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PAC 12 Power Rankings Week 2: Money

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Colorado and ASU set the benchmarks for achievement in the PAC 12’s week 2 action.

Michigan State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What a difference a week can make.

While it isn’t exactly true that the conference reversed all that went wrong with week 1, it is the case that we have some new highlights to put up on the national scoreboard.

A notch in the win column for the consensus favorite to win the PAC? Check.

A last second road win against a quality Big Ten opponent managed by a rock star coach? Check.

A huge win by a home underdog* with a new coach over a top 25 blue blood program? Check.

*(and, if you want to rant about how ASU can pull off all of these upsets while UW can’t, we’ll discuss that later this week)

We also have our first conference showdown in the books and a win on the record for the Oregon State Beavers. That is a lot to celebrate if you are Larry Scott sitting on some rooftop in San Francisco sipping the last of the season’s refreshing sparkling rosés.

Of course, it wasn’t all good. The UCLA rebuild is in the ugly stage. The Utes struggled mightily as they were caught looking ahead to Washington in the weekend ahead. The Huskies may well have been doing the same in their lackluster win over North Dakota. The Wildcats...well, you know.

We have a lot to cover in this week’s Power Rankings. Let’s jump in.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Week 2 Power Rankings
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings — Week 2

12. Arizona (0-2)

Arizona 18, Houston 45

The wheels are coming off of the Arizona bus just two games into the Kevin Sumlin regime. I don’t want to undersell Houston; they are a good team. But this Arizona team was supposed to be an offensive juggernaut with a rising young defense. To date, we’ve seen nothing of the sort.

We’ll have to keep our eyes on this situation. While the Khalil Tate Heisman campaign is pretty much cooked at this point, there is still a lot of talent on the Arizona offensive side of the ball. If Noel Mazzone doesn’t ruin all of it, and assuming Tate isn’t too dinged up, there is plenty of time for the Wildcats to straighten things out before conference play.

For now, they are in the cellar of our rankings.

POG: LB Colin Schooler (9 tckls, 3 TFLs, 1 PBU, 2 QBHs)

Next up: vs Southern Utah

11. UCLA (0-2)

UCLA 21, #3 Oklahoma 49

The Bruins are in full rebuild now. Watching the whipping that Oklahoma put on them, I was impressed with Chip Kelly’s dedication to giving his younger players critical reps against top competition. Unfortunately, the end result is that the Bruins are going to have to fight through some growing pains.

UCLA v Oklahoma
DTR in a familiar pose for Chip Kelly quarterbacks.
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

This team appears to be Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s to lead now. He’s certainly willing to sling it. But his pocket presence is not well developed as indicated by his six sacks taken. He’ll learn.

I suppose that if there were any positives to take away from this blowout, it would be that the Bruins seemed to have a toughness and a hang-with-it-ness that we’ve not really seen from them in some time.

POG: TE Caleb Wilson (4 recs, 92 yds)

Next up: vs Fresno State

10. Oregon State (1-1)

Southern Utah 25, Oregon State 48

How about dem Beavs???

The Beavers put up their second straight explosive offensive performance in two weeks. This time the focus was on the running game and the breakout of freshman Jermar Jefferson. The phenom RB scored four times with over 200 yards rushing. That kind of performance will take the pressure off any QB. This is good news for the Beavs, who have a full-on QB controversy on their hands as Conor Blount does not seem to want to give the job back to ready-to-return-to-action incumbent Jake Luton.

We’ll talk about the Beaver defense more in subsequent weeks. Let’s just say that surrendering nearly 500 yards to any team nicknamed the Thunderbirds is probably a red flag.

POG: RB Jermar Jefferson (22 rushes, 238 yds, 4 TDs)

Next up: @ Nevada

9. California (2-0)

Cal 21, BYU 17

Speaking of controversies, the Cal QB controversy is in full effect and it involves not two but three signal callers.

Justin Wilcox went with a true in-and-out platoon with pocket passer Chase Garbers and dual-threat Brandon McIlwain leaving incumbent Ross Bowers out of the mix for the entire game. The results were mixed despite the fact that Cal won the game.

