SportsPac12: Pac-12 Football: Week Three Power Rankings
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Pac-12 Football: Week Three Power Rankings

September 10, 2018

Pac-12 Football: Week Three Power Rankings

The days of living on last year's glory and preseason hype are over. Three teams make big, dramatic leaps this week, based on their performance over the last two games.

Stanford running back Bryce Love sprints away from a Trojan on one of his 22 carries for 136 yards against USC last week.  
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1. Stanford (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 5 

The Cardinal's victory over the Trojans is the most merit-worthy win of the first two weeks. As the first team to claim a major Conference victory, No. 9 Stanford has the inside track to the North title, if not the Pac-12 championship. Getting Bryce Love back on track with 136 yards seemed to make both the offense and defense better. But limiting USC's three dynamic running backs to just 114 yards collectively may have been the biggest key to shutting down JT Daniels and his talented receivers. 

2. Arizona State (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 7 
The Sun Devils were the butt of countless media jokes in the offseason: They were going to start slow, look awkward, and take a nose-dive to the bottom of the Conference. Well, that narrative no longer aligns with reality. Arizona State didn't flinch against then-No. 15 Michigan State, holding the Spartans to 63 yards rushing, and moving the ball just well enough to win. The Devils put on a clock-management clinic in the last two minutes, showcasing Herm Edwards's wily approach, and announcing his team's ability to contend for the South title. 

3. Washington (1-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 1 
The Huskies weren't as impressive this week against North Dakota as they had been against Auburn, but a letdown of some sort was probably to be expected coming off their emotional loss in Atlanta. That's not why they drop here though. Washington's Top 10 loss carried more weight in Week One than any Pac-12 win; now the wins by Stanford and ASU have eclipsed it.
 Depending on what happens elsewhere Saturday, the Dawgs could contend for the top spot again, if they beat Utah.

4. Colorado (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 9 
Some will argue that defeating an inexperienced Husker team in Scott Frost's first game doesn't justify Colorado's big jump, but their victory over Nebraska ranks among the Top 4 wins by Conference teams so far this season. Whether the Buffaloes can stay here, or climb higher, depends on what they do after a breather vs. New Hampshire. Regardless, in overcoming mistakes that would have sunk last year's Buffs—and maintaining their poise in front of a notoriously hostile crowd in Lincoln—CU made a claim for belonging among the best South teams this week.

5. Oregon (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 4 
The Ducks continue to impress against teams that have no chance of beating them, which makes it difficult to evaluate them fairly on this list. Destroying Portland State isn't enough to hold off up-and-coming ASU and resurgent Colorado when those teams dispatch quality foes. None of which is Oregon's fault. The good news is that the Ducks will be done toying with under-matched schools after Saturday, and we'll see what Justin Herbert and Company can do against Stanford. 

6. Utah (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 3 
The Utes weren't necessarily expected to blow out Northern Illinois—a rock-solid MAC team—but neither were they expected to struggle. Utah continues to dominate on defense, but that probably won't be enough against Washington. Playing before a loud Rice-Eccles crowd should help bring back Utah's energy and focus, if not more points. Kyle Whittingham's staff needs to exploit Tyler Huntley's dual-threat capabilities better, and allow him to open up the U's potentially explosive offense.

7. USC (1-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 2 

The Trojans are the new Mystery Team of the Conference, at least for now. Will they coalesce into a contender worthy of their talent, or content themselves with building toward a big 2019? JT Daniels seemed overwhelmed by Stanford's defense, and when he's out of his comfort zone, the rest of USC's offense seems out of sorts as well. The Trojan defense did its part in keeping it close, but SC's young and talented skill players didn't rise to the occasion. It's anybody's guess when they will.

8. Washington State (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 6 
Despite running away from lowly San Jose State 31-0, the cougars weren't as dominant as many expected. That may not be fair, given all the new elements Mike Leach is juggling, and it's not the reason for the red down-arrow. Wazzu simply got jumped by two hot teams. Given Gardner Minshew's solid quarterback play, WSU will have a good chance to climb into the Top 5 of this list with its first two conference games against USC and Utah—provided it survives a visit from Eastern Washington.

9. California (2-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 8 
As with WSU, the Bears did not drop so much as get bypassed. Cal looked well-prepared, if a bit underwhelming against BYU, a team with issues of its own. Still, there's a lot to like about Cal's ability to find new ways to win each week. The Bears seem to fit their tight-knit pieces together like carpenter ants, reconfiguring their structure whenever needed. All told, Cal has played about as expected. A win over Idaho State on Saturday in advance of a bye week sets up an interesting opportunity against Oregon at home.

10. Oregon State (1-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 12 ⬆ The Beavers may end up being the worst team in the Conference, but they haven't looked the part in the first two weeks. Yes, they gave up truckloads of yards and points to the Buckeyes, but they gained their share as well. Oregon State reaffirmed its offensive explosiveness against Southern Utah, with Jermar Jefferson showing the Beavs have not one, but two quality running backs. Jefferson and Artavis Pierce (who was injured last week and is now out four weeks) have combined for a stunning 544 yards in the first two games. 

11. UCLA (0-2) — Last Week's Ranking: 11 
The Bruins probably improved more than they showed on the field in Norman, but Oklahoma has a way of making everyone look bad. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson demonstrated some of the versatility and elusiveness that made him such an elite recruit. Come season's end, UCLA will be better for having thrown him in the fire. Nonetheless, the Bruins have too many kinks to work out in Year One of Chip Kelly's rebuilding project to compete with the top teams in the Conference.

12. Arizona (0-2) — Last Week's Ranking: 10 
The Wildcats went from a sleeper national title contender, complete with the Heisman favorite, to one of the biggest disappointments in college football in the span of two weeks. Few saw it coming, least of all Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin and Khalil Tate. But the Cats need to forget about that and figure out what works. Tate probably isn't going to carry the offense the way he did last year, at least not within the current scheme. Whatever adjustments Arizona makes, it needs to make them fast.