Monday, September 17, 2012
Pac-12 power rankings: Week 4
By Ted Miller
We have movement at the top, as you might expect.
See last week's power rankings here.
1. Oregon: The Ducks emerge from their preseason in a familiar place: atop the Pac-12. While the Nov. 3 visit to USC was diminished by the Trojans' loss to Stanford, the Ducks' home game against Stanford on Nov. 17 suddenly ramps up a bit. Nationally ranked Arizona visits on Saturday. Will the Ducks get tested?
2. Stanford: The Cardinal have a well-timed bye so they can take a little extra time to soak in the national praise for their outstanding all-around effort against USC. But a visit to Washington on Sept. 29 looms as a game to take seriously, even though the Cardinal have dominated the series of late.
3. USC: Yes, Trojans, there will be an overreaction to your loss, and plenty of folks will dance on the rubble of your lackluster performance at Stanford. But you do know that you could have avoided such a fate by not giving everyone solid grounds to call you overrated, right? The question now: What are you going to do about it? Sulk? Feel sorry for your five-star-recruit selves? Or get mad and get even? Win out and a 12-1 Pac-12 champion could still be in the national title picture. And you better wake up with California coming to town. The Bears looked pretty capable at Ohio State.
4. UCLA: I know; it's still early. I know; the Bruins have teased us before. I know; they still have the Pac-12 slate ahead. But I guess what I want to ask: How do you feel about Jim Mora these days? Oregon State comes to town this weekend, which will be a legit challenge. But no game on the schedule appears unwinnable any longer. And that includes that team across town.
5. Arizona: The Wildcats took care of business against an overmatched foe, but things get just a bit tougher with a visit to No. 3 Oregon on Saturday. Of course, few of us thought the Wildcats would be bringing an unbeaten record and No. 22 national ranking with them to Eugene. It could be a scoring fest. While a win would be monumental for new coach Rich Rodriguez, a respectable showing wouldn't quash the recent momentum.
6. Oregon State: Wisconsin's close call at home to Utah State nicks the Beavers' win over the Badgers a bit, but Oregon State can make a statement at UCLA on Saturday. The Bruins and QB Brett Hundley should reveal if the Beavers' improved defense is ready for prime time.
7. Utah: The Utes bounced back from the Utah State loss to outlast archrival BYU without QB Jordan Wynn, whose career is over, and RB John White, who actually does have an ankle injury that was made to officially disappear last week. Here's how things stand (and Utes fans, feel free to correct me, because I know you will): We're so 2011 all over again; only Jon Hays looks like a better QB than he was a year ago. The question is whether this version can move up the Pac-12 pecking order. I know this: It will help when White really is 100 percent. Not sure if the Utes can win consistently in the conference without him.
8. Arizona State: The sloppiness returned on the road at Missouri, and the Sun Devils wasted an opportunity with the Tigers playing without QB James Franklin. So now we get to see another measure of Todd Graham's new-look team: resilience. As much as has been made of the program's lack of discipline in recent years, the bigger issue -- to me -- was the general lack of backbone and locker-room cohesion. A home matchup with Utah could provide a good early measure.
9. California: There was a lot to like about the way Cal played on both sides of the ball at Ohio State, though like many of you, I lost my voice yelling, "GO FOR IT!" on that ill-fated fourth-and-1 moment when coach Jeff Tedford opted to miss a third field goal. Still, QB Zach Maynard played well enough to win against a highly ranked team on the road, RB Brendan Bigelow showcased some much-needed explosiveness and the defense -- other than two horrible plays -- looked physical and stingy. So what happens at USC?
10. Washington: The Huskies emerged, as expected, at 2-1 after three games. They have a bye this weekend. Then they go: Stanford, at Oregon, USC and at Arizona. That's four ranked teams in a row. How will they weather that storm?
11. Washington State: The Cougars won at woeful UNLV, and they should win Saturday at home against woeful Colorado. A 3-1 start is a good thing. But we won't really know how well the Mike Leach era has taken root until the Pac-12 schedule -- apologies to the Buffs -- really takes root, starting with a game with Oregon in Seattle on Sept. 29.
12. Colorado: Oh, man. Buffs, as my mother always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." So I got nothing for you.