Today marks our first Pac-12 power rankings of 2012. But before we get to the rankings, it's time to clear up precisely what we are ranking here. The term "power rankings" can mean several different things, but it is usually just an ordering of teams based on how good they are. Yawn. If you want that, just check out the polls and then order the rest based on their record.
But where's the fun in that? Where's the intrigue? Where's the controversy? Cue the Rule of Tree Pac-12 power rankings. These rankings will measure how well a team has done and how happy the fan base should be, with ZERO weight given to team talent or predicted success. And if you've seen our recent predictions, you know Rule of Tree is a lot better at looking back than looking forward.
So without further ado, the Pac-12 power rankings (all times Pacific, as this is the Pac-12):
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Arizona (2-0)
Why they're here: Wildcats sneaked past a good team and crushed a very good team
Why they're not lower: No one else in the conference has a second-best win as good as Arizona's over Toledo, even if it was shaky. And no one expected the double-digit underdogs to tattoo Oklahoma State to the tune of 59-38. Sounds like No. 1 to me.
First thing on fans' minds: Ka'Deem Carey. If not for a certain UCLA ballcarrier, Carey would be one of the stories of the conference this season. The sophomore is already over halfway to his season rushing total from last year, and his four-touchdown performance against Oklahoma State was one of the best by anyone this season.
Last week: 59-38 win over Oklahoma State
Up next: vs. South Carolina State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
2. UCLA (2-0)
Why they're here: Bruins followed stat-stuffer with impressive home upset
Why they're not higher: It was tight between UCLA and Arizona. UCLA stomped Rice and then held off Nebraska with a surprising amount of offense in each game, and it's clear the Rick Neuheisel era is over. But I was more surprised to see Oklahoma State collapse than to see Nebraska have a bad day (you just never know with Taylor Martinez, and Rex Burkhead was hurt). Needless to say, though, Bruin fans should be thrilled even to be in the conversation for No. 1.
First thing on fans' minds: Johnathan Franklin. The nation's leading rusher has been thought of as a good running back for years, but after reeling off the second and third 200-yard games of his career, he's suddenly in the thick of the Heisman discussion.
Last week: 36-30 win over Nebraska
Up next: vs. Houston on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
3. Oregon State (1-0)
Why they're here: Beavers stymied one of last year's most potent offenses
Why they're not higher: Oregon State was as surprisingly good as any team in the country, outside of maybe Louisiana-Monroe, by completely stifling Wisconsin's offense. But it is just one win, which is no fault of the Beavers of course, and Northern Iowa also got pretty close to knocking off the Badgers. Still, a huge first win for Mike Riley's crew puts them in bowl discussion after an abysmal 2011.
First thing on fans' minds: 207 total yards. That's all Montee Ball, Danny O'Brien, and the Wisconsin offense could muster against the stingy Oregon State defense. The Badgers had as many turnovers (two) as third-down conversions.
Last week: 10-7 win over Wisconsin
Up next: Bye, then at UCLA on 9/22 at 12:30 p.m.
4. Arizona State (2-0)
Why they're here: Sun Devils exploded offensively over two outmatched opponents
Why they're not higher: Arizona State absolutely dismantled FCS foe Northern Arizona, and then turned around and crushed Illinois. The two wins certainly stuffed the stat sheets, but don't forget that the Sun Devils played an FCS team and a mediocre Big Ten team that was missing its starting quarterback. Let's see where they stand after playing a good team. Like this weekend.
First thing on fans' minds: 108 points. That's how much Arizona State has put up through two games this season. In case you're wondering, that's third in the nation and the most by a team without the fortune of playing Savannah State.
Last week: 45-14 win over Illinois
Up next: at Missouri on Saturday at 4 p.m.
5. USC (2-0)
Why they're here: Trojans cruised through first two weeks without much trouble
Why they're not higher/lower: This may be the only ranking in the country that puts USC as low as fifth in its own conference, but the truth is that the Trojans have not done that much. They've taken care of their business by beating Hawaii and Syracuse, sure, but they were actually closer to No. 6 than No. 4 for me. The only thing keeping them ahead of Oregon was that, unlike most of the top teams on this list, the Trojans actually left their home stadium (and time zone).
First thing on fans' minds: Matt Barkley. The pride of Mater Dei High School has not disappointed all the writers that dubbed him the odds-on favorite for the Heisman this year. Through two games, he's thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception.
Last week: 42-29 win over Syracuse
Up next: at Stanford on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
6. Oregon (2-0)
Why they're here: Ducks had no trouble winning first two games over lesser teams
Why they're not higher: It may be overly harsh to have Oregon all the way down at sixth, but the Ducks really have not beaten anybody relevant. Home wins over Arkansas State (a good team last year, but the same team that barely beat one of the worst teams in the country this last weekend) and Fresno State (no longer relevant without Pat Hill) don't get you far in my book. Of course, there's plenty of time for Oregon to make a bigger statement, and I fully expect the Ducks to do so. Just not this week.
First thing on fans' minds: First-half offense. When Oregon wants to score, it scores. Plain and simple. 50-10 and 35-6 would be impressive games, but those are just the first-half scores of Oregon's two contests. Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas, and Kenjon Barner have all been as advertised, and only Chip Kelly taking things easy in the second halves have kept the final scores reasonably close.
Last week: 42-25 win over Fresno State
Up next: vs. Tennessee Tech on Saturday at 12 p.m.
