Not everyone is a fan of college football being played on Friday nights. But look at the bright side, Pac-12 fans:
You get a juicy matchup this Friday with No. 5 USC visiting No. 16 Washington State. And you get early Pac-12 Power Rankings!
With Arizona again having played on a Friday, we again are moving up the release of our weekly Power Rankings. You can find them every week at Tucson.com and on the Wildcaster app no later than midday Thursday.
Per usual, the rankings are voted on by three Star sports staffers: Zack Rosenblatt, Justin Spears and yours truly. The panel had identical picks at the top and bottom of the conference. Opinions differed in the middle.
On to this week’s rankings:
1. WASHINGTON (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Previous rank: 1
Last week: Won 37-10 at Colorado
This week: at Oregon State (Saturday, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The Huskies are ranked one spot behind the Trojans in the AP Top 25; not so here. Maybe the East Coasters didn’t stay up to witness Washington’s latest demolition of Colorado? The last two times they’ve met, including last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game, the Huskies have outscored the Buffaloes 78-20. More good news for UW: It has only three road games left (OSU, Arizona State, Stanford).
2. USC (4-0, 2-0)
Previous rank: 2
Last week: Won 30-20 at Cal
This week: at Washington State (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s hard to complain too much when you haven’t lost a game in over a year (Sept. 23, 2016, at Utah). The Trojans always have a chance because of Sam Darnold, but injuries are starting to become a concern. USC didn’t have Ronald Jones, Porter Gustin or Steven Mitchell at Cal, and several others got dinged. Now comes another road game on a short week.
3. WASHINGTON STATE (4-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 4
Last week: Won 45-7 vs. Nevada
This week: vs. USC (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: You can make a strong case that Washington State hasn’t played anybody yet. Four wins, all at home, vs. Montana State, Boise State (which is down), Oregon State and Nevada. That probably explains how the Cougars are No. 1 in the Pac-12 in total defense (262.2 ypg). The truth will be revealed against a banged-up but loaded USC squad.
4. STANFORD (2-2, 1-1)
Previous rank: 7T
Last week: Won 58-34 vs. UCLA
This week: vs. Arizona State (Saturday, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: David Shaw and his staff decided to feed Bryce Love, and the results were spectacular. After carrying no more than 17 times in the first three games, Love got 30 rushes against UCLA. He gained 263 yards. Christian McCaffrey’s successor leads the league with 787 rushing yards. He’s averaging an obscene 10.8 yards per attempt. ASU allows 155.5 rushing yards per game and 4.7 per carry.
5T. UTAH (4-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 6
Last week: Won 30-24 at Arizona
This week: Bye
Comment: The Utes didn’t exactly impress at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats turned the ball over five times and still had a chance to win at the end. The shoulder injury suffered by starting QB Tyler Huntley is a major concern. Veteran Troy Williams did just enough to secure a victory, but he doesn’t threaten a defense the way Huntley does.
5T. OREGON (3-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 3
Last week: Lost 37-35 at Arizona State
This week: vs. Cal (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FS1)
Comment: Losing at ASU is not cause for alarm. The Sun Devils were desperate, and the Ducks still almost rallied. Now they get two games at home (Cal, WSU) before the tough part of the schedule kicks in: Three road games in four weeks, including trips to Stanford and Washington. Winning the next two would provide some needed cushion.
7. CAL (3-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 5
Last week: Lost 30-20 vs. USC
This week: at Oregon (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The throwback uniforms the Golden Bears wore vs. the Trojans were gorgeous. But the Bears seem to be more about style than substance under first-year coach Justin Wilcox. Cal was tied with USC entering the fourth quarter before the Trojans pulled away. QB Ross Bowers’ turnovers are worrisome. He threw four picks vs. USC, giving him eight in four games.
8. COLORADO (3-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 7T
Last week: Lost 37-10 vs. Washington
This week: at UCLA (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Comment: Yuck. After beating Colorado State, Texas State and Northern Colorado by a combined 95-27, CU got run out of its own building. Perhaps we were all too quick to coronate new starting QB Steven Montez. He threw three interceptions against the Huskies, including a pick-six. That brings his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 6-6 for the season — not good enough to contend for the South title.
9. ARIZONA STATE (2-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 11
Last week: Won 37-35 vs. Oregon
This week: at Stanford (Saturday, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The heat is off Todd Graham … for a few days, anyway. As UA fans know, this is a week-to-week deal. And a murderer’s row lies ahead: at Stanford, vs. Washington, at Utah, vs. USC. If the Sun Devils can go 2-2 over that stretch, Graham might get a contract extension.
10. UCLA (2-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 9
Last week: Lost 58-34 at Stanford
This week: vs. Colorado (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Comment: You think you’ve got it bad, Arizona fans? Consider the Bruins: They have a future first-round quarterback in Josh Rosen, a roster full of four- and five-star recruits … and the same record as the Wildcats. Most disturbing for UCLA fans: The injury-riddled defense is allowing 43.2 points and 524.8 yards per game. The latter ranks 124th in the nation.
11. ARIZONA (2-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 10
Last week: Lost 30-24 vs. Utah
This week: Bye
Comment: Rich Rodriguez has two weeks to figure out the quarterback situation. Does he use that time to reopen the competition? Does he stick with Brandon Dawkins, who vacillates between brilliant and bewildering? The defense is better. The running game is good enough. It won’t matter if the QB play doesn’t improve.
12. OREGON STATE (1-3, 0-1)
Previous rank: 12
Last week: Bye
This week: vs. Washington (Saturday, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Remember all that talk about the Beavers being “this year’s Colorado”? So far, Oregon State is barely last year’s Oregon State. Making matters worse, QB Jake Luton suffered a scary spinal injury vs. Washington State. His status the rest of the way is uncertain.