Here they are. …
1, Oregon — First change at the top this year, but the Ducks (9-1, 7-0) showed they are still the kings of the conference with the dominating win at Stanford. The USC game has a little danger to it, but hard to imagine now that Oregon won’t roll to the Pac-12 title.
2, Stanford — Stanford’s (9-1, 7-1) lack of outside speed at receiver (and maybe just overall ability at that spot) was badly exposed, as were some holes on defense. But the Cardinal should still be able to win out and then hope for a BCS bowl.
3, USC — The Trojans (8-2, 5-2) are improving rapidly, able to beat UW pretty easily with minimal contributions from their best receiver, Robert Woods. Hard to know how the scholarship reductions the next three years will impact USC, but there seems to be a good core building there to be solid going forward. Hard to figure they could really pull it out this week in Eugene, though.
4a, Utah — Obviously a big, big gap in the conference from the top three to the rest of the conference. UW obviously beat Utah handily a month ago. But Utah (6-4, 3-4) is playing as well at the moment as anyone in the conference other than the top three. Utah is third in the conference in defense in conference games only and tied for second in yards per play allowed.
4b, Washington — Huskies (6-4, 4-3) showed yet again that while they are better than the bad teams in the conference, they aren’t good enough yet to consistently play with the top teams. But an 8-4 record would be the best for the Huskies in a decade and make for a much nicer off-season and perception of where the program is than 7-5 or 6-6, so lots left to play for.
4c, Arizona State — After a nice start to the season, the Devils (6-4, 4-3) have stumbled, reigniting doubts about the direction of the program under Dennis Erickson, who sorely needs home wins the next two weeks against Arizona and Cal. Getting those wins would likely clinch the South for ASU and save a little face. Much of the pre-season optimism about ASU was based on what was thought would be a solid defense. But in conference games only, ASU is allowing 437.9 yards per game, ahead of only woeful Arizona and Colorado.
4d, Cal — The erratic Bears (6-4, 3-4) are kind of having the same season as UW, other than the fact that they lost to the Huskies in Seattle. Cal’s proven its better than the worst teams in the conference and counts as its best win a rather surprising domination of Utah. Cal now has a couple of chances at something of a marquee win, playing at Stanford this week and Arizona State the following week (okay, using “marquee” loosely there in connection to the Sun Devils, but given it’s on the roada and what ASU may have on the line, it would say something about the Bears if they won that one).
8, Washington State — Cougs (4-6, 2-5) pulled the shocker of last weekend and now have a chance to turn their season around completely. Utah will be a much stiffer test for Connor Halliday and WSU’s pass offense. But if the Cougs can pull it out they’ll come to the Apple Cup playing for bowl eligibility, making that game a lot more intriguing than it looked a few weeks ago.
9, UCLA — Two steps forward, maybe three steps back for UCLA (5-5, 4-3) with the loss at Utah last week after the wins over Cal and Arizona State. And Rick Neuheisel is hardly out of the woods. UCLA should be able to beat Colorado at home this week, however, and head into its rivalry game with USC holding control of its own destiny to win the Pac-12 South.
10, Oregon State — OSU pretty much just got pounded last week at Cal to tall to 2-8 overall and 2-5 in Pac-12 play, ranking as one of the more disappointing teams in the conference this year. Of late, they can’t run and can’t stop the run, which would seem to indicate about 30 carries this week for Chris Polk in Corvallis.
11, Colorado — Buffs rise out of the basement for the first time this season after its win over Arizona, which at least allows Colorado (2-9, 1-6) to feel good for a week. And I’ve got a weird feeling this week that the Buffs just might give UCLA a little bit of a game in Pasadena.
12, Arizona — Becoming obvious now the win over UCLA was just one of those weird emotion-driven deals as the Wildcats (2-8, 1-7) haven’t won since. And boy, their game against Louisiana-Lafayette ought to be a lot of fun.