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Pac-12 Power Rankings: 10/24

Arizona State couldn't challenge Oregon. Can anyone?

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Not much has changed in the power rankings, as the contenders and pretenders have separated themselves for the most part.

Oregon continues to be in a class of its own, while Oregon State, USC, and Stanford clearly represent the second tier. After that, look out for Arizona, which could be moving up this list if the Wildcats can knock off USC. At the bottom, it's more of the same.

Here are the rankings:


1. Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Ducks keep on dominating
Why they're not lower: Oregon is finally going to get tested against Arizona State... oh wait, it was 43-7... three and a half minutes into the second quarter? Seriously? Not a lot of people expected Oregon to lose to Arizona State, but it is fair to say few people saw the Ducks leading by 36 after 18 and a half minutes, especially since they were trailing by a touchdown within the first minute. But that's Oregon. Maybe we'll have to narrow the category of "games that will finally test Oregon" a little bit. Or maybe that category doesn't exist.
First thing on fans' minds: Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota. In a game that finally gave Oregon some national exposure, media-favorite De'Anthony Thomas all but disappeared (15 touches, 29 yards, no touchdowns). It didn't matter to Oregon, though, thanks to Barner and Mariota. Barner raced out to a 71-yard touchdown run to respond to the Sun Devils' quick score, and he finished with 143 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Mariota responded to his mistake with the football equivalent of the cycle: a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown, and a receiving touchdown, and his rushing touchdown was even longer (86 yards) than Barner's.
Last week: 43-21 win over Arizona State
Up next: vs. Colorado on Saturday at 12 p.m.

2. Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers find another way to stay undefeated
Why they're not higher/lower: A week after Cody Vaz led Oregon State to an offensive explosion to outscore BYU, the Beaver offense was shut down by Utah. Even so, Oregon State found a way to win thanks to a playmaking defense that forced four turnovers. The Beavers now find themselves halfway to an unbeaten regular season, although the second half of the year will provide far tougher tests (at Stanford, vs. Oregon) than Oregon State faced in the first six games.
First thing on fans' minds: Turnovers. The Utes outgained Oregon State by 80 yards, but the Beavers still won by two touchdowns thanks to a 4-0 advantage in turnovers forced. Oregon State is eighth in the nation in turnover margin, which is a big reason why the Beavers are undefeated.
Last week: 21-7 win over Utah
Up next: at Washington on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.

3. USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans finally find dominance against Colorado
Why they're not lower: Can't they just play Colorado every week? It seems like a lot of teams feel that way, but USC looked like the top team it was supposed to be in dismantling the Buffaloes 50-6. Of course, the Trojans can't play Colorado every week, and USC's road will get much harder, as the team's final five games all come against teams with winning records, including two against top-five teams.
First thing on fans' minds: Matt Barkley. Last week, we were all questioning what was going on with Barkley. What a difference a week (and a weak defense) makes. Against Colorado, Barkley was just about perfect. He completed 19 of 20 passes for 298 yards and six touchdowns to set a single-game conference record for completion percentage and a career conference record for touchdown passes.
Last week: 50-6 win over Colorado
Up next: at Arizona on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

4. Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cardinal crushes rival
Why they're not higher/lower: After falling to Notre Dame in heartbreaking fashion, Stanford was a trendy pick to get upset in its rivalry matchup with Cal. The Cardinal responded by completely stifling its biggest rival, holding the Bears to three rushing yards and cruising to a 21-3 win. Stanford can now breathe somewhat of a sigh of relief (although no one in the program would ever admit to it), as the team's next two games come against Washington State and Colorado.
First thing on fans' minds: Running game. The old adage of "run and stop the run" was on display against Cal, as Stanford outrushed the Bears (who came in as the better running team) 252-3, led by Stepfan Taylor's career-high 189 yards and an extremely stingy defense.
Last week: 21-3 win over Cal
Up next: vs. Washington State on Saturday at 3:15 p.m.


5. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils humbled at home
Why they're not lower: Well, Arizona State, you've now been tested. It's unfair to read too much into a game against Oregon - the Ducks are that good - but the Sun Devils were certainly at least a class or two below Oregon last week. Still, at 3-1 in Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils control their own fate in the South.
First thing on fans' minds: First half. Things started incredibly well for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils forced an early turnover and punched it in for a touchdown just 52 seconds into the game. But star defensive lineman Will Sutton left the game with an injury, soon to be followed by a couple teammates, and Oregon gashed the remaining ASU defenders for six touchdowns in the first half, putting the game (and all the crowd's energy) away well before halftime.
Last week: 43-21 loss to Oregon
Up next: vs. UCLA on Saturday at 12 p.m.

