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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Pac-12 upset victories do a number on college football rankings

Door opens for USC return to No. 1, as victories by UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona shake up rankings. Pac-12 now has five teams in the top 25, second only to SEC's six teams.

September 09, 2012|Chris Dufresne

Things sure have changed in the few hours since, you know, Arkansas was ranked and UCLA wasn't.

It seems like only Saturday morning (it was) that Arizona was 1-0 after a shaky overtime win over Toledo and crummy-last-year Oregon State was bracing for the big, bad, Big Ten Badgers from Wisconsin.

And wasn't Derek Dooley's Tennessee job in jeopardy?

Last weekend's menu flipped faster than burgers at a greasy spoon.

Consider the premise now.

USC heads to Stanford the same week Alabama heads to Arkansas.

At rush hour Friday there seemed no conceivable way USC could reclaim No. 1 from Alabama if both teams won Sept. 15.

An Alabama victory over No. 8 Arkansas would have galvanized the Crimson Tide's chokehold on No. 1 in the AP poll.

USC was playing only a Stanford team, without Andrew Luck, coming off a three-point win over San Jose State.

Now look.

Stanford moved up five spots to No. 16 in Sunday's USA Today coaches' poll after the Cardinal pummeled Duke, 50-13, in Palo Alto. This was a Duke team coming off a 46-26 win over Florida International.

USC didn't look razor sharp in a 13-point win over Syracuse, and has lost four of the last five against Stanford, but the Trojans are now back in position Saturday to make a major national statement.

Alabama is suddenly looking to beat an Arkansas team coming off a deflating loss in Little Rock to Louisiana Monroe.

Arkansas dropped like a 1929 stock, falling clear out of both polls on its way into possible oblivion. The Razorbacks, only minutes ago, were considered a national title contender.

But that was Friday.

The USA Today coaches' poll, uncomfortable with voting USC No.1 dating to 2003, made a preemptive move Sunday by sliding USC down to No. 3 behind Alabama and Louisiana State.

This allows the coaches room to supplant LSU for Alabama in next week's top spot.

Or is that the Oliver Stone in me talking?

It's crazy how fast conventional wisdom can wither:

— UCLA was going to be reality-checked by Nebraska at the Rose Bowl.

First-year Coach Jim Mora's team was 1-0 only because it scheduled the opener with a side of Rice.

Nebraska was the real deal, ranked No. 16, from the cornfed Midwest. We learned in UCLA's 36-30 upset, though, that UCLA already looks different under the drill sergeant command of Mora.

He inherited Rick Neuheisel's players and replaced day camp with boot camp. Let's see how many pushups the boys can do through the Houston game.

—Rich Rodriguez has lost his fastball.

RichRod was run out of Michigan after a disastrous three-year run and replaced by Brady Hoke, a real Michigan man who understood the Big Blue culture.

Rodriguez was exiled to Arizona and, in his first game, needed overtime to beat holey Toledo.

Saturday night, though, while most of America slept, Arizona woke up with a stunning 59-38 rout of Oklahoma State.

Arizona is 2-0 and suddenly ranked No. 24. Rodriguez has resurrected his career and pumped hope and yardage into fifth-year senior Matt Scott, the former Corona Centennial High star, who languished for years behind Nick Foles.

Scott, though, just happened to be the perfect quarterback to run RichRod's spread offense.

In two wins, Scott has completed 66.7% of his passes for 707 yards and four touchdowns. He has also rushed for 129 yards.

—Mike Riley is a nice guy, but his time may be up at Oregon State.

That was the thought after last year's 3-9 campaign in Corvallis. That's no longer the thought after Saturday's shocking 10-7 win against Wisconsin.

"There have been some great games and some great teams," Riley said. "We certainly haven't had an opener like this."

There was a concern that the Beavers wouldn't be sharp after their warmup opener against Nicholls State was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac.

In fact, the extra practice time seemed to help.

"We were enthusiastic to play," receiver Brandin Cooks said. "When you practice that long, you just want to play."

It was surprising Oregon State didn't crack the top 25 and somewhat of a sham Wisconsin is still No. 22 in the coaches' poll.

Also, as late as noon Saturday, would anyone have circled Oregon State at UCLA on their Sept. 22 calendar?

—Derek Dooley sat on the hottest coaching seat in football coming off a 5-7 season. Just as surprisingly, after wins over North Carolina State and Georgia State, Tennessee is No. 23 in the AP with Florida on its way to Knoxville.

—It was shaping up as a horrible weekend for the Pac-12 with Utah losing to Utah State and Colorado falling to Sacramento State.

By Saturday night, UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona defeated ranked teams and Arizona State improved to 2-0 with a win over Illinois.

The Pac-12, tracking at 7% in one Fox viewer poll ranking the top conferences, woke up Sunday with five teams ranked in the top 25. Only the SEC, with six, had more ranked schools.

That was then, this is now.

Funny, isn't it, how it all turned out — and around.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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