clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Separating the Haves from the Have-Nots

New, 150 comments

The race for the conference comes into view.

Utah v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Cool Chart

Washington continues to lead the PAC 12 Power Rankings after eight weeks.

The Power Rankings - Week 8

12. Arizona 2-5 / 0-4

Their bye week hit at exactly the right time. Bowl eligibility is still a possibility for this team. Having the extra week to heal up and to prepare 17-year-old Khalil Tate to play QB is gold. If things go right, Arizona might be able to do some interesting things with both Tate and QB Brandon Dawkins. Word is also circulating that QB Anu Solomon might soon be available.

Stay tuned, ‘Cats fans.

Next Up: vs Stanford

11. Oregon 2-5 / 0-4

Last Result: Oregon 45, Cal 52 (OT)

Okay. Where to begin? There are so many things wrong with the Ducks, it is hard to pick a starting spot.

Oregon v California
Justin Herbert passed for 6 TDs on 251 total yards in Oregon’s overtime loss to Cal.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I will say this: I have to give Mark Helfrich credit for stoking the fires with his team. This was a team that was completely disengaged against Washington and was gashed time and time again by the Bears. Yet they did keep competing.

Unfortunately, they are a dumpster fire. The offensive line is a disaster. Their top rusher, Royce Freeman, looks like a shadow of his former self. Their young QB looks promising, but is obviously having trouble figuring out how to read defenses and find open receivers. And that defense!

I’m more concerned about my children seeing that Oregon defense than watching a presidential debate!

The Ducks surrendered 636 total yards to Cal including over 300 on the ground to a team whose starting tailback is out for the year. Cal ran 118 plays (the 203 total plays run between the two teams is an FBS record) and generated 40 first downs. Zone runs, power runs, fade routes, four verts, screen passes; you name it, Oregon could not stop it.

Though bowl eligibility is technically still on the table, the Ducks would have to win four of their last five to get there. Their five straight losses is their worst run since losing five in a row in 1996.

POG: RB Tony Brooks-James (109 yds rush, 38 rec, 1 TD)

Next Up: vs Arizona State

10. Oregon State 2-5 / 1-3

Last Result: OSU 17, #5 Washington 41

Give the Beavers credit. With a third-string QB at the helm and RB Ryan Nall injured on the bench, they marched into Husky Stadium and put up an effort that showed no signs of intimidation or uncertainty. Sure, they got their butts handed to them, but there they were blocking punts and recovering onside kicks all the way to the end.

There really are such things as moral victories when you have a team that is rebuilding and looking for reasons to keep working towards their goals. OSU earned one of those with how they scrapped against the Huskies. They will definitely return home believing that beating WSU this weekend is a realistic goal.

POG: WR Victor Bolden (58 yds rec, 75 yds rush, 1 TD)

Next Up: vs WSU (watch out, Cougs)

9. UCLA 3-5 / 1-4

Last Result: Utah 52, UCLA 45

It is hard to fathom just what is happening at UCLA right now. Whatever it is, it reeks of desperation.

The Bruins have all but abandoned their dying rushing attack. Against Utah, they reverted back to their offense from a year ago. Gone is the pro-style set that Mora vowed to install and back is the old Noel Mazzone-style horizontal passing attack.

How a team can literally switch its entire offense in just one week is beyond me, but UCLA did it and was able to generate some results as backup QB Mike Fafaul attempted 70 (!) passes and threw for 5 TDs (to go with 4 INTs) in a wild shootout.

The change in offense was in painful contrast to what was previously a very good-looking UCLA defense. The Bruins were torched for 539 total yards, including 384 surrendered in the true rushing game, in what was easily Utah’s best offensive day of the season.

This is a team in complete disarray. I have no idea what it will look like when Josh Rosen returns.

POG: TE Nate Iese (8 rec, 143 yds, 2 TDs)

Next Up: @ #23 Colorado

8. Arizona State 5-3 / 2-3

Last Result: WSU 37, ASU 32

The bloom has fallen off of the ASU flower as the Sun Devils limp into the second half of the season. Their overall state of health is nearing emergency status and only got worse when starting QB Manny Wilkins was knocked out of the WSU contest in the first quarter. ASU would finish the game playing a mix of wildcat formation and true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole.

