The PAC-12 got into conference play with the USC and Stanford matchup last weekend. All the while, the rest of the conference was closing up its out-of-conference matchups, including games with national brand programs like #4 Michigan, #11 Texas, and Nebraska.
Let’s get into it.
The Cool Chart
PAC-12 Power Rankings - Week 3
12. Arizona 2-1/0-0 (last poll: 12)
Last Result: Hawaii 28, Arizona 47
Arizona had as good a showing as could have been hoped for by racing out to a 34-7 first half lead before cruising to an easy win over Hawaii. QB Brandon Dawkins continued to show his prowess as a runner (118 yds, 3 TDs rushing) and freshman RB J.J. Taylor shined with 168 yards and a TD of his own. I’d be inclined to move the Wildcats up a spot or two, but this is still a team dealing with turmoil. QB Anu Solomon remains out, RB Nick WIlson had to leave the game with an injury, and former leading RB Orlando Bradford was dismissed following a crazy assault story. And now the Huskies are coming to town.
Up Next: vs. Washington
11. Oregon State 1-1/0-0 (last poll: 10)
Last Result: Idaho State 7, Oregon State 37
This was the kind of game that the Beavers needed. The win over the Bengals marked their first victory in their last 10 tries. That they were able to achieve it with big plays and sound defense is the icing on the proverbial cake. Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look too hard to find some points of concern. The Beavers couldn’t get their passing game behind QB Darrell Garretson going at all. Take away WR Victor Bolden’s 92-yard fly sweep TD and you see a rushing attack that averaged less than 4 yards per run against an FCS program. In fact, it is a bit surprising that OSU didn’t do more with the 5 turnovers that they generated. A win is a win, but I’m dropping OSU a spot.
Up Next: vs. Boise State
10. Washington State 1-2/0-0 (last poll: 11)
Last Result: Idaho 6, Washington State 56
With active players being expelled from school and others still under investigation for various violent acts, the Cougars came into last weekend as a team in disarray. That disarray had translated into two straight losses, one of which was to an FCS team.
For at least a few hours, the Cougs found some peace of mind. After weathering an opening three-and-out by their offense and taking a few body blows from the Idaho offense, the Cougs put it all together and won this one running away. In fact, it was sophomore James Williams (126 yds, 1 TD) and the rushing attack that carried the day.
I’m still a bit worried about the WSU offense. QB Luke Falk failed to reach 300 yards in a game for just the third time in his career and his YPA of 6.3 continues to indicate a trend of lack of explosiveness that has plagued the Cougs all year. They get a week off to work on it.
Up Next: BYE
9. Arizona State 3-0/0-0 (last poll: 8)
Last Result: ASU 32, UTSA 28
I went on record stating my concern about this matchup for the Sun Devils. Those concerns were validated as ASU needed a furious 17-point fourth-quarter rally to avoid the upset in San Antonio. When I look at ASU, I see a team struggling to establish the identity that has come to define Todd Graham’s preferred style. The defense looks soft, the rushing attack isn’t generating big plays, and QB Manny Wilkins continues to wrestle with accuracy. Freshman WR N’Keal Harry (5 catches, 78 yds, 1 TD) continues to be a revelation, but he’s the only thing going right at the moment for ASU.
Up Next: vs Cal
8. Colorado 2-1 / 0-0 (last poll: 7)
Last Result: Colorado 28, Michigan 45
For a quarter of football in Ann Arbor, Buffalo fever was rising. Of course, Colorado ultimately fell to the #4 team in the nation. There is no shame in it. In fact, that the Buffs endured a 17-point comeback in the second quarter and were still able to reclaim a momentary lead in the third tells you something about their grit. This is a tough football team that reflects the identity of QB Sefo Liufau, as hobbled as he might be given an ankle injury suffered in the 2nd quarter. But there are flaws here. They continue to struggle to get their run game going. In addition, Michigan may have exposed a weakness in their pass defense that we hadn’t really seen yet. This is a team completely dependent on Liufau’s wheeling and dealing to receivers like Devin Ross and Shay Fields. If he’s limited, they’ve got troubles. I’ve got to drop them a spot this week.
Up Next: @ Oregon
7. USC 1-2 / 0-1 (last poll 6)
Last Result: USC 10, Stanford 27
We always knew that this was going to be a tough stretch for the Trojans. Going from Alabama to Utah State to Stanford to Utah is a physical gauntlet that would challenge even the toughest of teams. The hope was that the “new attitude” of Clay Helton’s would be taking hold and that you’d start to see the talents of young QB Max Browne, the signs of dominance from the offensive line, and a few big plays from stars like Ronald Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Steven Mitchell. What has transpired is not that.
