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Week 6 PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings - The Cardinal Makes Their Move

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A light week on the schedule turned into a big week in the Power Rankings.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having four teams scheduled for BYEs, the PAC 12 put up some highly entertaining football this past weekend. And it's a good thing, too.  With a bevy of story lines, the nation was all-eyes on the Conference of Champions last weekend.

"Why is that?" you ask.

Oregon's sudden demotion to outside of the top 25 was, of course, a story line that everybody wanted to see develop.  How would the Ducks respond?  Was there a magic pill that they could swallow to find their defense.  Or even a QB?  Was the seat for Mark Helfrich going to heat up as the volume on calls for the return of Chip Kelly turned up?  Could the Ducks even win?

In UCLA, the undefeated Bruins were undefeated with a freshman QB and a desperate Arizona State team coming to town.  Could they continue their their streak?  Pundits everywhere were lauding the Bruins.  Kirk Herbstreit even called them "the most consistent team in the nation".

And, in Palo Alto, the most disappointing team that suddenly became the most intriguing the team, in the nation was hosting an Arizona team that was missing its best defender (Scooby Wright) and its best QB (Anu Solomon).  Could 'Zona hang and keep in the P12 South race?  Could Stanford make a statement win and put the rest of the PAC on notice.

Questions abounded.  And some were answered:

  • The Ducks aren't dead yet.
  • UCLA might not be dead, but they aren't fully alive.  Kinda Zombie like
  • Stanford is latin for "For Real"
  • Cal is amazingly 5-0 and their game vs Utah next week will be featured on College Gameday
  • Oh boy. There is much to discuss. Let's get to the roundup.

    PAC 12 Roundup - Week 6

    • In my pre-season Gekko File preview, I stated that Stanford was going to win with offense in 2015.  Turns out that their Defense ain't going to hurt 'em too much, either.  The box score of Stanford's win over Arizona is jaw dropping, to be sure:  6.5 yards a rush, 314 total yards rushing, 21-23 passes completed, 11.1 yards per attempt (tell me again why everybody hates Kevin Hogan).  The list goes on.  But the defense was just as impressive.  In fact, even with a very, very dinged up defensive line, Stanford held Arizona to nearly a third of their own total rush yards with 118 total.  Impressive stuff.

    • The Ducks win over the Buffs in Colorado looked comfortable on the scoreboard, but still reeked of many of the issues that we've seen to date.  The secondary was still atrocious and the QB situation - which featured a rotation with the struggling Jeff Lockie and walk-on Taylor Alie - was pretty ineffective against a Buff defense that was playing to stop the run all night.  The good news was that Ducks found their mojo on the ground and were able to generate extra possessions with three forced turnovers.  Even with that, though, their play count was just 81-78 in their favor.

    • The most entertaining game of the night, without a doubt, was ASU's upset over UCLA.  It wasn't the prettiest game with both defenses making some pretty boneheaded plays (where were UCLA's safeties on the Mike Bercovici run?) and each QB showing their struggles.  But it was a classic college football game featuring big play after big play as well as demonstrations of the kind of emotion you love to see out of young players.  It was college football at its finest.

    • Give ASU big credit for going into UCLA and winning a game they had to win.  They sold out to stop the run all night - often dropping 8 guys into the box to flood the gaps and take away both the Paul Perkins rushing attack and the screen passes that the Bruins love.  UCLA QB Josh Rosen was able to burn the Devils more than once for doing that, but not enough times to get control of the game.

    • Cal fans have to be happy starting the season 5-0, even if their last two victories were struggles against opponents in the lower half of the P12 hierarchy.  I think that there are two things that really jump out to me about Cal.  The first is that their defense is much improved - they generated another 7 sacks (18 leads the conference by a wide margin) and another 4 turnovers (18 leads the conference by a wide margin).  The second is that, to the naked eye, Cal does look like an average roster.  However, when you take a great QB like Jared Goff - and you should have seen some of the remarkable passes he threw on Saturday - and add it to average players, you still get a good team.

