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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings: Cougars Continue to Surprise

The Cougars continue to build momentum in what still looks like a two-team conference.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The winners and losers are beginning to really separate themselves in the PAC.  The good news for the conference is that more people are winning than losing such that no fewer than eleven teams still are holding on to dreams of bowl eligibilty.

Of course, not everybody will reach that important milestone.  The consequence for those unlucky few will be 15 fewer practices for the teams that, theoretically, could most make use of them.  It is college football's way of ensuring that the rich stay rich and poor stay struggling.  Frankly, its an absurd inequality that nobody ever seems interested in talking about.

How is it remotely acceptable for non-bowl eligible teams - many of whom failed to reach that mark due to unfortunate injuries or rigged schedules - to be disallowed the same opportunity at program development that teams who reach the 6-win plateau - many of whom (like the SEC) do so in a way that barely resembles a real football schedule?

I get that logistics are an issue at the end of season.  Motivation might be, as well.  After all, who wants to keep practicing football when there is no game left to play for?  But the truth of the matter is that football is a full-time, full year commitment for everybody involved.  The playing field ought to be level for all teams to improve.  I get that how you practice if your team is out of a bowl game may be different than how you would do it if you are in one, but each program ought to have the right to figure out the best formula for doing so.  It's a matter of basic fairness.

The Playoff Picture...

Neither Stanford nor Utah did anything this weekend to alter their pursuit for a playoff spot while, on the flip side, several things happened across College Football that will certainly help them.  Alabama's defeat of LSU likely eliminates the "Two SEC team" scenario while the losses suffered by Ole Miss and Memphis end the "Ole Miss plus Memphis" scenario.  TCU took a really bad loss that certainly looks worse that Stanford's and no better than equal to Utah's.  Michigan State's last second loss to Nebraska (an upset that I called!  Yay me!) was huge.

The PAC is still no shoo-in for the playoffs.  Clemson got through their last big hurdle to an undefeated season and seem to be as close to a lock as you one can predict.  Entries from the SEC and Big Ten also look like almost a sure thing.  That will leave the PAC battling it out with the Big 12 for that last slot with the Big 12 still having two undefeated teams plus a surging Oklahoma all in play.

Cougs Are Tearing It Up...

Let's give WSU some credit.  They are 6-3, bowl eligible, and playing winning football on both sides of the ball.  We can highlight a lot of WSU's offensive accomplishments.  QB Luke Falk is playing at a high level.  In just about a full season's worth of starts to his name, he already has seven 400 yard plus passing games.  Even adjusted for WSU's style of offense, that's a tremendous stat.

Beyond the passing game, the Cougs are doing things that we aren't used to seeing.  They have a running game that is more of a threat than you think.  The O-Line is stable and veteran. The defensive line is a legit Pac 12 affair.  The linebackers are competent and productive, if not overly talented.

This is a team coming together at the right time.

The Sleeping Bears...

On the other side of the ledger are the Cal Golden Bears.  This is a team in the midst of a four game losing streak that seems to only go as QB Jared Goff goes.  Saturday was the "bottom" for Goff.  Against a pourous Oregon secondary, Goff managed to completed just 18 of 41 passes.  Though he racked up 329 yards, there were just too much stop and start football for Goff to effectively move the struggling Bear offense.

The Cal defense, which at one point was putting up decent output, also seems to have fallen off the tracks.  The Ducks put up Marcus Mariota type of numbers in what basically became a track race out on the football field.  While the Bears get credit for bowing up in the red zone, this is a team that is free falling.

