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Pac 12 Roundup and Power Poll: Week 8

Things are shaping up as the haves and have-nots begin to separate in the Pac 12.

Are the Beavers for real?
Are the Beavers for real?
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It was separation Saturday in the Pac 12 as we saw the emergence of the Pac 12's true national title contender, a statement from a Pac 12 South team representing its division and a clear line of demarcation get established between the "muddled middle" and the two worst teams in the conference.  Highlight Dots from the weekend past include:

  • An emotional first victory for interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron as his Trojans got an early lead and then held off a ferocious come back attempt by the Arizona Wildcats
  • An emphatic fourth quarter statement by the Ducks and their Heisman contending QB over your beloved Washington Huskies
  • A wild fourth quarter rally by the Beavers over a very mistake prone Washington State team in a big road victory for OSU
  • The continuation of an unbeaten streak that has propelled the UCLA Bruins into the upper echelon of the rankings
  • An upset of epic proportions as the Utah Utes outexecuted David Shaw's Stanford Cardinal and claimed their biggest victory since joining the Pac 12.

UWDP's Weekly Pac 12 Power Poll - Week 8

Team Record

1. Oregon Ducks 6-0
The Ducks answered just about every question left on the table as they handled their business on the road against a UW team that had a lot of fight and had the score within a single possession at the start of the fourth quarter.  Marcus Mariota had, in my estimation, his most complete game as a collegiate player and carried an Oregon team that didn't really get its zone-read attack going to its own standards.  The Ducks are easily the class of the Pac 12 and, with a Defensive secondary that can smother anybody, are probably looking at a future date with Alabama in the NCG.
2. UCLA Bruins 5-0 (2-0)
The Bruins handled their business at home against a Cal team that probably provided more of a defensive challenge than Brett Hundley and company were expecting.  Still, UCLA's own defense keeps showing that they are more than the sum total of the parts that they have on paper as they smothered Jared Goff and that Cal offense.  I don't really think that UCLA is the second best team in the Pac 12, but they've earned the #2 position.  We'll know alot more about them as they begin a gauntlet of their own that will feature, just like UW, back to back games with Stanford and Oregon (both on the road).
3. Washington Huskies 4-2 (1-2)
Much will get made about my "homerism" in holding a 2-loss UW third in the poll despite losing by 21 to Oregon.  But, to be honest, I'm not sure that there is a better candidate.  The Huskies have stood toe-to-toe with the #5 and #2 teams in the nation the last two weeks and demonstrated that they could hang with them.  In fact, most would argue that the Huskies outplayed that Stanford team - a team that would go on and lose to Utah last weekend - while playing Oregon straight-up in two of four quarters in a game where Marcus Mariota locked up the Heisman.  The Huskies are healthy and still playing good ball.  Sankey is an elite back, the linebacking unit is everything you could ask for and Austin Seferian-Jenkins may have come out of his shell this past week.  It all adds up to a dangerous Pac 12 team.
4. Stanford Cardinal
5-1 (3-1)
The Luck ran out for Stanford and coach David Shaw (yes, pun intended) as the Cardinal traveled to Salt Lake and got run out of the building.  The Cardinal are obviously still a talented and dangerous team.  Nothing about their six point loss to the Utes did anything to dissuade one from believing that the Cardinal possess the best trench units in the Pac 12.  However, without a rushing attack to equal what they've enjoyed during the Toby Gerhart-Stepfan Taylor eras, it is not clear that the Cardinal have the weapons to hold up against higher octane offenses in the Pac 12.  Admittedly, Ty Montgomery is playing off the charts right now, but there isn't a lot of support coming behind him.  Another Ty Montgomery kickoff return for a TD made this game look closer than it was.  Regardless, the Cardinal better figure it out quick with UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon all coming up in succession.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils
4-2 (2-1)
Hard to know what to make of the Sun Devils after their thrashing of the Colorado Buffaloes 54-13 on Saturday.  The Devils scored 47 first-half points fueled in equal parts by efficient QB play and gifted field position via Colorado turnovers.  ASU was able to parlay that large early lead into a high-risk defensive game plan that featured a lot of blitzing and some great output for guys like Carl Bradford.  It still isn't clear to me that the Devils can go mano y mano against the upper tier teams in the Pac 12, but this game sure served as a reminder that the Devils can both score in bunches and that they can do some damage on D when they are afforded the opportunity to let their playmakers play free.
6. Utah Utes
4-2 (1-2)
Welcome to the Pac 12.  With a 27-21 victory over Stanford, the Utah Utes achieved what has eluded them over their first 2.25 seasons in the Pac 12:  a win over a ranked conference opponent.  The well-established Travis Wilson to Dres Anderson connection was again a major factor for the surprising Utes who, as I have noted in previous write-ups, are definitely playing over their ski-tips so far into this season.  The Utes are getting serviceable defense and outstanding output out of the new Dennis Erickson-led offense right now.  Against Stanford, WIlson wasn't the better of the QB matchup, but he found a way to keep making plays when Utah needed to have them and, in doing so, seemed to be more "game" than his Stanford counterpart.  Watch out for these Utes.
Osu_helmet_medium 7. Oregon State Beavers 5-1 (3-0)
Give the Beavers credit, they are finding ways to put the pieces back together following their disheartening first-game loss to FCS Eastern Washington and are doing so with their QB, Sean Mannion, putting up some record-setting numbers.  The Beavers beat up on WSU in Pullman this past weekend, 52-24.  Though the score makes it look like a blowout, this game was more about how WSU played than how the Beavers played.  In fact, the Cougs had a 24-17 3rd quarter lead before they started turning the ball over like crazy and watched the Beavs rip off five unanswered TDs, including four in the fourth quarter.  The Beavs are going to have to put together a full game on both sides of the ball before I'll feel comfortable moving them up the charts.  Still, Mannion and Brandin Cooks look like elite level weapons.
Usc_helmet_medium 8. USC Trojans
4-2 (1-2)
I didn't get to watch a ton of this game, but from what I saw, the Trojans looked like the came ready to play for interim coach Ed Orgeron on Thursday night in the victory over Arizona 38-31.  One has to be encouraged to see the Trojans offense get on-track. Still, what started out as a blowout for Troy quickly became a game in the second half as the Wildcats found some rhythm against that Trojan offense.  Thursday night may have been an emotion fueled affair for the Trojans.  Notre Dame is up next.  There is still plenty of schedule left for USC to make waves in the Pac 12.

