By REED NELSON
There’s the good news, and there’s the bad news. To be contrarian, I’ll give you the good news first: Oregon didn’t fall in either poll, Stanford snuck into the top 20 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and Arizona and UCLA have managed to make Top 25 appearances this week, bumping the Pac-12’s total to five. FIVE. Last week we were clinging to three after Stanford’s blindfolded, 20-17 eek-fest against San Jose State. Oh, and Oregon State might actually have a positive effect on Oregon’s Strength of Schedule this season. All things considered, the Pac-12 had a lovely week.
Sure, Utah could have easily breached the ranks of the FBS Elite with the completion of a task as menial as emerging victorious against a WAC opponent, but therein lies the bad. While UCLA and Arizona proved themselves to be potentially worthy adversaries (Arizona in two weeks, UCLA — who we’d face in either a world made of gingerbread, or maybe one in which children encounter Christopher Lloyd’s in their face in their soft drink — in an increasingly more plausible rematch of the 2011 Pac-12 Championship1), and Oregon State proved that they still existed, Utah and Washington fell down. They both proved, in very different ways, that they weren’t quite ready for the preseason praise that had been showered upon them2.
But all things considered, it was a wonderful weekend for the Pac-12 and even better one for Oregon: Teams went 3-0 vs. the Big Ten and 9-3 overall, thus ramping up their reputation within the S.o.S. ranking system. And, of the three losses that the conference incurred this week, only one is truly a red flag: Colorado’s loss, at home, to Sacramento State was embarrassing. Like a red in the face, puddle on the desk chair, brown streaks on the khaki’s, getting pants-ed in the playground kind of embarrassing.
I can defend Utah. First, they are my Alma-mater, and second, they lost to a team coached by Gary Anderson and quarterbacked by a four-star, NFL-bound stud and they did so in a hostile road environment that happened to have a riled up (and bored) student population well-capable of heaping 12 years of latent hostility upon a Utah team that looked truly stunned by literally everything happening inside Romney Stadium (real name) on Friday night in primetime. I blame Jemele Hill. She was on the sidelines for the game, but I digress. The only reason I mention Utah in this Poll-centric column is because I think Utah might have snuck into the Top 25 this week with a definitive win over Utah State. Instead, Utah’s offensive execution nearly pushed Kyle Wittingham onto a ledge.
And it turns out that Washington wasn’t as ready for the national stage as Pac-12 experts had hoped they’d be. I don’t blame Keith Price & Co., however. LSU is known to throw on the after-burners against AQ teams, especially us lettuce-munchin’, poncho-wearin’, handout-takin’ heathens here in the Pac-12 North. Which is exactly what happened to U-Dub. Don’t blame them, blame Oregon for not letting LSU beat up on us last season. On second thought, I vote that we leave the Huskies on the hook for the belt-lashing in Baton Rouge, but I’m just one man.
Enough with the negativity, however, because as I mentioned earlier, the Pac-12 has FIVE Top-25 teams, and Oregon is slated to play three of the four that aren’t, in fact, Oregon. They have Arizona in two weeks at home, and USC and Stanford in November, which means, at the moment, that the Pac-12 is going to bail out Oregon’s softer-than-Charmin non-conference schedule by providing legitimate competition down the road.
And let’s not forget about the Beavers. With a win this Saturday, their rotting carcass could be knocking on the Poll-door as well. The Beavs’ win over Wisconsin freed up some room in the Top-15 (Arizona’s too), and UCLA’s win opened up some real estate in the Top-20. Look for Arizona State to claim a plot if they can beat a newly SEC-minted Missouri team in Tempe.
Climbing: UCLA (NR to #22/#23), Arizona (NR to #24/#25), Stanford (#25 to #21/#16).
Falling: Utah and Washington (NR to Not Relevant).
Staying the same (a.k.a. Wooderson-ing): Oregon (#4 to #4), USC (#2 to #2/#3)
- As J.P. from Angels in the Outfield (one of my most favorite characters in any movie. Ever. Don’t judge me.) once wisely said, “Hey, it could happen!” And why not? UCLA has beaten USC with a less daunting team (see: 2006) and this season they have a bona fide star in Jonathan Franklin, a heady young quarterback and a coach with more sass than Phyllis Diller. I like their chances against SC. Don’t know if its the booze-like hatred I feel for the Trojan legions or if it is legitimate confidence, but I’ll take either one.Jump
- They loved Washington’s increasing maturity (not quite there yet) and Utah’s vaunted defense, starring Star Lotuleilei. Bleacher Report even liked Utah enough to rank them third overall in their Preseason Pac-12 Power Rankings. It’s just one site, but they weren’t alone. I still like Utah’s defense, and their Pac-12 schedule has yet to begin, but Jordan Wynn is a big, big problem, and Jon Hays might not be the solution.Jump