Posted by: Kyle Risko and Tony Krikorian on 9/18/2019
Three weeks into the 2019 college football season and things are already very interesting. Week 3 in the Pac-12 had some good, some bad, and some ugly. Here’s how the teams rank after what we’ve seen:
1. Utah Utes (3-0)
The Utes destroyed Idaho State 31-0 in their last non-conference game. Zack Moss rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and the defense held the Bengals to only 116 yards of total offense. The Utes have their recipe-a dominant defense and a strong rushing attack-clicking on all cylinders. Tyler Huntley will have to be efficient and explosive through the air as Utah moves into conference play. But, if the Utes perform anything like they did last October, they will be just fine. Utah now turns its attention to winning the Pac-12 South, starting with the Trojans on Friday night. This is sure to be a battle and the national audience will be tuned in to see if the Utes are the real deal.
2. Washington State Cougars (3-0)
The Cougs passed their first true test of the season with a 31-24 victory over Houston. Mike Leach has Wazzu’s offense right where they left off from last year. Anthony Gordon passed for 440 yards and three touchdowns for his third straight 400-yard passing game. The defense has performed surprisingly well through the first three games, but the Cougs need to shore up their rush defense, as they are currently giving up 183.7 yards a game on the ground. Wazzu won’t run into too much trouble this weekend as they open conference play at home against a struggling UCLA, but things get a little more intense with away games at #10 Utah and #24 ASU in the following two weeks.
3. Oregon Ducks (2-1)
The Ducks wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a 35-3 win over Montana. Justin Herbert threw for 316 yards and five touchdowns, with 12 different Ducks making at least one catch. Oregon hasn’t given up a touchdown since the end of the Auburn game, and the defense is looking like one of the best in the Pac-12. The Ducks open conference play at Stanford, a team who appears to be worse than anticipated. But, the Ducks need not take them lightly as recent history dictates. Last year late in the game, CJ Verdell stretched for a first down, fumbled, and the Cardinal recovered. Stanford then went on to tie the game, and ultimately win in overtime. The Ducks are looking to redeem themselves and will need to do so to keep their Pac-12 Championship and playoff (maybe a stretch?) hopes alive.
4. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0)
Call me crazy, but I’m all aboard the Herm Train! The Sun Devils pulled off the upset victory over #18 Michigan State in East Lansing- thanks to a huge miscue by the Spartans. After Jayden Daniels led an 11 play, 75 yard drive to take a 10-7 lead, Sparty marched down and kicked what everyone thought was a game tying field goal. Fortunately for Herm and Co., MSU had 12 men on the field and then missed the subsequent 47 yard field goal attempt. ASU’s defense is stout and their offense definitely needs some work. But, I like what I’ve seen out of Jayden Daniels so far. He’s been poised, smart, and shown his mobility. Plus, Eno Benjamin is only going to take off as the young and injured offensive line gains more experience and gets put back together. The Sun Devils host Colorado this weekend and their defense will be put to the test to stop Montez and Shenault.
5. Cal Golden Bears (3-0)
Cal took down North Texas 23-17 behind 3 made field goals and 2 extra points from kicker Greg Thomas. Look, Cal’s defense is really, really good. But their offense is still a major work in progress. If I could rank them separately it would be something like this: Cal defense #1 and Cal offense #11 (thanks to UCLA). But, I can’t do that, so I put them here at #5 for now. Chase Garbers has been inaccurate, completing 53% of his passes, and only throwing for 3 TDs through the first three games. The run game has been better this year, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for the Golden Bears if they have to rely on defense and the kicking game to win. Cal gets major props for being 3-0, especially with a good win over UW, but I am skeptical of them moving forward. The Golden Bears head to SEC country this weekend to take on Ole Miss before returning to conference play.
