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Pac 12 Conference Roundup and Power Rankings: Week 11

Tragedy in the Palouse and a Heisman moment in Eugene. All that and more in this week's tour around the PAC.

USC QB Cody Kessler shows his support for injured WSU QB Connor Halliday in the first quarter of the USC / WSU game in Pullman.
USC QB Cody Kessler shows his support for injured WSU QB Connor Halliday in the first quarter of the USC / WSU game in Pullman.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

This sport of college football can be an ugly game sometimes.  If you happened to be watching the USC / WSU game, then you know exactly of what I speak.

Down 14-0 early in the first quarter, WSU QB Connor Halliday was thinking nothing more than executing his basic air raid schemes in order to drive the field and to get his team on the scoreboard against a USC team that he had beaten once before in his career.  On a normal, shotgun snap, the play that led to the injury got out of control from the get go.  USC DE Leonard Williams, lined up in the A gap, got to the side of his blocker immediately.  With the offensive lineman on his back and literally pushing him down towards the ground, Williams collapsed right at the legs of Halliday.  The WSU QB was in the process of delivering the ball and was making an awkward throw off of his back leg, the same leg that Williams was being thrust into.  Williams would tell reporters afterward that he heard Halliday's leg "pop".

Those watching the young man writhe in pain on the ground didn't need to hear anything to know what had happened.  It was Kasen Williams and Cal all over again.

Halliday would go on and have surgery on a broken fibula on Saturday evening.  The good news is that a fibula is a more manageable fracture for an athlete to cope with when compared to a tibia.  Of course, we don't know the extent of the surrounding damage or even if there was damage to the tibia.  What we can say is that Connor Halliday's career as a Coug is over.  He deserved an opportunity at one last Apple Cup, but he leaves WSU as one of the most decorated passers in its history.

Godspeed, Connor.

Conference Roundup

  • The divisional races are starting to sort themselves out.  With only one more divisional game to play (@OSU), the Ducks have already sewn up the North and secured a trip to Santa Clara for the Pac 12 championship game.  In the South, ASU controls its own destiny with WSU, OSU and Arizona still left.  There are scenarios where any of five teams could still claim that division.  Next weekend will be telling.

  • WSU's loss to USC with Luke Falk filling in at QB officially ends WSU's quest for bowl eligibility in 2014.  Falk, a former walk-on who has some skills running in addition to passing, will undoubtedly lead WSU the rest of the way.  The bigger question is how Mike Leach will want to manage the rest of his rotations and his playbook with an eye towards 2015.  With Kristoff Williams having already left the team, Gabe Marks trying for a red shirt and a few other key receivers graduating, one has to wonder if integrating a rushing attack might become part of the mix going forward.

  • The Ducks finally threw the Stanford monkey off of their shoulders as Marcus Mariota overcame his own personal kryptonite.  It was an all-around beat down that included this from RB Thomas Tyner:

    That's video game football coming from the one team that has separated itself in the Pac 12.

  • If you had told me that Utah would pass for only 57 yards and would still take ASU to OT on the road, I would have called you crazy and notified local authorities.  Yet, that's exactly what happened in Tempe.  Imagine how good Utah would be if either of it's QBs was remotely competent.  As it were, the schedule only gets more difficult for Utah with Oregon coming to town.

  • The good news in Westwood is that the Bruins finally had a game where they didn't need Brett Hundley to play both offense and defense to win a game.  The bad news is that even following their fantastic upset of the Wildcats, this is still a seriously flawed team who really cannot generate anything without Hundley donning blue tights and a red cape.

  • The over-arcing story line for the Huskies - who play that one-dimensional UCLA team next week - was the establishment of UW's own two-way super star as it's own personal Superman.  Shaq Thompson played exclusively offense on the road trip to Boulder and was far and away the best player on the field.  The tradeoff of having Shaq on offense was felt, no doubt, on the defensive side of the ball - in particular on third down defense.  However, this experiment looks like it will continue against a Bruin team who started the linebacker-to-running back trend a year ago with Myles Jack having a breakout offensive game against UW in Pasadena.

