By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 Pac-12 Power Rankings
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1. Oregon (2-1) – As the last two weeks have showed, the Oregon offense is hitting on all cylinders as Pac-12 play opens against Arizona this Saturday. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in rushing, total and scoring offense. Running back LaMichael James seems to have found his rhythm, posting his best game of the year last week, rushing for 204 yards and three scores against Missouri State.
2. Stanford (3-0) – The Cardinal kicked off Pac-12 play with a convincing 37-10 win over Arizona. However, the victory came at a heavy price. Linebacker Shayne Skov suffered a knee injury and was lost for the year. Skov was one of the top defenders in college football and expected to contend for All-America honors in 2011. Stanford is off this Saturday.
3. USC (3-0) – After failing to finish in the second half during their first two wins, the Trojans finally put together a solid effort for all four quarters. Thanks to quarterback Matt Barkley’s five passing scores, USC was never really threatened by Syracuse. The Trojans hold an early lead in the Pac-12 South standings, but travel to Tempe to take on Arizona State this week.
4. Arizona State (2-1) – After beating Missouri on Friday night in Week 2, the Sun Devils looked ready for a breakthrough win against Illinois on the road. However, the Arizona State offense struggled to protect quarterback Brock Osweiler (seven sacks) and had three costly turnovers. Despite the loss to the Fighting Illini, the Sun Devils can jump back into the national spotlight with a win over USC this Saturday.
5. California (3-0) – As expected, Presbyterian didn’t provide much competition for the Golden Bears. However, it was another valuable tune-up before Pac-12 play begins with Saturday’s game against Washington. New starting quarterback Zach Maynard has played well through three starts, but this will be his biggest test in a California uniform.
6. Washington (2-1) – The rubber match between Nebraska and Washington went in favor of the Cornhuskers. However, there were positives to take away from the loss. Quarterback Keith Price continues to settle into the No. 1 role, completing 21 of 37 throws for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Washington opens conference play with an interesting matchup against California.
7. Utah (2-1) – One of the most surprising scores from Week 3 had to be Utah’s 54-10 blowout win over BYU. The Utes forced seven turnovers and got a big performance from running back John White, who rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns. The Utes are 0-1 in Pac-12 play, but with a favorable schedule, this team can’t be counted out of the South Division race.
8. Arizona (1-2) – The Wildcats have some serious work to do over the next couple of weeks. After a 37-10 loss to Stanford on Saturday night, Arizona sits at 1-2 and faces Oregon and USC the next two weeks. The Wildcats offense has struggled to establish a rushing attack, especially with a young offensive line still trying to jell.
9. UCLA (1-2) – The 2011 season has not started off well for the Bruins. After a loss to Houston in the opener, the Bruins looked sluggish in a win over San Jose State and handled easily by Texas in Week 3. Rick Neuheisel needs to show improvement to keep his job at the end of the year, which is why Saturday’s contest against Oregon State is huge. If the Bruins want to go to a bowl, this is a must-win game.
10. Colorado (1-2) – Jon Embree earned his first win as Colorado’s head coach on Saturday, defeating in-state rival Colorado State 28-14. Running back Rodney Stewart has struggled to get on track this year, which is a result of lackluster play by the offensive line. The Buffaloes travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State this Saturday, before opening up Pac-12 play against Washington State in Week 5.
11. Washington State (2-1) – The Cougars were on the doorstep for a 3-0 start, but allowed San Diego State to score 28 unanswered in the second half to claim a 42-24 victory. Washington State is clearly making progress under coach Paul Wulff – but will it be enough to save his job at the end of the year?
12. Oregon State (0-2) – The Beavers had a much-needed bye in Week 3. After a disappointing loss to Sacramento State in the opener and a blowout loss to Wisconsin in Week 2, Oregon State needs to find some answers before Saturday’s game against UCLA. Receiver James Rodgers has been out since last October with a torn ACL, but could return to the lineup this week.