SportsPac12: 2018 Pac-12 Football - Week 6 Power Ratings
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2018 Pac-12 Football - Week 6 Power Ratings

October 02, 2018

Pac-12 Football: Week Six Power Rankings

Last week brought more clarity in the North, with Washington re-establishing itself at the top, at least for now, and Oregon gaining an edge over Cal. The South remains muddled, to say the least. But ASU's visit to Boulder on Saturday should finally test Colorado's front-runner status.

1. Washington (4-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 2 
For a team nearly everyone counted out of the national title picture after Week One, the Huskies played like Playoff contenders against BYU. Washington's dominating performance should send a fresh scare through the rest of the Conference teams with the Dawgs on their schedule. Until proven otherwise—whether in Eugene in two weeks or elsewhere—the Dawgs belong at the head of the Pac-12 class. UCLA, currently seated well to the back, isn't likely to give UW much of a game. But while Chris Petersen may have exacted his revenge against Oregon and then-coach Mark Helfrich in a blowout two years ago at Autzen, he still owes Chip Kelly a thumping or two from the days when he wore yellow and green.

2. Stanford (4-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 1 

The Cardinal's soft underbelly, a stunningly ineffective running attack that averages just 94 yards per game, had already been exposed by Oregon and San Diego State. But Notre Dame made Stanford appear one-dimensional in exploiting it. Not that folks on the Farm need to worry too much. K.J. Costello has all but compensated for the Tree's rushing defect with 1,260 yards passing to his cohort of strong, tall receivers. Couple that with Bryce Love's occasional breakaway run, and Stanford still has more than enough weapons to beat most teams, if not the Irish. Stanford's head-to-head victory over the Ducks keeps them ahead of Oregon on this list for now, but the hungry Utes could have a say in that.

3. Oregon (4-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 3 
The shinny chrome blur is back. Oregon's explosive offense and opportunistic defense kept Cal off-balance, but it was Oregon's ability to bounce back from a tough loss quickly that impressed most. Credit the no-nonsense culture Mario Cristobal has imprinted on the Ducks for their inspired and measured response. The way his players have bought in, it's easy to forget he's the team's third coach in as many years. And thanks to a couple strong recruiting classes, there's ample speed and talent in Eugene again. The confidence and swagger appears to be back as well, and not just in the form of sideline swag dances. Justin Herbert, one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, makes everything go.

4. Colorado (4-0) — Last Week's Ranking: 4 
Yes, Colorado's opponents have compiled a combined record of 1-16, and yes, that has afforded CU the easiest first four games of any team in the Conference. But that doesn't make the Buffs unworthy of their ranking. At least not to those who have seen Colorado quarterback Steven Montez hook up with Laviska Shenault on some of their 38 completions for 581 yards and four touchdowns. The potent passing combo transcends the level of competition, and has helped foster the emergence of transfer running back Travon McMillian. Next up, battle-tested ASU, which already has a quality win under its belt, and is happy to give the buffaloes a much-needed chance to prove they're for real. 

5. USC (3-2) — Last Week's Ranking: 5 
Youth aside, USC's problems against opponents both weak and strong has been difficult to fathom. When the Trojans are clicking behind Aca'Cedric Ware and Stephen Carr, you can't help but wonder why a team so rich in talent isn't sitting comfortably in the Top 10. Still, preserving an ugly win in Tucson was a positive, if baby step. But after this week's bye, the time for baby steps may be over. USC doesn't tolerate mediocrity well, and the margin for error is razor-thin. Perhaps a week off is just what the Trojans need to regroup, clean up their mistakes, and finish the second half of the season strong.

6. Washington State (4-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 7 
The Cougars weren't supposed to hang around with any of the established teams this year, let alone contend for a North title. But if Gardner Minshew and Easop Winston Jr. keep up their magic—which has already accounted for 22 completions, 327 yards, and five touchdowns—who knows where it could end? Mike Leach could have WSU challenging Washington, Stanford, and Oregon for the top of the Division, particularly if the Cougar defense continues to improve. That doesn't mean WSU can take its road trip to OSU lightly. The Beavs seem destine to upset a Pac-12 team this season, and the Cougars may be as good a candidate as any. 

7. California (3-1) — Last Week's Ranking: 6 
Cal played the Ducks closer than the score indicated, and could have been in the game at the end with another break or two, if not for some miscues. The Bears seem to have many of the pieces in place that Justin Wilcox needs to play his tough brand of football, especially on defense. But Cal still lacks the offensive consistency to keep up with an explosive and disruptive team like Oregon. The first step might be settling on a quarterback. Elusive Brandon McIlwain looked like he was channeling last season's Khalil Tate at times, and seems on the verge of earning the the starting spot outright. Once he gains the poise of a Herbert or Minshew, the Bears could be in business.  

8. Arizona State (3-2) — Last Week's Ranking: 9 
ASU dispatched the Beavers as expected, but didn't quite put them away as early as they could have. To steady the up-and-down sway of a season still ripe with promise, the Sun Devils need to put two good games together, and they need to win one on the road. Arizona State could accomplish both goals in Boulder, if they limit the defensive lapses and find a way to finish. Having learned that a game can turn on a single play or penalty, and that no lead is safe, the Devils now need to learn how to knock out an opponent when they get the chance. But they aren't likely to blow out the Buffs, who have chips on their shoulders as well.

9. Utah (2-2) — Last Week's Ranking: 8 
The Utes played better offensively against Washington State, an encouraging enough sign, but their inability to close out the game at the end was equally discouraging. Utah failed to establish its identity in non-conference play, and the cost of doing so during Conference competition has been two painful losses. But the turning point may not be that far off: Tyler Huntley and Zach Moss both ran the ball much better against WSU, even if the U's defense bent more than usual. Utah should have a chance to show off what it learned vs. the Washington schools when it visits the Farm.

10. Arizona (2-3) — Last Week's Ranking: 10 
In some ways, the Wildcats are a mirror image of USC: Substantially less star-power, but enough talent and experience to have defeated BYU and a young Trojan team, had they shown up with sufficient focus and effort. Aye, there's the rub. Sloppy play can be fixed, but a lack of desire and intensity raises questions of another sort. The Wildcats seemed to lack motivation at times this season, and that can be deadly; teams that don't play hard rarely win close games. It's too early to point fingers at a first-year coaching staff, but the Cats need to find a sense of urgency and some leadership to turn things around.

11. Oregon State (1-4) — Last Week's Ranking: 12  
Losing is never commendable, but it's difficult to imagine many Beaver fans being upset with how Oregon State is playing. OSU's early season schedule has been as brutal as any in the nation, and Jonathan Smith's overmatched team hasn't shown any signs of giving up. Jermar Jefferson, who has already combined with the injured Artavis Pierce for 995 yards, never stopped attacking in Tempe, even when the score got out of hand. When Pierce returns it won't be difficult to imagine the Beavs winning a game or two. And it wouldn't be wise to count them out completely against WSU this week.

12. UCLA (0-4) — Last Week's Ranking: 11 
Former Bruins coach Jim Mora was sitting in Chip Kelly's old seat in ESPN's football studios on-air Saturday, smiling. The Bruins are no longer his problem. Sure, there were some bright spots in UCLA's game against Colorado the night before; signs of determination and enthusiasm that had been lacking the first three games. And for a quarter, it seemed as though the Bruins might have a chance to earn a Conference win. But, alas, they don't play the Beavers this season, and there's just too much youth in Westwood to expect UCLA to sneak up on any other Pac-12 team.