We've finally made it to conference season here in the Pac-12, which means there will be opportunities every week forteams to prove where they deserve to be in the Pac-12 power rankings.
For now, the Beaver State is holding serve, but as we have already seen, nothing is permanent in the Pac-12 power rankings. Here are the rankings (all times Pacific):
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Conference's top-ranked team finally shows it on field
Why they're not lower: Oregon has been a top-five team in the AP poll all season, but its first three opponents did not test the Ducks enough to see what potential this team really has. Facing an unbeaten and ranked Arizona team on national television under the lights figured to change that, but Oregon responded with its most dominant performance to date. Shutting out the potent Wildcat offense put the nation on notice that this is really a complete team, and we all know the havoc Chip Kelly's offense can wreak on any given play.
First thing on fans' minds: Zero. Arizona came into Eugene having scored 115 points in its last two games. Arizona left Eugene having scored 115 points in its last three games. The Oregon defense did everything well, holding the Wildcats to under five yards per pass and under three yards per rush while forcing five turnovers.
Last week: 49-0 win over Arizona
Up next: at Washington State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
2. Oregon State (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers do it again, so maybe it's not a fluke
Why they're not higher/lower: Oregon State finally got a chance to play its second game of the season, and the Beavers showed no signs of rust in pulling a road upset at high-flying UCLA. Oregon State shut down Bruin running back Johnathan Franklin, holding him to just 45 yards on 12 carries. That left the game up to the quarterbacks, and Sean Mannion outdueled Brett Hundley to give the Beavers two straight wins over ranked teams. Only their biggest rival's utter domination of another ranked team kept Oregon State from the top spot.
First thing on fans' minds: Mannion. As a freshman last year, Mannion was inconsistent, but he showed some potential. He threw multiple touchdowns in four games, and Oregon State went 3-1 in those while going 0-8 when he didn't. This year, he has thrown for 655 yards in two games and has thrown just one interception. With the Beavers' struggles in the running game (2.8 yards per carry ranks 119th out of 120 teams), Oregon State is relying more and more on Mannion.
Last week: 27-20 win over UCLA
Up next: at Arizona on Saturday at 7 p.m.
3. Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Still no losses, but no more rest left
Why they're not higher: Stanford did nothing wrong during its bye, but the Pac-12 power rankings are all about "what have you done for me lately?" and the Cardinal hasn't done much lately. Still, a primetime, nationally televised Thursday game against Washington will be a good test of Stanford's mettle. It will also be the Cardinal's first game away from the Farm, which the team will need to get used to, because only three of Stanford's nine remaining games will be at home.
First thing on fans' minds: Schedule. After the win over USC, Cardinal fans are suddenly thinking about how far this team can go. Looking ahead, Stanford seems to have two tough three-game stretches ahead. The first one starts this week (at Washington, vs. Arizona, at Notre Dame) and the second is the end of the season (vs. Oregon State, at Oregon, at UCLA). If Stanford is still unbeaten after the first one, the pressure and expectations on this team will ramp up for the second half of the season.
Last week: Bye
Up next: at Washington on Thursday at 6 p.m.
4. Arizona State (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils start off Pac-12 play with rout
Why they're not higher/lower: Arizona State shook off its disappointment from losing at Missouri by destroying Utah in Tempe. The 37-7 final score doesn't do the win justice, as the Sun Devils led 31-7 at halftime and just cruised from there. All of a sudden, with USC appearing vulnerable, Arizona State looks like a real contender in the Pac-12 South.
First thing on fans' minds: Taylor Kelly. Against Utah, the sophomore quarterback doubled his career touchdown total with three TD passes and set a career high with 259 passing yards... in the first half.
Last week: 37-7 win over Utah
Up next: at Cal on Saturday at 1 p.m.
5. USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans respond to loss with un-USC-like win over Cal
Why they're not higher: Well, USC is back in the win column, although few people probably saw it going down like that. The high-flying USC offense we've all been told about was replaced by a brutal ground-and-pound attack that racked up 296 rushing yards, while the maligned Trojan defense held Cal to only 250 total yards. Matt Barkley was once again well below his usual standards (under 200 yards passing, two more interceptions), but the rest of the team was plenty good enough to get USC its first conference win of the year.
First thing on fans' minds: Running game. After being somewhat underwhelming in his first three games as a Trojan (60 yards per game), Penn State transfer Silas Redd exploded for 158 rushing yards against Cal. His backfield mate Curtis McNeal was not far behind with 115, giving USC two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time in four years. It was the first game in a long time when Matt Barkley wasn't one of the two best players in the USC backfield.
Last week: 27-9 win over Cal
Up next: Bye, then at Utah on 10/4 at 6 p.m.
SO-SO FAN BASES
6. UCLA (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins hit road block after hot start
Why they're not higher/lower: UCLA was flying high after its 3-0 start, but the Bruins ran into another surprising team in Oregon State, and the Beavers shut down UCLA's biggest weapon, Johnathan Franklin. The Bruins did a good job of staying in the game behind Brett Hundley, but their one-dimensional offense was not enough to catch up to the Beavers.
First thing on fans' minds: Franklin. The nation's leading rusher coming into the game, Franklin got just 12 carries, managing only 45 yards. The running game wasn't working and UCLA was playing from behind all game, but the Bruins still need to get their best player more involved in the game.
