Oregon atop power rankings as Pac-10 play begins

Several Pac-10 teams have already shown if they will meet or fall short of expectations just three weeks into the season.

Basement teams are easy choices, but the race to the Rose Bowl will get more and more competitive.

10. Washington State (1-2, 0-0 Pac-10)

WSU has done nothing to prove that they aren’t going to finish in the basement of the Pac-10 again in 2010.

The Cougars were demolished by an average Oklahoma State team in week one and barely snuck past FCS opponent Montana State by one point — at home. WSU had its last winnable game last week, but fell by two touchdowns to Southern Methodist.

Don’t be surprised if this team doesn’t win another game the rest of the way. The Cougars defense is one of the worst in the country and their offense isn’t much better.

9. UCLA (1-2, 0-1)

It hasn’t been a pretty start to the season for UCLA.

The Bruins fell to Kansas State in week one and were embarrassed by Stanford in their Pac-10 opener. UCLA did get a win in week three against a ranked Houston team, but UH was without their top two quarterbacks.

The Bruins don’t have a quarterback on the roster that can take over games. The offense has struggled to move the football and the defense has not been good against the run.

With a trip to Texas next, the Bruins will be 1-3 by the time they play their next Pac-10 game.

8. Washington (1-2, 0-0)

Like UCLA, the start of the 2010 campaign has not been friendly to UW.

After two unimpressive showings in the first two weeks of the season, the Huskies had a big test on their home turf in week three against Nebraska. UW laid an egg and was run out of its own building.

Quarterback Jake Locker struggled mightily and has not performed up to expectations.

For this team to be good, Locker must improve because there isn’t much else around him.

7.  California (2-1, 0-0)

After two big victories to start the season, Cal played uninspired against Nevada on Friday and was blown out.

The Golden Bears’ defense was torched by the Wolfpack and has to be a major concern.  Quarterback Kevin Riley was up to his old tricks, throwing critical interceptions. Cal outgained the Wolfpack, but Riley’s three interceptions hurt.

With a blowout win over Colorado and a blowout loss last week, we will see who this Cal team really is when they travel to UA next week.

6. ASU (2-1, 0-0)

ASU was so close to having a signature win and an undefeated record heading into conference play. However, a blocked extra point and other mistakes cost the Sun Devils yet another big game.

There were positives in the loss to Wisconsin and encouraging signs for the rest of the season. Junior quarterback Steven Threet is the man for the job and has won over the confidence of his teammates.

No doubt this team is more talented and faster than in the previous two seasons, but now it is about winning football games.

How will this team respond to another heartbreaking loss?

5. Oregon State (1-1, 0-0)

If you take a look at the total offense and total defense statistics in the Pac-10, surprisingly you will find OSU near the bottom of both categories.

The Beavers lost a tough one in week one against TCU and had a bye in week two. They came off that bye and struggled to beat a bad Louisville team in week three. OSU has not been able to run the football effectively and their defense hasn’t been great either.

The Beavers travel to Boise State this week and will have to play much better if they want an upset victory.

4. Southern California (3-0, 0-0)

This talented team is 3-0, but has not been impressive in any of its three games.

USC struggled to beat Virginia at home and Minnesota on the road. The Trojans have been torched through the air and the offense has been very average.

With no postseason play available, motivation will be a huge factor all season long. If USC falls out of the Pac-10 race, the season could unravel quickly.

This team is still very talented, but has to harness the talent in order to win the conference.

3. Stanford (3-0, 1-0)

Looking for an explosive offense? Check out Stanford.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Cardinal offense has been unstoppable early on.  Luck helped Stanford put up 41 points in the first half in a 68-24 win over Wake Forest last week.

We knew the offense was going to be good with Luck in command, but the defense has been surprising. Thus far, the Cardinal defense has been very good, especially the secondary. This team is for real and has a very good shot at the Rose Bowl.

They can’t overlook Notre Dame this week with a showdown against UO looming the following week.

2. UA (3-0, 0-0)

Like Stanford, we knew UA had an outstanding quarterback and could put points on the board, but the true question lied in the defense. The Wildcats have answered that question early on.

No Pac-10 team has a bigger win than UA’s upset of Iowa this past weekend.  The Wildcats defense is second in the Pac-10 and they can air it out on offense with anyone.

UA’s critical stretch will come in November, when it plays at Stanford, home against USC and at UO. That stretch will decide if UA will smell roses for the first time in its history.

1. Oregon (3-0, 0-0)

The reason Oregon was listed No. 2 in the preseason power rankings was because of the question mark at quarterback. Sophomore Darron Thomas has answered that question.  He ran Chip Kelly’s offense to perfection and seems to be a better passer than his predecessor, Jeremiah Masoli.

No team gets bigger plays in its running game than UO and the defense has been sensational. While untested, UO has demolished its competition.

The Ducks are No. 1 in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. UO is not only the favorite to win the Pac-10, but are a legitimate national championship contender.

Reach the reporter at andrew.gruman@asu.edu