The real story for the Bears is the continued rise of their defense. While BYU isn’t exactly channeling the second coming of LaVell Edwards, they are a legit Group of 5 team. Holding the Cougars to less than 300 yards total, less than 3 yards per rush and forcing two turnovers is a pretty good day’s work.

I’m not sure how Cal will fare against more dynamic offenses, but they have to be feeling pretty good right now.

POG: S Evan Weaver (12 tckls, 3 PBUs)

Next up: vs Idaho State

8. Washington State (2-0)

San Jose State 0, WSU 31

The Cougs pitched a shutout. Without Hercules Mata’afa and without Alex Grinch, the Cougs accomplished something against an FBS program that I personally didn’t think was possible.

Heck, even UW surrendered three points to North Dakota.

While it was the defense that stole the show, I’m guessing it might be the offense that has Coug fans jacked up. QB Gardner Minshew threw for three, ran for one and passed for over 400 yards in a very Mike Leach-y type of game. That kind of output is what feels familiar to fans and I’m sure will have them thinking big about the season ahead. We’ll just overlook the three picks (one from the backup) and the zero points scored in the second half. Details.

Eastern Washington comes to town next. That’s always fun for the Cougs.

POG: LB Jahad Woods (6 tckls, 1 sack)

Next up: vs Eastern Washington

7. #20 Oregon (2-0)

Portland State 14, Oregon 62

The Ducks had another big offensive showing against sub-par competition. Justin Herbert was particularly impressive, throwing for 77% accuracy with nearly 10 yards per attempt and four scores to four different receivers. You can’t do much better than that even if you are just throwing against air.

Portland State v Oregon
QB Justin Herbert looking every bit the part of a future first round draft choice as Oregon dices up Portland State.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Portland State is not remotely close to a good team even by FCS standards. Thus, it is hard to know what we really learned—if anything—about the Ducks in Week 2. Get used to it. This is the favorable schedule that we talked about early in the season coming to fruition for the Duckers.

POG: QB Justin Herbert (20/26, 250 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs)

Next up: vs San Jose State (yes, the team that WSU just shut out)

6. Utah (2-0)

Utah 17, Northern Illinois 6

I know that Husky fans aren’t loving the choppiness of the performance that they saw out of Washington against North Dakota. However, I can tell you that Utes fans were sweating out their road trip to Northern Illinois even more.

The Utes got all they could handle and more from the first wave of Huskies that they will end up having faced in back-to-back weeks. NIU exerted a certain level of defensive domination over the Utah offense finishing the night with 14 tackles for loss including six sacks on Utah QB Huntley. It was so tight that the Huskies of NIU actually had the lead going into the half.

Fortunately, the Utah defense was enough to overcome the awful Utes offense and uncharacteristically inconsistent Utes special teams. Even though NIU was able to move the ball relatively well in the first half, the Utes really tied them up in the second. Senior Chase Hansen, who dropped down to linebacker after spending his career at safety, was a beast for the Utes and cinched the game with a 40-yard pick six.

Normally I wouldn’t drop a team in the power rankings after a game like this. But I had to make room for a couple of other teams that jumped into the top half.

POG: LB Chase Hansen (12 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 TD)

Next up: vs #10 Washington

5. #22 USC (1-1 / 0-1)

#13 USC 3, #10 Stanford 17

Not a good showing by the Trojans and their young QB on their road trip to the Farm. J.T. Daniels seemed flustered for most of the night as he discovered that a PAC 12 defense can cover up his receivers a little more tightly than UNLV could.

Still, I don’t think the passing game was a complete disaster. Of more concern was the lack of a running game and this weird three-headed monster at RB that Clay Helton is rolling out there. He needs a starter among Aca’Cedric Ware, Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai. The problem is that he might not have one.

Defensively, the Trojans looked good running Clancy Pendergast’s defense. Porter Gustin did a nice job of applying pressure (though USC recorded no sacks on the night) and the run defense was pretty effective after you adjust for a couple of long Bryce Love runs.

Nevertheless, USC has to drop given the new question marks raised about their offense.

POG: LB Porter Gustin (5 tckls, 1 TFL)

Next up: at @ Texas

4. Colorado (2-0)

Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

I might take a little heat for bumping Colorado into the top four, a position they may not be able to hold for long. Some could argue that Colorado hasn’t earned it because they’ve not beaten a ranked team and that this Nebraska team is probably just a young version of an average Big Ten team. They might also point out that Colorado had to get some luck to finish off the Huskers and that if Scott Frost’s true freshman QB phenom Adrian Martinez hadn’t been injured, the outcome would have been different.


