There’s nothing shocking about ASU being left off of the Week 5 AP Top 25 Poll.
They weren’t included in the preseason poll, which was the last time Pac-12 teams were in the ranking. It may be eye-opening, however, that Arizona State didn’t gather a single vote for the poll. After all, they received the fourth most votes of any team that didn’t get ranked in the preseason poll.
This is relevant in gauging the national perspective on ASU. Oregon was ranked at No. 14, and three other Pac-12 teams received votes. This includes USC, who was the team to receive the fourth-most votes this time (104), Utah (14), and Washington (4).
Now, the fact that the Pac hasn’t been playing football has plenty to do with this. That’s why despite Oregon getting in the ranking, they’re ranked five spots below where they were ranked in the preseason.
It’s not encouraging, though, to see Washington receive votes when they received 45 less votes than the Devils in the preseason. Not receiving any votes wouldn’t be as alarming if the voters didn’t now decide that they see more in the other Pac-12 rival.
This begs the question of if the AP voters see ASU as having taken a step back since the preseason poll. It appears so since they’re now putting more stock into Washington. This is even with one of their best players on D, outside linebacker Joe Tryon, opting out of the season for the NFL Draft since then.
The consensus around Tempe is that ASU is one of the four best teams in the Pac at a minimum and has what it takes to win the South, and some have even speculated that a Pac-12 title could be within reach. The national consensus seems to be shifting away from that.
To me, Oregon should be the favorites for the Pac-12.
It is true that they saw a substantial drop-off in success once their last first-round quarterback left Eugene (Marcus Mariota). They went from playing in the National Championship and ranked second in the country to losing in the Alamo Bowl and ranked 19th. They have a talented new QB in Tyler Shough, however, and they’re the most reliable team in the conference on paper.
Next up should be USC, who would be the favorite if they weren’t set to be outcoached by Oregon Head Coach Mario Cristobal. USC Head Coach Clay Helton isn’t a poor coach overall, but Cristobal is certainly the better coach. With the two rosters having a similar amount of talent, coaching is the deciding factor in predicting the winner of the conference.
Before USC DL Jay Tufele and USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker opted out, they had the most talent in the conference, even if Oregon’s opt-outs chose to stay. USC needed those two much more than Oregon needed their four opt-outs, however, which should leave Oregon as the clear favorite.
After that, Utah, Washington, ASU, and Cal are the next group in the mix to try to compete. It can go in any order.
Currently, the AP voters like Utah and Washington ahead of ASU.
Utah lost seemingly everybody this offseason but has a very good coaching staff. Washington has much more talent than Utah but is switching from a very good head coach in Chris Petersen to an unproven Jimmy Lake. Lake has some understandable upside but has never been a collegiate head coach before.
Both Washington and Utah have upside. I’m not completely sure that they have more upside than ASU or Cal; I could see it both ways. ASU is returning key talent on defense, and while aren’t returning much on offense, recruited out of their minds on offensive skill position players in the offseason. They have the best quarterback out of Washington, Utah, and Cal as well in sophomore Jayden Daniels.
Cal, on the other hand, is in the mix due to a very good secondary and developing defense under Head Coach Justin Wilcox. They only lost two games last year with starting quarterback Chase Garbers at the helm (7-2), and in both losses, he went down with an injury.
They most likely would have been 8-1 with Garbers if he had stayed healthy against Arizona State. Keep in mind that they were ranked No. 15 in the country before Garbers started dealing with injuries.
All four of these teams have a shot to be that third-best team in the Pac, and maybe better. As of now, they’re competing for that third spot, and ASU doesn’t have the stability to stand out among the bunch.
Lots of players leaving on offense and new coordinators on each side of the ball seem to be impacting how they are looked at by the national media. It’s not a huge deal to not be currently ranked, but it is a bit concerning that a new Pac-12 team has now been catapulted over ASU in the AP voters’ eyes.