Some weird things are happening in the Pac-12, where Oregon is fighting for a .500 record, Utah is the best team in the conference, and USC has no sense of direction.
The conference is starting to take shape, so it's only right if more weird things happen next week. Only California has a bye this week, which means we have a strong slate of games, beginning on Thursday with Stanford hosting UCLA.
This is where games really start to matter. A loss here in the conference can derail any hopes of a division championship, and that's the case for many teams this week. Everyone is having to play catch up to Utah in the Pac-12 South and Stanford in the Pac-12 North, and both teams could drastically widen that margin this week.
1. Utah Utes
Previous ranking: 2
Utah is the number one team in the country, in my eyes. Beating Michigan, who is now looking like the best team in the Big Ten, possibly being the catalyst of Oregon's downturn this season with a 62-20 drumming of the Ducks, and now have a big time win against California to keep them in national championship contention.
Jared Goff threw five picks versus Utah and still had a chance to lead his team to victory. Is that a bit alarming for Utah? Of course. But the best teams in the nation don't have to blow out every opponent. Some games are going to be ugly, and some teams will have head-scratching scares. This game against California shouldn't take anything away from Utah.
You look at Ohio State this year, and Florida State last year. Both teams are/were winning their games and getting it done. Both are/were top five teams and poised for a playoff run. If you want to look at it from an Arizona perspective, Arizona squeaked games out against UTSA, California and Washington last season, yet we all thought Arizona was a top 10 team/potential playoff contender, despite losing to both UCLA and USC again. So that's how I view Utah this season.
Previous Ranking: 3
Stanford seems to be one of the most complete teams in the nation. And without that loss at Northwestern in week one, Stanford would likely be ranked in the top eight, at least. Their offense has figured it out since then, as they've scored 31+ points in all four wins this season. They have a big game on Thursday when they host UCLA. This isn't a must-win for Stanford and their Pac-12 North implications, and they have a pretty favorable schedule ahead in terms of the Pac-12, as they're missing Arizona State and Utah because of the Pac-12 scheduling rotation.
3. UCLA Bruins
Previous Ranking: 4
UCLA showed some weaknesses against Arizona State, and Pac-12 coaches are going to be analyzing that like no other going forward. They're without Myles Jack on the sideline, so we'll see how that has an effect on them. They have a must-win game versus Stanford this Thursday, and a loss would give them two Pac-12 losses, with Utah still undefeated, and Arizona State owning the tiebreaker.
4. USC Trojans
Previous ranking: 1
I'll admit, looking back at last week, Utah should have been the No. 1 team in the rankings, and now it just looks silly dropping USC to No. 4, and depending on how you look at it, they could even be at No. 5.
USC already has two losses in the Pac-12 and are quickly taking themselves out of contention for the South championship. Washington is a good team, not a great team, but their defense is what has been carrying them throughout the season thus far. The Trojans were shut down all game long, and were held to just 12 points, and that's not good considering the talent USC has on offense. Cody Kessler, Juju Smith-Schuster, and their stable of backs....they just got out-coached and outplayed.
Now, with Steve Sarkisian out, it'll be interesting to see how this team responds. Are they going to come out and prove something, or did they lose all motivation for this season? This should be interesting game to watch, with a trip to South Bend this weekend.
Previous Ranking: 6
Somehow, someway, California found themselves in position to win at Utah, despite five turnovers by Jared Goff. California is good team, but they have a brutal schedule ahead. They were tested against both Washington schools, which made me question them a bit. But they hung on against Utah on the road and I've thought highly of Utah this season.
Cal gets a bye week before they play a big one vs. UCLA the next week at the Rose Bowl. The Bears will be watching this UCLA/Stanford matchup closely on Thursday, and doing all that they can to bounce back. But if the Bruins happen to lose, it's hard to imagine them losing three straight. But then again, this is also the Pac-12.
Anything Weird things happen.
Previous Ranking: 5
Arizona State had no hiccups vs. Colorado and seem to have gotten over that non-conference bump and their USC pounding. Now they head to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes, and this is totally another game that ASU would come out with a win. This Utah team seems to be the real deal, but anything can happen in the Pac-12 and it's totally doable for ASU to come in and hand Utah their first loss.
Their feature back Demario Richards was seen on crutches after suffering an ankle injury, but Todd Graham expects that he will play this week. Mike Bercovici seems to have control of the offense now, with some minor adjustments made here and there by Mike Norvell.
ASU is in an interesting spot. I think they're 100% past the Texas A&M, Cal Poly, and USC days, finding their identity. And depending on the UCLA game, they could be in control of their own destiny and it starts with Utah.
Previous Ranking: 10
Washington has had a tough defense all season, and it showed this past week vs. USC. They held the Trojans to just 12 points, and were able to hide any offensive deficiencies on their part with Jake Browning at quarterback.
Washington is a good team, and a lot of people might have written them off to start the season, and rightfully so. They lost key guys on the offensive line, had a true freshman quarterback, and lost three defensive standouts in the first round of the NFL Draft. Somehow, their defense is improved, and with Oregon on deck, I'd expect the Huskies to come out on top.
Previous ranking: 8
Arizona is simply beating the teams that they should, and have been blown out in the two biggest games of the season. Yes, injuries have been hampering this team, but when you're ranked up against some of these other teams in the Pac-12, it's pretty clear to see that Arizona could potentially lose to any team ranked 1-11 here. The same could be said about a lot of teams, but this Arizona team is still vulnerable. The 44-7 win over Oregon State is very welcoming, but Oregon State has been at the bottom of the these power rankings pretty much since the beginning of the season.
Arizona really missed their chance to move up on their own in the power rankings by laying an egg vs. UCLA and Stanford, and now it'll be up to the miscues of the teams above if Arizona sees a climb in these rankings. With Colorado and Washington State up next, both are winnable games for Arizona, and they should win both, but there's still a real possibility that Arizona could at least lose to Washington State.
Previous ranking: 9
No matter how bad Oregon is, a win in Eugene is still impressive. Luke Falk is leading the way, who went 50-for-72 in the double overtime win. This is a team that could get to a bowl game, and they've got two winnable games vs. Oregon State and Arizona coming up, with Colorado on their radar later in the season.
10. Oregon Ducks
Previous ranking: 7
This has to be pretty embarrassing for the Oregon Ducks and head coach Mark Helfrich. Your team has been in multiple BCS bowl games in the past decade. Of course, it's no easy task to replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, but Vernon Adams has not lived up to the hype he had transferring out of Eastern Washington. He's simply not getting the job done and his defense is doing him no favors, forcing them to throw the ball many times.
They've also had their own injury problems, but you would figure that with such a star-loaded roster, Oregon would not be in this situation.
Previous ranking: 11
Sadly, the Buffs did not give Arizona State any trouble and were down big early on. Sefo Liufau is ranked as the Pac-12's 3rd best quarterback through six weeks, and they have a nice piece in Nelson Spruce. If those two are contained, then Colorado isn't really going anywhere, probably. It'll be tough this season for Colorado to get to six wins, and they have a big one with Arizona this week. If they lose here, it's probably be all over for the Buffs's bowl chances.
Previous ranking: 12
Oregon State is just bad and there's a reason they've been No. 12 for so long. There's really nothing to look forward to this season, I'd imagine. Give Seth Collins maybe another year or two, and Gary Andersen can guide the ship to stability. But for now, Oregon State might not even win another game this season.