Christopher Wuensch
Author's Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Three

Created on Sept. 16, 2013 9:57 AM EST

The Pac-12 is serving notice as the nation’s premiere conference this season, going 8-1 against three Big Ten, an SEC and an Independent this week. The conference can score against anyone and is home to 9 of the nation’s top 25 leaders in total offense, including No. 1 and 2 Jared Goff of California and Sean Mannion of Oregon State, respectively.

Speaking of the Beavers, they’re one of two big climbers this week, ascending two slots to No. 6 in our rankings — although, it should be argued that UCLA leapfrogging Washington and Stanford in the polls, despite both teams winning, is a major coup.

Last Week’s Rankings

1. OREGON 3-0, 0-0 (Last Week: No. 1, No Change)

Oregon is making a strong case to be the country’s No. 1 team. The Ducks have outscored their opponents, 184-27, and are averaging 61.3 points per game. They’ll get a week off now to rest up … not that they need it.

2. UCLA 2-0, 0-0 (No. 4, +2)

We knew the Bruins had the talent. Now they just might have the emotional motivation. Outgaining their opponents by an average of 233 yards certainly helps. Expect that disparity to climb even further when the No. 6 offense in the country takes on the 121st-ranked defense of New Mexico State this week.

3. STANFORD 2-0, 0-0 (No. 2, -1)

The Cardinal have scored 34 points in each of their first two contests, both wins. Yet, Stanford fell in our rankings due to their inability to put away San Jose State and Army. The Knights made the Cardinal earn their 34-20 win (and even made them sweat a bit at times), even if the Army stats (only 49 yards passing for Army’s A.J. Schurr and Angelo Santiago) make the game look like an easy win.

4. WASHINGTON 2-0, 0-0 (No. 3, -1)

Bishop Sankey is making a case as the Pac-12’s premier running back. His 206-yard effort in the Huskies’ win now ranks him tops in the conference and eighth in FBS with 368 rushing yards. Add quarterback Keith Price’s devilish 666 yards on 66 attempts to the mix and Washington should be considered a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 North. Despite their road win over Illinois, the Huskies dropped a spot this week. 

5. ARIZONA STATE 2-0, 0-0 (No. 5, —)

Arizona State got away with one on Saturday with a finish as wild as it was controversial. However, Arizona State made plays and fended off the relentless Badgers. Surrendering 193 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon should be a concern for the Sun Devils' defense.

6T. OREGON STATE 2-1, 1-0 (No. 8, +2)

The Beavers slowly are repairing the damage done from their Week 1 loss to Eastern Washington — and likely are tired of hearing about it. High-scoring shootouts appear to be Oregon State’s modus operandi. The Beavers are averaging 43.3 points and a margin of victory of less than seven points.

6T. ARIZONA 3-0, 0-0 (No. 6, -1)

A fairly flawless non-conference run for Arizona has fans wanting to know when the Wildcats will get some love on the national scene. Quarterback B.J. Denker proved he could throw with 158 passing yards and a 90-yard rushing performance in the Wildcats’ 38-13 win over Texas-San Antonio. But until Arizona plays a tougher opponent, Oregon State will get the nod over the Wildcats.

Explains’s John Baker:

“Though Oregon State and Arizona have tied for the No. 6 spot, I have to give the advantage to the Beavers (2-1) despite Arizona being unbeaten. A look at the schedules brings me to this week, where I think the Beavers win over a vastly improved Utah team is far more impressive than Arizona beating up on the University of Texas at San Antonio. In fact, Arizona's schedule has been Northern Arizona, UNLV and USTA, and just doesn't measure up to Oregon State's — even with the loss to Eastern Washington. OSU's win over Utah demonstrated toughness and resiliency. Arizona is still too much of a mystery.”

8. WASHINGTON STATE 3-0, 1-0 (No. 7, -1)

Despite being 3-0 with a major-conference win under their belt, Washington State slipped in our polls this week despite a 48-10 win over Southern Utah. They’ll get the Idaho Vandals on Saturday before entering Pac-12 play with a true test against Stanford. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday is averaging 314 yards per start so far and it seems unfair to ask Washington State to prove themselves by beating Stanford ... but a Cougars win over the Cardinal could go a long way toward convincing us that Mike Leach and company are legit.

9T. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 2-1, 0-1 (No. 10, +1)

Finally. The Trojans can throw the ball. Cody Kessler received the official starting nod over Max Wittek and the passed for 237 yards as Southern California made a statement win a resounding 35-7 win over Boston College: Don’t count us out yet. As long as the Trojans have Tre Madden bursting out of their backfield, USC should be considered dangerous. Madden, filling in for the injured Silas Redd, became the first Trojans player to start a season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances since Marcus Allen did so in 1981. For the record, Allen won the Heisman that season.

9T. UTAH 2-1, 0-1 (No. 9, -1)

Travis Wilson might be the most unassuming star in a conference of cartoonish-passing numbers. The sophomore quarterback not only threw for 279 yards in the Utes’ overtime loss to Oregon State, but also ran for a team-high 142 yards. Utah hung tough and could have beaten the Beavers, but fell short. After three home games to kick off the season, Utah finally hits the road, traveling to face BYU. At least they get to stay in-state. The home contests only get brutal from here on out with tilts in Salt Lake City against UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State and Colorado.

Once again, we kick it to John Baker to settle our tie:

“As for the No. 9 spot, Utah demonstrated that they are much-improved in the overtime loss to Oregon State. But the Trojans demonstrated that if they can get something resembling constructive quarterback play, they have the athletes on offense to make teams pay quickly and often. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is better than the quarterbacks at USC, but the difference isn't huge. A few weeks from now, the Trojans may give up ground to the Utes, but right now Utah still has a ways to go.”

11. COLORADO 2-0, 0-0 (No. 11, —)

We missed out on seeing an air show between Colorado’s Connor Wood (No. 5 passer in the nation) and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr (No.11). What we did get to see was the Buffs’ character on Saturday as CU players helped feed those displaced by the widespread flooding in Boulder. Bumping a team that spent its weekend doling out philanthropy down to our rankings’ basement didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

12. CALIFORNIA 1-2, 0-0 (No. 12, —)

It’s not a bad sign when your No. 12 team can hang 34 points on Ohio State — especially considering no one else has scored more than 20 on the Buckeyes prior to Saturday. The problem: The Golden Bears surrendered 52 points to Ohio State, the most they’ve scored all season. California quarterback Jared Goff continues to lead the nation in passing. But the Golden Bears' defense is struggling. California ranks 120th in total defense (556.3 yards per game allowed), behind all but three teams in country — including Ohio State’s Week 1 opponent Buffalo.

Voters: John Baker, Colin Huber, Henry McKenna, Alex Schultz and Christopher Wuensch.

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