Rob Malara

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 4

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While the Pac-12 establishes itself once again as the second best conference top-to-bottom in all of college football with a 25-4 record of play outside the conference (with a few more games left to play later on this season), it’s safe to say, the damage of going out and playing schools of a non-cupcake variety has taken its toll.  And now the teams turn inward to battle out in conference play for the next two and a half months, already with battle scars from the first three weeks of the season.

1.#2 Oregon (3-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 1)

Week 3: defeated Wyoming, 48-14

The Ducks win over Wyoming coming on the heels of their big-time win over Michigan State in Week 2 shows that this team knows how to handle itself and is coached properly.  Something you can’t necessarily say that same for in the case of USC.  While that isn’t to say this is a cake walk for Oregon the rest of the season, they have so many weapons on offense and a defense that flies around the field and is super aggressive.

Against Washington State they won’t have to worry about their two weakest areas: offensive line depth and defending the run.  The Cougs won’t provide a threat to expose either of these two areas in their contest this week.  You should continue to see Marcus Mariota beef up his Heisman stock in this game given Washington State will hand back the ball early and often in this contest.

2. #16 Stanford (2-1, 0-1 Previous Rank 3)

Week 3: defeated Army, 35-0

After handling Army as they did last year, it’s time for Brian Shaw to re-group his team after the loss to the Trojans and work on cleaning up all the errors made in that pivotal early season match-up.  After their bye week they’ll head to Seattle to play a Huskies team that is starting to build confidence.

3. #12 UCLA (3-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 4)

Week 3: defeated Texas, 20-17

Any time you can go on the road and beat Texas it is a feather in the cap for the program, let alone the conference, even with the Horns rebuilding under new head coach Charlie Strong.  Non-conference road wins against Big 5 Conference opponents are nothing to shy away from, especially if you consider your program to be among the nation’s elite.

The validity of those claims will start to get sorted out when UCLA heads to Tempe next Thursday to open up their Pac-12 schedule.  Whether it will be with start quarterback Brett Hundley is still to be determined after his injury in the first quarter last Saturday.

4. #15 Arizona State (3-0, 1-0 Previous Rank 5)

Week 3: defeated Colorado, 38-24

Another week, another inconsistent four quarters for the Devils.  Much like they did against New Mexico on the road, they came out hot against Colorado last week, firing on all cylinders (racking up 222 yards of offense in the first quarter alone).  But then the second quarter hit and ASU seemed to once again let up on the gas pedal at the Buffs made a game of it.  Things got much worse with the loss of Taylor Kelly and Laiu Moeakiola as the game progressed.

Now the Devils are looking at a situation where at best they will be missing out on their senior quarterback (the second most experienced starter in the nation) through pivotal tilts against the Bruins and Trojans due to a right foot injury.

This veteran staff is now going to have to do its best coaching job to date over the course of the next few practices to get a young team prepared to play one of the biggest games at Sun Devil Stadium since Todd Graham took over in 2012.  Thankfully if you are Mike Norvell, he still has D.J. Foster, (is he now the best running back in the Pac-12) and his 200-all-purpose yards in back-to-back games, to lean on.

5. #17 USC (2-1, 1-0 Previous Rank 2)

Week 3: loss to Boston College, 37-31

Classic let down loss by a team thought to possess a tougher mental makeup than the one that showed up to play the Eagles last week.  The Trojans looked everything but the team that defeated Stanford in Palo Alto just a week earlier.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian had avoided multiple land mines with this team with all the off the field drama so far in 2014, but to lay an egg like that early on in the campaign leaves many questions still unanswered about the true fate of the team come bowl season.

6. Washington (3-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 6)

Week 3: defeated Illinois, 44-19

The Huskies finally played outstanding football in all three phases of the game for the first time this season and the result was their first convincing win over Illinois.  Linebacker Shaq Thompson is making a very strong claim early on, along with teammate Danny Shelton, for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

7. Arizona (3-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 7)

Week 3: defeated Nevada, 35-28

Nick Wilson is going to throw his hat in the ring for best running back in the Pac-12 before all is said and done this year thanks to another outstanding effort, this time against Nevada, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns.  Quarterback Anu Soloman looked much better in the game than he did against UTSA.

This week’s game should be fantastic as the Cats face off against Cal in a match of two teams with exciting offenses and suspect defenses.

8. Utah (2-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 8)

Week 3: Bye

Kyle Whittingham had the bye week to prepare to face his old Mountain West foe in Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.  A win in the Big House would really start to help build trust around this undefeated Utes team.  An embarrassing loss would only cement what doubts already lie around Whittingham’s ability to win games against Big 5 Conference opponents.

9. Oregon State (2-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 9)               

Week 3: Bye

One last chance for Mike Riley to pad the wins before heading into conference play, this week against San Diego State.  But don’t expect Mike Riley to underestimate how San Diego State were less than three minutes away from beating the Beavs last season before a pick six bailed them out of another disgraceful loss to a lesser opponent by the school.

The good news is that senior quarterback Sean Mannion looks sharp in the early going and Oregon State has a run game that is finally returning to form after years of not having one to speak of.

10. Cal (2-0, 0-0 Previous Rank 10)

Week 3: Bye

Much like Utah, the story is very similar for Cal: win and we’ll start to believe in you, get blown out in Tucson and you belong right about where you are on this list.

11. Washington State (1-2, 0-0 Previous Rank 11)

Week 3: defeated Portland State, 59-21

The Cougs finally got to be the big bully at the school yard against Portland State.  Connor Halladay had an amazing game throwing the football and Isiah Myers was the lucky recipient of a lot of those targets.  But as fate would have it, Washington State welcomes in Oregon right as their confidence got a bump last week.  Should be a fun game perhaps, for a quarter.

12. Colorado (1-2, 0-1 Previous Rank 12)

Week 3: lost to ASU, 38-24

Once the Buffs got their bearings and weathered the storm that was the first quarter against the Devils at Folsom Field they looked like a team that could win 4-6 games in 2014.  Nelson Spruce was very impressive and there certainly are pieces to build on with this young team.  But this is a competitive league and Mike McIntyre knows he has to start winning games and stop talking about moral victories.  This week against Hawaii should afford him the opportunity for the former.

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

About Rob Malara

Rob Malara

Rob Malara is a 2002 Sun Devil grad having spent the majority of his time in Tempe as a football, basketball, and baseball season ticket holder and front row inhabitant. A member of the Football Writers Association of America, he hosted the ASU Devils podcast and was its sub-optimal technical producer through its lifespan. Currently the president of the ASU Alumni Association's Northern Colorado Club, he is part of a family of maroon and gold residing in Fort Collins with his Sun Devil wife and nearby Sun Devil sister.

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