Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
UCLA makes a move -- even with an injured starting quarterback -- and our top two are solid. And eyeballing each other.
- USC: The Trojans, after posting the season's most impressive victory -- will anyone else win a nonconference road game against a top-10 team this year? -- are now squarely in the national title hunt. A true freshman quarterback and a rebuilt defense have grown up quickly. The Oct. 3 visit to California could become the Pac-10 -- and national -- game of the year.
- California: Cal is clearly a good team. But great teams win on the road. So if the Bears, losers of four in a row on the road, want to be ranked among the elite, they've got to win their next two -- Minnesota and Oregon -- on the road. And then? Only -- only? -- a showdown with USC stands between Cal and national title contention.
- Oregon State: The Beavers are 2-0 -- they haven't been that way since 2005; curiously, the last time they posted a losing record -- but Cincinnati will pose a big test in Corvallis on Saturday. The No. 17 Bearcats are the Big East's top team, and a Beavers victory would announce them as a conference contender.
- Arizona: The Wildcats can make a national statement on Saturday at Iowa, but this team is far from its best as long as tight end Rob Gronkowski is on the sidelines. Of course, if the Wildcats win without Gronk, well, just imagine what they might become when -- if? -- he comes back from his back issue.
- UCLA: The Bruins are rising. That win at Tennessee wasn't done with smoke and mirrors. It was done with a hungry, physical, well-coached team. Now the question is: How will UCLA deal with success, not to mention the loss of starting quarterback Kevin Prince for three to four weeks?
- Oregon: Any kind of win is good after what Oregon went through at Boise State, but the Ducks are still looking for consistency -- they shouldn't have been fretting at the end against an outmanned Purdue team. Still, a win over No. 18 Utah on Saturday would certainly smooth things out for first-year coach Chip Kelly.
- Stanford: Let's pause for a moment and exchange knowing looks over that "clipping" call by ACC officials -- a yellow hanky that was sent airborne only after Toby Gerhart broke into the Wake Forest secondary. Upon further review that penalty was indefensible. Now, Stanford, look in the mirror and know the Demon Deacons completely outplayed you in the second half and deserved to win even without that call.
- Arizona State: Warning! Warning Sun Devils! If you look past Louisiana-Monroe, a team that beat Alabama two years ago, know that you will experience a feeling of deja vu as you prepare for the visit to Georgia on Sept. 26. Recall how the preparation for the Bulldogs wasn't nearly as fun in 2008 after being yoked with a loss to UNLV.
- Washington: The Huskies are now riding a 1-game winning steak. And USC is coming to town. Drat. Or maybe USC is wide-open for a trap game after its marquee win at Ohio State? Or maybe the mentor will underestimate the pupil? Truth is, from what we've seen out of Steve Sarkisian Huskies, we're this close to putting the Trojans on upset alert.
- Washington State: There isn't a way to sugarcoat where the Cougars are right now after a blowout loss in Seattle to Hawaii. Better than 2008? Perhaps. But not by much. SMU heads to Pullman this weekend. Time to pull the chin straps tight and scrap and claw for a win, because the schedule ahead is brutal.