Welcome to the inaugural 2014 BN Pac-12 Football Power Poll. Yes, even though most teams have played 3 games, it is still a little early for this, but not too early. There have already been a few conference games, some meaningful out-of-conference matchups, and ¼ of the season is already behind us, so why not. Some surprises, some disappointments, some scares and some sorrow. But now the meat of the Pac-12 schedule begins...though we Bruins shall wait another week to get another glimpse of our team.
Player of the Week: Jerry Neuheisel, UCLA - 2 TDs for our prodigal son's son, in relief of the injured Brett Hundley, including the game winner. With a big assist and honorable mention to Paul Perkins.
Stat of the Week: 20 - That was Southern Cal's rushing total against Boston College, while allowing 452.
Game of the Week: Utah at Michigan, 12:30pm PST, ABC - Sure, Michigan is stinking it up this year, but if the Utes can go to the Big House and win this game, people should wake up to them as a contender in the South.
1. Oregon (3-0, 0-0): Same ol' Ducks, but even better Mariota. That's scary. But the Ducks did get a scare themselves from the Spartans a couple of weeks ago, falling behind at home. The defense has always been opportunistic, so if the opportunities aren't there, they struggle. But the offense is still clicking and very efficient. Right now, no one in the conference comes close. The Ducks visit Pullman this week and will likely put a stomping on the underperforming Cougars.
2. Stanford (2-1, 0-1): Is the gloss wearing off the Cardinal sheen? Sure, Stanford lost quite a few starters to the NFL, but that is not what doomed them against Southern Cal. Shaw's conservative, NFL-like playcalling finally came back to haunt him, this time much earlier in the season. They will likely improve throughout the season though as they break in new starters and are still a physically imposing team. Shutting out Army (who only had 9 yards of passing) may take some of the sting off of losing to the Trogans at home, and a week off to prepare for a big trip to Washington will certainly help.
3. Washington (3-0, 0-0): After squeaking by Hawaii in their opener without their starting QB, the Huskies may be finding their groove under Petersen. They won a shootout against a good Eastern Washington squad (even though it is a FCS school) and beat up a crappy Illinois team. Because of their Hawaii trip, they get an extra game...so they take on Georgia State this week, which won't tell us much more about the team. Side note: if a west coast school gets an extra home game for traveling to Hawaii, why don't they get one for traveling to the east coast?
4. Oregon State (2-0, 0-0): the Beavers barely beat Hawaii and were not too impressive in their opener against Portland State. But Riley's teams have a tendency to improve over the season. They still have a prolific QB but the supporting cast is certainly not what it used to be. The Beavers also allowed Hawaii to score 30 points so their defense looks suspect right now. A visiting San Diego State squad should provide a stiffer test this week.
5. Cal (2-0, 0-0): The Bears traveled to Northwestern and seemed to make some noise in their season opener. But it turns out Northwestern is just terrible. They followed up their victory with a beatdown of Sacramento State. With a much improved defense and a seemingly potent offense, Cal is a much different squad than last year's, with some very good wide receivers. Now they get a chance to show just how much they have improved as they travel to Tucson to take on Arizona. This one could be a shootout.
6. Washington State (1-2, 0-0): Wazzu has not looked very good under Mike Leach, despite this being their third year. They put up the yards and the points but are not very disciplined, make many mistakes and have a bad defense. Leach relies heavily on good execution which just does not seem to be occurring at the moment. There is still much time to improve things, but sadly for the Cougars it won't be this weekend when the Ducks roll into town.
1. UCLA (3-0, 0-0): Our Bruins start out the year at the top of the South. As the preseason favorite to win the division, UCLA has not been at its most impressive for a whole game. But despite poor offensive execution against Virginia, ineffective defense against Memphis, and an injury to Brett Hundley against Texas, the Bruins have shown some grit and found a way to win instead of collapsing. We are still waiting for a complete game from this squad and doing it in the next game against ASU would be just as good a time as any. It will be a tough setting on a Thursday night in an away game, but the players certainly have that experience from last year's win at Utah.
2. Arizona State (3-0, 0-0): The Sun Devils have easily handled their competition so far (Weber State, New Mexico, Colorado), as they were expected to. Colorado however showed a few potential weaknesses on this defense, but it is tough to gauge that game given the injury to Taylor Kelly. On paper this squad is not as good as last year's team, and will have to make do without one of the top QBs in the conference for a while, so Todd Graham will have to show how good of a coach he is when UCLA comes to town in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, he will show that he is not that good, or that UCLA is just a much better team.
3. Southern Cal (2-1, 1-0): The Trogans thought they were back, again, after beating Stanford in Palo Alto. But there is no denying that Shaw almost gifted them that game. Nine appearances for Stanford in the red zone, for only 10 points. Some of it was the Southern Cal defense, and a lot of it was bonehead calls. So the Trogans quickly went back to their arrogant ways, holding rallies in Boston and getting all kinds of votes for the rankings...only to lay an egg against Boston College. No excuses for Seven Win Sark, with a really weak schedule ahead. They are off this week before Oregon State comes to the Crapiseum.
4. Utah (2-0, 0-0): With Travis Wilson back in the fold, this might be the year in which Kyle Wittingham shows that the Utes belong in the Pac-12. The past two years have not been pretty for Utah. No, their competition this year has not been stout (Idaho State, Fresno State), but Utah has demolished those teams. If the defense plays like a Wittingham defense, this team will be quite dangerous. A big road trip to Michigan this week will be a good test for this squad, and a victory could seriously boost their confidence and make them a contender in the South.
5. Arizona (3-0, 0-0): Despite a freshman QB and a freshman RB who is replacing a stud RB, Arizona has found a way to win. Two of its victories were very close calls (@ UTSA, Nevada), but those two teams are pretty good in their own right. The defense has been the Wildcats' Achilles heel in the past so we will see if they have improved much. They will need to be stout against the visiting Cal Bears and their prolific offense. But if these two freshmen are playing at this level now, the future is bright for Rich Rodriguez.
6. Colorado (1-2, 0-1): The Buffaloes did not start off the season well, with a loss against Colorado State. They picked themselves up and won a squeaker against a bad UMass team, but then lost to Arizona State. They were however competitive in that last loss, racking up 545 yards of offense. Had it not been for 3 turnovers, this game could have turned out differently for Colorado, especially given the injury to Taylor Kelly. I wouldn't sleep on this team, but for Coach MacIntyre, the improvement needs to start translating into more wins.
I hope you all enjoy the games this weekend, without the knot in your stomach...until Thursday, that is.