Let’s start the weekly power ratings with a brief look at the national rankings.
The Pac-12 placed eight teams in the latest AP top-25 poll, three more than the SEC and four more than the Big Ten.
It’s the highest total in conference history, besting the previous record of six (set several times). Only the SEC has ever placed at least eight teams in the AP poll.
Through two weeks, the Pac-12 is 20-3 against non-conference opponents and 6-3 against Power Five foes.
And the conference should be in this same spot next week, too.
Of the eight ranked teams, one is idle on Saturday (USC), six are heavy favorites and the eighth, Washington, has a challenging game but is unlikely to drop out of the poll with a loss.
All of which means the Pac-12 will enter conference play (Sept. 23) with two-thirds of its teams ranked, setting up a barrage of premier matchups through the heart of the season and College Football Playoff selection process.
And then: kaboom!
To the power ratings …
1. Washington (2-0)
Last week: 1
Result: beat Tulsa 43-10
Next up: at Michigan State
Comment: The toughest game of the week for the Pac-12 seemingly got a bit easier as the Spartans suspended coach Mel Tucker on Sunday following revelations of sexual harassment. Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett will serve in the interim role — he has never been a head coach — and must navigate the massive disruption.
2. USC (2-0/1-0)
Last week: 2
Result: beat Stanford 56-10
Next up: idle (Sept. 23: at Arizona State)
Comment: The first of USC’s two bye weeks heralds a grueling stretch of nine games in a row, while the second bye is the weekend before the Pac-12 championship game. So the Trojans must deal with the repercussions of the first in order to reap the benefits of the second.
3. Utah (2-0)
Last week: 3
Result: won at Baylor 20-13
Next up: vs. Weber State
Comment: We cannot claim to know the status of Cam Rising’s injured knee. But if he’s available, the Utes have an interesting choice: Play him this week so Rising is ready for the conference opener (Sept. 23 against UCLA), or sit him this week, when he’s not needed, to ensure that he’s completely fresh next week. Our guess: If he’s cleared to play, he’ll play.
4. Oregon (2-0)
Last week: 4
Result: won at Texas Tech 38-30
Next up: vs. Hawaii
Comment: Nice to have a bye week before Colorado comes to town for a Sept. 23 conference opener that has become a much bigger deal than initially thought.
5. Oregon State (2-0)
Last week: 5
Result: beat UC Davis 55-7
Next up: vs. San Diego State
Comment: Good teams demolish overmatched opponents. The Beavers have done it twice, outscoring San Jose State and UC Davis by a combined score of 97-24. Every available clue suggests OSU is as good as advertised.
6. Colorado (2-0)
Last week: 6
Result: beat Nebraska 36-14
Next up: vs. Colorado State
Comment: Admittedly, the Hotline spends too much time pondering alternate-universe scenarios, but let’s pose the following: As frustrated as Colorado fans were following Mel Tucker’s departure in early 2020 and during the floundering Karl Dorrell regime, given what that stretch led to (Deion Sanders) — and considering Tucker’s behavior at MSU and the lack of character it reveals — it sure seems like Tucker’s abrupt exit eventually worked out for the best.
7. Washington State (2-0)
Last week: 7
Result: beat Wisconsin 31-22
Next up: vs. Northern Colorado
Comment: The Cougars should feast on a well-placed cupcake between the Wisconsin matchup and the ‘Pac-2’ showdown Sept. 23 against Oregon State.
8. UCLA (2-0)
Last week: 9
Result: won at San Diego State 35-10
Next up: vs. UNC Central
Comment: It’s not their fault, because Michigan canceled the home-and-home series in 2022-23, but the Bruins will end up going 1,113 days between non-conference games against Power Five foes: from the Sept. 4, 2021 home date with LSU to the Sept. 21, 2024 trip to Baton Rouge.
9. Arizona (1-1)
Last week: 10
Result: lost at Mississippi State 31-24 (OT)
Next up: vs. UTEP
Comment: Mammoth game this week to keep Arizona’s bowl math from turning into trigonometry, and we would not consider the possibility of a loss — UTEP was run off the field by Northwestern, after all — except for the fact that Jayden de Laura has thrown five interceptions in two games.
10. Cal (1-1)
Last week: 8
Result: lost to Auburn 14-10
Next up: vs. Idaho
Comment: When 5-7 teams are sitting at home for the holidays and stewing over the result that kept them out of the bowl season, they usually focus on an unexpected loss to a Group of Five or FCS opponent — not to a member of the SEC.
11. Stanford (1-1/0-1)
Last week: 11
Result: lost at USC 56-10
Next up: vs. Sacramento State
Comment: Which outcome reflected Stanford’s reality: The Week 1 celebration at Hawaii or the Week 2 humiliation at USC? Our sense: There’s a third door leading to a season in which the Cardinal is frequently competitive but rarely victorious.
12. Arizona State (1-1)
Last week: 12
Result: lost to Oklahoma State 27-15
Next up: vs. Fresno State
Comment: To the extent that a trap game exists for a team in ASU’s position, it’s this week. The Bulldogs are no pushovers but arrive between visits from Oklahoma State and USC.
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