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UWDP's PAC 12 Power Rankings and Conference Roundup: Week 8

The contenders and the pretenders had a showdown last weekend. The contenders won.

Jim Mora is curious about what just happened to his season?
Jim Mora is curious about what just happened to his season?
Harry How

The nuttiness that was Week 6 in college football did not necessarily right itself in Week 7 when you look across the national landscape.  However, in the PAC 12, we had a bit of a reckoning this weekend as some of the upstarts of the conference were handed a reality check.

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Although we were light on games scheduled, the PAC was heavy in meaningful outcomes.  Here are some of my observations from the weekend that was.

Week 8 Pac 12 Conference Roundup

  • How's this for a stat? After going 1-3 last weekend, Pac 12 home teams are now 4-14 on the season.  Let's hope that holds for UW on their way to Autzen this weekend.

  • I think it is fair to now say that while the PAC may still be the best conference top to bottom, their top end isn't as good as those of the SEC or even the Big12.  The winner of the PAC may well end up with two losses which would put our participation in the inaugural playoffs in jeopardy.

  • After giving up 12 sacks in the previous two weeks, Oregon surrendered none to UCLA.  They also got the inside zone read going for the first time all year.  Starting OT Jake Fisher returned.  Coincidence?

  • I doubt Duck fans are done calling for the head of DC Don Pellum.  Chip Kelly teams knew how to put feet on throats when they had a big lead.  Second half defensive let downs are not going to go over well with the Oregon fanbase, no matter how big the lead.  If UW, which is still viewed as an inferior offense, is able to move the ball at all on Oregon, Duck fans may melt down altogether.

  • UCLA, for their part, has been exposed the last few weeks.  That offensive line is not good and doesn't seem to be getting better.  The defensive line, which has seven sacks total for the season, is the most over-rated unit in the conference.  Then there was this:

    Bruin Fans are losing their minds as they've come to grips with the fact that Brett Hundley's last season is effectively going to waste.

  • Stanford had the most physically impressive win of the weekend. That defense put on a display of physical football brutality that I haven't seen from any other team this season.  They literally beat down WSU on Friday night to the point where WSU had nothing left in the tank in 4Q, despite the score being in reach.  Impressive.

  • WSU will not get bowl eligible in 2014.  This is tough blow for a team that is going to have to break in a new QB next season.  If I'm Mike Leach, I'd start implementing a few things that I know I will need for next year.  I'd start with a rushing attack.  There is no reason to change the Air Raid, but you have to be able to rush the ball out of the scheme to give it a chance to be consistent.  I do not believe they even attempted a single rush in the 1Q of Friday night.  That's just too much pressure on your QB and OLine, no matter who the opponent.

  • I wouldn't call Arizona "pretenders", but USC exposed them a bit last weekend.  The 3-3-5 with a 245 lb NT to anchor it is not an effective scheme against a team that can deploy a power rushing attack (as USC did with Buck Allen).  Their offense, like those of Cal and WSU, can be affected negatively by a team that can collapse the pocket without blitzing (hello, Leonard Williams).  Though I love what they are building - including what QB Anu Solomon brings to the table - I'll be surprised if 'Zona can get to 5 conference wins this season.

  • Once you take away that fluky ending which was fueled by some bad coaching (duh) and some odd reffing (of course), USC looked like what we expected them to look like in 2014.  They played physical defense, they ran the ball exceptionally well and they took their shots with their big time wideouts.  They controlled that game most of the way.

  • That said, depth and health are becoming factors for USC.  They finished the game with two former UW commits, John Planttenburg and Jonathan Lockett, running in the first team secondary.

  • I know that many Cal fans are trotting out the familiar refrains of "they didn't beat us, we beat ourselves".  I saw a few people even note that mid-terms were a factor.  Losing is tough.  But, Cal is where we thought they'd be at right now - and, given how well the D played - if not ahead of the curve.  Oh, and I promise no more JV comments the rest of the year.
  • I may drop a few #drop50 references, however. Anybody got a tshirt?

  • UW's D is legit.  That front seven is as good as any in the conference, including Stanford, as it integrates a certain amount of explosive play-making to complement the pocket pressure it creates.  We saw it against Stanford and now against Cal.  The progress of the secondary is remarkable.

  • Somebody needs to begin the SHAQ for HEISMAN campaign.  If he gets a few more offensive TDs, he'll be a legit candidate.

  • I think we can all ease off the Cyler Miles criticism now.  He's a work in progress to be sure, but the hysterical "he can't do anything well", "he's not a leader", "he has a noodle arm and can't run the offense" stuff, I think, can be put to bed.  He shouldn't feel entitled to the job, but we should also feel like we can win with him.

  • Oh, and Pac 12 refs, y'all.  Points of emphasis in their offseason development plan:  legal blocks, PI and ball-spotting.

