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Pac-12 Power Rankings: A Parallel Universe Emerges

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The Buffaloes are a contender, the Cougs are a factor, and an evil Ken Bone is the talk of the nation. What universe is this?

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It happened in the last presidential debate. A mousy, corpulent man with a well-trimmed porn-stache and an impossibly red sweater was selected to pose a question at the town hall event. His name is Ken Bone. The man asked something about energy, but it didn't matter. The explosion on the Internet was already underway and a living meme was born.

But he isn't ‘that’ Ken Bone. Our Ken Bone is, indeed, a mousy man. However, he is a svelte, bare-faced, former basketball coach who also donned red in his career. The man who last week invaded our Facebook accounts and computer screens is not that man. There is only one explanation: a parallel world exists and it has collided with our own. Their Ken Bone has migrated into our world while our Ken Bone has likely crossed to the other side.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: when was the last time you saw our Ken Bone?

Consider it carefully. You will soon arrive to the same conclusion as I. Our parallel worlds have crossed. Gone are our Cougs, our Buffs and our Ducks replaced by their doppelgänger ‘others.’

But what is a blogger to do? I can't prove it. My assertions are nothing more than far-fetched sci-fi theories not grounded in anything resembling substantive fact. All I can do is rank ‘others’ as they are.

So, let's do this.

The Cool Chart

Week 7 concludes with UW on top and Colorado, WSU and USC all on the rise.
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings - Week 7

12. Arizona 2-5 / 0-4

Last Result: USC 48, Arizona 14

This is what happens when you play in a RichRod offense. Players get hit. QBs get eviscerated. Scoreboards get out of control.

The Wildcats are now out their top two QBs and their top three RBs. They burned the redshirt on their prized true freshman, Khalil Tate, only to find that he couldn't throw a rock into the ocean from the side of a docked cruise liner. Their change in defense from the 4-2-5 to whatever we are seeing now reeks more of desperation than trying to match the scheme to the roster. They closed out their loss to USC having their backup TE play QB...and he looked like the best player on their team.

But at least WR Nate Phillips extended his games-with-a-reception streak to 40. That is something.

RichRod said afterwards that Arizona’s problems didn't ‘occur overnight’ and, accordingly, won't be fixed so expeditiously. One must wonder if he will be around to do it at all.

POG: TE/QB Matt Marin (84 yds pass, 1 TD)

Next Up: BYE

11. Oregon State 2-4 / 1-2

Last Result: #21 Utah 19, OSU 14

Like Arizona, the Beavers are getting racked by injuries. In a stretch of the fourth quarter in their comeback attempt against Utah in a drenched Reser Stadium, the Beavers blew through both starting QB Darrel Garretson and backup Cory Blount. They had already lost star RB Ryan Nall after just one carry.

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The difference between OSU and Arizona right now is that Gary Andersen still has his team on an upswing. The defense is starting to show signs of toughness, particularly along their defensive line, and the team is starting to buy into its identity as a running team. This is a good thing given that they cannot pass the ball. At one point, Garretson was 1-for-14 - a horrible stat even after you adjust for weather and abysmal pass protection.

I can't help but to think OSU has one more Cal-like upset in them this year. For now, this is a team that just doesn't have the horses even if they do have the hoss.

POG: LB Bright Ogwoegbu (11 tckls, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF)

Next Up: @ #5 Washington

10. Oregon 2-4 / 0-3

Last Result: BYE

I know, I know. I can hear you now: ‘what happened to Oregon being last? I liked Oregon being last!’

What can I say? Would you rather be in Oregon’s position or that of either Arizona or OSU? Give me the Ducks.

Next Up: @ Cal

9. UCLA 3-4 / 1-3

Last Result: UCLA 21, WSU 27

I am officially off the UCLA bandwagon. I was holding out hope that their true talent would come shining through and that the Bruins would still mount a run for the division title. Now I am beginning to wonder if they have a path to three more wins and a bowl berth.

The fact that the Josh Rosen injury (injuries?) appears more serious than previously thought is certainly concerning. Even more troubling, however, is that UCLA still cannot mount anything resembling a rushing attack. Their 2.8 yards per carry is 126th out of 128 teams in the nation. With Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks both available, this is unfathomable production (or lack thereof). Jim Mora was quoted as saying it was the worst running game that he has ever seen in his career (and, remember, he coached the Seahawks!).

The good news is that UCLA’s D still looks tight and should keep them in enough ball games to keep bowl eligibility on the table. For now.

POG: CB Fabian Moreau (5 tckls, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)

Up Next: vs #21 Utah

8. Cal 3-3 / 1-2

Last Result: BYE

Nothing new on Cal other than to say I'm sure the bye week was good for QB Davis Webb and his injured hand. If QB Ross Bowers is forced into action, things could get ugly in Berkeley. Looking at how hard their schedule gets, one would think that this home game vs Oregon is must-win for the Bears.

Up Next: vs. Oregon

7. Arizona State 5-2 / 2-2

Last Result: ASU 16, Colorado 40

It is increasingly looking like ASU is in trouble. The good news is that they already have 5 wins and require just one more to reach a bowl. The bad news is that they do not appear to have a QB, an offensive line, or a defense.

But, hey, they do have an awesome kicker.

I’m sure Todd Graham is dying to put his freshman QB Dillon Sterling-Cole in there. After all, he’s already burned his redshirt. But the team needs to get bowl-eligible with the meat of their schedule still ahead of them. It's a tough spot for the reeling Sun Devils.

