Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Can anyone challenge the Ducks?
Oregon remains on top this week, but the distance between the Ducks and the rest of the conference seems to be increasing by the minute. Oregon State still occupies the No. 2 slot, but without Sean Mannion, the Beavers' stay could be short-lived. Meanwhile, the bottom of the rankings is experiencing more shakeups.
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Ducks are clear conference favorite
Why they're not lower: Oregon is closer to being No. 1 in the nation than No. 2 in the conference. The Ducks seem to roll in every game, regardless of the opponent. In fact, Oregon's two biggest blowouts against FBS teams came against the only two ranked teams it has faced. Oregon has ended nearly every game by halftime, holding at least a 28-point lead at the break in four of six games so far. It's hard to see anyone dethroning the Ducks any time soon.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. Oregon has had an explosive offense for years, but what makes the Ducks really scary (and a true title contender) is the team's improvement on defense. Instead of just being serviceable, Oregon's defense has become a weapon in its own right. The Ducks have forced 17 turnovers (tied for second-most in the nation), including five each from Arizona and Washington.
Last week: 52-21 win over Washington
Up next: Bye, then at Arizona State on 10/18 at 6 p.m.
2. Oregon State (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers still unbeaten but will miss Mannion
Why they're not higher/lower: It shows how strong Oregon State has been that the Beavers can stay at No. 2 despite losing their starting quarterback to injury. There's just no one else that deserves to be ahead of OSU, although that could change this weekend. Oregon State looked lackluster in a win on Saturday, and the competition is only getting harder. Still, you can't argue with the Beavers' results so far, especially from a team that won just three games last year.
First thing on fans' minds: Mannion. Last week was all about Mannion's big numbers, Saturday was all about his lackluster performance, and this week has been all about his injury. When it was announced that he would be having knee surgery, many people expected him to miss the rest of the season. More recently it has come out that the surgery is to repair his meniscus, which means he should be able to come back at some point this year. Either way, Oregon State will be without him for a tough game Saturday at BYU.
Last week: 19-6 win over Washington State
Up next: at BYU on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
3. USC (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans still control Pac-12 destiny
Why they're not lower: This was a really tough call between Stanford and USC. I know, I know, Stanford beat USC, but as things stand now, the Trojans still just outrank the Cardinal thanks to its overall resume and its standing as the most likely team to come out of the Pac-12 South. That said, USC hasn't exactly been overly convincing (see: 1-4 record against the spread), so it wouldn't be a shock to see the Trojans suffer another "big" upset.
First thing on fans' minds: Matt Barkley. The preseason Heisman frontrunner finally responded after a couple less-than-stellar weeks to throw for 303 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against Utah. It's not a secret that USC can't contend for a BCS bowl or Pac-12 South title unless Barkley goes back to being one of the nation's best quarterbacks.
Last week: 38-28 win over Utah
Up next: at Washington on Saturday at 4 p.m.
4. Stanford (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cardinal avoids second straight upset
Why they're not higher/lower: Stanford won a thrilling shootout against Arizona and has to be feeling good about coming back to beat the Wildcats after trailing by 14 in the fourth quarter. However, the win may have raised as many questions about the defense as it answered about the offense. At this point, Stanford has been woefully inconsistent, and that's not a good position to be in when a trip to South Bend looms this week. Of course, all those questions could be answered with a win over Notre Dame.
First thing on fans' minds: Josh Nunes. The goat of Stanford's loss to Washington immediately became the hero of the win over Arizona, as he led the Cardinal to two late touchdowns to force overtime. Nunes had one of the best games by any Stanford quarterback, and that includes guys like Plunkett, Elway, and Luck. His 393 total yards and five total touchdowns were not only impressive but completely necessary as the Cardinal traded blows with the Wildcats. Nunes's game gives Stanford fans some hope that he can lead the team to victory in a tough situation, which the Cardinal will likely need later in the year (or even this week).
Last week: 54-48 win over Arizona
Up next: at Notre Dame on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
5. Arizona State (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils still lead South
Why they're not higher: The Pac-12 power rankings have somewhat of a short-term memory, so ASU slips to fifth, but with an undefeated record in conference play, the Sun Devils still lead the Pac-12 South. This week, Arizona State has another very winnable game, and this one will be on a Thursday night national telecast, so the Sun Devils could crack the top 25 next week. Of course, after that comes the real challenge.
First thing on fans' minds: How good is this team? Five games into the year is usually enough time to have some idea of what to expect from a team. But even after this week, we won't really know what to make of ASU, which has yet to play an FBS team that currently has a winning record. Starting next week, though, the Sun Devils will play Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, and USC in four straight weeks. Then we'll know something about Arizona State.
Last week: Bye
Up next: at Colorado on Thursday at 6 p.m.
SO-SO FAN BASE
6. Washington (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Huskies can't notch second straight upset
Why they're not lower: It's not good to get trounced by your rival, and a 31-point loss is always bad. But with the way Oregon is playing, losing by 31 in Eugene is completely understandable. And if you ask Husky fans what they expected from three games against LSU, Stanford, and Oregon, most of them probably would have been happy with a 1-2 record in those games.