  • Depressing stat of the week:  The Dante Pettis punt return for a TD was the first for the Huskies since Charles Frederick did the same in the 2003 season.  Eleven years between PR TDs is about all you need to know about the lost decade of Husky football.

  • USC is putting together some really physical and explosive football right now, folks.  With ND still on the schedule, they could still be a spoiler on the national scene.  However, they have no control over anybody's destiny in the P12.

  • ASU has to like the position that they are in.  It is taking smoke and mirrors from Todd Graham to cover the up the lack of an efficient ground game coming from the Sun Devils, but he is getting it done.  On that note, it would appear that ASU is finally starting to move on from DJ Foster as a rusher and to allocate more of his reps to freshman RB Demario Richard.  That could be a factor for ASU as they make a push towards the Pac 12 championship.

  • Finally, a note on Oregon State, who fell to Cal at home.  With Sean Mannion having elected to return this year, this has become the first year of what will assuredly be a two-season transition for the Beavs.  Replacing Mannion next year will be the final phase.  The big question is whether or not Mike Riley will be given the time to see it through.  Getting to a bowl will be critical.  But, to do so, Riley is going to have to beat at least one of ASU, UW or Oregon.  No small task.  I almost wonder if it would have been better for all parties (in hindsight, of course) for Mannion to have moved on to the NFL and for the Beavs to have broken in a new starter at QB this year.  As it stands, not only has Mannion's draft stock taken a hit but the prospect of the Beavs "reloading" is looking like a 2016 proposition.

