PULLMAN – At the beginning of the year there were six Pac-12 teams ranked in the Associated Press’ Top-25 poll. Of those teams, only No. 10 Stanford is still ranked.
Sure, No. 3 Utah and No. 20 California were unranked at the start, but the conference’s perception has taken a nosedive halfway through the season. To be sure, luck has played a role in the Pac-12’s perceived demise.
Coaching turmoil at USC has nearly taken the preseason favorite out of the conference race, and last year’s divisional champions, Arizona and Oregon, have each struggled to deal with injuries to their starting quarterbacks and other key players.
Arizona State and UCLA simply haven’t met expectations.
As long as Stanford and Utah keep playing well, the conference will still have a representative in the college football playoff. It just won’t be one of the team’s most analysts initially projected.
Here’s how I rank the Pac-12 teams heading into Week 8.
1 Stanford (5-1, 4-0; last week: 2) Stanford is the team that nobody wants to play and for good reason. The Cardinal have won their four Pac-12 games by an average of just more than three touchdowns.
2 Utah (6-0, 3-0; last week: 1) Utah. Ranked No. 3 in the country. Undefeated. Underdogs against a .500 USC team.
3 California (5-1, 2-1; last week: 5) If Jared Goff can regain his pre-Utah form, the Stanford-Cal rivalry may finally be worthy of its Big Game moniker.
4 Arizona (5-2, 2-2; last week: 4) The Wildcats have rebounded after their earlier funk, or have they? UA’s two-game win streak came against the conference’s worst teams, and a seven-point win at Colorado does not a ranked team make.
5 Washington State (4-2, 2-1; last week: 7) The Cougars own the state of Oregon. Well, except for that FCS team.
6 Arizona State (4-3, 2-2; last week: 6) The Utes accused ASU of stealing signs until they adjusted in the fourth quarter. Considering the Sun Devils were outscored 20-0 in the fourth, they should probably keep stealing next week.
7 UCLA (4-2, 1-2; last week: 3) Jim Mora got testy with a reporter this week for suggesting the Bruins want to win every game, saying they simply want to get better each week. But Jim, you’re not doing that, either.
8 USC (3-3, 1-2; last week: 11) The Trojans played well at Notre Dame, but still need to prove they can win under interim coach Clay Helton.
9 Oregon (4-3, 2-2; last week: 10) While getting Vernon Adams back was obviously huge for the Ducks, the return of Darren Carrington is no small thing, either. Carrington caught both of Adams’ touchdown passes against Washington, and finished with 125 receiving yards.
10 Washington (3-3, 1-2; last week: 8) More than anything, the Huskies just seem like a nuisance team right now. They won’t beat you, but their defense will rough you up a little.
11 Colorado (3-4, 0-3; last week: 9) The Buffaloes are in that exasperating stage of a rebuild when the team is in every game but can’t win any of them. But it’s obvious that Colorado is much improved over recent years.
12 Oregon State (2-4, 0-3; last week: 12) Freshman quarterback Seth Collins could be really good in a few years, if he survives that long.
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