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UWDP's Pac 12 Power Rankings and Conference Roundup: Week 7

A new number 1! That's quality television right there.

Marcus Mariota could only stand by and watch as Oregon's playoff hopes took a major blow.
Marcus Mariota could only stand by and watch as Oregon's playoff hopes took a major blow.
Jonathan Ferrey

The Pac 12 is the best conference among the Power 5.  True.

The Pac 12 is the worst conference among the Power 5.  Also True.

Welcome to the strangeness and duality of this year's college football season.  No conference epitomizes the mess that the sport has become in its first season under "the Playoff Rules" more than your very own Pac 12.  It's a mess.

I've got a lot of observations in this week's roundup dots.  I will preface all of them by saying that the league is mired in as much parity as we've ever seen around these parts.  Almost everybody can score (I said "almost").  The two best teams may quite possibly have the two worst offensive lines.  The best defense may be paired with the worst offense.  The best offense almost certainly has the worst defense.  Somebody who doesn't deserve it will likely get fired at the end of it all.  Somebody who deserves it likely won't.

Like I said, it's a mess.

Regardless, we are getting to the point where the transitive property of football can no longer be used to make predictions or to set power ranks.  This conference is looking like one that is going to be won by whichever team makes the fewest mistakes, generates the most turnovers (giving their offense extra possessions) and plays the best D.  My Power Rankings from here on out will incorporate a bias towards those teams on a week to week basis.

Let's discuss the week that was.

Conference Roundup

  • I have to begin with the abomination that was Cal @ WSU.  Over 1200 yards of total offense between the two.  82 points scored in the second half.   A record setting passing game from the losing QB.  A WR who scored 4 TDs on three receptions.  This game was nuts.  It was like watching a AA baseball game.  Sure, you recognize it as a football game, but you can't take any of the stats or the production from the players as serious.  This game epitomized what non Pac fans feel about our conference - a bunch of minor leaguers who can't play D and, therefore, don't play real football.  As amazing as the stats look, these kinds of games are absolute embarrassments for the conference.
  • ASU's Todd Graham is inside Steve Sarkisian's head.  I heard rumblings last year from people close to ASU that Graham and his staff like playing Sark because they feel like they have him solved.  Watching them carve up USC with a backup QB and a struggling D would seem to support that notion.
  • Speaking of which, what the hell kind of defense was that on the hail mary?  USC had that stopped, but then just stood there while Jaelen Strong took the ball right out of the air and then walked into the end zone! Horrible.
  • With Oregon's loss to Arizona, one now has to wonder if the Pac will get locked out of the playoffs altogether.  All of the chaos of the weekend - with half of the top 10 losing - could still keep the door open for a team like Oregon or - as nuts as it sounds - Arizona.  But, in truth, it looks like the winner of the Pac will very likely have two losses.  I'm not sure that will get it done.
  • Is there a bigger positional dumpster fire in the Pac 12 then Oregon's O-Line?  Injuries have decimated the pass protection coming from the right and left tackles while who knows what has prevented the interior from establishing the inside zone read - Oregon's bread and butter.  Oregon only averaged 3.5 yards per rush against Arizona's 3-3-5 defense.  That's only happened two other times in the last four years - last year vs Stanford and 2011 vs LSU.  Furthermore, the 12 sacks on Marcus Mariota in the last two games is horrible.  By comparison, Oregon only gave up 12 sacks on the season in 2011 and just 18 a year ago.
  • Well, UCLA's o-line may actually be a bigger dumpster fire.  They surrendered 10 - 10!!! - sacks to Utah in their 30-28 loss.
  • Interesting Oregon factoid:  Oregon is 3-3 in their last six Pac 12 games.  That includes two squeaker wins - vs OSU and vs WSU.  Think the Pac has closed the gap much?
  • Interesting Oregon factoid II:  three of Oregon's last six losses have been at Autzen
  • I think we can also say that the shine is starting to come off the star of Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu who has had two straight bad games.  Watch him get trucked by true freshman Nick Wilson in the clip below.  I know that Ifo is better than what he has shown the last two weeks, but he's costing himself some coin right now.
  • We said in the Gekko File previews that Arizona was going to be a team that could both lose and win spectacularly in 2014.  While they have yet to lose, they needed a miracle to beat Cal and looked pretty pedestrian against UTSA.  That is what happens with a bend-don't-break D and a lot of young offensive skill players.  That said, when this team is on ... look out.  QB Anu Solomon is Willie Tuitama incarnate and RB Nick Wilson is my favorite for Pac 12 Freshman of the Year so far.
  • There are still reasons to be suspicious of Arizona.  Per ESPN, 'Zona has surrendered at least 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in 12 straight games.  That is the longest streak in all of FBS and the longest streak among a Power 5 team in 10 years.
  • Yes, Cal is in first place in the Pac 12 North.  SIGH.  The indignities never cease.
  • I'm worried about Oregon State.  The passing game isn't there.  The defense is looking more and more suspect, especially with their injuries.  They are barely treading water right now.
  • Let's give some love to Utah.  The upset at UCLA didn't really happen until QB Kendal Thompson was inserted for a struggling Travis Wilson.  I wouldn't classify the offense as "good" after that.  But it was effective enough and, when paired with that really good D, they played high-level, winning football.  I guess this is the end of the Travis Wilson era for the Utes.  Too bad that things didn't work out better for him.
  • Pac 12 Power Rankings - Week 7

    Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
    1 5
    Arizona 5-0 (2-0) vs USC
    Last Week WIN Arizona 27 @ Oregon 24
    Wow. How about 'Zona? How do you read a team that barely squeaks by UTSA, needs 36 fourth quarter points and a hail mary to beat Cal at home and then calmly walks into Autzen and - with D - punches Oregon right in the mouth? Again. While Oregon's o-line may have helped the 'Cats' three man front look better than it is, there can be no denying what we saw on offense. This is a team that is streaky but, when on, can absolutely gash you with the run and the pass. They look great. I'm not sure that they are the #1 team in the Pac when it is all said and done, but they've earned the privilege this week.
    Week 6 POG: LB Scooby Wright (7 tckls, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR) I really wanted to emphasize one of the two Arizona RBs - who were off the charts good (don't miss Terris Jones-Grisby's ridiculous third and 20 conversion) - but it isn't often that we get to acknowledge a Wildcat defender. He had a great game that culminated when his sack/forced fumble/recovery put the dagger through Oregon's comeback hopes. He's a two-star guy who plays with a lot of physicality and a lot of guts.
    2 9
    Utah 4-1 (1-1) BYE
    Last Week WIN Utah 30 @ UCLA 28
    I know that I'm getting a little schizo with Utah. Two weeks ago, I had them at #2. Then #9. Now back to #2. Normally, I'd not take such bold action. However, after three straight three-and-outs under QB Travis Wilson, Kyle Whittingham inserted Kendal Thompson at QB and forever changed the trajectory of the Utah offense. Thompson, who has a similar wonky motion to Cyler Miles, showed up with his legs, helping to compensate for a UCLA D-Line that was getting regular pressure, and then demonstrated that his arm is good enough to move the ball. He was cool under pressure and his presence gave some life to Devonte Downs and Utes rushing attack. Utah looks to be in good shape in the South with a UCLA win under their belt.
    Week 6 POG: DE Nate Orchard (11 tckls, 4 sacks) Look at the stats. I know it was against the UCLA offensive line but, wow. The senior captain was a man amongst boys and absolutely owned the edge all night. He also now owns the league lead in sacks. Easy pick.
    3 1
    Oregon 4-1 (1-1) @ UCLA
    Last Week LOSS Arizona 27 @ Oregon 24
    There are three things that were readily apparent following Oregon's stunning home loss to Arizona last Thursday. 1) The Duck D is at its lowest point in years 2) Their o-line is compromising the effectiveness of the elite talent Oregon has at the skill positions 3) Mark Helfrich, Scott Frost and Don Pellum can be outcoached. The first two points are self explanatory ... Though I do feel the need to comment on the Oregon front 7. This is two games in a row against marginal Pac 12 offensive lines where they have been stood up and forced their DC to make an in-game adjustment to commit another jersey to the box. Though he got hurt, I don't see how Duck fans arent clawing their eyes out over the wasted talent of Arik Armstead - at least heretofore. To the last point, the big thing that I questioned was the number of times Oregon took the ball out of Marcus Mariota's hands on third down. That plus the season-long inability by the staff to get their inside zone read going tells me that the Duck staff is having a hard time adjusting to the way the league is adjusting to them. This is still a DANGEROUS team - and one that I still like to win the PAC - but not the elite team that we thought they were.
    Week 6 POG: WR Devon Allen (5 recs, 78 yds, 1TDs) If you haven't been paying attention to what this track star is doing on the gridiron, its time to check him out. With elite speed and soft hands, Allen is becoming an absolute game breaker and, in a game where Mariota was just ok, he starred for the Oregon O.
    4 2
    UCLA 4-1 (1-1) vs Oregon
    Last Week LOSS Utah 30 @ UCLA 28
