The Pac 12 had another strong showing in Week 3, posting a 6-3 record in non-conference games to wrap up the early season schedule. The conference schedule kicked off with one game between a pair of heavyweights that shook up the power rankings this week.
Now the conference slate kicks off in full and teams that have been early surprises so far must prove they’re the real deal as the teeth of the schedule start to bite.
So without further ado, here are the Pac 12 football power rankings for Week 4.
1. Oregon Ducks: Last week – W 63-14 vs. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. This week: vs. No. 22 Arizona Wildcats
The Ducks have not been pushed in their early schedule, but they have dispatched their lesser opponents as a great team should. De’Anthony Thomas has been as explosive as advertised and fueling his Heisman hype while Marcus Mariota has played with poise beyond his years. The team speed of Oregon is downright preposterous, which has helped them sprint up to the top of the power rankings this week. Now the real test begins for Chip Kelly and the Ducks, but don’t expect the blur offense to slow down anytime soon.
2. Stanford Cardinal: Last week – W 21-14 vs. No. 2 USC Trojans. This week: at Washington Huskies
Stanford shocked the world, winning their fourth straight against USC with a phenomenal game plan that was run to perfection. Stepfan Taylor launched his own Heisman campaign in style on Saturday, breaking off huge runs against the Trojan defense in the win. While they may not have Andrew Luck under center anymore, the Cardinal are strong at the point of attack along the offensive and defensive lines and David Shaw knows how to coach them. Expect these “nerds” to flex their muscles this week in Seattle.
3. USC Trojans: Last week – L 21-14 at No. 21 Stanford Cardinal. This week: vs. California Bears
The Trojans’ Achilles’ heel, their depth along the offensive and defensive line, was exposed against Stanford. Matt Barkley was visibly upset after failing to secure his first win against the Cardinal, finishing his career 0-4 against them barring another matchup in the Pac 12 Championship game. The Trojans are still one of the most talented teams at the skill positions, but they must get better play from their offensive and defensive lines to stay on top of a suddenly competitive Pac 12 South. Expect the Men of Troy to play angry the rest of the way–and the rest of the conference will not like them when they’re angry.
4. UCLA Bruins: Last week – W 37-6 vs. Houston Cougars. This week: vs. Oregon State Beavers
The Bruins are making a strong push to get into the conversation of the top teams in the Pac 12. The offense is clicking on all cylinders as Jonathan Franklin continues to be one of the top running backs in the country this season and redshirt freshman Brett Hundley has been dynamic at quarterback for first year coach Jim Mora. They took care of business handily in what many were predicting would be a trap game for the Bruins and they’ll look to keep that focus strong as they enter conference play.
5. Arizona Wildcats: Last week – W 56-0 vs. South Carolina State Bulldogs. This week: at No. 3 Oregon Ducks
Rich Rodriguez has got his Arizona team believing in his system quicker than probably anyone expected. They’ve put forth three strong showing to open the season, though this last one was against less than stellar competition. But their other two wins came against bowl teams last season which has the Cats believing they can make some noise in the conference this year. The grading curve is going to get steep in a hurry for them as they travel to Autzen Stadium to open conference play.
6. Washington Huskies: Last week – W 52-13 vs. Portland State Vikings. This week: vs. No. 9 Stanford Cardinal
The Huskies answered the beatdown they took at the hands of the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge in Week 2 by administering a beatdown to FCS Portland State at home. The Dawgs won’t be able to take too much away from this game, except that they can indeed cross that mystical white line of the end zone. They’ll need that confidence as the competition ratchets right back up with another top-10 opponent in Stanford on their docket.
7. Utah Utes: Last week – W 24-21 vs. No. 25 BYU Cougars. This week: at Arizona State Sun Devils
No Jordan Wynn, no John White, no problem for the Utes. Utah was efficient and opportunistic in their Holy War win, getting outgained by the Cougars, but scoring on defense with a fumble recovery and getting just enough from stand-in quarterback Jon Hays (196 yards, two touchdowns) to score the upset. Expect more measured efficiency from the Utes this season as their offense has proven to be more of a work in progress than expected.
8. Oregon State Beavers: Last week – bye. This week: at No. 19 UCLA Bruins
The Beavers have played just one game this season and it was a doozy. Upsetting the Wisconsin Badgers in Corvallis was an inspired effort, but was it one of those weird things that happen in Beaver country or a sign that this team is better than expected? The sample size is too small to tell, but we’ll have a much better idea after their matchup with a hot Bruins offense in Pasadena.
Arizona State fans were furious that their rivals in the desert were getting more credit for their 2-0 start than the Devils were. This was Todd Graham and company’s chance to prove they were for real, but came up short against the Tigers and their backup quarterback. ASU fought back and showed some mental toughness that may not have been there in recent years, but they’ll need to get a few more wins to prove how good they really are.
Cal surprised a lot of people with how far they pushed the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe. They showed the offensive firepower that made many expect great things from this club in the preseason. But a pair of horrible defensive lapses resulted in easy touchdowns for Ohio State and let Urban Meyer‘s club off the hook late. Don’t expect them to get any respect for their effort from an angry Trojan team this week.
11. Washington State Cougars: Last week – W 35-27 at UNLV Rebels. This week: vs. Colorado Buffaloes
The good news: Washington State is 2-1 heading into conference play. The bad news: they’ve had to win close against an FCS team and a pretty terrible UNLV team and have been outgained in every game. The defense is a huge liability and the offense is still working out the kinks of the new Mike Leach offense. Connor Halliday looked great in the first half last week, throwing four touchdown passes, but cooled off in the second half along with the rest of the Wazzu roster. Luckily, they’ll have some leeway to make mistakes taking on the Buffs this week.
12. Colorado Buffaloes: Last week – L 69-14 at Fresno State Bulldogs. This week: at Washington State Cougars
Colorado is historically bad. A team built on potential for 2012 with youth and inexperience at almost every position, the Buffs have fallen short in every conceivable way. Back-to-back close losses led into an absolute undressing at the hands of Fresno State, which ends their most winnable stretch of the schedule. Their transfer quarterbacks Jordan Webb and Connor Wood have not been good, their running game has been inconsistent, and their defense can’t stop anybody. Will Jon Embree survive an 0-12 season? Will he survive to see the 0-12 season?
You can follow me on Twitter @Teeblerone and Rant Sports @RantSports