Power Five1. Oregon
Its been a wild year in the Pac-12 so far. Which basically means its been much of the same from the conference- early season surprises (Arizona, Utah), early season disappointments (UCLA, Washington State), early season stars (Marcus Mariota, Shaq Thompson) and early season question marks (will ANYONE from the conference make the CFB Playoff?).
Oregon is the top team in the conference, still, their loss to Arizona stinging but not knocking them down. USC staved off the comeback storm against Arizona and still has a road win at Stanford in their back pocket. Stanford still has the conference's best defense. And then there is Arizona, being mentioned in the top group in a sport other than basketball.
In year four in the Pac-12, Utah finally got a big road win, beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl and are a legitimate threat to win the South. Arizona State has the offense to score with anyone, though their defense needs to mature quickly. California reverted back to bad Cal from 2013 against Washington, but still looks markedly different from previous seasons.
Washington, in year one under Chris Petersen, didn't inspire a lot of confidence after their loss at home to Stanford, but then thrashed a hot Cal team, and now are a team that is hoping to snap a long losing streak to Oregon and get over the hump.
More was expected from Oregon State, UCLA and Washington State this season, with all three returning record-breaking quarterbacks, but leaky defenses and special teams have done them in. Colorado looked poised to make a big jump this year, but just needs to find a way to finish off games (see Cal and Oregon State).
With all of the conference having at least one loss, and in some cases, preseason favorites having two (UCLA), it's anyone's guess how the rest of the season will play out.
Oregon, with their win at UCLA and Stanford and Washington both having to come to Eugene, is in the drivers seat for the Pac-12. Arizona has a manageable schedule, with no Stanford and then Arizona State coming to Tucson, but they have to visit Utah and UCLA still. USC has their Hail Mary loss to Arizona State, but got the win over Arizona and have the road win at Stanford too.
Who knows what will happen. But if the first seven weeks are an indicator, the back half should be just as intriguing, if not more, before the conference championship game in Levi's Stadium in December.
Coach of the YearA loss to USC, in which the Cats battled back to have a chance to win, can't sully the season that Rich Rodriguez has had at Arizona. While Michigan, his former employer, is imploding, Arizona is thriving. They beat Oregon in Autzen (the second straight year RichRod has beaten Oregon). They've showed some late game heroics (Cal and then the onside kick to put themselves in a position to beat USC) and are showing the toughness that the program lacked for years. RichRod hasn't hesitated to play young guys over veterans who have been in the system, like Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson, and that backfield should flourish for years. To date, RichRod is the runaway Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Offensive Player of the YearMarcus Mariota from Oregon may not have the stats that Connor Halliday or Jared Goff have, but he's been the best player in the conference all year, and the best quarterback in the conference for the last three. When his team needed him to rebound after their first loss to Arizona, he responded in a big way with a very good game with his arm and his legs at UCLA. He's easily the most valuable player in the conference and the Pac-12's best bet for an invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club.
Defensive Player of the YearThere are a number of candidates, surprising when you consider the offensive numbers being put up. But the nod goes to Washington's Shaq Thompson, who's impact this season has been huge and in two games, turned the tide for the Huskies, including last week's romp of Cal, the school he was originally headed to. Thompson has four touchdowns on defense this year, and has showed why he was the No. 3 player in the entire class of 2012. Washington has two others who could have been considered in Danny Shelton and Hau'oli Kikaha plus Oregon had Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, Arizona with Scooby Wright and USC with Leonard Williams, but Thompson's impact on the Huskies has been too tough to ignore.
Offense: Top FreshmanAnu Solomon, Arizona has been the sparkplug for the Wildcats. With apologies to Royce Freeman from Oregon and Nick Wilson from Arizona, who both came in with lofty expectation, Solomon has been the straw that has stirred the Wildcats offense. He rallied them to a win over Cal and almost did the same thing against USC. The kid won four state titles as a starting quarterback in high school and just finds ways to win.
Defense: Top FreshmanJaleel Wadood, UCLA, was inserted into the starting lineup when the Bruins played Texas and won't be leaving anytime soon. He was big against the Longhorns and had another good game against Arizona State, and with UCLA losing the heart and soul of their secondary, Randall Goforth, midway through the second game, Wadood has helped shore up the back part of the Bruins defense.