Pac 12 Power Rankings - Week 11

Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
1 1
Oregon 8-1 (5-1) @ Utah
Last Week Stanford 16 @ Oregon 45
It took three tries, but Marcus Mariota now has his first win over Stanford. He did it spectacular fashion. It was a typical Oregon game. They came out on fire, watched Stanford get back into the game (kind of), and then put the pedal to the metal. This was a "leave no doubt" kind of statement game that leaves Oregon in clear position as the class of the PAC.
Week 9 POG RB Thomas Tyner (10 cars, 64 yds, 2 TDs) He really wasn't the best guy on the field for Oregon, but his two TDs were nice. Plus, the xbox spin move he made on the second one was a once-in-a-career type of moment that is clearly worthy of POG honors.
2 4
ASU Helmet
ASU 7-1 (5-1) vs Notre Dame
Last Week Utah 16 @ ASU 19 (OT)
I really cannot explain this run that ASU is on right now. Much like UCLA, it just seems like Todd Graham's team is catching every single break possible. In the Utah win, a record-pacing Utes special teams was completely stymied and their all-everything kicker misses two FGs in the OT (one was unofficial as a timeout was called beforehand). Based on record alone, ASU deserves to be number two this week. However, my eyeballs tell me that their D has gotten super lucky with both inclement weather and opponent injuries. If their offense doesn't come back on track - and I'm concerned that their passing game couldn't get going against a short-handed Ute secondary - then this season may still yet sputter for the Devils. Until then, to the victor go the spoils.
Week 9 POG CB Lloyd Carrington (7 tckls, 2 TFLs, 1 PBU) Carrington, who plays CB in the boundary in Todd Graham's scheme, was very solid in all aspects of the game and was a big part of shutting down Utah's offense. It isn't often we get to recognize a CB for their efforts in run support, but this is one of those times.
3 2
utah helmet
Utah 6-2 (3-2) vs Oregon
Last Week Utah 16 @ ASU 19 (OT)
Attrition is finally starting to become a factor for the upstart Utes. They traveled to Tempe already down WR Dres Anderson and two starting DBs then lost the standout WR/KR Kaelin Clay midway through the contest. The losses of both of QB Travis Wilson's best receiving options castrated an already sputtering Ute offense and left it the game to the Utah D to win. But for a missed FG in OT, they may well have done it as they were stellar all game. The Utes still have a lot to play for and it will certainly be interesting to see what Coach Whittingham's defense can do when Oregon comes to Salt Lake next weekend.
Week 9 POG DE Hunter Dimick (10 tckls, 2 sacks) Dimick was the brightest spot on a defense that had a terrific all around night. As opponents continue to focus their help on Nate Orchard, Dimick is getting opportunities. He is taking good advantage.
4 6
USC Helmet
USC 6-3 (5-2) BYE
Last Week USC 44 @ WSU 17
It is hard to gauge a whole lot about USC coming out of their trip to WSU. They scored quickly in the first quarter on a big offensive play and special teams return. However, they were choppy throughout on offense - in particular with penalties. The injury to WSU QB Connor Halliday also significantly impacted the difficulty index for that Trojan D. Despite the big win, I'm not sure that there is enough coming out of Pullman to justify raising their stock in this week's ranking.
Week 9 POG WR Nelson Agholor (8 rec, 220 yds, 1 TD, 1 PR TD) Another huge day for the latest breakout USC wide receiver. 25+ yds per catch is ridiculous. WSU simply had no answer for what Nelson had cooking with QB Cody Kessler.
5 3
Arizona Helmet
Arizona 6-2 (3-2) vs Colorado
Last Week UCLA 17 @ Arizona 7
Bruin fans are not going to like that I have Arizona still ranked ahead of them, but the fact is that last weekend's game felt like an aberration for both Arizona's offense and UCLA's defense. This is still a team that moved the ball at will versus Oregon despite only posting seven vs UCLA. That said, it is hard to know exactly what you got with that young Arizona offense. It is even harder to go into any upcoming games expecting this 'Zona defense to keep producing as it has been. I'm sensing that a little slide may be imminent. We'll drop the 'Cats to 5 this week and see what happens.
Week 9 POG LB Scooby Wright (15 tckls, 3 sacks) It seems like we are talking about Scooby every week. He is very comparable to former Husky Cort Dennison in both stature and production. The difference is the W/L record and it is garnering him some attention as a dark horse DPOY candidate.
6 5
Stanford 5-4 (3-3) BYE
Last Week Stanford 16 @ Oregon 45
The deconstruction of Stanford continues. They were even less a challenge for the Ducks in Eugene than the Huskies were, and that is a bad sign. Watching the normally reliable Stanford defenders struggle in making tackles was a sobering reminder of how Oregon fatigues a defense and how that affects basic execution. Once Oregon got rolling, Stanford's offense had no chance. They get a BYE week to lick their wounds and figure out how they are going to get themselves bowl eligible.
Week 9 POG WR Devon Cajuste (5 recs, 116 yds) I struggled to pinpoint a true POG for Stanford in this one. This was clearly their worst defensive showing of the year. It was also a one TD offensive showing. That said, Cajuste was a good target all game and gave the Oregon secondary some trouble.
7 7
ucla helmet
UCLA 7-2 (4-2) @ Washington
Last Week UCLA 17 @ Arizona 7