6. Arizona (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats get first Pac-12 win in blowout fashion
Why they're not higher/lower: Arizona entered its bye with three straight disheartening losses to top-20 teams. It exited its bye by destroying Washington 52-17. It seems the Wildcats needed the break to recover, or maybe it was just playing an unranked opponent for the first time in over a month. Either way, Arizona looked much more like the team that started 3-0 than it has at any point recently.
First thing on fans' minds: Running game. For a team with an explosive passing offense, Arizona actually ended up with the same number of passing yards (256) as Washington, albeit on 30 fewer attempts. This opened up more opportunities for the running game, which blasted the Huskies for 277 yards, led by Ka'Deem Carey's 172. With this kind of balance, Arizona's offense will be even more formidable in its final five games.
Last week: 52-17 win over Washington
Up next: vs. USC on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

7. UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins still in decent position after bye
Why they're not higher/lower: UCLA sped out to a hot start to enter the top 25, but the Bruins went just 2-2 before their bye. It's hard to know what to make of a team that's scored 21 or fewer three times and 36 or more the other four, and also gave up 13 more points to Cal than it did to Nebraska or Oregon State. We'll have a better read on UCLA after its next two games, which both come against similar teams (Arizona State and Arizona).
First thing on fans' minds: Rest of the schedule. UCLA has five games left, and it's possible to see the Bruins winning or losing any of them. The games against both Arizona schools are basically toss-ups, and even a road trip to Washington State isn't a gimme after the way UCLA played at Cal. The final two games are both against ranked teams, but both are at home and winnable for the Bruins. It's just a matter of which UCLA team shows up after the bye to determine if this is a 6-6 team or a 9-3 team.
Last week: Bye
Up next: at Arizona State on Saturday at 12 p.m.


8. Washington (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Huskies lose third straight
Why they're not lower: Coming into the Arizona game, Washington had played just two games against teams outside the current top 20, so a 3-3 record was reasonable, if not a big achievement. Husky fans could point to the schedule as explanation for their mediocre record, and holding USC to 24 points seemed to suggest improvement. Then Washington ran into the Arizona buzzsaw, losing by more than it did against Oregon or USC, suggesting that schedule was not the only thing holding this team back, as Arizona seemed to be in the same boat as Washington coming in. Oh, and speaking of, here comes another top-10 opponent this week.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. The Washington offense has struggled all year, but its defense usually kept the team in games. Against Arizona, the defense had no answer for the Wildcats, giving up a surprising 277 rushing yards in addition to 256 through the air. Heading into another difficult matchup with Oregon State, Washington still has yet to find its strength.
Last week: 52-17 loss to Arizona
Up next: vs. Oregon State on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.

9. Cal (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Golden Bears lay an egg in rivalry game
Why they're not higher/lower: Cal was riding high coming into Big Game, having won two in a row and easing some of the pressure off head coach Jeff Tedford. Then the Bears got whipped on both sides of the ball, losing 21-3 and barely threatening to score any more than that. Now Tedford's seat is back to being scorching, and only a 3-1 or 4-0 finish to the season would put Cal in a bowl game, and both Oregon and Oregon State remain on the schedule.
First thing on fans' minds: Offense. The Cal offense was virtually nonexistent on Saturday, managing just 217 total yards. The team rushed for just 3 yards on 28 carries, while Zach Maynard failed to outpass Josh Nunes. Keenan Allen had his worst game of the year with just 43 receiving yards, and the team as a whole managed as many turnovers (three) as points.
Last week: 21-3 loss to Stanford
Up next: at Utah on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

10. Utah (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes lose another conference game
Why they're not higher/lower: Utah has been respectable in its past few losses, but respectable losses are not what this team was aiming for in 2012. The Utes shut down the Oregon State offense on the road, but turnovers proved to be the difference. At 2-5 and winless in conference play, Utah needs to turn things around fast. Luckily for the Utes, the five teams remaining on their schedule are a combined 5-16 in Pac-12 play.
First thing on fans' minds: Offense. They say defense wins championships, but you need some kind of offense to win games. Out of four Pac-12 games, Utah has scored multiple offensive touchdowns just once. That's not going to win you games in this conference.
Last week: 21-7 loss to Oregon State
Up next: vs. Cal on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

11. Washington State (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars in need of wins
Why they're not higher/lower: Mike Leach and company are coming off a bye, so there is hope that Leach can at least get his team playing better for the final five games of the season. Three of the five are on the road, but there are still some winnable games left on the schedule, and Leach needs some positive momentum at the end of his first season in Pullman.
First thing on fans' minds: Arizona's model? Washington State has to face the Stanford defense this week, and that appears to be a tall order. The Cougars might try to take a page out of Arizona's book, using lots of short passes (something Wazzu likes to do anyway) to get the ball to playmakers in space. It may be too tall a task, but any hope is good for Washington State fans this year.
Last week: Bye
Up next: at Stanford on Saturday at 3:15 p.m.

12. Colorado (1-6, 1-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes completely outmatched
Why they're not higher: On Saturday, Colorado surrendered multiple Pac-12 records and lost by 44. What could make that worse? How about being an even bigger underdog this week against an even better team? The Buffaloes are 46-point underdogs at Oregon, and I don't know that there's a person in the country that thinks Oregon couldn't win by 60 if it felt like it. Not the best time to be a Colorado fan.
First thing on fans' minds: 20. Out of 120 full-fledged FBS teams, Colorado is in the bottom 20 in, to name a few stats: rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin, pass defense, pass efficiency, and sacks allowed.
Last week: 50-6 loss to USC
Up next: at Oregon on Saturday at 12 p.m.