The Pac-12 North has ruled the conference since it expanded in 2011 with the addition of Utah and Colorado, two bottom-feeders of the Pac-12 South in the first three years.
The Pac-12 North boasts the last two conference champions: Oregon in 2011 and Stanford in 2012. The Ducks and Cardinal comprise the premier rivalry in the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 South has risen this season to the point where Arizona State (a darkhorse entering the season) can host the Pac-12 championship game if the Sun Devils beat UCLA and Arizona in their last two games and Oregon stumbles against Arizona and/or Oregon State (via Pac-12.com).
The proof that the Pac-12 South has turned the tide against the Pac-12 North: The southern teams are 11-11 against their northern counterparts this season after going 9-15 in 2011 and 2012.
The last two Pac-12 North vs. Pac-12 South games are this Saturday with Oregon visiting Arizona and Washington State hosting Utah. The Pac-12 North appears headed for its third consecutive winning season against the Pac-12 South, but the top southern teams have shown they can be a good match against either Oregon or Stanford in the championship game.
The Pac-12 South topped the Pac-12 North in two marquee games last week: UCLA's victory over Washington and upstart USC upsetting Stanford.
In a matchup of the conferences' worst teams (California from the Pac-12 North and Colorado from the Pac-12 South), Colorado was clearly the better team with a 41-24 victory.
Although Oregon and Stanford top the Pac-12 power ratings again this week, three of the top-five teams are from the southern division. The next tier of teams are far below ASU, UCLA and USC.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Oregon (9-1 overall, 6-1): The Ducks are spoiled. They view the Rose Bowl as just another bowl, which is understandable to a degree because they were geared toward a BCS title spot against Alabama before losing to Stanford. "It's not a big deal at all," Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas told reporters about playing in the Rose Bowl (via the SportsXChange). "We already won a Rose Bowl, so it feels like whatever." Last week: No. 2. Postseason prediction: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State.
2. Stanford (8-2, 6-2): Don't expect this week to be a 1986 repeat when the 1-9 Cal Golden Bears upset a 7-2 Stanford team. Stanford has recorded 32 sacks this season, tied for the fourth-most in the country. The Bears have yielded 34 sacks. Only eight FBS teams have allowed more. It will be a long day for Cal on The Farm. Last week: No. 1. Postseason prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma.
3. Arizona State (8-2, 6-1): The Sun Devils will forge ahead of Stanford in this Pac-12 power ratings with a victory at UCLA. He may have a jaded past leaving program after program, but Todd Graham is getting the job done at ASU for now. Graham has infused Dennis Erickson holdovers such as All-American tackle Will Sutton, quarterback Taylor Kelly and linebacker Carl Bradford with a solid nucleus of about 20 junior college transfers in his first two classes at ASU. Last week: No. 3. Postseason prediction: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas.
4. UCLA (8-2, 5-2): Saturday's game with Arizona State should be an epic one if the previous two matchups are any indication. ASU has lost consecutive games to the Bruins, with the defeats coming by a combined three points. In 2011, the Sun Devils missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired, losing 29-28. Last year, UCLA drove 65 yards in 93 seconds, kicking a 33-yard field goal on the last play of the game to win 45-43. The Bruins are 4-0 at home this season. Last week: No. 4. Postseason prediction: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech.
5. USC (8-3, 5-2): It's this simple: If USC runs the table, including a victory in a bowl, the head coaching job belongs to Ed Orgeron. If the Trojans lose once, yes, only once, his name should no longer be mentioned as a possibility. The Trojans are on a high with a 5-1 record under Orgeron but their fans must guard from becoming delusional. Opposing Pac-12 coaches will breath a sigh of relief if Orgeron stays and Kevin Sumlin stays at Texas A&M, for example. Last week: No. 5. Postseason prediction: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Boise State.
6. Oregon State (6-4, 4-3): The Beavers have been exposed because of a weak early-season schedule. When Oregon State won six consecutive games to become bowl eligible, the victories came over teams that are a combined 12-38. The three opponents that have handed the Beavers consecutive defeats (Stanford, USC and Arizona State) are a combined 24-7. Last week: No. 6. Postseason prediction: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State.
7. Washington (6-4, 3-4): The Huskies play on the road against a hungry Oregon State team. You know what that means. The Huskies are 1-3 on the road this year and are 7-20 on the road under Steve Sarkisian in his four-plus years as head coach. Last week: No. 7. Postseason prediction: Fight Hunger Bowl vs. BYU.
8. Washington State (5-5, 3-4): Lost in the USC uprising under Orgeron and Graham coaching ASU to a potential spot in the Pac-12 title game is the job done by second-year coach Mike Leach with the Cougars. Leach deserves strong consideration for Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors. The Cougars, 3-9 last season, are one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2003. Look for them to get it done Saturday against Utah. Last week: No. 10. Postseason prediction: Little Caesars Bowl vs. Ball State.
9. Arizona (6-4, 3-4): The way to beat Oregon is through a power running game as Stanford has shown. Arizona has one of the nation's best running backs in Ka'Deem Carey, but it does not have the strength (in numbers and physically) up front to control the line against the Ducks this week. The Wildcats are on the brink of not allowing Carey to be showcased in a bowl game by losing consecutive games at home. Last week: No. 8. Postseason prediction: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Rice.
10. Utah (4-6, 1-6): Utah's lost season can become even worse if redshirt candidate Conner Manning must play with only two games left in the regular season. Manning has moved to No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart with sophomore Travis Wilson gone for the rest of the season (and perhaps the rest of his career) with brain conditions related to a concussion. Last week: No. 9. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
11. Colorado (4-6, 0-7): The Buffaloes snapped a 14-game conference losing streak by defeating Cal 41-24 last week. Colorado's players said ending the streak is enough to build momentum for next season and beyond under promising new coach Mike MacIntyre. Mark it down: MacIntyre will take the Buffaloes to a bowl game next season and have at least one major upset along the way. Last Week: No. 11. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
12. California (1-10, 0-8): Was Sonny Dykes the right hire? The Golden Bears could have pursued MacIntyre from nearby San Jose State but passed him over for Dykes. The Bears (1-10) have already lost as many games in one season as any team in Cal history, matching the 2001 team that finished 1-10. Loss No. 11 comes Saturday at Stanford. Last Week: No. 12. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
Please check out Javier Morales' blog at TucsonCitizen.com.