    • Things look kind of bleak for both WSU and Colorado after this week.  For the Cougs, it's simply a matter of getting out of their own way.  A fake punt attempt that resulted in a fumble recovery for a Cal TD literally took victory away from them in an otherwise hard fought game.  For the Buffs, it's more of a question of "when" they will turn the corner.  What they thought was their strength - their rushing attack - was completely taken away from them by a bad Oregon defense.  As it stands, both teams look like the bottom of their respective divisions.

    • The national media will now focus their attention on Utah when it comes to the PAC 12 being represented in the playoff race.  I can understand that.  However, there is no way that Utah is constructed to run the P12 gauntlet undefeated.  The reality is that both divisions are wide open and there is a better than average chance that the eventual champion will be sporting two or more losses once it is all said and done.

    The Cool Power Chart

    The Power Rankings - Week 6

    Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
    1 2
    utah helmet
    Utah 4-0 (1-0) vs Cal
    Last Week BYE
    The Utes are undefeated in conference and have the most impressive win on the schedule. UCLA was holding on by a thread to start the week, but their loss cements my thinking. At least for this week. Welcome to #1 Utah.
    Week 5 POG: n/a
    2 4
    Stanford Helmet
    Stanford 4-1 (2-1) BYE
    Last Week WIN Arizona 17 @ Stanford 55
    If this was against a "full strength" Arizona, I'd be tempted to move the Cardinal to number 1. Still, it was a thoroughly dominating game where Stanford showed that it will be, indeed, their offense that carries them this season. There are quite literally no flaws to their film from Saturday. And, oh by the way, I'm still standing behind my forecast of Christian McCaffrey as the P12 OPOY, even if Remound Wright keeps taking all of the goal line carries. This team has weaknesses - they can't afford any more attrition in their front seven - but is starting gel nicely.
    Week 5 POG: RB Christian McCaffrey (17 carries, 156 yds, 98 KR yds, 1 TD) This kid isn't exactly "Beast Mode", but he might as well be "Multi Mode". He can hurt you in a lot of ways and he's definitely finding his sea legs at this point in the season.
    3 1
    ucla helmet
    UCLA 4-1 (1-1) BYE
    Last Week WIN ASU 38 @ UCLA 23
    I noted it a week ago, but Josh Rosen hasn't yet been able to string together two good games in a row. That pattern held to form as the true frosh struggled with accuracy and with the ASU pressures. Still, he did make some pretty terrific deep throws. You can see the potential just oozing there. However, it is starting to look like UCLA's depth issues are starting to take its toll. You also have to be pretty discouraged with how undisciplined the Bruins played. Six penalties and a number of missed tackles as defenders launched shoulders into ball carriers looking for the ESPN highlight instead of making the play.
    Week 5 POG: DT Kenny Clark (8 tckls, 2 TFLs) I've been critical of Clark over the last few years. He's always seemed to play below his talent and with a stop and go motor. But, let's give him credit. After ASU jumped to the big lead, the big man seemed to find some extra motivation. I thought he was like a one-man wrecking crew, in particular late in the game. Let's see if he can stay on this trajectory a la Danny Shelton 2014.
    4 3
    Cal Helmet
    Cal 5-0 (2-0) @ Utah
    Last Week WIN WSU 28 @ Cal 34
    Yes, yes ... I know. You've been telling me all along. But, let's admit it. Cal is one of only two P12 teams with 2 conference wins and still sits in a pretty position in the North. That said, they are clearly dealing with issues along that offensive line and there are only so many more blessings from the football gods (another 3 recoveries on 3 fumbles???) that Cal is going to get. The schedule gets much harder this week as they travel to Salt Lake where a hungry Utah defensive line is getting ready to feast.
    Week 5 POG: QB Jared Goff I'm not putting stats here because the numbers are not what makes Goff so special. Last weekend, he dropped dime after dime and impossible pass after impossible pass against a better-than-expected WSU D. He stands in the pocket, shows toughness and then makes unreal throws. He's on fire.
    5 5
    USC Helmet
    USC 3-1 (1-1) vs Washington
    Last Week BYE
    USC holding pat.
    Week 5 POG: n/a
    6 6
    Oregon Helmet
