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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Stanford claims top spot, with UCLA and USC trending back up

A Utah loss just made things a whole lot more interesting in the Pac-12, and it shows the true depth.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

1. Stanford Cardinal

Previous ranking: 2

Stanford is playing like one of the best teams in the nation, and there's no stopping that offense. In each of their wins this season, they have put up 31+ points, and it starts with tailback Christian McCaffrey. He does it all for that team - on the ground, through the air and in the return game.

It's hard to imagine this team losing this season in Pac-12. Of course, it's college football and anything can happen, but Stanford seems to be in a class of their own in comparison to the Pac-12. This is a team that I wrote off before the season started because of their lack of defense, but now it's the offense getting it down. This is a team that will make it to the College Football Playoff.

2. Utah Utes

Previous ranking: 1

This Utah team is one that I fully believe in still. Everyone was waiting for Utah to finally lose a game so that they call them overrated and justify it, but this is a team that is very similar to Arizona of 2014.

Travis Wilson isn't that reliable, but they're fueled by Devontae Booker on the offensive side of the ball, meanwhile they have a ball hawking secondary that has given many quarterbacks trouble this season. Travis Wilson threw four interceptions that game vs. USC, and it put them in a deep hole, while taking Booker and their run game away. Much like Stanford, I don't think Utah loses another game for the remainder of the regular season.

3. UCLA Bruins

Previous ranking: 5

UCLA had their back against the walls against California, and Josh Rosen responded. They were on the brink of losing three-straight Pac-12 games, which would have taken them out of contention for the South title. Now, with a Utah loss, this team is back in the hunt.

You wonder how far UCLA can go with this broken down defense. They're without their three best players, and it's only a matter of time until the glue falls apart. The way their schedule lines up, I'm not sure UCLA will be able to recover in time to stay in the conversation, but this is still one the better teams in the Pac-12.

4. USC Trojans

Previous ranking: 6

USC is much better than their 4-3 record says. The talent is just too good on this team on both sides of the ball. Stanford is now the real deal, and it took the UW game to realize that Steve Sarkisian wasn't the right fit, just like it took the Arizona State game two years ago to realize that Lane Kiffin wasn't the right fit either. Then they went to South Bend without a head coach and battled it out until the fourth quarter.

Well, they finally bounced back against a very good Utah team, and their remaining schedule is very favorable. If there's a team that can get back into the Pac-12 fight and unseat Utah, it's USC. Owning the tiebreaker over them will be huge come Week 10 of this season, and the Trojans might bounce back into the Pac-12 Championship game after all.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils

Previous ranking: 4

Arizona State had the benefit of a bye week in preparation for their matchup with Oregon on Thursday night. They fell a spot in the rankings with USC's win, but they still remain a top team in this conference. They have a pretty tough schedule coming up, which makes this Oregon game so big.

Arizona State has never been good when it comes to Thursday night games -- especially ones at home -- but a win against a struggling Oregon team could be all the Sun Devils need to surge the comeback in the Pac-12 race. They sit in an unfavorable position however, losing the tiebreaker to Utah and USC -- the two teams in the best position to win the South.

6. California Golden Bears

Previous ranking: 3

California fell hard this week, which makes me think I had them a little too high last week, but at the same time no one else was really good enough to justify at No. 3. It was a big win by USC, and UCLA easily took care of California. At the same time, Arizona State seems to be a better team than Cal, but we'll find out in the last week of the season.

Jared Goff bounced back from his terrible game at Utah, sort of. He had a shaky first half versus UCLA and that set the tone. At least he didn't throw an interception this game, but it's looking like Goff's hype is starting to slow down and he's starting to hit a wall now. They end the season with USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, and Arizona State. Good luck with that.

7. Washington State Cougars

Previous ranking: 10

Don't look now, but Washington State has won three straight games, and could take control of the Pac-12 North with a win against Stanford at home. It's not crazy to think about either. Both teams have high powered offenses and this will be a shoot out.

We need to get rid of our perception of Washington State of being a garbage program now, and recognize that they are a legitimate threat in this conference. Should Arizona have beaten them? Absolutely. If Arizona had any sort of defensive stop, or if Jerrard Randall would have come into the game earlier, the Wildcats probably would have won.

8. Oregon Ducks

Previous ranking: 7

Oregon is thirsty for a win this week in Tempe. A loss here, and they would fall to .500 on the season, and would be in serious risk of missing a bowl game.

They have a rough schedule coming up with Cal, Stanford, USC and, Oregon State, so they'll have to pull off some big time wins in order to reach six. With Vernon Adams at quarterback, their offense is definitely much better, but their defense continues to be a liability.

9. Washington Huskies

Previous ranking: 8

Washington's defense is what keeps them above Arizona here. Their defense is so good that it hides their deficiencies on offense. This Washington team matches up very well against Arizona. Having a bad offense, go against a bad defense, and a great defense going up against a very meh offense.

10. Arizona Wildcats

Previous ranking: 9

Arizona is not a good team this year. And our expectations were way too high after a miracle Pac-12 South Championship. Of course the injuries have hampered this team, but for me, it might be the offense that's so frustrating. With the talent that's out there on defense, it's hard to expect anything. Playing linebackers on the defensive line, safeties at linebacker and two true freshmen at corner. Meanwhile a converted receiver is their top corner.

Anu Solomon hasn't been nearly as good as he was last year, and this offense stalls out far too often. With four tough games left in the season, I'd be surprised if Arizona wins another game.

11. Colorado Buffaloes

Previous ranking: 11

They did it. They beat Oregon State and saved themselves from the last spot in the power rankings. No longer in bowl contention, this Colorado team will have to start building towards next year. They've been competitive, but not for a full a 60 minutes. Maybe this is Mike MacInytre's final year at Colorado, maybe not, but this Colorado team isn't going places anytime soon.

12. Oregon State Beavers

Previous ranking: 12

Well Oregon State, you blew it. This was your one chance to win a Pac-12 game, and you fell just short of winning. Give Gary Andersen a few more years to get his recruiting classes up, and get Seth Collins some much-needed experience to compete in the Pac-12. If Andersen can't get it going soon, Oregon State could be the laughing stock of the Pac-12.