First thing on fans' minds: Schedule. After playing three top-10 teams in their first five games, the Huskies finally get a break. Oh wait, what's that? They have to play USC this week? And Oregon State two weeks later? Some teams are not as good as their record indicates (see: Arizona State). Washington is in the opposite category. Of course, with only one home game left against an unranked foe, the Huskies may struggle to overcome that schedule.
Last week: 52-21 loss to Oregon
Up next: vs. USC on Saturday at 4 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
7. Cal (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Golden Bears finally beat FBS team
Why they're not higher/lower: It speaks to the fickle nature of the Pac-12 power rankings that the cellar-dwelling Cal Golden Bears can jump all the way to seventh. But that's what happens when you finally win a conference game (in blowout fashion no less) and save your coach's job, at least for now. The win is big for Cal going forward, as bowl eligibility suddenly seems possible again. Of course, this is still a 2-4 team, so it's still going to be an uphill climb.
First thing on fans' minds: Zach Maynard. Cal's quarterback had been terrible coming into the UCLA game, combining for 27-61 passing, 299 yards, and two interceptions to one touchdown in his previous two games. Then he exploded against the Bruins, bouncing back from an interception on his first throw to throw season highs of 295 yards and four touchdowns in leading his team to a rare win.
Last week: 43-17 win over UCLA
Up next: at Washington State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
8. UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins blown out against lowly Cal
Why they're not higher/lower: Remember the days when UCLA was rising up the top 25? Seems like a long time ago after the Bruins suffered their second loss in three games. This one, a 26-point defeat at Cal, is much more troubling than a close home loss to Oregon State. UCLA's hot start masked the underlying problems that have plagued this team for years, and it appears many of them still linger.
First thing on fans' minds: Turnovers. It's hard to win on the road when you get outgained by about 100 yards. It's a lot harder when you turn the ball over a whopping six times, especially against a Cal team that had only forced seven turnovers in its first five games. UCLA really needs to clean up its mistakes - the 12 penalties didn't help either - if it wants to get back on the winning trail.
Last week: 43-17 loss to Cal
Up next: vs. Utah on Saturday at 12 p.m.
9. Colorado (1-4, 1-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes still among nation's worst
Why they're not higher/lower: Colorado should feel lucky to be as high as No. 9, and the Buffaloes have only ascended to the land of single digits because so many other teams have been struggling. But Colorado still has just one win on the year, and that win at Washington State is looking less and less surprising as the Cougars keep looking bad. This week provides a golden opportunity for Colorado to notch a program-boosting win in a Thursday night home game against Arizona State.
First thing on fans' minds: Scoring. Arizona State's defense has been stifling (12th in the nation in scoring, 10th in yardage), and Colorado's offense has been anything but explosive (100th in scoring). The Buffaloes will need to channel the effort they used in the fourth quarter against Washington State to have a shot against the Sun Devils.
Last week: Bye
Up next: vs. Arizona State on Thursday at 6 p.m.
10. Arizona (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats can't hold on for upset win
Why they're not higher/lower: It's tough to decide whether to promote Arizona for playing so well in a tough environment or drop the Wildcats to last for blowing a 14-point lead for a third straight loss. Arizona ended up here because either way, losses are losses, and the 0-3 record in conference play puts the Wildcats in an unenviable spot with more tough games ahead.
First thing on fans' minds: Matt Scott. Arizona came up short at Stanford, but it's hard to blame Scott, who broke a Pac-12 record with 45 completions on a school-record 69 attempts. His 491 passing yards and three touchdowns gave the Wildcats a great chance to win, but the defense couldn't hold the lead, and Scott's only mistake of the day - a tipped pass-turned-interception - ended up being his final play of the day.
Last week: 54-48 loss to Stanford
Up next: Bye, then vs. Washington on 10/20 at 7 p.m.
11. Utah (2-3, 0-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes can't hold lead
Why they're not higher/lower: For a while, it looked like Utah could come up with the big win it needed to jumpstart its season. Then the Utes collapsed back to their norm for the year, leaving the team 1-3 against FBS teams. At some point, Utah needs wins, and the Utes look pretty clearly like a borderline bowl team instead of the factor in the Pac-12 they were supposed to be.
First thing on fans' minds: Offense. The Utah defense basically handed the offense a 14-0 lead by forcing two turnovers in the first two minutes against USC. The Ute offense didn't hold up its end of the bargain, though, managing only 303 total yards and two more scores (one of which came in garbage time) the rest of the way. And the sad thing is, the 303 yards actually increase Utah's average (which is currently 114th in the nation).
Last week: 38-28 loss to USC
Up next: at UCLA on Saturday at 12 p.m.
12. Washington State (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars keep on losing
Why they're not higher: This was supposed to be the year that Wazzu made the leap from a team with potential to a team that could contend for a bowl. Instead, Washington State looks no better than last year, and even though they've covered the spread the past couple weeks, the Cougars still have not looked competitive. All that has led to Wazzu being over a touchdown underdog to last week's cellar-dwellar, Cal. At home.
First thing on fans' minds: Mike Leach's offense. Everyone knew Washington State could struggle defensively, but the surprising (and disappointing) thing about the Cougars so far is that the offense has been even worse. Leach's first year in Pullman has been disastrous from an offensive perspective, ranking 98th nationally in scoring and 96th in yardage. No one saw that coming.
Last week: 19-6 loss to Oregon State
Up next: vs. Cal on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.