Week 9 is finished, and the Pac-12 conference has seemingly imploded after an absolutely wild weekend of upsets within the conference. Let’s sort out this mess and break it all down in this week’s Notebook...
What to Watch For...
The First CFP Rankings Release
This Tuesday, the playoff selection committee will release their first CFP rankings of the year. It may be interesting to see how the Pac-12 shakes up, but for playoff rankings, the only team with a realistic chance is still Wazzu. Seeing the committee’s ranking of the Cougs could go a long way to influencing our expectations on playoff hopes.
The Pac-12 Wackiness Continues...
We joke a lot about how these teams beat themselves up and eliminates themselves from quality postseason play, but this weekend was seriously over the top ridiculous, even by Pac-12 standards. This past weekend, every Saturday underdog won their respective match. This includes Cal, Arizona, ASU, Oregon State, and Washington State (though not much of a surpise here). Someone in Vegas crunched the numbers, and if you had bet $100 on every Saturday underdog outright, you would have made over $110,000. It’s absolutely impossible to predict this conference from week-to-week. While it may be great for entertainment, it sucks for the conference representation as a whole.
Changing of the Guard?
For the longest time, the Pac-12 had been ruled by Stanford, U-Dub, USC, and Oregon. Those have been the teams most consistently in the Pac-12 Championship over the past few years. This year is quickly shaping up to be different, however. Wazzu has established themselves as the team to beat in the North, and Utah has raced out to be an elite squad in the South. It is refreshing to see new faces compete for the championship, and it could breathe life into a new wave of surprise contenders.
Pac-12 Power Rankings
1. #10 Washington State Cougars (7-1 Overall, 4-1 Conference)
Wazzu backed up their impressive win versus Oregon with another hard fought match against Stanford. Gardner Minshew orchestrated a fantastic game with over 400 yards passing and 3 TDs, as well as a game winning field goal at the end of the matchup. The Cougs are out to prove that they are legit, and taking down the Cardinal is a great step in that direction.
Up Next: Versus Cal
2. #16 Utah Utes (6-2 Overall, 4-2 Conference)
Utah thumped UCLA and continues to establish themselves as the hands-down favorite of the south. Not only do they field arguably the best defense in the Conference, but they boast an offense that can beat you in almost any fashion. This week the Utes passing game wasn’t working, so Zack Moss casually ran for 211 yards and 3 TDs. Utah is a contender for the championship and have to be taken seriously from here on out.
Up Next: @ ASU
3. Washington Huskies (6-3 Overall, 5-2 Conference)
So, Washington has been be placed here due to many of the other top teams falling. The gap between the Utes at 2 and the Huskies at 3 is substantial. The Huskies were stunned with a loss by a sputtering Cal team. The game was horrendous from start to finish for the Huskies offense. Things got so bad, the Chris Peterson benched Jake Browning midway through the game. Backup QB Jake Haener entered the game and proceeded to throw a pick-6 in his first series on the field, which turned out to be the only touchdown Cal scored the entire game. The defense of U-Dub was fantastic, but the offense has some serious issues to work out before anyone takes the Huskies seriously.
Up Next: Versus Stanford
4. Oregon Ducks (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference)
Anyone who saw the Ducks getting steamrolled by a bad U of A team this past weekend is a big, fat liar. 2 short weeks ago, yours truly had Oregon ranked #1 in my power rankings, and here we are after an embarrassing loss and now have to explain what happened. Honestly, I don’t know what happened to Oregon in this game. Justin Herbert turned in one of his worst starts as a Duck, the run game couldn’t get going, and the defense was horrendous from the opening kickoff. Oregon has some serious rebounding that must be done if they want to get back on track.