    You can't really drop UCLA simply for losing a game given that just about everybody else in the PAC has accomplished the same indignity. Using your eyeballs, it is clear that the UCLA defense has the potential to be better than it was against ASU. However, also using your eyeballs, it is clear that Brett Hundley is lucky to still be alive behind that horrid offensive line. 10 sacks (!) surrendered is just not good enough. Still, Hundley holds up remarkably well and somehow finds a way. In addition, the 5+ yards per sack adjusted rush is definitely something that UCLA can build upon going forward. Things aren't as bleak here as they seem.
    Week 6 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.
    5 4
    Stanford 3-2 (1-1) vs WSU
    Last Week LOSS Stanford 17 @ Notre Dame 14
    It would be pretty easy to sit here and shred Stanford and their O following this one. After all, QB Kevin Hogan's 4.4 yards per attempt would make even Cyler Miles blush. In addition, their 1.5 yards per rush is a stunningly inept stat (not adjusted for four sacks). That said, Stanford had a chance to win this game in the last few minutes and it was, surprisingly, their Defense that failed them. With the lead late in the game, they INEXPLICABLY went into the dreaded prevent defense and saw Notre Dame march right down and score on them, spoiling what was otherwise a dominating defensive showing against a legit top 10 team (even counting the weather). This game is on David Shaw. I'm dropping them based on the fact that I think teams like UW and UCLA can get better while Stanford seems to be regressing.
    Week 6 POG: DE Kevin Anderson (4 tckls, 2 sacks, 4 QBHs) While the other Anderson (Harry) also had a great game, it was Kevin that was all over ND QB Everett Golson and constantly disrupted the flow of Brian Kelly's offense. He was simply unblockable and, as I noted on Twitter, has emerged as possibly the new "best" player on that Stanford D.
    6 7
    Washington 4-1 (0-1) @ Cal
    Last Week BYE
    The good news is that Washington had a BYE week to get the kinks in the offense worked out and to get healthy. The even better news is that Oregon's loss put UW right back in the divisional race. The even bestest news is that nobody else in the PAC wants to win it, so the Huskies are rising by default. That's about as good as a BYE week as one can get.
    Week 6 POG: n/a
    7 8
    ASU 4-1 (2-1) BYE
    Last Week WIN ASU 38 @ USC 34
    I'm not really sure all that much has changed for ASU despite their stunning road win at USC. Their defense is still lower tier in the PAC. Their inability to get the running game going against another PAC opponent - to the tune of just 1.5 yards per rush - is also very concerning. Furthermore, how much can you bank on a 500 plus yard passing day from your backup QB as a sign of better things to come? Probably not a whole lot. Still, you can't dismiss the importance of this bounce back win given how badly they got thrashed the week before at home vs UCLA. We're giving ASU a bump.
    Week 6 POG: WR Jaelen Strong (10 recs, 202 yds, 3 TDs) While QB Mike Bercovici will get all the plaudits, it was Strong who kept the chains moving and who plucked that remarkable hail mary out of the air. Along with Arizona's Cayleb Jones, Strong is one of the two best WRs in the Pac right now.
    8 3
    USC 3-2 (2-1) @ Arizona
    Last Week LOSS ASU 38 @ USC 34
    I tried so hard to not drop USC to aggressively based on a hail mary influenced outcome. However, I can't just get over the fact that this was very much a Steve Sarkisian-y style game. Against a defensively challenged opponent and a backup QB, Sark's team was simply outcoached. That hail mary should never have been completed, but the defenders treated the ball like a punt instead of a pass as Jaelen Strong just took it from them. Add to that 500 plus yards surrendered to a backup QB in an offense that emphasizes the run and you are left questioning the one element of the USC team that you thought was rock solid - its defense. USC is young and should be expected to be inconsistent. And that is reason enough to drop them this week.
    Week 6 POG: RB Buck Allen (29 rush, 159 yds, 2 TDs) Buck Allen played the role of Bishop Sankey against ASU and put up some pretty decent production for Steve Sarkisian. He seems like he is in a good groove and, with 29 carries, looks like the man in the Trojan backfield going forward.
