Now that the season is between one-third and one-half over, we’re reassessing how good we think the teams of the PAC-10 really are. For the most part, there haven’t been a whole lot of huge surprises. Washington and Oregon State have been disappointing, Arizona State has played better than almost everyone thought they would, and both Stanford and Arizona have enviable positions in the AP top 15 that most observers had not anticipated at season’s beginning. So, knowing what we now know, here are The Daily Axe PAC-10 Power Rankings.
1. Oregon (5-0, 2-0) This should come as no surprise to anyone who has kept up with the Ducks. The offense is literally out of control, and is still–even 5 games into the season–scoring at nearly one point per minute. They’re on track to easily surpass the season scoring record set by Sam Bradford’s 2008 Oklahoma Sooners. Oregon’s defense certainly is not one of the best in the country (ASU and Stanford both moved the ball well against the Ducks) but they force turnovers and have a great offense to bail them out. Oregon appears to be the one legitimate National Championship contender from the conference, and they easily win our #1 spot.
2. Arizona (4-0, 1-0) The Wildcats get our nod for #2 mostly because they have not yet lost, and have a marquee win against Iowa in Week 3 to brag about. The men of Tucson didn’t look impressive against Cal two weeks ago in squeaking out a last-minute 10-9 win over the Golden Bears. Still, Arizona features one of the conference’s best offenses, a resurgent defense, and a currently flawless record.
3. Stanford (4-1, 1-1) The Cardinal could very well climb to #2 on this list with an Arizona loss or an impressive showing by the Card in Stanford Stadium against USC. Stanford is undoubtedly one of the best teams on the West Coast and perhaps in the country, but Arizona gets the benefit of the zero-loss doubt.
4. Oregon State (2-2, 1-0) The Beavers are only playing 50-50 ball so far, but both losses came to elite teams: Boise State and Texas Christian. With the talent OSU has on offense and one of the most effective head coaches in the country, the Beavers could climb as high as #2 in the conference by the end of the season. However, it’s hard to envision, at least at this point in the season, them beating in-state rival Oregon.
5. Arizona State (2-3, 0-2) The Sun Devils could very conceivably break out and beat some very good teams. They barely lost to Oregon two weeks ago, and they gave Oregon State a close game on Saturday. A great offense goes a long way in West Coast football, and Arizona State scores an average of 35 points per game. While this could be entirely too high a ranking, the Sun Devils are a very compelling sleeper team.
6. California (2-2, 0-1) After a strong start, the Bears have looked sluggish in their last two outings. But both games came against very good, top 25 teams. Cal’s greatest problem is at quarterback. Kevin Riley just hasn’t playing well since his great outing against Colorado in Week 2. With better play from Riley, Cal could improve dramatically, and the bye week should have helped them regroup.
7. USC (4-1, 1-1) USC has not played good defense all year and there are serious questions about the team’s motivation and general approach to playing football. Riding high on your own ability is always dangerous, but it’s delusional once the program isn’t winning championships anymore. They’ll lose to Stanford this week and continue to be a middle-of-the-PAC team.
8. UCLA (3-2, 1-1) The Texas win redeems the Bruins from falling to #9. But can we really forget their showing against Stanford or the 28 points they allowed against Washington State on Saturday?
9. Washington (2-2, 1-0) Beating USC was great, but the Huskies need to prove that they can win consistently. For that to happen, quarterback Jake Locker will need to improve his decision-making abilities.
10. Washington State (1-4, 0-2) No comment.