7. Stanford (2-0)
Why they're here: Cardinal looked bad in first win but improved in week two
Why they're not higher: This is Rule of Tree, a Stanford blog. But Stanford's first two weeks were not nearly impressive enough for the Cardinal to crack the top half in this week's power rankings. An awful performance against San Jose State was saved from disaster when Stanford pulled out the win, and the Cardinal did bounce back against Duke. But it was not nearly as convincing as the final score would indicate, and Stanford showed several weaknesses against lesser competition. Still, two wins keep the Cardinal in the "happy" category. For now.
First thing on fans' minds: What's missing. For the first time in years, Stanford has to go into a big game without Andrew Luck, and confidence in Josh Nunes is not exactly sky-high, despite his good start. What could be more troubling is the offensive line, which has not looked anything like the dominant unit of years past. Without Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, Stanford has managed just 123.5 rushing yards per game (93rd in the nation) and against Duke was held below 100 yards for the first time in four years.
Last week: 50-13 win over Duke
Up next: vs. USC on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
NOT-SO-HAPPY FAN BASE
8. Washington (1-1)
Why they're here: Huskies grinded out one win but got thumped by better team in week two
Why they're not higher/lower: There really is a massive gap between Washington and No. 7 or No. 9. The Huskies, unlike the teams above them, had their rear ends handed to them in a blowout loss to LSU. Of course, that is a much, much, much more respectable loss than the teams below them have, and at least Washington beat a decent San Diego State team, even though the win wasn't incredibly convincing.
First thing on fans' minds: The offense. After getting shellacked by Baylor in last year's Alamo Bowl, the Washington defense looked like the weak spot. And having Keith Price back at quarterback gave Huskies fans hope for a formidable offense. In two games, though, Washington has managed just two offensive touchdowns and only 511 total yards.
Last week: 41-3 loss to LSU
Up next: vs. Portland State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
9. Cal (1-1)
Why they're here: Golden Bears fell flat in opener and let bad FCS team hang around
Why they're not lower: Cal flopped in its return to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium with a loss to Nevada, and then followed it up with a lackluster win over Southern Utah. Not much to cheer about, but at least Cal pulled away in its win and was close in its loss.
First thing on fans' minds: Jeff Tedford. Every year seems to bring up the question of whether or not Tedford should be on the hot seat. And every year, after seeming to support Tedford, Cal fails to meet expectations. This year began with high hopes, and after two weeks, they're mostly gone. Hard to imagine Tedford's seat is anything but warm at this point. Oh, and Cal goes to the Horseshoe this weekend to play Ohio State.
Last week: 50-31 win over Southern Utah
Up next: at Ohio State on Saturday at 9 a.m.
10. Washington State (1-1)
Why they're here: Cougars laid an egg in week one and then barely survived an FCS team
Why they're not higher/lower: There isn't much separating Cal and Wazzu. Both looked bad in a season-opening loss before scratching out a win over an FCS foe. Washington State had to face BYU and Eastern Washington, which are better teams than Cal had to face. But the Cougars also looked dreadful against BYU and inspired no confidence against EWU.
First thing on fans' minds: Mike Leach's offense. As in, where is it? The offensive mastermind from Texas Tech has not brought many points to Pullman, as the Cougars managed just six against BYU before not scoring in the whole second half against Eastern Washington. Jeff Tuel and Marquess Wilson appear to give Wazzu a solid foundation for an explosive attack, but it hasn't happened so far.
Last week: 24-20 win over Eastern Washington
Up next: at UNLV on Friday at 6 p.m.
11. Utah (1-1)
Why they're here: Utes had easy win over FCS team before upset loss to rival
Why they're not higher: In terms of sheer production, Utah has not been as bad as Cal or Washington State. The Utes had a more convincing win and a closer loss. But losing to rival Utah State, a team the Utes had beaten 12 straight times, plummets Utah to this unenviable spot. The icing on Utah's cake of doom was Jordan Wynn hurting his shoulder. Again. The quarterback's fourth shoulder injury forced him to call it quits, and all of a sudden, those bright preseason expectations have been flushed down the drain. And just when everything is gloomy, Utah has to play its other rival, BYU, this weekend.
First thing on fans' minds: Wynn. He played miserably against Utah State and then suffered another injury, forcing him to retire. This was supposed to be the year that he finally played a full season and led the Utes to the promise land, but things did not work out for Wynn or, so far, the team.
Last week: 27-20 overtime loss to Utah State
Up next: vs. BYU on Saturday at 7 p.m.
10,000. Colorado (0-2)
Why they're here: Buffaloes lost to two bad teams
Why they're not higher: I think 10,000th is fairly generous for the Buffs at this point. Colorado stunk up the joint against archrival Colorado State, losing a game that nearly everyone expected them to win. It must have taken a lot out of both teams, though, because both lost the next week to FCS opponents. Colorado was stunned by Sacramento State on a last-second field goal, but the truth is that the Hornets were the better team in that game. And before you go thinking "well, Sac State is a good team, they beat Oregon State last year!" consider this: last week, that same Sacramento State lost to New Mexico State. By 30 points.
First thing on fans' minds: Finding a place to hide. Or any winnable games left on the schedule.
Last week: 30-28 loss to Sacramento State
Up next: at Fresno State on Saturday at 5 p.m.