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Pac-12 Power Rankings: 9/18

Is there any doubt about who's No. 1?
Is there any doubt about who's No. 1?

Last week was all about the Pac-12 pulling big upsets, and our Pac-12 power rankings reflected that. This week was much less notable for the conference as a whole, apart from one huge conference game. I think you might know which one I'm talking about.

So without further ado, the Pac-12 power rankings (all times Pacific, as this is the Pac-12):


1. Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: 21-14
Why they're not lower: Was there any question who'd be No. 1? Whoever won the first Pac-12 game of 2012 would be taking the top spot, but the way in which Stanford stifled USC made this the ultimate no-brainer. The Cardinal didn't just have the win of the week; Stanford now owns the best win of any team in the country, and it's not really debatable. Say what you will about this being a Stanford blog (which it is), but show me another team that has knocked off the preseason No. 1 team and held the Heisman favorite scoreless.
First thing on fans' minds: Zero. As in Matt Barkley had zero touchdown passes (fun fact: Saturday was only the second game of Barkley's career in which he had two more interceptions than touchdowns. The other: 2009 vs. Stanford). Even more impressive, USC had zero points in the second half. And yes, Barkley has zero career wins in four games against Stanford. Even the most optimistic Cardinal supporter couldn't have expected this kind of dominance from the Stanford defense. Extremely honorable mention for the beastly performance of Stepfan Taylor.
Last week: 21-14 win over USC
Up next: Bye, then at Washington on 9/27 at 6 p.m.

2. Arizona (3-0)
Why they're here: Wildcats haven't lost, have scored 115 points in two games
Why they're not higher/lower: You can't blame the Wildcats for falling from the top. There was just no way to match Stanford. Still, Arizona has done everything it could be asked to do and has made Rich Rod's start in Tucson a happy one. The offense has been potent, and even the 38 points the defense surrendered to Oklahoma State look better compared to the 149 points the Cowboys have scored in their other two games.
First thing on fans' minds: This Saturday. Beating South Carolina State is all well and good, but the competition steps up several notches this week, as the Wildcats must leave home for the first time to take on Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Going from the easiest game on your schedule to the toughest is not usually a recipe for success, so Arizona will have a tough time being this high in the rankings next week.
Last week: 56-0 win over South Carolina State
Up next: at Oregon on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

3. UCLA (3-0)
Why they're here: Bruins have yet to be stopped
Why they're not higher: UCLA has done everything it has been asked to do so far, and the only place it has come up short is in these rankings. The Bruins had no trouble with Houston, but here at Rule of Tree, we want to see wins over the big boys, and these days Houston is hardly better than an FCS team. If UCLA can keep putting up points against Oregon State, this team could very easily start 8-0 or better.
First thing on fans' minds: Johnathan Franklin. In a "subpar" game, Franklin managed 110 rushing yards, moving him into second place in UCLA's career list and keeping him out front as the nation's leading rusher. His task could be tougher this weekend against an Oregon State team that held Montee Ball to 61 yards.
Last week: 37-6 win over Houston
Up next: vs. Oregon State on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

4. Utah (2-1)
Why they're here: Utes respond to rivalry loss with rivalry win
Why they're not lower: You don't expect to see a team rise from 11th to fourth, but you also don't expect a team that lost to Utah State to beat BYU the next week. Especially without its starting quarterback. Beating your biggest rival is more than enough to make up for losing to your secondary rival, and Utah is back on track for a run at the Pac-12 South crown and possibly a nine- or 10-win season.
First thing on fans' minds: That ending. Utah led 24-7 in the fourth quarter and appeared to be cruising to a big rivalry win before BYU responded with two touchdowns to narrow the deficit to three points. The Cougars then had three different "last plays" thanks to a second being added and a wild personal foul called on the crowd for rushing the field. In the end, Utah survived thanks to BYU missing both possible game-tying field goals.
Last week: 24-21 win over BYU
Up next: at Arizona State on Saturday at 7 p.m.

5. Oregon (3-0)
Why they're here: Ducks still haven't been challenged
Why they're not higher/lower: Here again, we have a team with a lower ranking in the Pac-12 power rankings than in the AP poll. Why? Oregon has been completely dominant but still hasn't beaten anyone. A win over Tennessee Tech isn't going to skyrocket the Ducks, and they only edge their intrastate rivals because at least they've played three times.
First thing on fans' minds: De'Anthony Thomas. Marcus Mariota has been great so far, but Thomas's efficiency has been out of this world. In three games, Thomas has just 24 offensive touches but they've gone for 382 yards and seven touchdowns. In other words, if you get him the ball, he'll gain about 16 yards and have a 30-percent chance of scoring a touchdown. The only question is what he'll do when he plays a whole game, as Oregon's nonconference schedule is mercifully over.
Last week: 63-14 win over Tennessee Tech
Up next: vs. Arizona on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

6. Oregon State (1-0)
Why they're here: Beavers still haven't played their second game
Why they're not higher: Oregon State's monumental upset of Wisconsin isn't seeming so monumental anymore, as the Badgers nearly lost to Northern Iowa and should have lost to Utah State in their other two games. Due to Louisiana weather and odd scheduling, Oregon State hasn't gotten a chance to play another game yet, so it's hard to move them ahead of any 3-0 teams.
First thing on fans' minds: Schedule. Oregon State is the only FBS team that has played only one game so far this season, and now the Beavers have the unhappy task of playing 11 weeks in a row without a bye. The stretch starts with back-to-back road games against ranked Pac-12 teams.
Last week: Bye
Up next: at UCLA on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.


