RANKING THE PAC-12:
TOP THREE DEFENSES
Stats (national ranking): 4.4 yards per play allowed (17th), 15.0 ppg allowed (14th); 326.0 yards per game allowed (27th); 3.06 yards per carry allowed (18th); 6.1 yards per pass attempt allowed (T29th)
Comment: The Huskies aren’t scoring defensive touchdowns at the same rate they did last season, but you might never see that kind of production again. UW’s defensive numbers are otherwise improved across the board, and they lead the Pac-12 Conference in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense.
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Stats (national ranking): 4.78 yards per play allowed (T32nd); 19.0 points per game allowed (T28th); 3.58 yards per carry allowed (T40th); 327.6 yards per game allowed (28th); 6.1 yards per pass attempt allowed (T29th)
Comment: Cardinal ranks dead last in the conference in takeaways with three (and just one interception). In spite of that, Stanford ranks second in the Pac-12 in total defense and rushing defense, and third in scoring defense.
Stats (national ranking): 5.63 yards per play allowed (75th); 19.8 points per game allowed (33rd); 392.0 yards per game allowed (67th); 4.22 yards per carry allowed (T71st); 6.8 yards per pass attempt allowed (T63rd)
Comment: Could make an argument for UCLA or USC in this spot, but what separates Utah is its turnover margin. The Utes have 17 takeaways in five games, including 12 interceptions, which is tied with California for fourth most in the country (three teams have 13). Plus, the Utes have played a pretty difficult schedule.
1. Utah (1): Utes rank 69th nationally in offensive yards per play, and 75th in yards per play allowed … and they’re still undefeated.
2. Stanford (2): Cardinal can take another big step toward the Pac-12 North title by beating UCLA this week.
3. California (4): Bears move up a spot after competitive loss at Utah, thanks mostly to an unfortunate week for USC.
4. Arizona State (5): Blowout loss to USC feels like years ago, given all that has happened since.
5. UCLA (6): After a week to regroup, Bruins badly need to beat Stanford this week to maintain hope of winning Pac-12 South.
6. Washington (9): Huskies seemed hopelessly boring a week ago. Win over USC changes that a bit, even if winning six games will still take a lot of work.
7. Washington State (10): Cougars are 3-2, with a loss to Portland State and a win at Oregon, just like everyone thought.
8. Arizona (8): A 44-7 win over OSU proves, yet again, that Wildcats can beat up on bad teams.
9. USC (3): Trojans all of a sudden challenging Rutgers for biggest mess in college football. Bright lights of Los Angeles only magnify their issues.
10. Oregon (7): Ducks are more talented than this, but 3-3 is 3-3. And that defense …
11. Colorado (11): Home game against Arizona feels winnable, but the feeling that Colorado hasn’t really improved all that much continues to grow.
12. Oregon State (12): Would anyone be tremendously surprised if the Beavers won in Pullman this week?