Another week, another sloppy win for UCLA. I really don't know what to make of this team. On one hand, the record looks great. On the other hand, this team looks barely ready to play on a week to week basis. At halftime vs Arizona, this team had given back as many penalty yards as Arizona had offensive yards. That is both a complement for the defense and a criticism of the team's overall discipline. Regardless, this is a team without an identity beyond Brett Hundley's Superman act. Identity or not, they still keep winning.
Week 9 POG MLB Eric Kendricks (4 tckls, 1 sack, 1 blocked FG) Normally, you'd like to see your MLB rack up more than 4 tackles, but his sack and blocked FG both affected the game. You also have to give Kendricks credit for directing a defense that totally shut down that 'Zona offense.
8 8
UW Helmet
Washington 6-3 (2-3) vs UCLA
Last Week Washington 38 @ Colorado 23
The Huskies became bowl eligible in a game that was both sloppy but also a step forward for a UW program still trying to digest the Chris Petersen play book. It was the Husky defense that struggled defending Colorado's "quick hit" dink and dunk offense. Fortunately, the Husky offense - as choppy as it was - was good enough to move the ball and Dante Pettis provided a special teams spark with a punt return for a touchdown. Three unforced errors kept the score closer than what it should have been given that two of them were turnovers in the red zone. However, UW was pretty solid all around in demonstrating their athletic superiority over Colorado. A key change on the offensive line resulted in Criste moving in at RG and Atoe shifting over to RT. It seemed to be effective. We'll have to see if the staff sticks to it.
Week 9 POG RB/LB Shaq Thompson (15 carries, 174 yds, 215 total yds) With apologies to Dante Pettis, who scored two TDs, Shaq clearly established himself as the best player on this UW offense. This is an amazing feat given that he prepared all off-season to play defense. With a 200+ total yards day, a couple of fantastic pancake blocks and some disruptive plays on special teams, Shaq made some noise that will certainly catch the attention of some Heisman voters. I'd still love to see him get back to defense, but I can't argue with the results.
9 9
Cal Helmet
Cal 5-4 (3-4) BYE
Last Week Cal 45 @ OSU 31
Another good win for the resurgent Cal Bears. Despite the margin of victory, this game was well-contested until midway through the fourth quarter. The Bears impressed with their ability to overcome what is becoming an almost tragic injury list and to generate offense on the ground. This win positions Cal well to get bowl eligible this season.
Week 9 POG RB Daniel Lasco (30 cars, 188 yds, 3 TDs) What an incredible game for the Cal tailback on a cool Corvallis night. 30 carries is a remarkable workload in that Bear Raid offense and should be a wakeup call for Mike Leach and his Cougs.
10 10
Colorado Helmet
Colorado 2-7 (0-6) @ Arizona
Last Week Washington 38 @ Colorado 23
After starting out strong in the first half against UW, the Buffs showed that they are still a work in progress. As I've observed in previous weeks, this is a team with a lot of grit but not a lot of playmakers on either side of the ball. They might still pick off a conference contender before it is all said and done, but the window for them is closing quickly.
Week 9 POG Colorado Offensive Line Give Colorado's offensive line credit. Though the offense has been schemed to minimize their exposure, they've done a great job keeping QB Sefo Liufau's jersey clean all season. In this one, not only did they do that against one of the best pass rushes in the nation, but they also created a lot of opportunities for runners with their zone blocking. A great and surprising showing all around.
11 11
OSU Helmet
Oregon State 4-4 (1-4) vs WSU
Last Week Cal 45 @ OSU 31
This season is rapidly getting away from Mike Riley and his Beavs. A home game versus WSU may serve as good medicine next Saturday. However, losing to Cal at home by two possessions is a major blow to their bowl game hopes. You have to give OSU credit for resiliency. They were down 27-10 at one point before roaring back. Still, a loss is a loss and the natives are growing restless in Corvallis.
Week 9 POG WR Jordan Villamin (9 recs, 140 yds, 1 TD) Together with Victor Bolden, the Beavs have the makings of a bright young WR duo. Too bad the breakout is just now happening so late into QB Sean Mannion's last season. Sometimes timing in college football is a cruel mistress.
12 12
WSU Helmet
WSU 2-7 (1-5) @ Oregon State
Last Week USC 44 @ WSU 17
Does anybody do "slow start" like the Cougs? Despite firing their ST coach earlier in the season, that aspect continues to be a dumpster fire for WSU. The defense is soft, especially in pass D. The offense is spotty and can be out-physicalled by most Pac 12 teams. Bowl eligibility has officially slipped through their fingers and tragically brutal and career-ending injury to QB Connor Halliday officially makes this season a complete disaster for the boys in Pullman. I don't feel good about putting the Cougs at 12 this week, but this is the reality of the situation for WSU.
Week 9 POG QB Connor Halliday While Connor Halliday may still get a shot in the pros, his broken leg is a career-ender for him at WSU. In his honor, I'd like give him the ol' "tip of the cap" and wish him well in his recovery. He was a remarkable QB for a program that has put out some amazing players at that position over the years. He deserved a better conclusion than this.

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