POG: WR Tim White (5 recs, 97 yds)

Up Next: vs WSU

6. Stanford 4-2 / 2-2

Last Result: Stanford 17, Notre Dame 10

Interesting stat of the day: Stanford has 10 offensive touchdowns for the entire season. That is fewer than Alabama has non-offensive TDs over the same time.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Let that sink in for a second. The Cardinal offense is epically awful halfway into the season. In my Gekko Files preview on Stanford, I warned about both the transitional state of their offensive line and the risk of burning out Christian McCaffrey with Remound Wright not there to share the load. Both issues have persisted and the Cardinal now find themselves without the services of their former Heisman candidate.

Luckily, Bryce Love was up to the task backing up McCaffrey against Notre Dame. Yet it still took a fumble recovery in the end zone and a Quenton Meeks 50-yard pick six to secure this game for David Shaw.

I suspect that McCaffrey will be ready to go next week. But will this offense?

POG: RB Bryce Love (23 att, 123 yds)

Up Next: vs almost-ranked Colorado

5. #19 Utah 6-1 / 3-1

Last Result: #21 Utah 19, OSU 14

Raise your hand if you think Utah is the least impressive one-loss team among the Power 5 conferences right now?

This is a dangerous notion, but one that I think many Pac-12 fans are harboring following Utah’s less-than-impressive win over the Beavers in Corvallis. Sure, the weather sucked, but it wasn't bad enough to explain 42 yards passing from Troy Williams or 317 yards of total offense. In fact, if it were not for 9 OSU penalties or the fact that two OSU QBs were knocked out, I’m not certain that Utah even wins this game.

Still, Utah is in the driver’s seat in the South. The return of RB Joe Williams is a much-needed boost and the defense still looks as stingy as ever. This is a dangerous team that can beat any team if they can manage to pull them into a mud-wrestling match.

POG: RB Joe Williams (34 att, 185 yds, 1 TD)

Up Next: @ UCLA

4. Washington State 4-2 / 3-0

Last Result: UCLA 21, WSU 26

Somebody call the chief! The Cougs are on fire!

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Well, maybe not exactly ‘on fire’ after a close call against a Rosen-less UCLA team. The Cougs were unable to take advantage of UCLA’s compromised offense, primarily because their own offense was feeble. In what is becoming a trend, WSU’s passing game sputtered again with QB Luke Falk completing just 58% of his passes for 0 TDs and just 5.4 yds per attempt. Even against UCLA’s tough D, those kinds of stats are generally associated with losing football.

The remarkable aspect of WSU is how they are compensating. The Coug D, despite being the worst pass D in the conference (just 7 sacks so far this year) has become among the stingiest rush defenses in the PAC. Their 3.69 yds per rush is third behind just UW and ASU.

I'm not sure how long it will last. The Coug rushing offense had been emerging, but managed just 95 yards and less than 3.0 yards per carry against UCLA. Still, their schedule looks very favorable leading up to the Apple Cup, with a road trip to Colorado looking like the only game in which they won't be favored.

Up Next: @ Arizona State

3. USC 4-3 / 3-2

Last Result: USC 48, Arizona 14

USC joins WSU and UW as one of the hottest teams in the PAC at the moment. QB Sam Darnold is maturing right before our eyes. His legs give him the ability to keep plays alive. Against UA, he showed that he is learning how to avoid trap throws and turnovers. Most impressive to me is the willingness he shows to put his faith in his star, JuJu Smith-Schuster. His 5 TD to 0 INT performance with 132 of his 235 passing yards going to JuJu was exquisite.

Just as impressive is the rise of the USC defense. They've moved from ‘awful’ to ‘serviceable’ and are continuing on a positive trajectory. With a loss to Utah already on the books, they will require some help. But they have a win over Colorado, a team Utah still has to play. They still have a good shot at the South.

The only concern I have now is health. USC kept the starters in too long against Arizona and JuJu suffered a back injury as a result. This is in addition to oft-injured WR Steven Mitchell getting hurt in the first half. Something to watch going into the bye week.

Up Next: BYE

2. Colorado 5-2 / 3-1

Last Result: Colorado 40, ASU 16

It is hard to believe that we are talking about legitimate power rankings where teams like Colorado and WSU are among the best and the likes of Oregon and Stanford are among the least, but here we are.

The Buffs are for real. The offense continues to demonstrate explosiveness no matter who plays triggerman. Against ASU, senior Sefo Liufau was inserted back into the starting lineup. As it turned out, all he had to was hand it off to Phillip Lindsay (217 yds, 3 TDs) and lob a few to WR Bryce Bobo (110 yds). 6.1 yards per rush and 8.3 yards per pass attempt are more than enough to beat anybody.

Even more impressive is the Colorado D. DC Jim Leavitt has created an emerging monster. He used a variety of delayed blitzes all game to beat Todd Graham at his own defensive game. No other team has held ASU to under 200 yards of total offense since he came to the PAC.

The Buffs still control their own fate and they don't have to worry about playing the Huskies (unlike USC and Utah). They are a solid #2 in this week’s poll.

Up Next: vs Stanford

1. #5 Washington 6-0 / 3-0

Last Result: BYE

The standing of the Huskies in the national conversation clarified a bit as teams like #3 Clemson and #7 Louisville struggled with unranked opponents and #2 Ohio State showed some vulnerability. It's hard to argue that, as of this moment, UW isn't a sure-fire playoff team. Now all they have to do is hold on to it. A home game against the Beavers offers another chance at putting up a big scoreboard.

Up Next: vs Oregon State