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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 16, 2013 at 7:10 PM

Pac-12 power rankings: Ducks rule

We’re three weekends into the season, a small sample size to be sure, but enough to give us a sense of what each Pac-12 football team is about.

1. Oregon (3-0)

What they’ve done: Eviscerated three helpless opponents — Nicholls State, Virginia and Tennessee. It was easy to sniff at the numbers the Ducks put up against Nicholls, but now we’ve got to consider the notion that those are legit. Oregon does that against everybody.

Good stat: QB Marcus Mariota is averaging 17.5 yards per carry.

Bad stat: The Ducks have been penalized 24 times.

In the near-term: Oregon has a bye this week before hosting Cal Sept. 28, with a trip to Colorado the Saturday after. If you could squint inside those black-tinted windows in the Ducks’ new football-ops building during the bye, I’ll bet you’d see  some coaches checking out video of Washington — the first big test in Seattle Oct. 12.

2. UCLA (2-0)

What they’ve done: Waxed Nevada and came from an 18-point, second-quarter deficit to master Nebraska by three touchdowns.

Good stat: Bruins are averaging 14.9 yards per catch.

Bad stat: They’ve missed three field goals.

In the near-term: Hosts New Mexico State Saturday — women and children advised to avert their eyes — followed by a Thursday-night game in Salt Lake City against Utah that comes after a bye. On Oct. 19-26, there’s that daunting 1-2 on the road — Stanford and Oregon.

3. Stanford (2-0)

What they’ve done: Scored 34 points in both outings, comfortable wins against San Jose State and Army. It’s hard to dismiss two such wins, but the Cardinal hasn’t always looked the part of a No. 5 team in the country.

Good stat: Stanford has committed only three penalties.

Bad stat: Tight end Luke Kaumatule, whom coach David Shaw was talking up since the spring, has just one catch for five yards, which lends to the thought that the tight end-oriented offense in which Stanford prospered the past few years is now passe.

In the near-term: Stanford hosts Arizona State Saturday in a key game, followed by a date in Seattle against Washington State (night game, Sept. 28) and a home game against Washington. Could the Cougars, who played Stanford to the wire last year in Palo Alto, be a problem again?

4. Washington (2-0)

What they’ve done: Dominated Boise State and did what it had to to beat Illinois, while averaging 603.5 yards a game.

Good stat: Huskies are converting 68 percent of third-down opportunities.

Bad stat: UW has incurred 20 penalties for 165 yards.

In the near-term: Huskies could probably assemble a team of true and redshirt freshmen and be all right against Idaho State Saturday. Then they host Arizona before a rugged three weeks against Stanford, Oregon and ASU, two of them on the road.

5. Arizona State* (2-0)

What they’ve done: Earned an asterisk for the dubious finish that thwarted Wisconsin Saturday night, after a landslide victory over Sacramento State.

Good stat: Sun Devils have only four penalties, reinforcing the notion that Todd Graham really has cleaned up some loose ends in Tempe.

Bad stat: ASU has only two sacks.

In the near-term: Sun Devils continue a four-week gauntlet, going to Stanford this week in an interesting segue to their run-game focus last week against Wisconsin. Then it’s USC in Tempe, followed by Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas.

6. Washington State (2-1)

What they’ve done: Troubled Auburn, upset USC on the road and dispatched Southern Utah with ease. Cougars earn this spot on the strength of a rugged schedule, including two tough trips, before the SUU breather.

Good stat: WSU is allowing only 269.3 yards per game compared to 426 a year ago.

Bad stat: Cougars’ average only 37.2 per punt.

In the near-term: Should boat-race Idaho Saturday night, then they get Stanford in the annual Seattle game, followed by what looks like key opportunities against Cal and Oregon State.

7. Oregon State (2-1)

What they’ve done: Looked awful against Eastern Washington, rebounded against Hawaii and upset Utah on the road in a restorative overtime game despite several injuries.

Good stat: Pass-oriented Beavers (438.7 yards a game through the air) are 18 for 18 in the red zone in scoring.

Bad stat: Opponents are averaging 7.0 yards a game, thanks to the destruction wrought by Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams in the opener. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has been getting major heat from restless fans.

In the near-term: There are a lot of potential wins, starting Saturday at San Diego State. Then it’s Colorado, a bye, WSU and Cal.

8. Arizona (3-0)

What they’ve done: Next to nothing, with wins over Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA (Texas-San Antonio), the easiest road traveled by any Pac-12 team to date. The defense, 12th in the league a year ago, has shown considerable improvement.

Good stat: ‘Zona has rushed for 322.3 yards a game.

Bad stat: ‘Cats have thrown for only two touchdowns, and a major question remains: Can they produce a passing game when defenses load up, and they will, to stop Ka’Deem Carey?

In the near-term: Arizona has a bye this week before its trip to Seattle Sept. 28. After that, it’s at USC and Utah at home.

9. USC (2-1)

What they’ve done: Mostly struggled on offense and hung in with a top-shelf defense, beating Hawaii, falling to Washington State and winning by four touchdowns against Boston College after finally designating Cody Kessler as starting quarterback.

Good stat: Defense hasn’t allowed a point in the first or third quarters.

Bad stat: The quarterbacks have thrown for a mere 490 yards, most of it against BC.

In the near-term: Trojans have a tricky game against Utah State in LA this week, followed by a test at Arizona State. Then they host Arizona and do the biennial, mid-season thing at Notre Dame.

10. Utah (2-1)

What they’ve done: Failed to answer the bell again for Pac-12 play, losing to OSU after a pair of 0-4 starts each of their first two years in the league. That followed an opening win against Utah State and an inconsequential blowout of Weber State.

Good stat: Utes average 16.4 yards per catch.

Bad stat: Still don’t have an interception, after a 2012 season in which they had eight, next-to-last in the league.

In the near-term: Don’t ask. Utes’ next seven games are against BYU, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, USC, Arizona State and Oregon.  Coach Kyle Whittingham could be removing “For Sale” signs in his yard by the time Utah gets to the end of that siege.

11. Cal (1-2)

What they’ve done: Gave Northwestern a game before being done in by two pick-sixes, struggled to beat FCS Portland State and got throttled by Ohio State.

Good stat: Cal is throwing for 438.7 yards per game as freshman QB Jared Goff looks like the real deal. Games take upwards of four hours.

Bad stat: Opponents are averaging 7.4 yards a play and the secondary is a questionmark.

In the near-term: Bears have a bye this week, then provide Oregon fodder Sept. 28 in Eugene. Oct. 5 game in Berkeley with WSU looms big for both.

12. Colorado (2-0)

What they’ve done: Handled Colorado State in Mike MacIntyre’s CU debut and got by FCS Central Arkansas. Then flooding in and around Boulder postponed the Fresno State game last weekend.

Good stat: Paul Richardson, rebounding from knee surgery, already has 417 yards receiving.

Bad stat: Buffs have committed four turnovers.

In the near-term: The postponement last week came just before this week’s bye, so when the Buffs go to Oregon State Sept. 28, they’re going to feel like the Beavers did a year ago, when their opener with Nicholls State was scrubbed because of a Gulf hurricane.

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