The Pac-12 Championship picture began clearing up this weekend. Some teams are surging, others have faltered. Let’s take a look at week 7’s topics and the latest new power rankings...
What to Watch For...
So about all those great teams we had...
Heading into the season, the Pac-12 had a plethora of teams on the rise. Stanford and Washington led the way in the playoff chase. Oregon wasn’t too far behind. Wazzu and Cal were surprising upstarts. Arizona State was even making some noise. Fast forward to now and a lot of these top teams have fallen off the wagon. Stanford has taken 2 terrible losses and is most likely out of the playoff race now. Cal dropped 2 tough losses. Arizona State has been bumbling all over the place. Wazzu and Oregon both suffered tough losses to hurt their chances in the Pac-12. For all the hype on the great teams we had earlier this season, that talk has quickly come to a halt.
The North could be decided this Weekend...
Coming up this weekend is a pivotal matchup in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies will travel to Autzen stadium to take on the Ducks. After Stanford’s first conference loss, the door is wide open for U-Dub to take the North. Standing in the way, however, lies the Ducks. The winner of this game could very realistically become the hands-down favorite to take the North, and the whole Pac-12 as well.
The Best Team in the Pac-12 isn’t in the North?
This may be a bit of a misleading headline, but the men of Colorado have come from nowhere to emerge as contenders in a weak Pac-12 South. Colorado is the only remaining undefeated Pac-12 team, and are currently 19th in the AP Polls. With a looming matchup against USC this weekend, Colorado can take a firm hold on the south. Don’t look now, but Colorado is shaping up to be one of the best teams in the conference this season.
Pac-12 Power Rankings
1. #7 Washington Huskies (5-1 Overall, 4-0 Conference)
The Huskies found themselves in a dog fight this past weekend versus UCLA...slight pun intended. The U-Dub offensive leaders Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin put on tremendous performances and put Washington in a position to win. It was ultimately the defense that hindered their success. The normally stout Husky defense allowed over 400 yards to a previously anemic UCLA offense. The Huskies defense will need to rally, as they will face the electric Oregon Ducks this next week.
Up Next: @ Oregon
2. #17 Oregon Ducks (4-1 Overall, 1-1 Conference)
The Ducks got a rest week prior to their epic showdown against Washington this weekend. The Ducks have to be licking their chops after watching U-Dub allow over 400 yards to lowly UCLA. If the Ducks want to reassert themselves into the Pac-12 Championship conversation, this is a must-win game for Oregon.
Up Next: Washington
3. #19 Colorado Buffaloes (5-0 Overall, 2-0 Conference)
Colorado passed their first major conference test this week against a feisty Arizona State squad to firmly place themselves atop of the Pac-12 South. Colorado continues to ascend in their rise from bottom of the Pac-12 a season ago. They are easily the most enjoyable storyline in the Pac-12 and arguably in the nation. Steven Montez and sophomore WR Laviska Shenault Jr continue to propel the Buffs to the top of the south. Colorado faces the Trojans this week, and a win could put a stranglehold on the Pac-12 South.
Up Next: @ USC
4. Washington State Cougars (5-1 Overall, 2-1 Conference)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Wazzu threw the ball a bunch. Gardner Minshew put on a lights out performance and chucked the rock for over 400 yards...again. The Cougs stumbled a few short weeks ago against USC, but have quickly bounced back to become a contender in the North. A critical win by the Cougs, or a loss by another North team, could put the Cougs in the driver seat for the North.
Up Next: Bye
5. Stanford Cardinal (4-2 Overall, 2-1 Conference)
For the 2nd week in a row, Stanford looked outright bad against a Utah team that has struggled for a good majority of the season. The offense basically had no teeth without Bryce Love, and the Cardinal defense could not stop a runny nose. The Cardinal are still tied for 2nd in the Pac-12 North, but the trend of this team is going downwards. Perhaps a well needed bye could help David Shaw right the ship and save the season.
Up Next: Bye
6. Utah Utes (3-2 Overall, 1-2 Conference)
Utah finally got the defining win that they’ve been looking for all season against previously ranked Stanford. Utah was in the driver’s seat the entire game, and never let up against the Cardinal. The Utes rushed for over 200 yards as a team, which helped give this team the win Utah desperately needed. Easily the biggest factor in this win for Utah was the 4 turnovers they forced against a usually-efficient Stanford offense. The Utah defense has been heralded by yours truly for a large chunk of the season, and showed up in a big way this past weekend to make me look like not-so-big of a dummy.
Up Next: Versus Arizona
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-3 Overall, 1-2 Conference)
Arizona State dropped another a tough game to the surging Colorado Buffaloes last weekend. The hardest part to swallow for ASU fans is that they didn’t play all that bad. Colorado just outright beat them. Manny Wilkins performed decently and Eno Bejamin put up another big performance. The main problem was that the poor defense was unable to limit Colorado. Arizona State is a pretty decent ways away from competing for the South, and this weekend was evidence of that.
Up Next: Bye
8. USC Trojans (3-2 Overall, 2-1 Conference)
The Trojans got a rest weekend before coming back against the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes. This week proves to be a massive test for USC, as a win would put the Trojans back in first place in the South. Being able to compete for the south, even after a difficult start to the season, would be a massive accomplishment for Clay Helton and co.
Up Next: Versus Colorado
9. Arizona Wildcats (3-3 Overall, 2-1 Conference)
Arizona pulled off a big time win against a quality Cal team. What is wild about this win is the fact that Arizona was handily beaten on the total offensive yards. Cal nearly doubled their total yards. Arizona forcing 4 turnovers was the biggest factor in securing the win for the Wildcats. As good of a win as this is for Arizona, the Wildcats still are a tough team to come around on. Khalil Tate still looks nothing like the Heisman candidate from a year ago, and the defense is still not reliable. It will be a tough journey for Arizona to go bowling this year, based on our sample size.
Up Next: versus Utah
10. California Golden Bears (3-2 Overall, 0-2 Conference)
To say this was a brutal loss for Cal would be an understatement. Cal managed to nearly double Arizona’s total offensive yardage, but botch 4 turnovers and end up on the losing end of a tight game. Brandon McIlwain was.... not good. The sophomore threw 3 interceptions that doomed Cal. The Cal defense that has been so good this season continued to ball out against Arizona, but the offense did not help at all. Cal needs a big time win against UCLA if they want to get back towards bowl contention.
Up Next: versus UCLA
11. Oregon State Beavers (1-5 Overall, 0-3 Conference)
The Beavs put on a tremendous fight against a superior Wazzu team this past weekend. It’s clear that Jonathan Smith has the players believing in themselves and fighting until the end. It may not result in wins without any talent, but it is a first step in the right direction for OSU. Jermar Jefferson again was lights out as he rushed for 138 yards and 4 TDs. Artavis Pierce even appeared, though it was clear that the coaching staff wanted to ease him back into the game. Conor Blount still adds little value to improving the passing game, as there is almost no threat of a passing attack, especially with Isaiah Hodgins out this past week. OSU gets a bye, and a chance to recollect before the home stretch.
Up Next: Bye
12. UCLA Bruins (0-5 Overall, 0-2 Conference)
UCLA put up a surprising amount of fight against Washington this past weekend. It may have still resulted in a loss, but UCLA hung tough with the Huskies until the bitter end. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Joshua Kelley kept UCLA in the game and the defense even forced a turnover. For UCLA to hang tough with the Huskies is a step in the right direction for Chip Kelly’s Ducks, err, Bruins.
Up Next: @ Cal
The season is humming along now, and there’s no stopping this series of articles. What will you be looking for this weekend? Agree or disagree with the new Power Rankings?
Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!