PULLMAN – Since the Pac-10 became 12 in 2011 and was separated into northern and southern divisions the conference’s best football has been played above the 40th parallel.
The Pac-12 title has gone to Stanford or Oregon for five consecutive seasons, Oregon State had some good teams and the Washington Schools each appeared to be on the upswing.
Heading into this season the conferences were expected to be about even, with each division having three ranked teams and one contender – Oregon in the north and UCLA in the South.
But the teams from the south have dominated their northern counterparts even though UCLA has been disappointing thus far. Teams from the Pac-12 South have a 9-4 record against the northern division. Oregon may be the highest-ranked Pac-12 team in the AP poll at No. 6, but the other five conference teams to make the Top-25 are all from the southern division and Colorado is the only Pac-12 South team currently unranked.
Whether or not the southern division can claim its first title since the formation of the Pac-12 remains to be seen, but it seems indisputable that whatever team wins the south will have made it through the toughest division.
1 Oregon (6-1, 3-1; last week: No. 1) I’m not sure Oregon-Washington counts as a rivalry anymore, but the annual beat down of the Huskies is becoming one of the Ducks’ oldest traditions.
2 Arizona St. (5-1, 3-1; last week: No. 3) The conference’s most rapidly-improving team takes another big leap forward with the return of Taylor Kelly.
3 USC (5-2, 4-1; last week: No. 4) That loss at Boston College is all that separates USC from college football playoff contention.
4 Stanford (4-3, 2-2; last week: No. 2) The last time Stanford was unranked Jim Harbaugh was the coach and Andrew Luck was a promising young quarterback.
5 Arizona (5-1, 2-1; last week: No. 5) The Wildcats are No. 7 in the country in passing offense. Pretty good for a run-first offense.
6 Utah (5-1, 2-1; last week: No. 6) The Utes are one win away from bowl eligibility. But with three upcoming games against Top-20 teams followed by a trip to Stanford before hosting Arizona, it’s a good thing Colorado is on the schedule.
7 UCLA (5-2, 2-2; last week: No. 8) The most surprising thing about former contender UCLA’s come-from-behind two-point victory at last-year’s punching bag California? It was the Bruins’ first successful trip to Berkeley in eight tries.
8 Washington (5-2, 1-2; last week: No. 7) Washington’s allegedly good defense gave up 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Oregon freshman Royce Freeman. Just imagine what he’ll have in store for the Huskies as a sophomore.
9 California (4-3, 2-3; last week: No. 9) California did nothing to dispel the notion that it’s a much-improved team that isn’t quite there yet in a close loss to UCLA.
10 Oregon St. (4-2, 1-2; last week: No. 10) The Beavers took Utah to double-overtime, which is impressive until you find out that the Utes passed for just 62 yards in all that time.
11 Washington St. (2-5, 1-3; last week: No. 11) The Cougars say they rested up and got healthy during the bye week. Then why are so many players still missing from practice?
12 Colorado (2-5, 0-4; last week: No. 12) Colorado’s defense forced as many incomplete passes by Cody Kessler (seven) as it allowed touchdowns. That’s not a winning ratio.
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