7. Arizona State (2-1)
Why they're here: Sun Devils fell just short in tough road contest
Why they're not higher/lower: Arizona State looked great through two weeks, and many people thought the Sun Devils could pull the upset in a hostile environment at Missouri. They didn't, but they played respectably well and had a golden opportunity to win it at the end. ASU fans can't be too upset with this loss, but at the same time, it was against a Missouri team without its best player, so it's hard to put the Sun Devils too high on the list.
First thing on fans' minds: Turnovers. Arizona State was nearly even with Missouri in every category except giving the ball away. The Sun Devils turned the ball over four times, and you can't expect to win a tough road game doing that. Even in dominant wins over Northern Arizona and Illinois, Arizona State had three turnovers in its first two games, so this is clearly an issue to look at now that Pac-12 play is underway.
Last week: 24-20 loss to Missouri
Up next: vs. Utah on Saturday at 7 p.m.

8. Washington (2-1)
Why they're here: Huskies need to beat real team to make up for LSU beatdown
Why they're not higher/lower: Washington's record indicates that the Huskies are doing fine, and in a sense they are. They've beaten the teams they should beat and lost to the team everyone knew they would lose to. But it's hard to get that bad taste out of your mouth after getting destroyed against LSU, and beating FCS Portland State isn't enough. Luckily (or unluckily), the Huskies will soon have several chances to prove their mettle on the field.
First thing on fans' minds: Upcoming schedule. Washington gets to rest before its Thursday game next week, but there won't be much rest after that. The Huskies' next four opponents, in order, are Stanford, Oregon, USC, and Arizona. There may not be a tougher four-game stretch for any team in the nation, especially since Washington is no slouch either (we think).
Last week: 52-13 win over Portland State
Up next: Bye, then vs. Stanford on 9/27 at 6 p.m.

9. Cal (1-2)
Why they're here: Cal looks better in loss than in either of first two games
Why they're not higher/lower: There may not be moral victories in sports, but there are in the Pac-12 power rankings. The Golden Bears showed more fight and more potential in losing to Ohio State than they did in beating Southern Utah or losing to Nevada. This team has something to build on and hope for the rest of the season, and fans, despite being unhappy about not closing out the job, should feel relieved that Cal finally showed up to play.
First thing on fans' minds: Kicking game. Sure, the defense gave up some big plays, but the outcome of the game would have been markedly different if Cal still had graduated kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. Against the Buckeyes, junior Vincenzo D'Amato missed three field-goal attempts. Granted, all were over 40 yards, but that still makes D'Amato 2-6 on tries over 30 yards. That won't get it done when Cal needs every point it can get.
Last week: 35-28 loss to Ohio State
Up next: at USC on Saturday at 3 p.m.

10. Washington State (2-1)
Why they're here: Cougars beat an FBS team, just not much of an FBS team
Why they're not higher/lower: Wazzu is 2-1. That's the good news. The bad news is the two wins were against an FCS team (Eastern Washington) and a worse team (UNLV). And even though the combined margin of victory was 12 points, at least they are wins. And on the even brighter side, the Cougars' easiest game of all might be this week. Hello, Buffaloes!
First thing on fans' minds: Air Raid offense sighting. For the first time in the Mike Leach era, we saw a glimpse of the potent passing attack he's so famous for. Semi-backup Connor Halliday threw four touchdowns in the first half as the passing game finally opened up. The team scored just once in the second half, but it was still progress.
Last week: 35-27 win over UNLV
Up next: vs. Colorado on Saturday at 1 p.m.


11. USC (2-1)
Why they're here: 21-14
Why they're not higher: Remember, these are power rankings. Is USC better than most of the teams ahead of it? I think so. But do the Trojans have any right to be higher on this list? Absolutely not. The so-called "unfinished business" looks like it may be permanently unfinished as Matt Barkley and his teammates failed yet again to beat Stanford. When you have aspirations of a national title and a Heisman Trophy and a record-setting offense, losing in your third game to the team that has your number while putting up dismal offensive numbers is about as bad as it gets. The Trojans will rebound, but who knows if they'll ever truly get over this loss.
First thing on fans' minds: Greatest offense ever assembled. I don't know where it is, but it certainly isn't the Cardinal and Gold. Barkley can have no claim to Heisman contention when he got thoroughly outplayed by Josh Nunes. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were contained by a young Stanford secondary, and the running game totaled 26 yards on 28 carries. USC made only one third-down conversion all game and did not score in the second half. Or, to put it more succinctly, the Trojans scored fewer points at Stanford Stadium than San Jose State did.
Last week: 21-14 loss to Stanford
Up next: vs. Cal on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Unranked. Colorado (0-3)
Why they're here: Buffaloes are just an embarrassment at this point
Why they're not higher: Colorado lost to its rival (a bad Colorado State team) and then fell at home to an FCS team. And yet the Buffs still may have saved their most embarrassing loss for this past weekend, when they got absolutely blitzed by an otherwise mediocre Fresno State team. You know it's bad when the final score makes the game seem closer than it was, and the final score is still 69-14. The Bulldogs put up 516 yards of offense and 55 points IN THE FIRST HALF. And it's not like this is a juggernaut; Fresno State is coming off a 4-9 season in which it fired longtime coach Pat Hill. But the cure for any ailing team seems to be a date with Colorado.
First thing on fans' minds: Nine. As in, Colorado still has to play nine more games. And, at least on paper, all nine of them might be harder than any of the Buffs' first three contests.
Last week: 69-14 loss to Fresno State
Up next: at Washington State on Saturday at 1 p.m.