How can it be that Stanford, the No. 1 Pac-12 team in this power rating, can be fourth in the BCS standings given the stature of the conference as one of the best, a step below the SEC?
The general argument: If a team from one of the five major conferences is unbeaten, it should be ranked ahead of a team with one defeat, such as Stanford, which lost to Pac-12 opponent Utah.
That's a decent argument if the conferences in which those undefeated teams played was equal to or better than the Pac-12. The Big Ten and Big 12 are not as strong as the Pac-12, using the BCS standings as a gauge.
Florida State, the No. 2 team in the BCS standings, is benefiting from playing in a weak ACC. Clemson (No. 8) is the only other ACC team in the BCS Top 20.
The Pac-12 has four teams among the Top 20 of the BCS standings, including three teams that Stanford has overpowered—once invincible Oregon (No. 6), UCLA (No. 13) and Arizona State (No. 19).
The Big Ten has only Ohio State (No. 3) and Michigan State (No. 16) in the Top 20. The Big 12 has only three: Baylor (No. 5), Oklahoma State (No. 12) and Oklahoma (No. 18).
Baylor is unbeaten, but the Bears had a ridiculous nonconference schedule with the likes of Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. Baylor showed vulnerability at Kansas State on Oct. 12, surviving 35-25 thanks to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against a Wildcat team that was 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12.
Ohio State's road victories are against Cal, Northwestern and Purdue. The combined record of those teams: 6-22.
Stanford lost at Utah, but look at how others have fared in Salt Lake City: Oregon State won 51-48 in overtime, UCLA held on to win 34-27 and ASU survived 20-19 after the Sun Devils trailed 19-7. That's a difference of only 11 points in three games against quality competition.
All things being equal, if Florida State suffers an upset loss and Stanford defeats an emerging USC team, Cal, and Notre Dame and captures the Pac-12 title, the Cardinal should be in the the national title game despite that loss at Utah. Why? Beating Oregon is monumental. It should all come back to that game.
Ohio State and Baylor cannot match that.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Stanford (8-1, 6-1): If the Cardinal does not play Alabama in the national title game, it would be a shame because they are the strongest teams in the country in terms of how they come at teams fearlessly. Stanford proved its toughness against Oregon, running on 66 of 79 plays and averaging 4.2 yards per carry even, though, the Ducks knew what was coming. Last week: No. 2. Postseason prediction: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State.
2. Oregon (8-1 overall, 5-1): The Ducks' psyche took a hit, especially with how they were unable to run against Stanford's vaunted defense. When push came to shove, Oregon fell with a thud. Byron Marshall's run of five straight 100-yard games ended with 46 yards, De'Anthony Thomas had just 30 rushing yards and Marcus Mariota had minus-16 yards including sacks. Last week: No. 1. Postseason prediction: Sugar Bowl vs. Missouri.
3. Arizona State (7-2, 5-1): The Sun Devils are the most resourceful team in the Pac-12, somehow getting the win at Utah despite catalyst Taylor Kelly having one of his worst games. ASU showed it can win by scoring 50 points or only 20. The Sun Devils' season will come down to the game at UCLA in two weeks, but they must take care of a rested Oregon State team this week first. Last week: No. 3. Postseason prediction: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas.
4. UCLA (7-2, 4-2): If the Bruins win the Pac-12 South, they will earn it. They still have to face Washington, Arizona State and USC, three teams with a combined record of 20-8. Last week: No. 4. Postseason prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma.
5. USC (7-3, 4-2): We will find out if the Trojans are for real Saturday when they face their first ranked opponent at the time of kickoff. USC lost to ASU, which is ranked No. 21, but the Sun Devils were not ranked when they met in the fifth week of the season. Last week: No. 5. Postseason prediction: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Boise State.
6. Oregon State (6-3, 4-2): After two touchdowns in the past two games by the offense, the Beavers know it will take much more scoring to keep up with the Sun Devils, who are averaging 43 points. The difference is Oregon State lost to Stanford and USC in those two games, and the Cardinal and Trojans have the best defenses in the Pac-12. ASU's defense is good, but it is more opportunistic than dominating. Last week: No. 6. Postseason prediction: Sun Bowl vs. Duke.
7. Washington (6-3, 3-3): The Huskies must prove themselves now against quality competition, starting Friday at UCLA. Washington's three conference wins are over teams with a combined three Pac-12 wins (all by Arizona). It has lost to powerhouses Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State. Washington clinched a spot in a bowl game for the fourth year in a row, but it has to win two of its final three games to avoid going 7-5 for the fourth year in a row. Last week: No. 7. Postseason prediction: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State.
8. Arizona (6-3, 3-3): Rich Rodriguez is still in rebuilding mode after last week's 31-26 loss at home against UCLA. Arizona is still a couple of years away from being a realistic challenger. The Wildcats host Washington State, a team it should beat, this Saturday. Arizona can make it a perfect 4-0 against the last four teams listed in these rankings. Last week: No. 8. Postseason prediction: Fight Hunger Bowl vs. BYU.
9. Utah (4-5, 1-5): The Utes move up a spot in these ratings this week because of how they played ASU tough for three quarters. Utah battled despite a porous offensive line that has allowed quarterback Travis Wilson to be sacked 13 times in the last three weeks. Last week: No. 10. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
10. Washington State (4-5, 2-4): Senior safety Deone Bucannon is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football. He will be important against Arizona tracking fleet-footed quarterback B.J. Denker while the front seven concerns itself with Ka'Deem Carey. Last week: No. 9. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
11. Colorado (3-6, 0-6): Relief is on its way, Colorado fans. Cal, a fellow winless team in the conference, is coming to town. Colorado has lost every Pac-12 game by at least three touchdowns. The Buffaloes never had a chance against Washington last week, falling behind 31-7 at halftime. The Cal game should go down to the wire, which makes the game actually worthwhile to watch. Last Week: No. 11. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
12. California (1-9, 0-7): The Golden Bears defense could not hold up against a USC offense that is conservative in its play calling compared to other Pac-12 teams. It was an embarrassing effort for the Bears, who allowed six touchdowns on defense and three more on special teams. Freshman quarterback Jared Goff continues to improve. He helped Cal put up 28 points for the second week in a row, but that was not enough again. Last Week: No. 12. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
Please check out Javier Morales' blog at TucsonCitizen.com.