The Cool Chart

The Power Rankings - Week 11

Rank Prev Team Record Next Game
1 1
Stanford Helmet
Stanford 8-1 (7-0) vs Oregon
Last Week WIN Stanford 42 at Colorado 10
Not much to say about this one. Stanford was their same old, efficient, physical selves and they flat out owned a lesser tier team in just about every dimension. What is remarkable about Stanford is how they make these games look so easy. It was only a week ago that Colorado out-physicalled the UCLA Bruins.
Player of the Game Stanford O-Line Pick your player. It doesn't matter who. These guys were simply a mauling machine last Saturday. They were dialed in on the road and nothing was going to stop them. It was impressive.
2 2
utah helmet
Utah 8-1 (5-1) @ Arizona
Last Week WIN Utah 34 vs Washington 23
We all saw what Utah did against UW. They clearly control their own destiny with regards to the South. To get there, they are going to have to continue to out execute other teams and to win the battle for fewest mistakes. They don't have the same talent level - particularly at skill positions - that some of the other teams in the conference have. But they have grit and they have attention to detail. That's good enough.
Player of the Game LB Gionni Paul (9 tckls, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 1 INT) Just look at the stat line. This guy was a wrecking ball. Again.
3 3
ucla helmet
UCLA 7-2 (4-2) vs WSU
Last Week WIN UCLA 41 vs OSU 0
This was pure domination for UCLA which, interestingly, did not score any points in the first or fourth quarters. Josh Rosen was uber-efficient and the UCLA rushing attack got pretty much everything they wanted. The defense bounced back with a good showing after really getting worn down by Colorado the week before. UCLA still gets a slight edge over USC in this week's poll.
Player of the Game DL Takkarist McKinley (6 tckls, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs) The former JC defensive end is quietly having a strong season for UCLA. He was very disruptive against an OSU offensive line that was missing starting LT Sean Harlow.
4 4
USC Helmet
USC 6-3 (4-2) @ Colorado
Last Week WIN USC 38 vs Arizona 30
USC is quietly playing at a really high level right now. The win over Arizona wasn't without challenge - the Wildcats actually opened the fourth quarter with a lead. But the Trojans didn't fold. They responded. Clay Helton has installed a really rugged style of play that the Trojan athletes are embracing. If Utah slips anywhere else on the schedule, don't be surprised to see USC steal the South from them.
Player of the Game RB Ronald Jones (19 rush, 177 yds, 1 TD) Jones is the next great USC tailback, and he may not even be the best one on this roster. He had a huge day aided by a 74 yd TD run. He is physical, fast, and flashy. Just as USC likes their backs to be.
5 5
WSU Helmet
WSU 6-3 (4-2) vs ASU
Last Week WIN Arizona State 24 vs Washington State 38
The Cougs haven't reached bowl eligibility in a season this early since 2006. And what a way to do it. The Cougs were getting pushed around early in this one, but made the halftime adjustment of "stealing ASU's signs" to turn things around. They scored 28 second half points on the way to the big win. And, how's this for a crazy stat? With five TD passes, Luke Falk - a sophomore - tied Drew Bledsoe for sixth on the all-time WSU TD pass list. Crazy.
Player of the Game WR Dom Williams (6 recs, 122 yds, 2 TD) Williams is now the WSU record-holder with multi-TD games (9) and improved to 2nd on WSU's all time TD rec list (27). He was the one guy that ASU couldn't handle.
6 6
Oregon Helmet
Oregon 6-3 (4-2) @ Stanford
Last Week WIN Cal 28 vs Oregon 44
A big win for the Ducks, but it still remains hard to read this team. It is definitely better with Vernon Adams in there, but they are still somewhat feast or famine in the passing attack - which Mark Helfrich seems determined to lead with. Luck for the Ducks, they were able to get 477 (!) yards out of their rushing offense to win this one somewhat handily. The Ducks are the only team that still has a chance to win the North, but they have to beat Stanford in Palo Alto next week to do it. Good luck.
Player of the Game RB Royce Freeman (29 rush, 180 yds, 0 TD) I had to put the zero in there because it is unreal to think that Freeman didn't get in the end zone a single time. However, he is clearly the war daddy back in the PAC right now and he showed it versus Cal.
7 9
UW Helmet
Washington 4-5 (2-4) @ ASU
Last Week LOSS Utah 34 vs Washington 23
The bad news for UW is that they've lost three of their last five P12 games to teams (Oregon, Stanford and Utah) who boast a combined conference record of 16-3. The good news is that the combined record of the remaining three (ASU, WSU, and OSU) is 6-11. The Huskies actually outplayed Utah at home, but just made too many mistakes (4 turnovers). Even still, it took the refs wiping two UW TDs off the board to keep the Huskies from pulling the upset. This team is obviously one that isn't good enough to win consistently, but it is good enough to compete with every team in the conference. Right now.