Week 8 Power Rankings

Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
1 2
Oregon 5-1 (2-1) vs Washington
Last Week WIN Oregon 42 @ UCLA 30
If you didn't watch the game, you might think that this game was too close to catapult Oregon back to #1. However, the return of RT Jake Fisher to the O-Line seemed to stabilize things against a UCLA D-Line that, incidentally, is having the worst statistical season of any DLine in the PAC (7 sacks all year). It also unlocked the vaunted Duck rushing attack. Oregon won this one handily without even needing Marcus Mariota to be Marcus Mariota. The defense is still a big worry, but Oregon is still Oregon and they still look like they can beat everybody else in the PAC on any given weekend.
Week 7 POG RB Royce Freeman (18 rush, 129 yds, 2 TDs) The true frosh is clearly already the best the RB on the Oregon roster and is player 1B to Nick Wilson's 1A in the Freshman of the Year race. He's an NFL back right now, and I wonder if he stays beyond next year.
2 5
Stanford 4-2 (2-1) @ ASU
Last Week WIN Stanford 34 @ WSU 17
At some point, Stanford needs to lose again if UW wants to be able to control its own destiny in the North. However, it was good for Husky fans to see that dominating Stanford D absolutely manhandle and shut down a Cougar offense that only one week before had broken NCAA single game passing records. They played "safety net" defense and made every single tackle in front of them all night long. On the flip side, the Cardinal offensive line looked like it started to gel in both giving QB Kevin Hogan a decent pocket and in absolutely road-grading running lanes for their backs. Stanford could be finding their rhythm right now.
Week 7 POG S Zach Hoffpauir (15 tckls, 2 PBUs) I know, I know, Zach who? Hoffpauir was the key to the Stanford strategy of keeping WSU's Air Raid in check. He set the safety net and was charged with getting ball carriers in the second level to the ground. He was all over the place playing perfect technique and making every single tackle. He had more tackles in this one game than his whole season prior. Amazing night.
3 2
utah helmet
Utah 4-1 (1-1) @ OSU
Last Week BYE
DE Nate Orchard has to be licking his chops thinking about retaking the P12 sacks lead from Hau'oli Kikaha with Sean Mannion next up on his schedule.
Week 7 POG n/a
4 8
USC Helmet
USC 4-2 (3-1) vs Colorado
Last Week WIN USC 28 @ Arizona 26
People will look at the final score, the way it went down at the end and Sark celebrating like a little school girl all as evidence that this was a too close for comfort affair. In a way it was. On the other hand, this was a game that USC deserved to win. Playing with only three scholarship players in their secondary, the Trojans were able to clamp down on one of the most prolific offenses in the PAC and deliver a really physical effort. On the other side, the Trojan O kept delivering gashing blow after gashing blow in the run game and then complementing it with effective play action. If it were not for a collection of player assignment blunders, questionable officiating, and some head-scratching Sark gaffes, this would have been a blowout. A reminder at how high USC's upside is. Did I mention that they are the first team to 3 conference wins?
Week 7 POG RB Buck Allen (26 rush, 206 yds, 3 TDs) I know that we are all discounting USC because of the Sark factor. However, if we are being honest, I'm not sure that there is a better RB in the PAC right now. Buck Allen is super smooth as a runner, shows good vision, and a weapon in the passing game. He's the whole package and had a great game vs Arizona.
5 1
Arizona Helmet
Arizona 5-1 (2-1) BYE
Last Week LOSS USC 28 @ Arizona 26
And then there were none. The last undefeated PAC team fell in a closer-than-it-should have been affair on Sat night. With injuries to their two top backs, the Wildcats showed amazing staying power. However, their porous D was gashed repeatedly demonstrating how limited a 3-3-5 anchored by a 245 lb NT can be against a power run team. That said, this team has some character. They'll need to lean on that because they are a very beat up team heading into a BYE.r
Week 7 POG LB Scooby Wright (12 tckls, 1 sack, 3 TFLs) For the second week in a row, Scooby Snacks is our UA POG. Despite the big gashes they suffered, the Arizona D showed grit. Nobody moreso than Wright. The man is a straight-up baller.
6 6
UW Helmet
Washington 5-1 (1-1) @ Oregon
Last Week WIN Washington 31 @ Cal 7
I think we are starting to get an idea of the identity of this team. After becoming the first team to hold another PaC team to single digit scoring, they are showing to be a defensively dominating team that leans on QB pressure and turnover margin to cover up their inconsistent secondary (a secondary that is improving dramatically with each game). Offensively, they were very efficient against Cal and, lo and behold, reintroduced the concept of a slant route in the offense. The rushing game struggled in the second half, though it was with a big lead against 8-man Cal boxes. Despite this emerging identity, UW is going to have to show more versatility and consistency on offense - in particular in blitz management - before we can move them up. UW fans should nevertheless feel encouraged that there isn't an opponent left on the schedule that this team cant, on paper, at least hang with.
