Ranking the Pac-12: Week 4


Nearly every contest going into Saturday has intrigue and story lines if you are a fan of the conference.

Do you like watching teams run the football? Then Arizona versus Washington will put a smile on your face. Do you love a ton of offense? Check out Cal visiting Oregon to face the imposing Ducks squad looking to make a freshman quarterback pay for his courage. And then you can sit back and watch two teams with much to prove as USC comes to Sun Devil Stadium late in the evening.

1. #2 Oregon (3-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 1)

With a week off, Oregon has been given two weeks to study the fast paced, throw-it-around-the-park offense that is the Bear Raid of Cal. Usually that bodes very well for an Ducks defense lead by the longest tenured coordinator in the conference, Nick Aliotti.

Cal quarterback Jared Goff may have had success in non-conference play, but you never want to break in a true freshman quarterback to conference play in this fashion it’s about to go down; in Eugene against a team that feels it needs to prove itself to the for national respect each and every week. This one could get ugly quick if Cal can’t move the football quickly early on.

2. #5 Stanford (3-0 Overall, 1-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 2)

After lackluster showings against Army and San Jose State, Stanford demonstrated that they have what it takes to beat ranked opponents in 2013. Their offensive line is imposing, while their defense imposes their will on its opponents. Sprinkle in the consistency of quarterback Kevin Hogan and just enough explosiveness from Ty Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson and you have the makings of a championship contender.

3. #13 UCLA (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 3)

After three games we can now confidently say that this UCLA offense is part of the class of elite. In just his second year as the starting quarterback, Brett Hundley has added third down efficiency to his tool box, completing nearly 75 percent of his passes on third down. Jordan James has so far done a fantastic job replacing the departed Johnathan Franklin, rushing for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the 59-13 win over New Mexico State last week.

4. #16 Washington (3-0, Pac-12, Last Week: 4)

Much of Washington’s success on offense so far this season can be traced back to the beating they received by the University of Arizona last season to the tune of 52-17. Since then, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has decided to join the Jones’ by going to a hurry-up approach that really utilizes the strengths of quarterback Keith Price. The story comes full circle this week as the Wildcats face off once again with the Huskies as two of the better running back in the nation will be on display.

5. Arizona State (2-1 Overall, 0-1 Pac-12, Last Week: 5)

ASU falls out of the national rankings with the loss to Stanford, but could regain confidence with a win at home against the Trojans this week. All of the Sun Devils’ flaws were exposed by the Cardinal in Palo Alto last week, and the coaching staff will have its work cut out getting confidence back to this group of players. Some of that may come from a 21-point spurt late in last week’s game in which the best of what the Devils have to offer finally came out.

6. USC (3-1 Overall, 0-1 Pac-12, Last Week: 7)

Tre Madden fell just short of eclipsing the 100 yard rushing plateau for a fourth straight game to open the season, but the story of last Saturday’s game against pesky Utah State was the play of Clancy Pendergast’s defense. The defense has been remade to terrorize opposing quarterbacks with their athletic ability to attack the football, rather than reading and reacting. Sopohmore defensive tackle Leonard Williams is really starting to blossom with the new scheme as evidenced by his three tackles for losses last week against a Chuckie Keaton-led Utah State team.

7. Arizona (3-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 6)

Arizona has played one of the weakest non-conference schedules of any team in the conference, but it was much needed as the team tries to identify what exactly it has to offer as both a passing offense and a FBS-level defense.

A young and out-manned defense struggled through much of defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s first campaign with the Cats. But he can highlight the match-up against Washington last year as a focal point of when parts of his unit came together. With back-to-back wins against the Huskies, this team could jump into the top half of Pac-12 supremacy.

8. Oregon State (3-1 Overall, 1-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 8)

It hasn’t been pretty, but after a humiliating season opening loss to Eastern Washington the Beavers have won three straight. And keeping their fans on edge has been the name of the game for this team as once again they snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat with a go ahead pick-six that put them ahead in the dying minutes against San Diego State.

Sean Mannion continues to tear it up through the air, and this week, he finds an opponent who nearly mirrors his success in Colorado — a team that knows only throwing deep for touchdowns on offense as much as it can. Sound familiar?

9. Utah (3-1 Overall, 0-1 Pac-12, Last Week: 11)

Quarterback Travis Wilson didn’t have his best game of the early season, but he certainly continued his efficiency and playmaking ability as he led the Utes to victory in the Holy War against BYU, 20-13.

10. Washington State (3-1 Overall, 1-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 10)

I screamed to anyone who would listen last season that Cougars wide receiver Gabe Marks would put up the best numbers at his position of any underclassmen through his first two years. And he rewarded me by following the tempo of the rest of the Wazzou offense in 2012, leaving much to be desired with just 49 catches in Mike Leach’s throw-first offense. Fast forward to week five of 2012 and Marks goes into his teams’ match-up averaging nearly eight receptions and 87 yards per contest after recording his first big game of the season last week against Idaho.

Leach and quarterback Connor Halladay will need the best out of Marks as one of the nation’s best defenses comes to the Palouse this week in Stanford. Look for Halladay to be running for his life from the opening snap and getting back to his ways of turning the football over every third offense drive.

11. Cal (1-2 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 9)

Having played the first three games of the season at new-look Memorial Stadium, the Bears head to Eugene for their first road game of 2013. Quarterback Jared Goff is averaging 435.5 passing yards a game to start his college career, and he’ll need that and more to put up a fight against one of the best teams in the nation.

12. Colorado (2-0 Overall, 0-0 Pac-12, Last Week: 12)

Tough luck by mother nature has prevented Colorado from getting a good sense of their true identity in the outset of the new season, but one thing is for sure, this team will only go as far as the arm of quarterback Connor Woods and the hands and legs of wide receiver Paul Richardson. Do they have what it takes as a team, though, to go into one of the toughest places in conference and get a win?

How do you rank the Pac-12 so far top-to-bottom? Let us know on Twitter and you could make it on the next ASU Devils Den Podcast.