Two Weeks Notice: Pac-10 Power Rankings
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
For two quarters last Saturday, Oregon looked very vincible.
And then they didn't.
The Ducks outscored Tennessee 35-0 in the second half to handily put down the Volunteers 48-13, another feather in the cap of the preseason Pac-10 favorites. And with a 72-0 victory in week one, it's hard to bump Oregon from its spot atop the conference.
In two games, the No. 5-ranked Ducks are averaging 307 rushing yards, 276 passing yards and 60 points per game. They have three talented running backs in Kenjon Barner, Remene Alston and LaMichael James and a whole host of targets at receiver. Quarterback Darron Thomas still has a ways to go in his development, but he's serviceable enough in this offense.
By outscoring opponents, 120-13, Oregon's hold on the Pac-10 is secure.
In 2009, Mike Stoops' team surprised the conference by remaining in the Rose Bowl hunt until late November.
Two games into this season, and the Wildcats already look like the Pac 10's best team outside of Eugene, Ore.
The defense that lost seven starters and a coordinator? It hasn't allowed a touchdown. Meanwhile, junior quarterback Nick Foles is off to a torid start, with an astounding 83.1 completion percentage.
Add in senior running back Nic Grisby, and Arizona's potent offense should keep up with anyone in the conference.
Of course, those numbers came against Toledo and The Citidel. With a win over No. 9 Iowa at home, the Wildcats could stake their claim as an elite Pac-10 squad.
Having not won at the Rose Bowl since 1996, it must have been nice for Stanford to not merely beat, but annihilate UCLA on its home turf. The Cardinal's 35-0 thrashing of the Bruins gives them a nice jolt to start conference play, but UCLA's pitiful play was more notable than Stanford's prowess.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who many project to be a top-5 pick whenever he decides to leave school, leads an offense that lost a Heisman nominee (Toby Gerhart), but remains powerful. It is not readily apparent who will step in to try and fill the enormous shoes left by Gerhart, but Stepfan Taylor, Jeremy Stewart and Tyler Gaffney all look like feasible options.
Sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov looks like a budding star for an already staunch defense that has allowed only 17 points in two games this season.
Calling the Bears untested would be like saying UCLA's offense has issues. Cal's pair of 52-point outbursts have come against an FCS school and a Colorado team that looked like one.
That said, there is reason to be impressed so far - especially, the team's defense has shined so far under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast. On Saturday against Colorado, the unit racked up six sacks, forced three interceptions, and recovered two fumbles.
On the other side of the ball, freshman Keenan Allen provides another explosive receiving threat across from Marvin Jones.
The debate over the Bears' true identity shouldn't last much longer, though. Upcoming trips to Nevada, Arizona, and USC will reveal a lot about Cal.
5. OREGON STATE
Oregon State might be the best 0-1 team in the nation, but we can't rank them too highly because they are still, well, winless. The Beavers battled No. 5 TCU on perhaps the world's grandest venue, Cowboys' Stadium in Dallas, Tex., but came up short against the Horned Frogs.
Even with new quarterback Ryan Katz, the Beavers return the Rodgers brothers, which means Oregon State is a viable candidate for a Pac-10 championship.
The small, shifty Jacquizz Rodgers remains one of the best running backs in the Pac-10, and his brother, James is comparably dangerous.
The key for the Beavers is that they survive this tough early slate of games. As if TCU wasn't difficult enough, coach Mike Riley's squad still awaits a trip to Boise to face No. 3 Boise State on Sept. 25.
As lackluster as it's looked so far, No. 18 USC is probably not going to drop into the bottom half of the conference by the time it walks off the field at season's end. But boy, have the Trojans dropped off.
Hours after Pete Carroll worked his magic 1,100 miles north of the Coliseum, USC made a near-180 degree turn from the juggernaut he guided not so long ago.
A week after allowing 588 yards to a post-June Jones Hawaii, the Trojans barely eked out a 17-14 win over Virginia. The unranked Cavaliers were two missed field goals away from a huge upset, even though projected NFL first-rounder Ras-I Dowling was out with a bum hamstring.
Forget the bowl ban; when you rank 119th in the nation with 120 penalty yards per game, you're not going to Pasadena anyway.
Jake Locker's Heisman train sputtered out of the station two weeks ago. In the final period of Washington's 23-17 loss at BYU, his two fourth-down incompletion halted a potential rally. Locker got back on track with 289 yards and four touchdowns against Syracuse, but he may have to be flawless to overcome Nebraska's stingy defense.
A marquee upset over the No. 8 Cornhuskers on Saturday could catapult Locker back into the national discussion, and boost the Huskies' confidence before conference play.
With the Pac-10's leading wideout (Jermaine Kearse) and second-leading rusher (Chris Polk), Washington has weapons to spring an upset.
However, its hopes of returning to bowl eligibility will ultimately rest on the arm (and legs) of No. 10.
8. ARIZONA STATE
We can't say a whole lot about Arizona State yet because, frankly, they've done what they were supposed to do.
Yes, the Sun Devils have recorded two blowout victories, but both were against FCS squads (Portland State and Northern Arizona). In fact, ASU head coach Dennis Erickson wasn't pleased how his team performed in its 41-20 victory over the Lumberjacks on Saturday.
"We were sloppy on both sides of the football," Erickson told Yahoo! Sports. "We made some plays, but it was not a good day."
Michigan transfer Steven Threet has reinvigorated the Sun Devils' passing game, but questions loom on defense. With a weekend trip to No. 11 Wisconsin looming, Erickson knows that the defense must improve before they take the field against the Badgers.
UCLA has proved two things in two games. That they don't have an offense nor do they have a defense.
In other words, things are looking pretty gloomy in Westwood. Quarterback Kevin Prince has one touchdown and three picks in two games. And it's not much better when the Bruins are on defense. Stanford trounced UCLA 35-0 last week, running all over the Bruins for 211 yards.
With games against Houston and No. 6 Texas remaining, UCLA fans will have little, if any reason to cheer.
10. WASHINGTON STATE
Washington State pulled off a gutsy comeback last Saturday, scoring 16 points in the final frame for a 23-22 win. Too bad it was playing Montana State.
There's something to be said for avoiding the season's fifth FCS upset, but it isn't that the Cougars are going to be anywhere but dead last in the final season standings.
Wazzu could score an upset or two in conference play, but until then, it's still bottom-barrel fodder.
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