For the first time since the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), there has been a major conference without a 5-0 team. That would be the Pac-12, of course, whose only undefeated team, California, lost on Friday night. The Pac-12 is very, very likely going to miss out on the Playoff again. The chaos was going to happen at some point because there’s no conference as good at eating its own.
The conference is wide open. Everyone except Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have a conference loss, and those three teams are tied for first at just 1-0. Even more importantly, the dark circle of suck is 58% complete: Colorado > Arizona State > Cal > Washington > USC > Utah > Washington State. (That’s without the bottom feeders Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA, which is incredible.)
Tier 4: Bottom Feeders
12. Oregon State Beavers (1-3)
LW: L, 31-28 vs. Stanford
11. UCLA Bruins (1-4)
LW: L, 20-17 at Arizona
10. Stanford Cardinal (2-3)
LW: W, 31-28 at Oregon State
9. Arizona Wildcats (3-1)
LW: W, 20-17 vs. UCLA
This is very clearly the basement, pending Arizona’s collapse. For the Beavs, it’s truly sad that losing on a last second field goal to this Stanford team constitutes as an upset bid. But I’m not gonna make of OSU too much, because I do that enough. UCLA, Stanford and Arizona all have a conference win, but they were (1) an insane comeback over a Wazzu team that appears to be falling apart, (2) a last second field goal over Oregon State, and (3) a low-scoring shootout over UCLA. These teams can beat up on each other all year, pull off an occasional upset over a sleeping team, but the basement will stay the basement.
Tier 3: Completely Unpredictable
8. Washington State Cougars (3-2)
LW: L, 38-13 at Utah
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-1)
LW: W, 24-17 at Cal
6. USC Trojans (3-2)
LW: L, 28-14 at Washington
5. Colorado Buffaloes (3-1)
4. California Golden Bears (4-1)
LW: L, 24-17 vs. Arizona State
It’s just about impossible to separate these five teams. In Wazzu, you have a team that’s usually an offensive clinic, but they collapsed against UCLA and were clobbered by Utah. Arizona State is apparently tough, but the one good offense they played tore them up. USC is the Chaos Team of the Pac-12, meaning the second you think they’re good they will lose, and the second you think they’re bad they will win. Colorado has a woeful defense, significant injuries and a bunch of close wins, so this may be a house of cards. Cal, meanwhile, has an elite defense, but any semblance of an offense is gone without QB Chase Garbers. If one of these teams breaks free from the middle class, it will be a pissed off Wazzu. Cal and CU are most likely to fall into the lower class.
Tier 2: Good, not Great
3. Utah Utes (4-1)
LW: W, vs. Washington State, 38-13
Utah deserves its own class between the middle and upper classes of the conference. Utah is capable of great football, but their offense is too erratic to win comfortably against inferior teams. Utah is going to lose a couple games to bad teams — like, say, Arizona State or Cal at home — but 8-4 will be good enough to win the Pac-12 South.
Tier 1: Head of the Pac
2. Oregon Ducks (3-1)
1. Washington Huskies (4-1)
LW: W, 28-14 vs. USC
There’s not much to separate Oregon and Washington thus far into the season. Both have one loss they shouldn’t have — Oregon outplayed Auburn (now #7), while Washington stumbled against Cal — but have otherwise blown through their schedules. Both have elite defenses and well-rounded offenses led by clinical quarterbacks. I would pick Washington, but only because Chris Petersen has reloaded their defensive backfield with even more uber-talented playmakers. These two teams play three weeks from now and it may very well determine who plays in the Rose Bowl.