It’s Tuesday, and that means Power Rankings. We’re shooting blind a little bit right now, but power rankings are about reacting to what’s out there, and there’s enough to start talking about who belongs on top.
1. USC Trojans-
It’s a toss-up at the top, but USC gets the nod because they have less to replace than their challenger in the North. Western Michigan is the opener- it’s going to take quite the win to impress anyone.
2. Washington Huskies-
Slotting in just below USC is the other pride of the conference, the Huskies. Washington lost a ton on defense and some crucial offensive pieces, but still figure to compete for a playoff berth. They visit Rutgers on Friday in what should be a cakewalk.
3. Stanford Cardinal-
Advanced metrics and prognosticators alike favor the Cardinal- and only fools bet against David Shaw. We get an early look at this team as they take on Rice on Saturday. A blowout win would bode well for a team with some questions on offense.
4. Utah Utes-
Utah sent a ton of players to the NFL, which raises doubts about their ability to reload- but also justifies Ute fans’ faith in Coach Whittingham’s ability to deliver wins. They take on one of the better FCS teams in the country in North Dakota next Thursday.
5. Washington State Cougars-
An all-world offense finally has a sturdy defense to go with it, and the Cougars have become North contenders. They’ve developed a very bad habit of dropping games to FCS teams, however. Montana State is no slouch as these teams go, and the Cougs better watch their backs.
6. Colorado Buffaloes-
The Buffs were excellent last year, but they haven’t been good enough long enough to earn the benefit of the doubt. They’ll have to prove they can replace crucial talent on both sides of the ball and one of the better DCs in football. They visit Colorado State in one of the better matchups of a soft opening week.
7. Oregon Ducks-
Oregon has fallen fast and hard into tough times, but they are still loaded with talent and have taken aggressive steps to right the ship. There’s plenty to be optimistic about, but it still may be a tough season for the Ducks. Southern Utah continues the trend of PAC 12 teams playing some of the best the FCS has to offer.
8. UCLA Bruins-
Like the Ducks, UCLA has fallen on hard times, but continues to pull in strong recruiting classes and has talent where it’s needed most. Unlike Oregon, they haven’t been as aggressive about changing things up. Jim Mora has to prove he can win. He gets his chance Sunday when the Bruins play Texas A&M in the marquee match-up of the week.
9. Oregon State Beavers-
Oregon State is rebuilding itself into a solid program, piece by piece. All that progress doesn’t mean much, though, as the PAC 12 has continued to improve around them. They play Colorado State in less than a week, a decent litmus test for a team that’s still finding its way.
10. Cal Bears-
It’s been a while since a lot has gone right for Cal, but many of the critical pieces are there to make a go at a bowl game. That’s about the ceiling for the Bears, though. They start the season with an intriguing matchup at North Carolina. A win over the Tarheels would be a good sign for their bowl hopes.
11. Arizona State Sundevils-
Todd Graham’s seat is searing hot, and the stumbling Sun Devils don’t look to have the talent to cool it off. New Mexico State shouldn’t present much of a challenge, but that gentle start will turn tough in a hurry. Will the ‘Devils be ready?
12. Arizona Wildcats-
It may be small solace to ASU fans, but at least rival Arizona is in shambles, too. Despite returning plenty of talent, the Wildcats were catastrophically bad last year. Their rebuilding project isn’t going to be a success overnight.
There are a great many unknowns moving into this season, although the strength at the top of both the South and the North conceals some of it. It’s hard to say how teams 3-8 are going to shake out in the end, and a lot will depend on whether or not incoming talent and coaches can make an impact. Next week’s rankings only take two games into account- so don’t expect much change. Of course, that’s provided the Beavers and Stanford take care of business.