The Pac-12, as always, has been wild and weird so far this season, but a few things are at least unanimously understood.
The first being that Washington and Washington State are a step ahead of everybody else to this point in the season, that USC is right behind them and that Oregon State won’t be handing off the “Worst Team in the Pac-12” mantle anytime soon.
One more — for the first time since the Star started conducting this iteration of the Pac-12 Power Rankings last season, all three voters unanimously agreed on the placement of EVERY TEAM.
That never happens.
It probably just means we spend too much time together.
Anyway, here’s a look at this week's Pac-12 power rankings, as voted on by Star reporters Michael Lev, Zack Rosenblatt and sports producer Justin Spears.
1. Washington (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 1)
Last week: Won vs. California 38-7
This week: at Arizona State (Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: Really, the Huskies might’ve had the easiest six-game stretch (Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State, Colorado, Oregon State, California) to begin the season of any team in the nation, but it’s hard to nitpick anything with this team since they’ve been routinely dominant so far. Arizona State isn’t a pushover this year, and UCLA and Oregon are talented, but Washington’s first true test might not come until its three game stretch to end the season against Stanford, Utah and Washington State.
2. Washington State (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 2)
Last week: Won at Oregon 33-10
This week: at California (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: As of now, Mike Leach, purveyor of pirates, might be the front-runner for the national coach of the year award. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but Luke Falk continues to impress at quarterback and the offense (as always) is prolific, but this Cougars team is legit because of its defense. Yes, a Mike Leach-coached team might be winning because of its defense. The Cougars are third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, second in total defense, fourth in rush defense, second in pass defense and second in sacks. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is bound for a head coaching gig.
3. USC (5-1; 3-1 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 3)
Last week: Won vs. Oregon State 38-10
This week: vs. Utah (Saturday, 5 p.m., ABC)
Comment: The Trojans bounced back nicely wth a dominant win after the loss to Washington State, it just came against the dumpster fire at Oregon State. A bad sign: quarterback Sam Darnold committed two more turnovers and has thrown nine interceptions this season.
4. Stanford (4-2, 3-1 PREVIOUS RANK: 4)
Last week: Won at Utah 23-20
This week: against Oregon (Saturday, 8 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The Cardinal have been led by running back Bryce Love, who has become the talk of the Pac-12, especially on a national level, thanks to the stellar numbers he’s already put up through six games. Accounting for a (likely) bowl game, Love is on pace for 2,686 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. You’re looking at a Heisman Trophy contender.
5. Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 6)
Last week: Lost vs. Stanford 23-20
This week: at USC (Saturday, 5 p.m., ABC)
Comment: The Utes are an interesting case, largely because of their schedule. Nobody really knew what kind of team this was going into conference play, and after quarterback Tyler Huntley was injured in an ugly win over Arizona, there were only more questions. Last week, the Utes only lost to Stanford by three points, and have a tough game at USC this week. Pull an upset, and Utah will be a team to watch in the South.
6. UCLA (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 7)
Last week: Bye
This week: at Arizona (Saturday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The Bruins are coming off a bye week after a win over Colorado, and UCLA needs the win as badly, if not more so, than Arizona does. Jim Mora’s job security might depend on it. Expect a big night from Josh Rosen, who leads the nation with 2,139 passing yards to go with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’ll always put up numbers, but the Bruins will only go as far as their running game and defense allow.
7. Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 5)
Last week: Lost vs. Washington State 33-10
This week: at Stanford (Saturday, 8 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The Ducks have been decimated by injuries this season, and true freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister (remember him?) was forced to burn a redshirt and take over the reins of oregon’s offense before he was ready. If not for the injuries, this is a team that might be a little better suited to compete in the Pac-12 North. We might not see the best version of this Oregon team this season.
8. Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12 PREVIOUS RANK: 11)
Last week: Won at Colorado 45-42
This week: against UCLA (Saturday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Arizona is in an interesting spot. Win against UCLA, which would be the first for coach Rich Rodriguez in six years at Arizona, and the Wildcats all of a sudden have a legitmate shot at, at least, the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 South standings, especially armed with Khalil Tate at quarterback. Lose the game, and all of sudden the Wildcats have a tougher path to bowl eligibility and Rodriguez might be right back on the hot seat. No pressure.
9. Arizona State (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 10)
Last week: Bye
This week: against Washington (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: The Sun Devils had a bye week after remaining competitive two weeks ago in a 10-point loss to Stanford, but ASU’s rush defense is still amongst the worst in the nation, and it doesn’t get any easier this week. Unless Todd Graham pulls an upset somewhere, he’s not long for the job.
10. Colorado (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 8)
Last week: Lost vs. Arizona 45-42
This week: at Oregon State (Saturday, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Everybody expected some drop-off for Colorado from last season’s 10-win, Pac-12 South-winning season. Nobody thought it’d sink to this level. The Buffs had one of the conference’s best defenses last year. It’s almost a week later, and Khalil Tate still might be rushing for touchdowns on him. CU coach Mike MacIntyre will be having nightmares about Tate for a long time if things don’t start improving.
11. California (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 9)
Last week: Lost at Washington 38-7
This week: against Washington State (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: The Golden Bears have been a victim of tough scheduling more than naything else. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and they surprised a lot of people in opening a difficult non-conference slate 3-0 and playing USC tough. Then played an upstart, pre-injured Oregon team and the Huskies last week. This week it’s Washington, then come three winnable games in a row — Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State. Bowl eligibility is still possible.
12. Oregon State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12; PREVIOUS RANK: 12)
Last week: Lost at USC 38-10
This week: against Colorado (Saturday, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Gary Andersen went out in a blaze of…well, not glory. Oregon State was supposed to be on the rise, then they sunk to the lows the program was in when Andersen arrived (shockingly) from Wisconsin, barely beating Portland State and losing to Colorado State and Minnesota, and getting (understandably) killed by Washington State, Washington and USC. This week, Andersen quit, and literally tore up his contract — he agreed to give up his entire salary, in excess of 12 million dollars. Oh, and a local reporter released text messages that depicted Andersen trashing his assistant coaches throughout the season.Strange turn of events in Corvallis.