Pac-12 power ratings: The South race is USC’s to lose after that improbable comeback

Clarity has come to the South division race, if there is a division race.

USC has emerged as the heavy favorite, if the Trojans finish their season.

One week in, and Pac-12 football is on fragile ground as COVID-19 cases rise, quarantines take hold and cancellations surface.

But Trojans are in charge of the South after four brilliant minutes on Saturday morning stunned Arizona State and tipped the race in their favor.

Let’s dive in …

— USC’s one-game lead over ASU is actually a two-game lead because of the head-to-head result, which would be decisive in the event of a tie.

And it’s a two-game lead with only five games to play — not much time for the Sun Devils to make up the ground.

— The Trojans caught a significant break in unfortunate fashion with what initially appeared to be a tricky trip — in a letdown situation — to Tucson.

But the cancellation of Arizona’s opener at Utah means the Wildcats will be playing for the first time when they take the field against USC, a significant advantage for the game-tested visitors.

— Another potential contender, Utah, has encountered significant COVID-19 issues.

In addition to canceling their opener, the Utes might not play this week at UCLA. And if they do, a slew of starters could be absent.

That increases the likelihood that Utah will 1) lose this week, or 2) experience some form of competitive disadvantage when the Trojans come to town in Week Three.

That could be the season opener for the Utes as a team, or for key starters.

— Although more impressive than expected in Week One, Colorado seemingly lacks the defensive talent to mount any serious pursuit of the division.

The Buffaloes allowed 42 points and 478 yards to an opponent, UCLA, that had four possessions truncated by turnovers.

— The final advantage for the Trojans within the division: UCLA appears to be UCLA.

And so in the spirit of calling a race when it looks too early but really isn’t, USC is our unofficial South champion.

To the power ratings (all times Pacific) …

1. USC (1-0)
Result: Beat Arizona State 28-27
Next up: at Arizona (12:30 p.m., FOX)
Comment: The final minutes were a tour de force in playmaking, but let’s talk about an important development from the first 56: The Trojans were outplayed decisively at the line of scrimmage; if that’s not resolved, they won’t produce the dominant 7-0 season needed to make the playoff selection committee’s short list.

2. Arizona State (0-1)
Result: Lost at USC 28-27
Next up: vs. Cal (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Comment: One way to view the loss: Had you told the Hotline ahead of time that the Sun Devils would be without receiver Frank Darby — and have no semblance of a downfield passing game — we wouldn’t have given them an iota of a morsel of a chance. And yet, there they were.

3. Oregon (1-0)
Result: Beat Stanford 35-14
Next up: at Washington State (4 p.m., FOX)
Comment: Hard to tell exactly where the Ducks stand given that Stanford was without quarterback Davis Mills. But Tyler Shough’s …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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