Player of the Game DT Greg Gaines (10 tckls) The RS freshman NT was pressed into duty with Elijah Qualls still out and he put on a show against a tough and veteran Utah offensive line. He showed an ability to eat blocks and keep stay low on his blockers. The fact that he can fight blocks and still get hands on a runner is a veteran skill you'd not expect to see in such a young player against a good team. Hard to believe that this 315 pounder has three more seasons of eligibility.
8 7
Cal Helmet
Cal 5-4 (2-4) vs OSU
Last Week LOSS Cal 28 vs Oregon 44
Cal dropped its seventh straight to Oregon in somewhat humiliating fashion. Its become a free-fall for the Golden Bears who have now lost four straight P12 games. Oregon was back to its old ways with 777 yards of total offense (in regulation). The only shocking part of this one was that the Bears didn't give up more points. On the flip side, Cal's offense still seems out of whack. This despite the fact that Oregon's defense is not good and only managed two sacks on the night. Cal can get bowl eligible with a win over OSU, but I'm not sure it is a sure thing right now.
Player of the Game RB Vic Enwere (9 rush, 69 yds, 1 TD) It wasn't a great game for the Cal RB.  But with Jared Goff completely off of his game and with a Defense that gave up nearly 800 yds of offense, the POG bar was relatively low.
9 8
ASU Helmet
ASU 4-5 (2-4) vs Washington
Last Week LOSS Arizona St 24 vs Washington State 38
To me, ASU is the big faller in this week's power rankings. Going into this one, a "fair assessment" would be that WSU is a team that ASU should be able to compete with, if not beat, on any average day. To squander a big early advantage and then to go on and get blown out speaks a little bit to the character of the team. We've been talking about something being "off" with ASU this year. Besides the inconsistency at QB, I think it is a lack of toughness. They don't seem to have the ability to get their arms around a game and choke their opponent out.
Player of the Game RB Demario Richard (18 rush, 111 yds, 1 TD) There is at least one tough guy that resides in that ASU locker room. Richard has been a banger all season. If ASU can keep him involved, he'll be a tough one for UW to handle this week.
10 10
Colorado Helmet
Colorado 4-6 (1-5) vs USC (Thur)
Last Week LOSS Stanford 42 at Colorado 10
The hits keep coming for Colorado. It's no crime to get crushed by the Cardinal. If you are a Colorado fan, I think you can be heartened by how well Colorado was able to move the ball between the 20's - particularly in the passing game (both Nelson Spruce and Devin Ross looked really good). But the red zone is a trouble area and the Buff D just isn't as deep or strong as many of their opponents. Bowl eligibility is possible. But with USC, @WSU and Utah left, it doesn't look good.
Player of the Game WR Nelson Spruce (5 recs, 75 yds) Stanford played "keep away" from Colorado and, as such, the Buffs didn't get many opportunities with the ball. But Spruce was the man when they did. He was able to consistently get open and make plays when they were few and far between for Colorado.
11 11
Arizona Helmet
Arizona 5-5 (2-5) vs Utah
Last Week LOSS Arizona 30 vs USC 38
The Wildcats got their offense going a little bit against a pretty tough USC defense. Anu Solomon got all of the pass attempts as RichRod seemed to decide the two QB experiment should be put away. It was encouraging to see them bounce back from the UW beat down. However, that Arizona defense keeps getting gashed. What is most discouraging is how UA can't seem to stop the ball even when they know where it is going (the Pac 12's leading receiver JuJu Smith).
Player of the Game QB Anu Solomon (352 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT) Solomon got all the pass attempts and really was all of UA's offense in this one. He even showed a willingness to run - a big factor to him staying on the field - with 11 attempts. I still don't know how good he can be, but he is a gamer.
12 12
OSU Helmet
Oregon State 2-7 (0-6) @ Cal
Last Week LOSS UCLA 41 vs Oregon State 0
A home shutout is a tough thing to absorb, even in the midst of a clear "rebuild". There really aren't any highlights to spin on behalf of the Beavers. With Cal, UW and Oregon still on the schedule, one has to wonder if there is a win left out there on the schedule. A reeling Cal team next weekend might be the best opportunity.
Player of the Game RB Storm Woods (14 rush, 87 yds) We don't get to acknowledge Woods too often over here. He's not the greatest back to ever play in the PAC, but he's a tough guy and a good team player. His 6 yds a carry were actually pretty impressive given how beat up that OSU O-Line is an how little there was in the passing attack.