Up Next: Versus UCLA
5. Stanford Cardinal (5-3 Overall, 3-2 Conference)
The Cardinal were so close to getting the win in this last game against Wazzu. KJ Costello, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Kaden Smith lit up the passing game of the Cardinal and kept Stanford in the game against the high-flying Cougs. Bryce Love still is not 100%, but had a modest game before re-injuring himself. After many questioned if the Cardinal were a legit team, they gave a solid fight against one of the stronger teams in the conference. Stanford may not win the North, but they should be fighting till the end for it.
Up Next: @ Washington
6. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-4 Overall, 2-3 Conference)
I really struggled trying to place this ASU team after this week. After much meditation, it’s hard not to acknowledge that ASU played a strong game versus a feisty USC squad. Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry were solid, but the star was RB Eno Benjamin, as he carried ASU in this game. The defense was meh, but they performed well enough to get the win.The Sun Devils are now on the verge of bowl contention, and will need a strong finish to get to the magic number of 6.
Up Next: Versus Utah
7. California Golden Bears (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference)
In a game where neither offense could do anything, it was the defense of Cal that made the difference. After forcing Jake Browning to be benched, the stingy Cal defense intercepted the ball and housed the pick for their only TD of the game. Cal may not be able to do much offensively, but their defense will consistently keep them in the game. This was a massive win for the Golden Bears and now, Cal sits at 1 game from bowl eligibility.
Up Next: @ Wazzu
8. USC Trojans (4-4 Overall, 3-3 Conference)
USC narrowly fell to ASU this past weekend. It was a tough loss for USC that practically ruined their chances in the south. Still, it may provide some consolation for USC fans knowing their team nearly won with the backup quarterback starting. USC has gotten shafted by many close games this season, so it almost hurts to see them lose again like this. Almost. Still, USC will have winnable games down the stretch and could join the bowling fun.
Up Next: @ Oregon State
9. Arizona Wildcats (4-5 Overall, 3-3 Conference)
JJ Taylor erupted for a monster game to help the Wildcats beat down the Ducks. Khalil Tate returned to the offense and while he didn’t provide any game changing plays, he served as enough of a distraction to open up other mediums for the offense to succeed. The surprise star for the Wildcats was the defense, as Arizona held an electric Oregon offense to under 300 yards. The Wildcats will deservedly be celebrating this win, and now they move closer to the magical number of 6 wins.
Up Next: Versus Colorado
10. Colorado Buffaloes (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference)
Colorado, I mean jeez. The Buffs blew a 31-3 lead after halftime to Oregon State in a heartbreaking loss. Colorado had a complete breakdown in all facets of their team. It’s wild to think that this was a top 25 team 3 weeks ago. Travon McMillan put on a good game and is easily the biggest offensive threat for Colorado, it’s just a shame that the rest of the offense isn’t as consistent. Still, Colorado is almost to bowl contention. They should be able to reel off 1 more win and get into postseason play.
Up Next: @ Arizona
11. UCLA Bruins (2-6 Overall, 2-3 Conference)
In a week of upsets in the Pac-12, UCLA missed out on the upset fun. They were handled by Utah for the entire game, and never put up much of a fight. Chip Kelly and Co got a couple of nice wins recently, but came crashing back down to Earth this week against a legit contender in Utah. This week was just another reminder that UCLA has a lot of work to do before they’ll be competing for the south again.
Up Next: @ Oregon
12. Oregon State Beavers (2-6 Overall, 1-4 Conference)
It happened! Sweet baby Jesus it happened! Beaver Nation reveled in OSU’s first conference win in what has felt like 10 years. The Beavs were dangerously close to ending up on the wrong side of a blowout before coming back down 31-3 to win the game in overtime. Jonathan Smith has the players believing in themselves that they are never out of a game. A win like this can do wonders for a program’s development. I’m not saying OSU will go bowling, but this win highlights a great day for Beaver Nation, hopefully the first of many.
Up Next: Versus USC
The Pac-12 race is heating up. Who will take control? What will you be looking for this weekend? Do you agree or disagree with the new Power Rankings?
Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!