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Originally published September 9, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Page modified September 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM

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Middle class makes push for the top | Pac-12 in perspective

Upsets of ranked opponents by Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona have the league looking a lot stronger than initially thought.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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Suddenly, the Pac-12 has grown fangs.

Suddenly, that Oregon State-UCLA game in two weeks looks like a headliner, not a life-raft affair.

Suddenly, after the league beat three ranked teams over the weekend and went 6-1 against other BCS conferences, there are potholes for USC and Oregon, not just pushovers.

Say hello to the AP Top 25, UCLA (No. 22) and Arizona (No. 24). That gives the league five ranked teams, with USC at No. 2, Oregon No. 4 and Stanford No. 21.

Boy, that Larry Scott sure has made a difference.

What We Learned

Big Saturday for new coaches. Jim Mora is 2-0 at UCLA after its ambush of Nebraska. Rich Rodriguez probably never imagined his Arizona team could put up 59 points on Oklahoma State. Todd Graham's Arizona State team laid 45 on Illinois, a team with eight defensive starters back from a highly ranked unit in 2011. And Mike Leach got his first win at Washington State, even as it materialized closer than it should have been against Eastern Washington.

Time of possession still matters. Oregon has rendered that statistic laughable in recent years, but not everybody is Oregon. Saturday, Oregon State had the ball for 35 minutes, 35 seconds against Wisconsin's road-graders — preventing Montee Ball from scoring in his 22nd straight game — and UCLA hogged it for 37:40 against Nebraska.

The Bruins, by the way, now have 1,299 yards of offense in two games, and Johnathan Franklin has rushed for 431.

Playing at home is a big deal. This doesn't seem like a time to rain on a parade, but nine Pac-12 teams played at home, and all three of the ranked victims the Pac-12 dispatched were two time zones west of their campuses.

Sifting through the wreckage of Wisconsin's loss, Badgers coach Bret Bielema said, "It's a hostile environment, it's a longer trip. We're seeing all of Oregon. We flew into Portland, we drove to Salem, we drove to Corvallis today and we fly out of Eugene. We're getting a world view of Oregon."

Schedule FCS teams at your peril. It seems like a good idea, scheduling "down" to facilitate that march toward six victories and bowl eligibility. Until your team isn't prepared to play mentally, the other guys are — and in many cases, they're not without talent. Washington State doesn't need to apologize for its win over Eastern Washington, a quality FCS program.

Mora has jump-started Datone Jones. The Bruins defensive end had been long on potential and short on production, but he has five tackles for loss, among them two sacks. He broke a 27-all tie against Nebraska by bull-rushing an offensive lineman and stoning Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez in the end zone for a safety to put the Bruins ahead for good.

"You hate to say anything was the play of the game because so many plays are critical," said Mora. "But that was the play of the game."

Colorado's bowl hopes are toast. The Buffs had talked about the postseason, and indeed they have an early schedule to get a jump on it. But they've now spent two of those chances, losing Saturday to FCS Sacramento State, giving up 466 yards to a team that lost by 30 opening weekend to New Mexico State.

"It's embarrassing," said CU defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, while coach Jon Embree is saying that all starting positions will be re-evaluated.

The Husky offense is out of whack. Certainly, LSU can do that to you. But the UW run game, missing departed Chris Polk and injured Jesse Callier, has gained only 132 yards in two games. If Washington doesn't get that figured out, it's going to have a significant effect on Keith Price's passing effectiveness.

This Week

USC is at Stanford in the marquee matchup and the first league game of the season. There are three testy nonleague games — Cal at Ohio State; ASU at Missouri and Brigham Young at Utah.


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