    Oregon 3-2 (1-1) vs WSU
    Last Week LOSS Oregon 41 @ Colorado 24
    It wasn't a hugely impressive win. The Ducks ran just about the same number of plays as Colorado for the game and were actually tied with Colorado going into half. But the defense - maybe a little stoked by have DC Don Pellum on the sideline - showed some life in stopping the Buff ground attack. But the Oregon offense is still very much one dimensional and, frankly, just did what anybody could do against a Colorado D missing Addison Gillam. There is no reason to move Oregon in this week's rankings.
    Week 5 POG: DE DeForest Buckner (5 tckls, 1 TFL, 2 QBH) It would have been easy to give this to RB Royce Freeman, but his day was predicated on some great run blocking. Instead, I think we ought to recognize Buckner. He put the defense on his shoulders, consumed blocks and was beastly in breaking down the Colorado rushing attack. He made the Buffs one dimensional and, in so doing, gave his secondary a chance. Great game for Buckner.
    7 9
    ASU Helmet
    ASU 3-2 (1-1) vs Colorado
    Last Week WIN ASU 38 @ UCLA 23
    ASU dominated in all three phases of the game ... at least that was the quote from the never-too-humble Todd Graham (what a blowhard). The reality was that ASU did what they had to do: they came fired up and played a never-stop, aggressive form of football that resulted in a must-have win. It was impressive and they get a bump in this week's ratings as a result.
    Week 5 POG: OLB Laui Moeakiola (8 tckls, 3 PBU) Moeakiola has taken over the ASU "SPUR" backer position and showed why by relentlessly attacking Rosen all night. When he wasn't blitzing - which was a lot - he was dropping back in coverage. Rosen never accounted for ASU's POG.
    8 7
    UW Helmet
    Washington 2-2 (0-1) @ USC
    Last Week BYE
    Huskies slip a spot here based on the injury situation at safety and on the offensive line.  ASU's big win propels them slightly ahead.
    Week 5 POG: n/a
    9 8
    Arizona Helmet
    Arizona 3-2 (0-2) vs Oregon St
    Last Week LOSS Arizona 17 @ Stanford 55
    This season is starting to get away from the reigning champions of the South. Sure, not having QB Anu Solomon or LB Scooby Wright are major issues. But this team has problems in the secondary, defensive line and offensive line. With two losses, they are sucking wind in much the same way Oregon appears to be in the North. They have a chance to right themselves while hosting a rebuilding OSU this week.
    Week 5 POG: P Drew Riggleman (6 pts, 48 yd avg, 2 inside 20) I'm not sure I've ever picked a punter as a POG. But Riggleman was the best player on the field for Arizona last weekend. I'm not sure it is even all that debatable.
    10 11
    OSU Helmet
    Oregon State 2-2 (0-1) @ Arizona
    Last Week BYE
    Not much to report on here except that OSU is benefiting from Colorado's home loss to Oregon
    Week 5 POG: n/a
    11 10
    Colorado Helmet
    Colorado 3-2 (0-1) @ ASU
    Last Week LOSS Oregon 41 @ Colorado 24
    I hate to drop Colorado a spot, but I think I must. They gave Oregon a pretty good fight at home even going so far as to have the game tied at half. However, they just ran out of gas in the second half against one of the least physical teams in the PAC. Imagine how things are going to go for them against the Stanfords and Utahs of the world? Despite recording an impressive 8 TFLs for the game, they simply aren't deep enough in the trenches yet to be a legit challenger.
    Week 5 POG: S Tedric Thompson (8 tckls, 1 TFL) The Ducks could get nothing going in the air. You can blame their terrible QBs all you want, but the Buffs played good secondary D against those overrated Duck receivers. Thompson was the best of the bunch.
    12 12
    WSU Helmet
    WSU 2-2 (0-1) @ Oregon
    Last Week LOSS WSU 28 @ Cal 34
    Sorry Cougs. I feel your pain. Another victory snatched away thanks to special team gaffes and poor treatment from the football gods. The Cougs did put up a spirited defensive game and I thought that the receivers played well. Their QB isn't as good as his predecessor and the offensive line is far more a mess than it ought to be. Those factors are really challenging WSU even before you get to the hysterics of their special teams. Their chances for bowl eligibility are diminishing by the week.
    Week 5 POG: WR Gabe Marks (10 recs, 141 yds, 1 TD) This one is a no-brainer. Marks had an exceptional day. He showed remarkable hands and remains one of the best route runners in the league.