Pac-12 Power Rankings: Oregon sits atop

Sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas rushes past the Arkansas State defense during the Ducks’ 57-34 win over the Red Wolves on Sept. 1. (Photo courtesy of Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

The Pac-12 just might be the most confusing conference out there.

Stanford beats USC, and then loses to Washington. UA upsets Oklahoma State, and loses to Oregon 49-0.

Oh yeah, that other school in Oregon isn’t too shabby either at 3-0.

With all this said, ASU somehow leads the Pac-12 South by “speaking victory.”

Let’s attempt to sort this conference out from No. 1 to No. 12:

 

1. Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12)

The Ducks, for now, are the best team in the Pac-12. Their cupcake non-conference schedule makes it difficult to quantify how good they are.

Oregon did dominate UA at home, blanking out the No. 22 team at the time. But defensively, the Ducks stats are misleading.

They’ve allowed just 19.8 points a game — a product of playing Arkansas State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech and Washington State.

Oregon’s offense is as good as advertised. Sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas might be the most dynamic player in the country. Senior running back Kenjon Barner already has over 600 yards on 96 carries. Freshman running back Byron Marshall, the younger brother of ASU’s Cameron Marshall, looks to be another weapon in the backfield for the Ducks.

 

2. USC (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12):

USC is very talented. After Stanford lost to Washington last Thursday, the whole country collectively scratched their heads.

Forget senior quarterback Matt Barkley’s decision to return to USC for a national championship for just a moment. This is a big year for coach Lane Kiffin.

The talent on offense for USC is just unbelievable. A top NFL Draft quarterback pick, two excellent receivers with junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marqise Lee. Need a running back? Sure, go ahead and grab a gift in junior running back Silas Redd, who transferred from Penn State.

The pressure is on for Kiffin. It’s still possible to make it to the BCS National Championship. His credentials as a coach have been questioned since he took the USC gig. What exactly has he done to get so many head coaching jobs? Those questions will only grow louder if he can’t get the job done this year.

 

3. Oregon State (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12)

Whether it’s due to coach Mike Riley or an In-N-Out burger reward after a win, the Beavers are easily the most surprising team in the Pac-12, if not the entire country.

They’re very physical in trenches and really took Wisconsin. Oregon State followed that upset with wins at UCLA and UA.

Sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion has played well through three games with six touchdowns and just one interception so far.

Will the Beavers ever fall back to Earth? They’ve got a tricky non-conference game at BYU in the middle of their schedule. Two weeks later, Oregon State has a three-game stretch at Washington, home to Arizona State and at Stanford. All this, and there’s still the Civil War game against Oregon in Reser Stadium on November 24.

 

4. UCLA (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12)

UCLA, ASU, Washington, Stanford and UA are tough to differentiate. It’s a bunched group from fourth to eighth.

The Bruins get the edge for now. Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley, a Chandler High School product, and senior running back Johnathan Franklin are putting up big numbers in Noel Mazzone’s offense. Hundley is ranked third in the Pac-12 in quarterback rating and Franklin leads the Pac-12 with 697 rushing yards.

UCLA has a nice win over Nebraska under its belt. The Bruins will likely be 6-1 when they travel to ASU. That game will likely determine second place in the Pac-12 South.

 

5.  ASU (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12)

The Sun Devils should be 5-0. They should’ve gained a yard at the goal line at Missouri.

But they’re not. However, 2-0 in the Pac-12 so far is big, considering USC already has a loss under its belt. The way coach Todd Graham stepped on the scene and completely changed the attitude and mindset of the Sun Devils is incredible. He’s very consistent with his discipline and “own the ball” saying.

They lack a good win though. The Sun Devils should be 5-1 heading into a home game against Oregon. It’s a Thursday night game and a blackout as well, which could spell for an upset.

 

6. Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)

The Huskies upset Stanford at home. Now they play Oregon on the road and home to USC in consecutive weeks. Who made their schedule?

It’s a tough stretch, and Washington was fortunate to defeat the weak link out of the trio of ranked teams. Offensively, the Huskies still need work. They were completely dominated by LSU during the second week of the season. How they respond these next two weeks, win or lose, will give a better idea of what to expect from Washington for the rest of the season.

 

7. Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12)

Despite a win over USC, Stanford isn’t as good as it was on that one night. Washington proved if the ball is in senior quarterback Josh Nunes’ hands, the Cardinal is in trouble. Granted, this was expected during the post-Andrew Luck era. Stanford wasn’t going to be as good. The USC game caught everyone off guard, but the Washington game put the Cardinal back into the Pac-12’s middle tier.

The Cardinal has a non-conference road game against Notre Dame in two weeks. The Fighting Irish is one of four ranked teams left on Stanford’s schedule.

 

8. UA (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12)

The Wildcats have a brutal schedule. Six straight games against current ranked teams. They’re already 2-0 on this stretch with losses to both Oregon and Oregon State.

UA’s win over Oklahoma State was a big one for the program under new coach Rich Rodriguez, but it didn’t sustain the success or the momentum from the upset. UA has to go 2-2 split during its next four games at Stanford and UCLA and at home to Washington and USC.

Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey looks like he’ll be a really good running back for the Wildcats for quite some time.

 

9. Utah (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)

It’s unfortunate that junior quarterback Jordan Wynn had to retire. This team looked like one that could compete for the second spot in the Pac-12 South, but now it’ll try and avoid the last spot in the division.

 

10. Washington State (2-3, 0-2 Pac-12)

Coach Mike Leach hasn’t exactly made the impression expected at Washington State. The Cougars lost to Colorado and barely defeated Eastern Washington at home. Sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday is completing 54.5 percent of his passes and has six interceptions.

At best, this looks like a four-win team.

 

11. California (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12)

It’ll be shocking if coach Jeff Tedford survives this season. Cal did not look good at home against ASU. Tedford made some silly coaching decisions, like declining a couple of holding calls.

Senior quarterback Zach Maynard had a bad game as well. The only thing going for the Golden Bears are their trio of running backs and junior wide receiver Keenan Allen.

 

12. Colorado (1-4, 1-1 Pac-12)

The Buffaloes are the worst team in the Pac-12. Their 0-3 non-conference record to Colorado State, Sacramento State and Fresno State overshadowed the rest of the conference’s success during non-conference play.

How they squeaked out of Pullman with a win over Washington State is hard to understand. It’s even more difficult to look at Colorado’s schedule and think it’ll win another game.

 

Reach the reporter at mtesfats@asu.edu