The third week of the college football season showed that, as a conference, the Pac-12 is stronger than the Big 10. Going 3-1 on the week with UCLA, Arizona State, and Washington recording wins and only Cal falling to the mighty Ohio State, the arrow seems to be pointing up for most teams out west.
There will be many stat-padding games on the slate for Pac-12 offenses that have been tearing up the statistic sheets through the first few weeks of the season, two compliments of the great state of Idaho. All of which sets the table for the first conference match-up of ranked opponents taking place in the late afternoon in Palo Alto, Calif., as the ASU Sun Devils face the reigning Pac-12 Champions of Stanford.
1. #2 Oregon (3-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 1)
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota set a career high throwing for 456 yards against a shell-shocked Tennessee Volunteers defense missing one of their best players due to suspension. Oregon has played three games and scored at least 59 points in each of them and along the way developed yet another weapon on offense as freshman Johnny Mundt replaced an injured Colt Lyerla, catching five passes for 121 yards. No touchdowns on deck this week unless the offense can somehow figure a way to score from the couch on Saturday.
2. #5 Stanford (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 2)
Stanford looked downright pedestrian in the first half against the Black Knights of Army last week, then the defense took over and the stars came out on offense once the Cardinal shook off the jet-lag from their cross country flight back east. Quarterback Kevin Hogan kept his record perfect as a starting quarterback, throwing three touchdown passes and Ty Montgomery continued his development as the Swiss Army knife of this offense, who receives its first true test on its schedule against the 23rd ranked Sun Devils this Saturday.
3. #13 UCLA (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 4)
The Bruins looked like they had their minds on other things early on in their Week 3, down 21-3 at one point. Playing with heavy hearts after having lost a teammate six days earlier, Jim Mora’s team then went on to score 38 unanswered points and totaling 504 yards of perfect balance on offense against a Nebraska team that had previously won 14 straight games in Lincoln. To put it in a better historical frame of reference, it had been 90 years since a Nebraska team at home had yielded a lead bigger than the one possessed in this game.
Having buried their fallen teammate on Sunday, the Bruins get back to playing football this weekend against a New Mexico State team that is among the worst defensively in the nation. It should be just what the doctor ordered before the Bruins head out to face Utah to kick-off their Pac-12 schedule.
4. #17 Washington (2-0, Pac-12, Last Week: 3)
Someone must have finally passed along the message to Steve Sarkisian that you are actually allowed to win games on the road in college football. Running back Bishop Sankey got the word as well and really looks to be giving Ka’Deem Carey a run for his money early on in 2013 as who should be seated at the throne as best running back in the conference, having rushed for a career-high 208 yards in the win over Illinois. And things don’t look to change this week against Idaho State as the Huskies return home looking to start the season with three straight wins for the first time since Rick Neuheisel was roaming the sidelines.
5. #23 Arizona State (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 5)
The Devils began their stroll through one of the toughest stretches of schedule any team will have to endure this side of the SEC and finished with a win; no matter how you want to look at the final 18 seconds of the game against Wisconsin. Now, with that contest in the rear-view mirror, the games that really count in the race to make it to the Pac-12 Championship game begin on Saturday against yet another physically imposing opponent.
While Wisconsin’s approach of running at the edges of the ASU defense was questionable, the Devils held serve between the tackles for most of the contest and showed mental toughness against a ranked opponent not seen in some time at Sun Devil Stadium. That steel will come in handy this weekend versus a Stanford team known for imposing their will both offensively and defensively on their opponents, but one who will be missing two key members on the defensive line and in the secondary.
6. Arizona (3-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 6)
The Wildcats played their third tune-up game of the season against UTSA and their confidence in senior B.J. Denker at the quarterback position continues to grow as they seek to replace the production received at the position from Matt Scott. Having answered questions at quarterback, Ka’Deem Carey continued to show that he is a Heisman contender as one of the best running backs in the country with his second 100-yard game in as many contests after being forced to sit out the home opener. The Cats take the week off before heading to Seattle to play Washington in their Pac-12 opener.
7. USC (2-1 Overall, 0-1 Pac-12, Last Week: 7)
Marcus Allen was the last running back to open the season rushing for at least 100 yards in the Trojans’ first three games. That was before Tre Madden joined him, with 102 yards in the win against Boston College. Cody Kessler showed that all he needed was a bit of confidence and Lane Kiffin’s backing, not to mention facing a pretty bad Eagles defense.
If the Trojans could just put up an average offensive showing each week, the defense would allow them to get by most opponents. The perfect Frankenstein in this conference would be a Huskies offense matched with a Trojans defense — imagine the possibilities. Now quit dreaming Mr. Kiffin, as your team plays in the somewhat uncomfortable confines of the Coliseum for the third straight week against a Utah State team with razor blades in their underpants on offense, lead by Chuckie Keaton at quarterback, who has a 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
8. Oregon State (2-1 Overall, 1-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 9)
Oregon State moves up in the rankings with a win over a conference opponent. But coach Mike Riley might have been thinking about vacation destinations in December had his Beavers not come back to beat Utah in overtime last week. Once again, the passing game looked stout for his team, hitting on all cylinders — especially on consecutive fourth downs in overtime to help lead the Beavers to victory. But the defense that continues to be absolutely atrocious gets a week against San Diego State to try to circle the wagons.
9. Cal (1-2 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 8)
Sonny Dykes’ team is what it is right now. They can effectively throw the ball up and down the field, but much like Oregon State, their defense is non-existent. That being said, the new coaching staff has really changed the toughness and resolve of this team, and while still learning the ways of the new system they sure look like a fun underdog to watch every week. True freshman quarterback Jared Goff, who threw for 371 yards last week, is going to 5,000 this year if he stays healthy, and that in itself will be something to keep the fans in the seats at the new Memorial Stadium.
10. Washington State (2-1 Overall, 1-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 10)
With two tough games to start the season, you can give Wazzou a pass for scheduling last week’s game against Southern Utah, a contest in which quarterback Connor Halliday kept his interception streak alive, but still managed to squeeze in five touchdown passes along the way. This was the best we’ve seen of Leach’s highly-touted Air Raid offense in the 15 games it has taken the field, and we should be seeing more of the same against a winless Idaho team that is downright awful.
11. Utah (2-1 Overall, 0-1 Pac-12, Last Week: 11)
The Utes were just one defensive stand on fourth down away from starting the season 3-0. Travis Wilson came back to earth with three interceptions, and we learned that if his team is going to win more than four or five games this year he will have be the Travis Wilson of the first two weeks of the season, totaling seven touchdowns and zero turnovers.
The Holy War in the Beehive State takes a hiatus after this season, but not before Utah and BYU square off in a game in which the Cougars could punish the interior of the Utes defense running the football.
12. Colorado (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 12)
It took a natural disaster to keep wide receiver Paul Richardson from recording another 200-yard receiving game for CU, but in all seriousness, it was an unquestionable move to cancel the game at Folsom against Fresno State. The city of Boulder looks like a war zone due to all the flood damage sustained last weekend and the Buffs will take another week to put the pieces back together before heading to Corvallis, OR, for their first Pac-12 game of the season.