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Pac-12 rankings: Oregon hitting stride as CFB Playoff contender

It says plenty about the Pac-12, the North Division in particular, that Stanford at Oregon isn't the game of the week out West. That's partially due to Utah's big win over USC and continuing clarity in the South Division, which might be set to lose some contenders very shortly.

1. Oregon (7-1, 4-1 in Pac-12)

Up next: vs. Stanford
The skinny: The defense remains an issue for the Ducks, but at least they've already faced most of the top-tier offensive teams in the league. Meanwhile, the Marcus Mariota-led offense is starting to fire on all cylinders and ready to face its stiffest test of the year against Stanford.

2. Arizona State (6-1, 4-1)

Up next: vs. Utah
The skinny: It might have been in hurricane conditions, but ASU survived a trip to Seattle and might just be the most balanced team in the league, given the strides the defense has made. However, the offense is still a work in progress with Taylor Kelly back in control.

3. Arizona (6-1, 3-1)

Up next: at UCLA
The skinny: Are the Wildcats the most underrated team in the country? Those around Tucson certainly think so, and it's not that far-fetched, all things considered. A win at the Rose Bowl will go a long way toward changing that perception, and the team is certainly equipped to earn a victory.

4. Utah (6-1, 3-1)

Up next: at Arizona State
The skinny: Travis Wilson and the offense seemed to pick things up late in the game against USC, but there's no doubt the Trojans exposed a few defensive flaws. The schedule doesn't get any easier, so it's sink or swim for the Utes the next few games.

5. Washington (5-3, 1-3)

Up next: at Colorado
The skinny: The Huskies played a competitive game against Arizona State while using a backup quarterback, which is an encouraging sign for an offense that was hit or miss each series. If it starts clicking, the Huskies will be a team nobody wants to play the next month, given how well their defense has played.

6. USC (5-3, 4-2)

Up next: at Washington State
The skinny: The Trojans have the talent to be in the upper echelon of the conference but a number of last-minute losses have relegated them to the middle of the pack. With a tricky trip to Pullman before the bye, USC can either find itself soon or sink to a disappointing season.

7. UCLA (6-2, 3-2)

Up next: vs. Arizona
The skinny: A trip to Boulder wasn't the walk in the park many Bruins expected it to be, but at least they still have Brett Hundley to bail them out when needed. UCLA will need a better effort to beat Arizona.

8. Stanford (5-3, 3-2)

Up next: at Oregon
The skinny: Injuries in the secondary and to the defensive line are not what Cardinal fans want to hear about going into a matchup with Oregon, but at least Kevin Hogan and the offense showed signs of life last week.

9. California (4-4, 2-4)

Up next: at Oregon State
The skinny: A three-game slide isn't as bad as it looks, considering the Bears competed well in games against UCLA and Oregon. Still, this week is a huge opportunity to be in position to play in a bowl game, and there's a real sense that Sonny Dykes is building something in Berkeley.

10. Washington State (2-6, 1-4)

Up next: vs. USC
The skinny: It seems unlikely the Cougars will end up in a bowl game, but they're still on pace to set a number of records and might play spoiler down the stretch.

11. Oregon State (4-3, 1-3)

Up next: vs. Cal
The skinny: Lots of offenses have been shut down by Stanford, but this team just hasn't looked in rhythm all season long, and Sean Mannion has taken a step back, even if it's in the name of balance with the running game. The Beavers had better win the next two, or a bowl-less season is likely.

12. Colorado (2-6, 0-5)

Up next: vs. Washington
The skinny: The gap between the Buffs and the rest of the Pac-12 has been narrowed considerably, but wins are still wins, and they don't have any conference victories yet.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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