Nine out of the ten teams already have a loss in conference play three weeks in. The pecking order remains muddled and the rankings can’t be based simply on who beat who. For example, Arizona State beat Washington who beat Oregon State who–you guessed it–beat Arizona State.
1. Oregon Ducks (6-0, 3-0)
The Ducks benefited from a bye week. Mayhem throughout the top 25 allowed them to slide into the number one ranking in the AP poll. The Ducks come out of the bye to play Thursday night against UCLA in Eugene on ESPN. The Duck attack has racked up points and yards in absurd fashion. The defense has held opponents down, but it hasn’t received attention because the offense has stolen the show. Oregon has looked invincible, but there opponents are a combined 13-24. Furthermore, the Ducks have yet to score a big road victory. Oregon should roll the lowly Bruins to set up a showdown with the USC Trojans. While USC isn’t ranked, the contest will be an important statement game. Has a changing of the guard taken place? Or is the talk merely that–talk? If Oregon can win in Los Angeles, the talk of the Ducks being the new kings of the Pac-10 may gain some validity.
2. Stanford Cardinal (5-1, 2-1)
The schedule couldn’t be more favorable for the Cardinal. After beating USC in an emotional game, they had a bye week to recover. On top of that, they play host to lowly Washington State this weekend in what should be a route. The Cardinal defense remains the major question. Andrew Luck can direct the offense to the endzone with his precision passing, but the defense hasn’t proved it can stop anyone of note. With 6 games left, the Cardinal have played their two hardest contests already and may be able to reach 11-1. Defense will be the key.
3. Arizona Wildcats (5-1, 2-1)
For the next 2-3 weeks, the Wildcats will be without their experience quarterback Nick Foles. Foles is a very accurate passer who is a perfect fit for their offensive system. After a close win over Cal and then a loss to Oregon State, the Wildcats surely appreciated seeing Washington State on their schedule. However, the victory came at a sizeable price and now they must find a way to score with Matt Scott as the signal caller. Unfortunately for Arizona, they draw a Washington team brimming with confidence after upsetting Oregon State. Can Scott pull it together? Of concern, they only managed 24 against Washington State. The injury to Foles could knock Arizona out of contention for its first ever Rose Bowl appearance.
4. USC Trojans (5-2, 2-2)
Vintage USC showed up on Saturday against Cal as the Trojans mounted a 42-0 lead at the half. They physically dominated the line of scrimmage on defense and forced several sacks while clogging up all of the running holes. The secondary had some trouble covering the receivers, but it didn’t appear that way thanks for drops by the Bears. Lane Kiffin has found ways to establish a rhythm on offense and the Trojans are in the top 15 in scoring offense and Matt Barkley is putting together a Heisman-caliber season throwing to freshman sensation Robert Woods. USC will use its bye week to get healthy and prepare for (likely) No. 1 Oregon.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-3, 1-2) Last Week: 5
The Sun Devils rebounded from a three-game losing streak to beat Oregon State heading into their bye week this past weekend. While their defense isn’t as menacing as the pundits predicted, it has done its job. Meanwhile, Dennis Erickson finally found some semblance of an offense. Steven Threet has emerged as a serviceable quarterback that can put points on the board. If the Sun Devils want to go bowling, they need to beat Cal this coming weekend. The Bears imploded against USC and now the conference knows the blue print for handling them. Three of the final four games look like losses, so they need to get going now.
6. Washington Huskies (3-3, 2-1)
Who are the Huskies? Are they the team that beat Oregon State and USC? Are they the team that was routed by Nebraska and lost to Arizona State? With the exception of Cal, Washington may be the most variable team in the conference. Jake Locker stepped it up against Oregon State by throwing for 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Until the Huskies can string consecutive wins together, they will be labeled as erratic. However, a win at Arizona might signal a very successful season in Seattle. Let’s not forget that this team went 0-12 in 2008. The progress Steve Sarkisian has made is remarkable.
7. Oregon State Beavers (3-3, 2-1)
The Beavers fell in double overtime to the Washington Huskies and dropped to 3-3 on the year. Ryan Katz regressed as a quarterback in throwing three interceptions. The Beavers record took a hit early because they scheduled two top-5 teams. Now, their record is taking a hit because they lost their best wide receiver for the year in James Rodgers. At the moment, their offense is one dimensional. Diminutive running back Jacquizz Rodgers turned out an impressive performance in Seattle, but he can’t shoulder the entire load. Somebody needs to step up if the Beavers want to overcome the injury and live up to the preseason hype.
8. California Golden Bears (3-3, 1-2)
Jon Wilner used the phrase “total systematic failure” to describe Cal’s performance at USC. The Bears took five drives just to get a first down against one of the worst statistical defenses in the country. Predictably, quarterback Kevin Riley looked scared and Cal failed to show up for yet another performance. Since September of 2009, this program has had its fair share of embarrassingly large losses. The defense, after shutting down UCLA, looked overmatched by the potent USC attack. Jeff Tedford needs to sit down with his team and teach them a thing or two about mental fortitude if they are ever going to make noise again.
9. UCLA Bruins (3-3, 1-2)
If you ask T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times,
10. Washington State Cougars (1-6, 0-4)
In fairness to the Cougars, they are a better squad than the one that took in the field in 2009. The problem is that they have not made enough strides relative to the rest of the conference in order to notch a conference win. The only difference between 2009 and 2010 is the margin of defeat.