation’s leading rusher Johnathan Franklin and his upstart Bruins.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

8. Utah (1-1)
So much for the dark horse label. Utah traveled to Utah State on Friday and emerged with its first loss of the season in a 27-20 upset. Adding injury to insult, starting quarterback Jordan Wynn suffered a career-ending shoulder injury. His replacement, Jon Hays, was among the worst quarterbacks in the conference last year and figures to be a major downgrade from the talented Wynn. With their offensive effectively neutered, the Utes are looking like one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 South.
— Michael Rosen

9. Arizona State (2-0)
Last year, the Sun Devils were one of the most undisciplined teams in the nation — plagued all season by flags, miscues and Vontaze Burfict. On Saturday in a 45-14 shellacking of Illinois, ASU committed just one penalty — an intentional delay-of-game penalty at midfield in order to give punter Josh Hubner a little more room to work with. That newfound discipline has the Sun Devils actually beating their opponents instead of themselves. But Saturday’s trip to Missouri should be much more telling about whether or not ASU has the talent to be a serious contender in the Pac-12.
— Connor Byrne

10. Cal (1-1)
That’s right, Cal is in 10th place in our power rankings. Considering Colorado and Washington State are barely Division I football teams at this juncture, the Bears are practically in last place. They’re certainly in the Pac-12 cellar.
But you know what, that’s what they deserve. That’s what you get when you lose to a Mountain West team at home. That’s what you get when you fizzle in your return to your $321 million-renovated stadium. That’s what you get when you trail an FCS team after the first quarter. That’s what you get when you’re only up three heading into the fourth.
On the season, Cal’s opponents have tallied more first downs than the Bears. Cal is getting outscored 17-0 in the first quarter. The Bears have racked up 161 yards in penalties.
Yes, Cal can bounce back. The Bears surely won’t quit or die.
Cal is definitely not the 10th-worst team in the conference — there aren’t nine better teams. But it’s the ranking it needs right now. It’s the ranking it needs to stay humble and to fight its way back to the top. With back-to-back road games against No. 12 Ohio State and No. 2 USC, Cal might need a few weeks to move up in the rankings, though.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

11. Washington State (1-1)
It wasn’t pretty, but Mike Leach earned his first win as the Cougars’ head coach. Washington State turned the ball over twice and gave up 469 yards to Eastern Washington on Saturday, but the Cougars hung on to their halftime lead to edge out the Eagles, 24-20, in Pullman, Wash. Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel was an efficient 20-for-26, and the tailback duo of Carl Winston and Teondray Caldwell rushed for 113 yards collectively.
Wazzu should win its next two — versus UNLV and Colorado, both winless — but the Cougs won’t stand a chance against Oregon the following week.
— Jonathan Kuperberg

12. Colorado (0-2)
For the second year in a row, Sacramento State beat a Pac-12 school. And who else would they have beaten besides Colorado? The Buffaloes might be one of the worst teams in college football, and they struggle in all facets of the game. The offensive line is porous, the receivers are inexperienced and quarterback Jordan Webb is completing just over 50 percent of his passes. But what’s most alarming is the defense, which doesn’t seem to be able to stop anybody and gave up 466 yards to the Hornets last weekend. In two weeks, the Buffaloes will travel up to Pullman to take on Washington State in what might be their only shot at a win in 2012.
— Connor Byrne

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SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

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