    9 10
    Oregon State 4-1 (1-1) BYE
    Last Week WIN Oregon State 36 @ Colorado 31
    Slot 9 is where we begin to get into the "best of the worst" in this week's Power Ranking. I know that many people think that UW has the least impressive one-loss record in the conference right now. However, I think that honor actually goes to Oregon State who, once again, stole victory from the jaws of defeat with a too-close-for-comfort win over a lower tier team. We all know that Oregon State will have trouble scoring the ball without a real receiving threat to complement the over-rated Sean Mannion. The lack of effective defensive play, to me, is what is most concerning. Sefo Liufau was the best looking QB on that field and, in truth, it shouldn't have been that way. Credit OSU for finding a way to win. But, if I were an OSU fan, I'd be worried.
    Week 6 POG: RB Terron Ward (12 rushes, 102 yds, 2 TDs) Terron Ward's emergence is the best thing that OSU has going on offense right now, even if it was against Colorado's pourous D. An effective rushing attack can help compensate for the passing woes in Corvallis, so Ward's play going forward will be a key factor.
    10 12
    Colorado 2-4 (0-3) BYE
    Last Week LOSS Oregon State 36 @ Colorado 31
    There isn't a whole lot to say here. Colorado is what they are and have been - an improving team that still isn't ready to win consistently. They had their chances against Oregon State, but they couldn't capitalize. In reality, it is starting to look like they don't have any conference wins on the schedule. However, I'm giving them a one-week bump so that I can honor both Cal and WSU at the bottom of this week's Power Rankings.
    Week 6 POG: WR Tyler McCulloch (4 recs, 76 yds, 2 TDs) With the attention shifting to Nelson Spruce, McCullough made some plays to keep Colorado alive in this game. A good effort from an everyday grinder sort of player.
    11 10
    Cal 4-1 (2-1) vs Washington
    Last Week WIN Cal 60 @ WSU 59
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cal won. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cal is in first place in the North. In the long history of wins that were not deserved, this one may reign supreme. It only took an absolute dumpster fire of a WSU defense AND a missed chip shot FG on a badly mismanaged end of game for Cal to get this "defining" victory. This is not a good football team. Their defense - which surrendered 812 yards of offense (WHAT???) to WSU - simply exists to give their offense a chance to catch a breather on the sideline. The offense, which is obviously potent, hasn't demonstrated it can actually regularly beat a defense with a pulse. Cal really had no business in winning the game. The fact that they are in first place in the North - and I don't mean this to be rude to a Cal fan base that deserves to have some fun given what they endured a year ago - is an embarrassment to the conference.
    Week 6 POG: NOBODY On principle, I'm not honoring anybody from this abominable effort.
    12 6
    WSU 2-4 (1-2) @ Stanford
    Last Week LOSS Cal 60 @ WSU 59
    This one is on Mike Leach. Not to say that the WSU defense or special teams is blameless. I keep going back to the word "abominable" - and they were. But, with 19 seconds to go, one timeout and 3rd and goal after a failed rush, Mike Leach immediately called TO and sent out his kicking unit. The snap was bobbled and the game winning kick was missed. Why didn't Leach try one more play to score a TD? Why didn't he try to center the ball on 3rd down? Why didn't he coach the kids to fall on a bobbled snap and try again on fourth? Of all the things he could have done, he did nothing that could be considered "good coaching". Furthermore, to be involved in a game where your QB sets an FBS record with 734 yards passing and to lose it has to be the ultimate insult in a long history of "Couged It" moments. Just disgraceful all around.
    Week 6 POG: NOBODY With all apologies to Connor Halliday - who played his ass off - how can anybody take any statistics from this game seriously?

    UWDP Mailbag - Week 7