College football is finally back, and so are SeattlePI’s Pac-12 power rankings. We’ll be back every week to evaluate how the Conference of Champions is stacking up over the course of the 2019 season.
Week one was fairly typical, with most teams picking up wins. Washington, Utah, Washington State, Cal, USC, Arizona State, Colorado and Stanford secured victories to kick things off. Oregon nearly made that list, but fell apart in the closing seconds of their opener against Auburn instead.
While early season games for the Pac-12 are typically pretty lightweight, we still got to see these programs in action, and get an idea of how the season could go.
Keep reading to see how the Pac-12’s pecking order is looking ahead of week 2.
1. Utah Utes
The Utes opened their season with a resounding 30-12 victory over the BYU Cougars on the road. While BYU isn’t the best opponent, playing in Provo is always tough enough to keep Utah at the top of our rankings. Tyler Huntley was unremarkable in the passing game, but Zack Moss controlled the game by rushing for a whopping 187 yards – good for 6.44 yards per carry. Perhaps more importantly, Utah’s ferocious defense grabbed a pair of pick-sixes and held BYU to under 300 yards of total offense.
2. Washington Huskies
The Dawgs’ 47-14 bludgeoning of Eastern Washington was fun to watch for fans, and it was a great showcase for how much power Jacob Eason has stored in that arm of his. Both offense and defense looked sharp, which is a good sign after seeing so much roster turnover. That said, this was basically a scrimmage: EWU is an FCS opponent, and the Huskies had the home field advantage. But because they won their game (which is all any team can really do), UW locks up the #2 spot. This week’s matchup against Cal will give us a much clearer picture of how good Eason actually is.
3. Oregon Ducks
For all but the final nine seconds of their season-opening clash with the Auburn Tigers in Dallas, the Ducks were winning. A late defensive collapse coupled with offensive stagnation caused Oregon to fall 27-21, but the Ducks are still one of the conference’s most dangerous teams. Justin Herbert was lethally effective when the offense allowed him to be, and the defense looked excellent for most of the night. The rushing game looked anemic though, and the lack of coaching adjustments for a second year are a bad sign. If they rally and finish the season undefeated from here on out, this game will be nothing more than a footnote. If they don’t pull it together, we’ll likely see it as moment where the Ducks’ 2019 hopes fell apart.
4. Stanford Cardinal
Let’s get this out of the way: the loss of K.J. Costello after an injury last week is going to be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Despite that, the Cardinal did play a Big 10 opponent in week one and emerged victorious. Cameron Scarlett proved that he can carry a lead-back load with 97 yards rushing, while the defense picked Northwestern off twice and held the Wildcats to just over 200 yards of offense.
5. Washington State Cougars
Washington State pulverized New Mexico State 58-7 in their opening contest, with quarterback Anthony Gordon’s 420 yards and five scores proving that he has the skill to run Mike Leach’s air raid system. The Aggies won just three games in 2018 though, taking a bit of the shine off of this win. Until the Cougs go up against a good team with a strong defense, it’s tough to get a read on this team. Remember: WSU looked like the best team in the Pac-12 until they ran into UW’s buzzsaw of a secondary last year.
6. Cal Golden Bears
On one hand, QB Chase Garbers didn’t look very good in Cal’s opener. On the other, running back Christopher Brown Jr. rushed for 197 yards and the Golden Bears’ defense shut down UC Davis to snag a week one win. They get their first test of the season against a Washington team that will be looking for payback after last year.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils
Freshman QB Jayden Daniels and star tailback Eno Benjamin looked like a pair of offensive playmakers with sky-high potential in a week one beatdown of Kent State. Like several other teams though, we’ll need to see more from them against tougher competition before buying the Sun Devils as a legit contender for the conference crown.
8. Colorado Buffalos
While stud wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. had a quiet night, quarterback Steven Montez and tailback Alex Fontenot had strong nights and carried the Buffs to a 52-31 win over Colorado State. Defensively, Colorado is still deeply vulnerable though – and it’s hard to trust a team that finished 2018 on a seven-game losing streak. So for now, the Buffs are stuck in the bottom third of our rankings.
9. USC Trojans
While our preseason predictions stated that an improved J.T. Daniels could make for a dangerous Trojans team, the sophomore QB went down with a torn ACL in a 31-23 week one win over Fresno State. While the defense looked solid enough and the offense’s array of skill position players is insanely stacked, a second straight season of question marks at the most important position on the field doesn’t bode well for USC.
10. Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats dropped a 45-38 thriller against Hawaii to start the season – hardly the opening head coach Kevin Sumlin was hoping for. The defense is clearly still leaky, but there could be a glimmer of hope in the form of a stellar offense. Khalil Tate looked like his old self, hurting Hawaii with his legs and athleticism. Heck, if his final, nearly-game winning rushing effort had found the end zone, we might have slotted Arizona in a few spots higher. As things stand though, they still lost to a Mountain West team in week one.
11. UCLA Bruins
Year two of the Chip Kelly era at UCLA started with a thud, as the Bruins fell 24-14 to Cincinnati. Quarter Dorian Thompson-Robinson was dreadful, completing just eight of his 26 passing attempts and throwing two interceptions along the way. The defense was gashed for 417 yards as well. Talk about a rough way to start the season.
12. Oregon State Beavers
To start with a positive, quarterback Jake Luton looked pretty good! The returning signal caller threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. But the defense…dear lord, the defense. The Beavers gave up 352 yards rushing, allowing Oklahoma State to cruise to a 52-36 win. Until they figure that out, the Beavers will remain relegated to the Pac-12’s basement.