One Bay Area team enters the official start of conference season with a 3-0 record, two of those wins coming against ACC and SEC opponents. The other Bay Area school is 1-2 with a loss to a Mountain West Conference program.
1. Washington (3-0)
Previous Rank: 2
Last week: Won 48-16 vs. Fresno State
This week: at Colorado (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The Huskies have handled their business against weak nonconference opponents. The Huskies are dynamic in all three phases, but returner Dante Pettis has emerged as a bona fide star after scoring the eighth punt return touchdown of his career against Fresno State, tying an NCAA record. He scored four total touchdowns on the night. Maybe now teams will stop kicking it to him …
2. USC (3-0)
Previous Rank: 1
Last week: Won 27-24 vs. Texas
This week: at Cal (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 9)
Comment: Hey Darnold! Texas gave USC a run for its money in another thrilling game a decade after they faced off in the classic Vince Young-dominated Rose Bowl. This one went two overtimes, and the Trojans made a lot of errors, including two Sam Darnold interceptions and a surprisingly weak rushing attack, but there’s no questioning the Trojans talent. USC’s hero this week is the remarkable Darnold, who displayed his NFL throwing ability and finished with 397 yards and three touchdowns against Texas. Now for the hard part: USC doesn’t have a bye week.
3. Oregon (3-0)
Previous Rank: 3
Last week: Won 49-13 at Wyoming
This week: at Arizona State (Saturday, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Arizona)
Comment: New coach Willie Taggart has reenergized the Ducks, and running back Royce Freeman has rushed for 460 yards and nine touchdowns through three games. Oregon opens Pac-12 play with two very winnable games against ASU and California.
4. Washington ST. (3-0)
Previous rank: 5
Last week: Won 52-23 vs. Oregon State
This week: vs. Nevada (Saturday, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Is Luke Falk the most underrated quarterback in the country? Anyone who plays in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense carires the “system quarterback” label, but Falk might be the best one Leach has coached. Against Oregon State, he completed 37 of 49 passes for 396 yards and six touchdowns. If Wazzu can somehow win the Pac-12 North, Falk will be a dark horse Heisman contender.
5. California (3-0)
Previous Rank: 9
Last week: Won 27-16 vs. Ole Miss
This week: vs. USC (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 9)
Comment: Can we just hand Justin Wilcox the Pac-12 Coach of the Year trophy now? Wilcox, a longtime defensive coordinator, has revamped Cal’s defense and made the Golden Bears much more than a bottom-dwelling pushover.
6. Utah (3-0)
Previous Rank: 8
Last week: Won 54-16 vs. San Jose State
This week: at Arizona (Friday, 7:30 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The Utes are the most quietly consistent team in the Pac-12 Conference, and the Wildcats will have their hands full with a talented squad on Friday night. The Utes might have the best receiver in the conference in Oregon transfer Darren Carrington, who has at least 127 yards receiving in all three games and went wild with 153 yards and three touchdowns vs. SJSU.
7 (TIE). Colorado (3-0)
Previous Rank: 6
Last week: Won 41-21 vs. Northern Colorado
This week: vs. Washington (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1)
Comment: The Buffs havce won all three of their games quite easily. The transition from Northern Colorado to No. 7-ranked Washington won’t be easy, and CU will need quarterback Steven Montez to play more like he did against Northern Colorado (357 passing yards, 68 rushing yards, four touchdowns) than in Week 1 against Colorado State, when he threw two picks.
7 (TIE). Stanford (1-2)
Last week: Lost 20-17 at San Diego State
This week: vs. UCLA (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: The Cardinal appear to be in a difficult spot at quarterback with the unproductive Keller Chryst, and it’s unfathomable to see a Stanford program starting out 1-2. There’s plenty of time to turn the season around, and the Cardinal might have the easiest conference schedule in the conference with three of the first five games on the road, with one of those road games at Oregon State. But this team’s ceiling is now much lower than it was before the season.
9. UCLA (2-1)
Previous Rank: 7
Last week: Lost 48-45 at Memphis
This week: at Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Comment: Jim Mora is in even more trouble following the Bruins’ loss to Memphis. No Pac-12 team should lose to a squad from The American Athletic Conference, especially the Bruins. UCLA has no rushing attack, and Mora hasn’t been able to capitalize on a first-round NFL prospect (Josh Rosen) at quarterback.
10. Arizona (2-1)
Previous Rank: 10
Last week: Won 63-16 at UTEP
This week: vs. Utah (Friday, 7:30 p.m., FS1)
Comment: Nobody really knows what this Arizona team will be. Quarterback Brandon Dawkins had the best game of his career, but it came against UTEP, possibly the least-talented FBS program in the nation this season. The most positive sign for Arizona is its fast-improving defense, which shut down UTEP and held Houston to 19 points a week earlier. If the defense keeps it up, Arizona could surprise. But if the defense reverts to its 2016 form and Dawkins struggles? Bad times.
11. Arizona State (1-2)
Previous Rank: 11
Last week: Lost 52-45 at Texas Tech
This week: vs. Oregon (Saturday, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Arizona)
Comment: Will Todd Graham make it through the season? The odds seem to be stacked against him. After losing to the Red Raiders, the Sun Devils are 1-2 heading to a stretch of games that includes showdowns against Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Utah, USC and Colorado. This has echoes of Arizona’s 2011 season, when the Wildcats started off slow and Mike Stoops was fired mid-season.
12. Oregon State (1-3)
Previous Rank: 12
Last week: Lost 52-23 at Washington State
This week: Bye
Comment: The Beavers are baaaad. Maybe the bye week will serve them well, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point.