Browne is a mess. The offensive line is an undisciplined dumpster fire (as evidenced by five false start penalties last weekend). The playmakers have all but disappeared (Smith-Schuster with just 3 catches for 34 yds). The upcoming road trip to Utah will truly be USC’s last chance to get their season back on track before the hot seat fires up under Helton.
Up Next: @ Utah (Friday night)
6. Oregon 2-1 / 0-0
Last Result: Oregon 32, Nebraska 35
I didn’t really want to penalize Oregon in this poll. Their game against Nebraska didn’t reveal anything about the Ducks that we didn’t already know. The defense isn’t very good while the receivers and running backs are, in fact, very good. The bottom line for Oregon is that they cannot count on their defense to make a stop with the game on the line and, thus, they are going to have to rely on their offense to outpace the competition. The problem is that it isn’t clear that QB Dakota Prukop (14/23, 146 yds) is good enough to lead that kind of attack (whether or not Duck fans think that he is the second coming of St. Marcus). To complicate things, RB Royce Freeman might miss some time with an injury.
A hungry Colorado team is up next and they are hungry. This isn’t the automatic out it used to be. Mark Helfrich better have his team ready.
Up Next: vs Colorado
5. Cal 2-1 / 0-0 (last poll: 9)
Last Result: Texas 45, Cal 50
Cal gets the big boost of the week in light of their huge win against #11 Texas, even if they got a little help from the referees on that bizarro Vic Enwere 1-yard line fumble at the end. QB Davis Webb (396 yds, 4 TDs) averaged nearly 10 yards per attempt while WR Chase Hansen (12 recs, 196 yds, 2 TDs) continued his torrid pace as Cal flexed their offensive muscle against a team that many were arguing was a top 10 kind of program. While one could convincingly argue that Cal’s defense remains shoddy, the fact remains that they can beat just about anybody with their offense alone. As a result they, get jumped up in this week’s poll.
Up Next: @ ASU
4. UCLA 2-1 / 0-0 (last poll: 4)
Last Result: UCLA 17, BYU 14
If you are just looking at the scoreboard, you might conclude that UCLA struggled in this one. The truth is UCLA’s defense was spectacularly dominating. If not for a few lucky breaks, they might have pitched a shutout. In particular, the LB corps led by Jayon Brown (9 tackles) was exceptionally effective.
There are concerns, to be sure. Chief among them is that QB Josh Rosen, who continues to distract himself with off the field controversy, looks completely out of sorts. After three games, he is the third-lowest rated QB in the conference. That star RB Soso Jamabo sat this one out for what appears to be disciplinary reasons is another red flag.
We’ll know a lot more about UCLA after this weekend. I’m going to hold them at the #4 spot on the strength of their defense and the potential of their offense when Rosen is on and Jamabo is in there.
Up Next: vs Stanford
3. Utah 3-0 / 0-0 (last poll: 3)
Last Result: Utah 34, San Jose State 17
I continue to be surprised by how few people agree with my slotting for Utah. Maybe they aren’t seeing what I’m seeing. This is a team flashing a stout defense and a good-enough offense. Against SJSU, the Utes had eight different players tally up 10 total sacks. In addition, QB Troy Williams had a confidence-building effort that saw him hit 20 of 28 passes for 257 yds, a TD, and an INT. The duo of jumbo tailbacks, Zack Moss and Amand Shyne, split carries evenly and tallied 187 yds and a pair of TDs between them. There is nothing flashy about Utah. They just win football games.
Up Next: vs. USC
2. Washington 3-0 / 0-0 (last poll: 2)
Last Result: Portland State 3, Washington 41
The Huskies continue to do what they’ve been doing to every team they’ve faced in the season: they dominate. While the level of competition continues to be a limiting factor, one cannot deny that we keep seeing the same strengths show up every quarter of every week. Specifically, we are seeing a hyper-efficient passing game (Jake Browning now has a 12:1 TD-to-INT ratio, a TD-to-completion ratio of 1:4.5, and is the #1 rated QB in the nation) and a defensive line performance that is peerless in the conference. If you are an opposing team scouting the Huskies, the word that probably keeps popping in your head is “precision.” The Huskies just are not making many mistakes that opponents can exploit. Husky fans are now anxious to see if that translates to conference play.
Up Next: @ Arizona
1. Stanford 2-0 / 1-0 (last poll: 1)
Last Result: USC 10, Stanford 27
The Cardinal didn’t beat USC in the flamboyant fashion that Alabama did, but their 27-10 win was convincing. Christian McCaffrey did it all as both a receiver and a runner while the Stanford D was efficient. I was a bit concerned with Stanford’s lack of a pass rush, which had been a concern coming into the season. I also wasn’t terribly impressed with Ryan Burns (9/15, 109 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT). It isn’t clear to me that Stanford is going to be able to win the tough games with him under center. With UW just 11 days away, let’s hope Stanford takes their time figuring out their mini-QB controversy.
Up Next: @ UCLA