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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 2: The Maligned South Rises


Holy smokes. The Pac-12 action this weekend was extremely unpredictable. Lets break it down.

1. USC Trojans (2-0, defeated the Syracuse Orange 42-29)

Weird game in New Jersey. Less than 40,000 tickets sold and weather delayed the second half by nearly an hour. I won't hold this one against the Trojans, so lets look at the positives: Matt Barkley threw six touchdown passes and Silas Redd picked up 107 yards on the ground.

Most concerning? USC is starting to look like last year's version of Arizona State in regards to penalties. 12 for 82 yards? That cannot continue. Lane Kiffin is going to have a field day in practice this week leading up to the Stanford game.

2. Oregon Ducks (2-0, defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 42-25)

I almost considered dropping Oregon below UCLA. That's how impressed I am with the Bruins. Oregon played another mediocre team and let the foot off the gas after the first half, scoring only 7 points following the break. Kenjon Barner picked up 201 yards on the ground, but they used him too much against a middling opponent like this.

The Ducks have another easy game next week, and they will likely fall down this list if UCLA beats Houston.

3. UCLA Bruins (2-0, defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 36-30)

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has brought a competent offense to Pasadena, and Brett Hundley is the perfect quarterback to run his system. With four touchdown passes against the Cornhuskers, Hundley asserted himself among the best new starting QBs in the nation.

But who can forget about Johnathan Franklin? 26 carries, 217 yards. There hasn't been a more exciting running back at UCLA since Maurice Jones-Drew. This is a sleeper squad and they are legitimate contenders in the South. Coaching changes are working out for the conference in 2012.

4. Stanford Cardinal (2-0, defeated the Duke Blue Devils 50-13)

A 37-point win over an inferior opponent. Much better showing from the Cardinal against the Blue Devils, and Josh Nunes is finding his footing as the replacement for Andrew Luck. In a blowout, Stepfan Taylor only got 14 carries, but keeping him fresh is a big part of the puzzle for Stanford as the regular conference schedule opens for them next weekend against the vaunted USC Trojans.

That game will change these rankings drastically.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0, defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 45-14)

We covered this game in detail. The Sun Devils are back in multiple regards: discipline on both sides of the ball and the offense, through a two quarterback system, is clicking on all cylinders. ASU has a ton of work to do on defense if they wish to hang with the top tier in this conference, but these early season games are giving the young players valuable experience and game film to process.

Todd Graham can't be happy with the fumbles on offense and the blown assignments on gap coverage on defense, but everything else is working exactly the way he wanted. After two games, not many new head coaches can claim that.

6. Arizona Wildcats (2-0, defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 59-38)

Begrudging respect from this Sun Devil fan. UA get hit in the mouth by Oklahoma State, falling down 14-0 early. Instead of packing it in, Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats took the fight to the Pokes, reeling off 30 consecutive points to take a 30-14 lead. The Cowboys had no answer for Matt Scott and the UA defense. Shocking.

The Territorial Cup is starting to look even more interesting.

7. Oregon State Beavers (1-0, defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 10-7)

What a shocking turn of events. I was completely wrong about the Beavers last week when I said the following: "Right now, it looks like OSU will only play 11 games this year. That might be a good thing, as not much is expected out of this squad."

Oregon State controlled the ball and played stout defense against a talented team. Most impressively, the Beavers kept Montee Ball in check. If this team plays defense like this every week, they will be able to stop even the most potent of Pac-12 offenses.

On the other hand, having nearly two weeks to prepare for the Badgers probably helped the cause. Guess what? They have two weeks to prepare for the UCLA Bruins. Watch out Jim Mora.

8. California Golden Bears (1-1, defeated the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 50-31)

At the half, Cal led 20-10 thanks to this insane catch.

Cal won by 19, but their win at home does not compare to the rest. It will be interesting to see if Jeff Tedford can get his early game offense rolling, or else they will be playing from behind against high-flying Pac-12 offenses in a few weeks.

9. Washington Huskies (1-1, lost to the LSU Tigers 41-3)

I feel bad moving down the Huskies so far for losing to such a talented team. Fact is, so many Pac-12 teams pulled off big wins on Saturday that the 38-point loss is all the more striking. I fully anticipate Keith Price and the Huskies digging themselves out of this hole in the power rankings soon.

10. Utah Utes (1-1, lost to the Utah State Aggies 27-20 in OT)

So it seems Northern Colorado did not prepare the Utes for stiffer competition, and the Aggies pulled off a big victory at home in Logan. John White held his own in the ground game, but the quarterback play at Utah has turned from a point of excitement to a point of consternation. Completing only 19 of 39 passes won't win you many games in a BCS conference.

11. Washington State Cougars (1-1, defeated the Eastern Washington Eagles 24-20)

The rebuilding project continued to unfold on Saturday as the Cougs struggled with a talented FCS team. No one expected Wazzu to blow out the Eagles, but only scoring 24 points in the real concern for Mike Leach and the air raid offense he's trying to implement.

12. Colorado Buffaloes (0-2, lost to the Sacramento State Hornets 30-28)

This was pathetic. If it weren't for the gobs of money the Pac-12 is making thanks to their expansion, adding the Buffaloes would be considered an abject failure. I can't see these guys winning more than two games this season.