9. Arizona Wildcats 3-2 (0-2)
The Wildcats are holding serve with the 9 spot in this week's poll.  Despite getting their tails handed to them, the 'Cats showed some new things that should cause the rest of the Pac to take notice.  Specifically, seeing BJ Denker whip the ball around as a passer to the tune of 363 yards and 4 TDs against a pretty good USC defense has to send shivers down the spines of upcoming opponents who were probably gameplanning only for Ka'Deem Carey.  Arizona feels like one of those teams going through a "mini-rebuild" who often start clicking somewhere in the middle to end of the season.  Glad the Huskies already have them out of the way.
Wsu_helmet_medium 10. Washington State Cougars
4-3 (2-2)
The Cougars let one get away this weekend after coughing up a third quarter lead in a game that was critical to their bowl game prospects.  If you didn't watch the game, then let me catch you up.  With the Cougs up by 7 in the third, a continuous series of offensive possessions resulted in three interceptions (all of the classic Connor Halliday gunslinger variety) and an odd fake punt attempt where the hiked ball bounced off the chest of an unsuspecting upback.  The Cougs have some playmaking ability and one can't help but to continue to be impressed with guys like Vince Mayle and Gabe Marks.  However, they are still very mistake prone and they haven't yet shown the sticking power to hang on to leads against decent competition.  No rest for the weary as the Cougs get Oregon next weekend.

11. California Bears 1-5 (0-3)
The Bears are making it very difficult for me to keep them ahead of the Buffaloes in my weekly survey.  This weekend's 37-10 loss to the Bruins was a whole different kind of butt-kicking than the previous weeks.  In this one, the Bears actually showed some defensive chops.  De'Andre Coleman showed some athleticism on the interior of the line and the Bears were able to completely shut down the Bruins rushing attack.  However, the offense completely disappeared as QB Jared Goff had his second really bad game as a starter in the Pac 12.  The Bears RB pecking order seems to have been re-established with true freshman Khalfani Muhammad getting the bulk of the carries for Cal.  In fact, Brandon Bigelow did not get a carry in the game, but did catch two balls.  It seems like the Bears are not all that close to finding themselves and that the youth movement is now in full effect.

12. Colorado Buffaloes 2-3 (0-3)
There really isn't much to say about yet another dumpster-fire performance from a Buffs team that surrendered 47 first half points to the Arizona State Sun Devils.  Buffalo starting QB (and Texas transfer) Connor Wood finally got benched in favor of freshman (and Washington State recruit) Sefo Liufau.  Sefo showed a lot of guts, but he doesn't have the talent around him to support him through the learning curve that awaits him.  Now that Mike MacIntyre has installed him, there really is no going back for the Buffs who, in my estimation, will have a hard time winning any other Pac 12 games on the schedule.  Fortunately, Charleston Southern is up next as a makeup game for the Fresno State game that was cancelled following the floods last month.