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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings for Week 8: A Collision Course is Set

Utah and Stanford are quickly becoming the class of the PAC.

Say "hi" to the Kirk Herbstriet doppleganger and the new golden boy of the PAC, Christian McCaffrey
Say "hi" to the Kirk Herbstriet doppleganger and the new golden boy of the PAC, Christian McCaffrey
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now officially half way through the college football season, it looks like Utah and Stanford have separated themselves from the rest of the PAC as the cross-divisional rivals race to a date in the PAC 12 Championship Game.

Or not.

This is the PAC 12 and, let's face it, anything can happen.

What is clear to me here at the mid-point in the season is that not a single team in the PAC lacks a fatal flaw.  Each and every team where the PAC logo on their jerseys have something about them that can be exploited.  The difference between the good and not-so-good teams so far has been the ability to express an superior strength or capability as a compensating mechanism for whatever inherent flaw vexes them.

Both Stanford and Utah have demonstrated this ability heretofore.  The Utes, perhaps the most well-rounded of any P12 team right now, have levered a highly physical front seven and a rugged offensive line (ergo rushing attack) to overcome their lack of speed in the secondary and a hit-or-miss passing game.  The Cardinal are in the unfamiliar situation of having a less-than-dominating defensive line and are making up for it by emphasizing their offensive skills both at the LOS and with their stud running back.

The thing about every team with a significant weakness is that it is only a matter of time before an opponent presses on that kryptonite.  The fact that even the top two teams in the league have such a weakness suggests that the old adage "any given day" applies aptly to our conference.

Let's talk Power Rankings.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Power Rankings - Week 8

Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
1 1
utah helmet
Utah 6-0 (3-0) @ USC
Last Week WIN ASU 18 @ Utah 34
The Utes got a big monkey off their collective back with their first victory over Southern rival ASU since they moved into the PAC. The only team left that Utah has yet to defeat is, you guessed it, UW. This one turned out to be a tour de force with the Utes D pitching a shutout against the Sun Devil offense and with QB Travis Wilson demonstrating his senior savvy in easily handling ASU's blitzing. It isn't irrelevant that the Utes were trailing as they entered the fourth quarter, but the comeback more than made up for it.
Week 7 POG: DL Hunter Dimick (6 tckls, 3 TFLs) Dimick has returned from injury with a vengence. He dominated his matchups against the ASU tackles and was disrupting ASU's offense all night.
2 2
Stanford Helmet
Stanford 5-1 (4-0) vs Washington
Last Week WIN UCLA 35 @ Stanford 56
It's really hard for me to resist elevating the Cardinal. I think, in fact, that Stanford's offense would beat Utah's defense right now if the two teams played on a neutral field. But ties go to the undefeated team, so Stanford will have to wait and see if anybody takes the Utes out this season. In the meantime, the Cardinal continue to demonstrate that their style of play can, indeed, produce the best offense in the league. QB Kevin Hogan is uber-efficient, the offensive line is nasty and RB Christian McCaffrey is the best all around player in the PAC.
Week 7 POG: RB Chrisitian McCaffrey (25 cars, 369 APY, 4 TDs) Are you kidding me? McCaffrey broke a school record for rushing yardage in a game and put himself firmly in the Heisman discussion with an unbelievable game.
3 4
Cal Helmet
Cal 5-1 (2-1) @ UCLA
Last Week BYE
Cal is now positioned as the only legitimate threat to Stanford in the race for the North. At least for another week.
Week 7 POG: n/a
4 9
WSU Helmet
WSU 4-2 (2-1) @ Arizona
Last Week WIN Oregon State 31 @ WSU 52
Yeah. You are reading this correctly. I'm at as much of a loss as you are. The Cougs now boast a clear line of sight to third place in the P12N after back to back wins over the Oregon schools. Should WSU be concerned about its defense? Yes. Should they be concerned that the Beavers shut out their offense in the 2H? Yes. But, for now, WSU is in the top four of the Power Poll.
Week 7 POG: QB Luke Falk (39-50, 407 yds, 6 TDs) What is amazing about Falk's stats is that they were heavily accumulated in the first half. Besides the gaudy numbers, Falk was very effective on 3rd down, helping to lead WSU to an 8/12 conversion rate. He's finding his confidence as the season continues.
5 10
Oregon Helmet
Oregon 4-3 (2-2) BYE
Last Week WIN Oregon 26 @ Washington 20
I'm hesitant to raise Oregon so much in this week's power poll simply because they still boast the worst defense in the PAC 12. However, this is obviously a better football team with Vernon Adams at QB. Not so much because he can do anything more in the base offense than any either Oregon QB, but because he can improvise so much better. I don't see any reason that Oregon won't average 35-40 each game the rest of the way. If they do, they should win a few games even with that defense.
Week 7 POG: DL DeForest Buckner (6 tckls, 1.5 scks, 2 PBUs) Forget the stats. Buckner was really the only thing that stood between UW and a few extra points. Without him doing what he was doing, UW probably goes for it on 4 and 1 inside Oregon's 40 and probably converts a few more third downs. Buckner controlled the middle of the line after UW C Sifa Tufunga got dinged and he affected the outcome of the game on a day that the Oregon offense was no better than UW's
6 7
Arizona Helmet
Arizona 5-2 (2-2) vs WSU
Last Week WIN Arizona 38 @ Colorado 31
I have to raise Arizona in the poll here by default but, believe me, I don't want to. Things got so bad for Rich Rod against lowly Colorado that he actually pulled the trigger and benched his QB, Anu Solomon, for a stretch. QB Jerrard Randall, a lethal rushing threat, gave the Wildcats the spark they needed to get over the hump. But a QB controversy on the heels of the dismissal/suspension of DL Anthony Fotu has this team looking iffy right now.
Week 7 POG: RB Jared Baker (207 yds, 3 TDs) The senior RB has now rushed for nearly 350 yds and 4 TDs in the last two games. In his entire UA career before, he had barely cleared 300 yards in total rushing. He's filled in admirably for the dinged up Nick Wilson.
7 3
ucla helmet
UCLA 4-2 (1-2) CAL
Last Week LOSS UCLA 35 @ Stanford 56
The Bruins are in the midst of a precipitous fall after getting blown out in consecutive weeks by ASU and Stanford. Last Thursday, the Bruins looked out of sorts in just about every phase of the game. QB Josh Rosen definitely shows flashes, but continues to be inefficient in how he works. The defense - particularly the rush defense - was atrocious and seems to finally be buckling under the pressure of all of the injuries sustained on that unit. This isn't the season that Bruins fans were hoping for.
Week 7 POG: WR Jordan Payton (6 recs, 94 yds, 1 TD) I thought Payton played a tough ball game and gave Rosen several chances on plays that were otherwise destined to go sideways. I also think that Payton has become a terrific edge blocker and is creating a lot of opportunities for Paul Perkins.
8 6
UW Helmet
Washington 3-3 (1-2) vs Oregon
Last Week LOSS Oregon 26 @ Washington 20
I think it is easy to overreact to the ineptitude and overall suckiness of UW's offense. It is truly atrocious right now. But, you have to balance that against the Defense which is playing at as high a level as we've seen since Lambo was coaching. Against Oregon, UW's defense played strong enough to win. In fact, they pulled UO's offensive production down to UW levels and, had a few of Oregon's self-recovered fumbles bounced in different directions, could have outright won the game by themselves. As long as they stay healthy, the UW D will balance out the O and keep UW right in the middle of these rankings.
Week 7 POG: RB Myles Gaskin (18 cars, 155 yds, 1 TD) The only bright spot anywhere on the offense right now is the breakout of Gaskin. He had a jaw-dropping long TD run and his rushing constituted the entirety of the UW offense.
9 5
ASU Helmet
ASU 4-3 (2-2) @ Utah
Last Week LOSS ASU 18 @ Utah 34
ASU scored no offensive touchdowns in this game. Let that sink in for a second. While there can be little doubt that UW has the conference's worst offense, I'm not so sure that ASU isn't right there with OSU as the next worst. Also, consider that ASU is pretty much feast or famine when it comes to generating defensive turnovers. When they don't, they are below average. This was the worst possible outcome for the Sun Devils. I'm dropping ASU this week.
Week 7 POG: S Jordan Simone (12 tckls, 2 sacks, 1 PBU) Valiant in defeat. For three quarters, Simone was ASU's best player on the field. In the fourth, he faded with the rest of his teammates.
10 8
USC Helmet
USC 3-3 (1-2) vs Utah
Last Week LOSS USC 31 @ ND 41
I probably should rate USC a little higher. The fact of the matter is that they rallied after an early deficit against a very good Notre Dame team and had the lead going into the fourth quarter. But, once again, they cratered. The Irish rolled off 17 unanswered points against the emotionall spent Trojans. I'm a little worried that the Men of Troy are going to become apathetic. Until that I see that they won't, I'm dropping them in the poll.
Week 7 POG: WR JuJu Smith (6 recs, 139 yds, 1 TD) Watching Smith go off against a very good Irish secondary is a strong reminder of what UW CB Sidney Jones was able to accomplish just a week ago. Incidentally, where did that Sidney Jones go against Oregon?
11 11
Colorado Helmet
Colorado 3-4 (0-3) @ Oregon State
Last Week LOSS Arizona 38 @ Colorado 31
Colorado had a lead going into the fourth and had the Wildcats on the ropes. But they, once again, simply could not finish. There will come a point where "lessons learned" will give way to "malaise" and it could be that Colorado is rapidly approaching it. With leading receiver Shay Fields looking like he might be out for an extended period, the Buffs have to be careful to hold on if they hope to register a few more wins this season.
Week 7 POG: WR Shay Fields (8 recs, 168 yds, 2 TDs) Stellar effort from Fields who was injured on his last TD grab. I had forecasted that one of either he or Nelson Spruce was due to break out. For the injury to happen just as he was enjoying that break out is shame.
12 12
OSU Helmet
Oregon State 2-4 (0-3) vs Colorado
Last Week LOSS Oregon State 31 @ WSU 52
The lumps continue for a Beaver team that surrendered 31 points to WSU in the second quarter. Credit DC Kilani Sitake for making some significant adjustments at halftime and young QB Seth Collins for making plays all over the place. But this remains a team that isn't really all that close to translating all of their effort into good execution.
Week 7 POG: QB Seth Collins Collins accounted for all of OSU's four TDs - two in the air and two on the ground. Right now, he's the best running QB in the PAC