6. Washington Huskies (2-1)
Jacob Eason threw for three touchdowns to help the Huskies rebound and beat Hawaii 52-20. The defense played well, had some nice take aways, and ultimately held an explosive Hawaii offense mostly in check. The Huskies have been a roller coaster through the first three games though-looking great at times, but then also poor at times. UW has to be able to move the ball no matter who they are playing. Defensively, the Huskies appear to have some questions with all the new faces and inexperience. But, I trust in Chris Peterson to get it figured out. UW heads to BYU this weekend, which will give some good comparison data against the other teams that have played them so far. For now, the Huskies are at #6, but it’s only a matter of time before they climb the rankings.
7. USC Trojans (2-1)
Kedon Slovis threw three interceptions in a 30-27 overtime loss to BYU. The young freshman didn’t look bad, but he definitely missed some reads that cost the Trojans. That’s expected with a young quarterback, but it was also expected that USC would beat BYU. Graham Harrell needs to figure out a better way to attack defenses that drop 8 to stop the pass- and that needs to start with the offensive line opening more holes in the run game. The Trojan’s young secondary will also need to step their game up entering the meat of conference play, as they are currently giving up 264 yards passing through the air. USC’s schedule doesn’t get any easier with games against Utah, at UW, and then at Notre Dame. The Trojans need to win a couple of those or I think Helton will be out.
8. Colorado Buffs (2-1)
After rallying from 17 down to beat Nebraska the week before, the Buffs almost came from behind again. But, Colorado ultimately came up short in OT losing to Air Force 30-23. Colorado needs to play the first three quarters and not just the 4th. The have been underwhelming in the first half and that will need to change that as they begin conference play. Plus, the Buff’s defense has not been good at all, giving up 30.7 points and 471 yards of total offense a game. Colorado will lean heavily on Montez and Shenault to win games in shootout fashion as they move into conference play. The Buffs head to Tempe this weekend and will try to bounce back against a very good Sun Devil defense.
9. Stanford Cardinal (1-2)
I thought that Stanford might have a tough year, but I did not think that they would be this bad! The Trees were routed by UCF 45-27 and really struggled on both sides of the ball. Throughout the first three games, offensively, the Cardinal have been below average, scoring only 21.3 points per game. Defensively, they are one of the worst in the conference, giving up 32.3 points and 415.7 yards of total offense a game. Add in the fact that they have some significant injuries on the offensive line and it’s all very concerning. Putting them at #9 is generous, but the teams below them seem worse-for now. Things don’t get any easier as Oregon comes to town this weekend.
10. Arizona Wildcats (2-1)
The Wildcats had a good 28-14 win against Texas Tech. Khalil Tate accounted for 314 yards, looking like the mobile quarterback that tore up defenses in 2017. The defense also did a good job of shutting down a Texas Tech offense that is supposed to be explosive. Does this signify a change that maybe the defense isn’t so bad? I say NO. The Wildcats are currently last in the conference in both points allowed per game (33.3) and yards allowed per game (482.7). Khalil Tate is going to have to score 40 points a game if Arizona is going to win some of its conference matchups.
11. Oregon State Beavers (1-2)
The Beavs got their first win of the season with a 45-7 victory over Cal Poly. Jake Luton passed for 255 yards and four touchdowns, two of which went to standout wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. The Beavers’ offense is looking good and, against some of the poor defensive teams in the conference, they might be able to steal a couple wins because of it. But from what I’ve seen, the defense is a major liability and they don’t have enough athletes to compete with the top teams in the Pac-12. We will see, but for now, I think the Beavs have one more win on its scheduled and that’s against the Bruins.
12. UCLA Bruins (0-3)
Oklahoma absolutely destroyed the Bruins 48-14. I hate to pour it on UCLA more than they are already getting from everyone else. But, there just isn’t much to be happy or hopeful for. Grant it, their non-conference schedule was tough with good teams like Cincinnati and Oklahoma on it, but they played bad in both of those games. And the loss to San Diego State was a really bad look. Chip Kelly needs to get the Bruins turned around or its going to be a long season- possibly a zero win season.