Last week: 27-20 loss to Oregon State
Up next: at Colorado on Saturday at 3 p.m.
7. Washington (2-1)
Why they're here: Huskies still waiting for their first Pac-12 game
Why they're not higher/lower: Washington has been decidedly average thus far. The Huskies beat a team they should beat, got killed by a team they should get killed by, and killed a team they should kill. Coming off a bye, the Huskies will now face three teams that are better, on paper, than Washington. Will the Huskies buck the trend?
First thing on fans' minds: Offense. In three games, Washington has scored 76 points, and 52 of those came against FCS Portland State. No one has looked all that explosive, as Keith Price has yet to show the talent that led some to tout him as a darkhorse Heisman contender. Price has yet to run the ball all year, and his 6.2 yards per attempt ranks 101st out of 123 qualified quarterbacks.
Last week: Bye
Up next: vs. Stanford on Thursday at 6 p.m.
8. Colorado (1-3, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes surprise everyone with road win
Why they're not higher/lower: What? You didn't expect Colorado to win last weekend? Of course the Buffaloes would go into Pullman and outscore Wazzu a week after giving up 69 to Fresno State. Of course Colorado would win its Pac-12 opener after losing to two (bad) Mountain West teams and an FCS team. Of course the Buffalo offense would score more in the final eight minutes than it scored in two of its first three games. Of course.
First thing on fans' minds: The fourth quarter. Trailing 31-14 with just over seven minutes left in the game, Colorado had little hope of winning. The only question seemed to be whether or not Colorado would cover the 20-point spread. Instead, quarterback Jordan Webb threw a 70-yard touchdown pass and running back Tony Jones broke an 84-yard touchdown run to bring Colorado within three points. After a Cougar field goal, Webb led the Buffaloes down the field in the waning seconds before winning the game on a fourth-down touchdown run with nine seconds left.
Last week: 35-34 win over Washington State
Up next: vs. UCLA on Saturday at 3 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
9. Cal (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Respectable losses not enough for the Golden Bears
Why they're not lower: Cal has not looked terrible of late, as the Golden Bears hung around at Ohio State and did a good job against Matt Barkley in the Coliseum. But after four games, Cal's lone win came against Southern Utah, and that's really all that matters. With eight games left, Cal needs to find five wins in order to make a bowl game, and the schedule makes that seem unlikely.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. Cal's offense is fairly middle-of-the-road (59th of 120 in passing, 56th in rushing, 70th in scoring), so the Golden Bears need a solid defensive effort. They have yet to get that so far, as all four opponents (including Southern Utah) have scored at least 27 points. Cal has upcoming games against Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon, so its defense will continue to face challenges.
Last week: 27-9 loss to USC
Up next: vs. Arizona State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
10. Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats receive rude wake-up call in Eugene
Why they're not higher/lower: Well, that was bad. All the good feelings and hope from the first three weeks went out the window as Arizona got humiliated against Oregon. All indications are that Arizona is a better team than, say, Cal, but few teams on this list have looked as bad as Arizona did against Oregon. Luckily for the Cats, it's just one game, and a game that Arizona fans probably had chalked up as a loss anyway. Unluckily, Arizona has three more games against ranked teams in its next four
First thing on fans' minds: The red zone. Against a good team, you need to convert where it counts. Arizona did the opposite, going 0-6 in the red zone. The Wildcats seemed to find every way possible not to score, from fumbles to interceptions to failed fourth-down conversions. All that combined to give Oregon its first conference shutout in nine years.
Last week: 49-0 loss to Oregon
Up next: vs. Oregon State on Saturday at 7 p.m.
11. Utah (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes follow good win with blowout loss
Why they're not higher: What to make of Utah... Easy win over FCS team, then bad loss to rival, then gutsy win over bigger and better rival, than blowout loss to what should have been an equal. Utah was supposed to be a Pac-12 South contender, and the Utes' upcoming clash with USC was supposed to be one of the Pac-12 games of the year. Instead, Utah looks like it may not be a bowl team.
First thing on fans' minds: Offense. Utah wasn't supposed to be an offensive juggernaut, but it was supposed to have at least some semblance of an offense. Instead, the Utes rank 118th of 120 teams in yards per play, behind offensive juggernauts like Memphis and Florida Atlantic. It's pretty hard to win when you can't move the ball, especially in the Pac-12.
Last week: 37-7 loss to Arizona State
Up next: Bye, then vs. USC on 10/4 at 6 p.m.
12. Washington State (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars lost to Colorado... that's enough to get here
Why they're not higher: I didn't think anyone would challenge Colorado for this spot for a long time. Then Washington State changed that in a heartbeat by blowing a 17-point lead. In the final eight minutes. At home. To Colorado. If anything says "bottom of the power rankings," it's that.
First thing on fans' minds: Blowing that lead. Up 17 points with only half of the fourth quarter to go against one of the nation's worst teams, Washington State had to assume it could win. A few big plays by Colorado brought the Buffs back in it, but all Wazzu needed to do was run out the clock. Problem is, the Cougars rank 119th of 120 teams in rushing yards per game with an abysmal 59, 25 full yards behind No. 118, Idaho. (If you're wondering, Tulane sits in last with an unimaginable 9.67 rushing yards per game.) We know Mike Leach loves his passing game, but you can't expect to win without some semblance of a running game.
Last week: 35-34 loss to Colorado
Up next: vs. Oregon on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.