At least for one week, it looked like we had a surefire best team in the Pac-12. That was the Washington Huskies, who combined great defense with an improved offense behind Jacob Eason. Alas, they were upset at home by the California Golden Bears, who struggled with FCS team UC Davis the week before. Now we know nothing, except that the Pac-12 South is trash.
12. UCLA Bruins (0-2)
LW: 23-14 loss vs. San Diego State
11. Oregon State Beavers (0-2)
LW: 31-28 loss @ Hawaii
10. Arizona Wildcats (1-1)
LW: 65-41 win over Northern Arizona (FCS)
9. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0)
LW: 19-7 win over Sacramento State (FCS)
The basement of the Pac-12 seems fairly certain. UCLA is a complete disaster and have taken over the Beavers as the worst of the worst. The Bruins are probably still the better team, but they had bowl hopes in Chip Kelly’s second year and everything has fallen apart with 10 left on the schedule. Down in Arizona, the Devils struggled horribly with FCS Sacramento State, as they led just 3-0 after halftime (ASU led Kent State 10-0 at half last week); the Wildcats, meanwhile, put up a bunch of points, but they gave up nearly as many points to FCS Northern Arizona as they did to Hawaii in Week 0.
8. Stanford Cardinal (1-1)
LW: 45-20 loss @ USC
7. USC Trojans (2-0)
LW: 45-20 win over Stanford
This looks to be the lower middle class of the conference thus far. Don’t be fooled by USC having a #24 ranking — they got that by beating the hell out of Stanford, who was ranked for some reason. Beating a ranked team is only impressive if that team belongs to be ranked, which Stanford did not, because this Cardinal offense is going nowhere until K.J. Costello is healthy. As for the Trojans, true freshman QB Kedon Slovis was impressive throwing to his freak receivers, but I’m not going to trust USC until they prove themselves. They have a difficult road ahead, as they play at BYU, vs. #11 Utah, at #23 Washington and at #7 Notre Dame in the next four weeks.
6. Colorado Buffaloes (2-0)
LW: 34-31 (OT) win over Nebraska
5. California Golden Bears (2-0)
LW: 20-19 win over Washington
4. Washington State Cougars (2-0)
LW: 59-17 win over Northern Colorado (FCS)
This would be the upper middle class of the conference, depending on CU’s staying power. I’m not sold yet on the Buffs, but this looks like it could be a 7- or 8-win team if this team is as tough as they seem. Cal doesn’t know what offense is, but that doesn’t matter if you have an elite defense. They’re gonna choke out some teams this year; whether that turns into 9-3 or 5-7 depends on swing plays in tight games. Then there’s Wazzu, who sleep walked through a win over Northern Colorado, which tells us nothing new about them. They’re the best bet to jump into the Pac-12 upper tier thanks to Mike Leach and an underrated defense.
3. Utah Utes (2-0)
LW: 35-17 win over Northern Illinois
Utah is very clearly the best team in the South, even if they haven’t looked all that impressive in wins over BYU and Northern Illinois. The defense is there to beat the hell out of people, while the offense is really just there to eat away at the clock. Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss move the chains, but this team lacks explosiveness. If they keep winning low-scoring slugfests, they’re going to need health and luck. They’re also the Pac-12 best and only shot at the College Football Playoff and we’re only been two weeks into the season.
2. Oregon Ducks (1-1)
LW: 77-6 win over Nevada
After a frustrating loss against Auburn — which was the Pac-12 best chance at a non-conference Playoff-caliber win — the Ducks took out their anger on a Nevada team that just team Purdue. This just confirms what we know about Oregon: they’re an experienced team with an elite quarterback, a combination of which makes them quite dangerous.
1. Washington Huskies (1-1)
LW: 20-19 loss at Cal
Even though they lost to Cal, the Huskies are still the best in the conference. They were the better team in the first half, but didn’t take advantage on the scoreboard. Cal also has a way of bothering the Huskies, as they beat UW last year and have had recent success against Chris Petersen. Washington still has a top tier defense and Jacob Eason is a huge improvement over Jake Browning, so I’ll ride with the Huskies until they drop another game.
Washington remaining the best in the Pac-12 means that the conference has seven or eight good teams, but no one really stands out from the pac. If those teams cannibalize — as the Pac-12 is wont to do — this could mean quite a bit of tumult in the standings throughout the year. This could be a really fun season with all kinds of upsets and chaos.