Week 7 POG DT Danny Shelton (3 tckls, 2 FRs, 2 QBHs) It was hard to pick DS over John Ross, Jaydon Mickens, Cyler Miles, Hau'oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. However, the key to beating Cal was to disrupt the amazing rhythm that their passing game was in. Shelton was unstoppable in collapsing the pocket and was very active in bringing pressure through multiple gaps. He played big parts in a couple of sacks and a few forced fumbles. There is no stat to measure his kind of pressure, but Jared Goff's 6.0 YPA is a good place to start.
7 4
ucla helmet
UCLA 4-2 (1-2) @ Cal
Last Week LOSS Oregon 42 @ UCLA 30
I think it is safe to say that the UCLA hype machine is over. Oregon, a team that had struggled with WSU and lost to Arizona in the two weeks before, pretty much crushed the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. Losing to Oregon isn't really a mortal sin. However, I think we can all tell now that Hundley is pretty much carrying this team. I do think that the Bruin D is better than it showed vs Oregon - particularly their D-Line. And, I'm also encouraged by what appears to be an improving rushing attack. However, that O-Line simply needs to play better before we can start talking about UCLA as a top-of-conference team. I'm not ready to write them off, but they don't look well positioned.
Week 7 POG WR Jordon Payton (7 recs, 74 yds) They aren't exactly sexy numbers, but Payton was the main man moving sticks for Brett Hundley last night. Whenever Hundley was in pressure, it was Payton who was breaking off routes and improvising to get open. As much as I think the kid is a little nutty, he's definitely emerging as a legitimate threat in Westwood.
8 7
ASU Helmet
ASU 4-1 (2-1) vs Stanford
Last Week BYE
It's not fair to drop ASU on a BYE, but their last two games are a home ass-whipping from UCLA and a hail mary (read "lucky") win vs USC. I'm not sure what this team is in their current state. I'll be watching them carefully next weekend.
Week 7 POG n/a
9 9
OSU Helmet
Oregon State 4-1 (1-1) vs Utah
Last Week BYE
I thought about putting Cal ahead of OSU here, but I do think that the OSU D is equipped to handle the Bear Raid better than some other defenses in the PAC. As such, I'm holding OSU pat and anxious to see if they can find some rhythm in their offense. If they do, they could start moving up.
Week 7 POG n/a
10 11
Cal Helmet
Cal 4-2 (2-2) vs UCLA
Last Week LOSS Washington 31 @ Cal 7
No comment. Well, maybe one:
Hopefully, Cal fans and I can be friends again.
Week 7 POG OLB Jake Kearny (7 tckls, 1.5 TFL) It was pretty hard to find a statistical standout player. However, I thought the undersized Kearny kept showing up and was very active for a D that showed some real "stick-with-it" when the lead was four TDs. He isn't a regular "MVP" kind of guy, but I think he deserves a little recognition.
11 12
WSU Helmet
WSU 2-5 (1-3) BYE
Last Week LOSS Stanford 34 @ WSU 17
One week after breaking the NCAA single game passing record with a ridiculous 734 yards against Cal, Connor Halliday was held to more than 500 fewer yards against a slightly more robust Stanford D - on almost the same number of completions as the week before. That turned out to be YPA of 4.2 - barely better than the 3.4 that Cyler Miles registered against that same Stanford D and well below the standard of 7.0 YPA that is considered "winning football". It's hard to put this in words because every football game is a physical challenge. However, the Cougs took a remarkable physical beating in this one. So much so, that when the team appeared to pack it in when the game was still theoretically in reach in the fourth, I found it hard to actually call it "quitting". In reality, they were just spent. I didn't care for how Halliday called out his teammates after the game, but I'm sure his intent was good. Half-way through this season, our read on WSU is that it has a strong but slow defense and an explosive but streaky offense that can be contained by the better PAC defenses.
Week 7 POG CB Daquan Brown (5 Tckls, 1 PBU, 1 TFL) It's hard to pick a POG when the game was so one-sided. However, I thought Daquan Brown, who has been shifted between S and CB, really held his own all night. WSU left him alone with Ty Montgomery in order to load the box much of the night and he really competed hard. He seemed to be around the ball a lot and should get some positive attention as such.
12 10
Colorado Helmet
Colorado 2-4 (0-3) @ USC
Last Week BYE
At this point, it safe to assume that Colorado has less than a 50% chance of handling the number 11 team on this list. While I think that they are leaps and bounds better than a year ago, so is everybody else.
Week 7 POG n/a

Week 8 Mailbag