However, I’d argue that Colorado has achieved a trio of things that both boost momentum and potentially position them as breakout candidates this year. First, they’ve won both of their two games on the road, including one of the most daunting venues in college football. Second, they’ve now demonstrated an ability to come from behind. Finally, they’ve established themselves a brand new star in WR Laviska Shenault. The 6’2” 220-lb man-child out of Texas caught the game winning 40-yard TD against Nebraska and already leads the conference with 388 yards and 10.5 receptions per game.

Colorado’s D may not be able to support this high a power ranking for much longer, but you have to respect what Mike MacIntyre has gotten out of this team this early in the season.

POG: WR Laviska Shenault, Jr (10 recs, 144 yds, game winning TD)

Next up: vs New Hampshire (this is not a typo)

3. #23 Arizona State (2-0)

#15 Michigan State 16, Arizona State 17

Those of us who were laughing at the Herm Edwards hire are not laughing anymore. When the #13 team in the nation pays a visit to a middle of the road PAC team undergoing a major programmatic overhaul, the best that you can usually hope for is a good fight.

Michigan State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Spartans got all of that and more from ASU.

It was ASU’s stars on offense—QB Manny Wilkins, WR N’Keal Harry and K Brandon Ruiz—who carried the Sun Devils to the win with a remarkable 13-point fourth quarter. But it was the ASU defense that carried the game for most of the night.

The Devils’ D held Michigan State to just six points in four red zone trips, just four conversions on 12 third down attempts and no chunk plays over 25 yards except for the fourth quarter TD pass from 31 yards out.

This is easily the most impressive win in the conference to date and gives real credence to the work that Herm Edwards and his staff are doing in Tempe.

POG: K Brandon Ruiz (3/3 FGs, long of 49, game-winner as time expired)

Next up: @ San Diego State

2. #10 Washington (1-1)

North Dakota 3, #9 Washington 45

Chris Petersen is famous for the quote “stats are for losers.” It is with this context in mind that I share this tweet from Jeff Bechtold.

If you watched the game, then you know that it is difficult to use words to describe what we saw on offense. On one hand, you acknowledge that those stats look great and that it was fun to see the contributions coming from the backups at the end of the game. On the other hand, you know that many of those yards amassed came as a result of UW playing behind the sticks for much of the first three quarters. Jake Browning’s overall sloppiness, an inability to handle North Dakota’s constant blitzing, and a lack of a rushing attack frustrated fans throughout most of the night.

That said, UW did what a good team does when the breaks are not going their way. They leaned on their defense, played field position, and just kept grinding away. North Dakota was completely gassed by the fourth and the Huskies were easily able to separate. That formula works on FBS teams just as well as it does FCS ones.

It may not have been the laser light show that UW fans were hoping they would see, but there really isn’t anything deserving too harsh a reaction in the grand scheme of it all.

POG: S Taylor Rapp (3 tckls, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery)

Next up: @ Utah

1. #9 Stanford (2-0 / 1-0)

#13 USC 3, #10 Stanford 17

While I am beginning to question my forecast that the Cardinal will boast the best offense in the conference, there is no doubt that they have catapulted to the top of the Power Rankings. With their win over USC, they are the second team in the conference with a win over a top 25 opponent and the only team with a conference win. That puts them in the driver’s seat (for now) in the Division race.

Stanford’s D was interesting to watch. They were actually quite inefficient, particularly on third down where USC hit on 8/17 attempts. That said, their pass coverage was impeccable (Malik Antoine had 2 INTs including a score stopper) and their blitzing strategy completely disrupted the Trojans running game.

Offensively, it was good to see Bryce Love on track with a couple of big runs including a 56-yarder. The running game was relatively modest outside of those plays, but it did the job that Stanford wanted it to do. And, really, it’s always been the case that Stanford’s rushing attack has been oriented around a few big plays sandwiched between a bunch of short ones. This is how the Cardinal define the running game.

POG: DB Malik Antoine (1 tackle, 2 INTs)

Next up: vs UC Davis