Even still, the Devils made a game of it and had a possibility to win the game until WSU’s final possession. The defense is playing very aggressively. Sometimes it works; sometimes, such as with the 28-0 run WSU pulled off between the second and third quarters, it backfires.

I expect ASU to remain a dangerous team and one that will get bowl eligible, but I suspect wins are going to be hard to come by.

POG: LB D.J. Calhoun (7 tckls, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs)

Next Up: @ Oregon

7. Stanford 4-3 / 2-3

Last Result: Colorado 10, Stanford 5

If there were not some really struggling teams behind them, I’d be tempted to drop Stanford even further. It is hard to defend an offense that puts up only 3 points at home against Colorado, especially when you have a guy like Christian McCaffrey available to you.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Stanford
Christian McCaffrey came back but couldn’t get Stanford past Colorado.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

QB Ryan Burns is a hot mess right now. He hit less than 6 yards per attempt against Colorado and was shockingly inaccurate. He’s not getting much help from a beat-up and disillusioned offensive line. Even so, the fact that Keller Chryst didn’t get any reps on a day that Burns threw three picks is alarming. Something is really wrong on the Cardinal offense.

The good news is that Stanford’s D is returning to health. Their secondary looked outstanding in containing Colorado’s receiving corps and DE Solomon Thomas had an excellent day.

POG: Solomon Thomas (6 tckls, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)

Next Up: @ Arizona

6. Cal 4-3 / 2-2

Last Result: Oregon 45, Cal 52 (OT)

We’ve joked a lot about the right fit for Cal in these rankings, but we can clearly now say that Cal is what it is. They are an explosive offensive team led by a terrific transfer QB in Davis Webb who can surrender a 17-point lead just as quickly as they can generate one.

Webb is playing at a high level right now. Against Oregon, he was 42-61 for 325 and 5 TDs. He threw no interceptions and was very safe with the ball. He is still struggling in getting the ball downfield in the vertical passing game, but it should be noted that he is not shy about trying to do so. That he is getting terrific support from a rejuvenated Khalfani Muhammad as a rusher is good for Cal.

The trick for the Bears is to outscore their defense. There are no two ways about it. That D is beat up and not deep to begin with. It will be interesting to see what they can do with a resurgent and physical USC team.

POG: QB Davis Webb (325 yds passing, 5 TD, 0 Int)

Next Up: @ USC

5. WSU 5-2 / 4-0

Last Result: WSU 37, Arizona State 32

Credit the Cougs for going into Tempe and wining there for the first time in well over a decade.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State
Luke Falk finished up the victory over ASU with one good arm.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

However, it is hard to have watched that game and not come away concerned about where WSU is really at. Against a depleted ASU team who played much of the game with a clearly not-ready true freshman QB, the Cougs were not able to put the game away until the very last drive. Along the way, the Cougs all but abandoned their rushing attack (30 yards rushing before sacks) and saw their star QB Luke Falk get physically abused all night long. The fact that he was able to finish the game with just one usable arm (luckily, his throwing arm) was a small miracle.

The Cougs D had an okay night against a really compromised opposing offense. Nevertheless, it was enough to win. They may be doing it with smoke and mirrors, but the Cougs are still undefeated in the conference. That’s all that matters.

POG: S Shalom Luani (5 tckls, 1 sack, 2 TFLs)

Next Up: @ Oregon State

4. USC 4-3 / 3-2

USC is coming off a bye week and is positioned to make a run for the South Division. They have the athletes on defense to contend and the week off should enable JuJu Smith-Schuster time to mend from the back injury he sustained the week before. It is a shame that the Trojans won’t have WR Steven Mitchell the rest of the way, but Sam Darnold still has plenty of athletes to throw to.

Next Up: vs. Cal

3. #19 Utah 7-1 / 4-1

Last Result: Utah 52, UCLA 45

The knock on Utah up until two weeks ago was that they had no offense. The return of RB Joe Williams has changed that equation considerably.

In just his second game back, Williams broke a school record in posting an unbelievable 332 yards rushing in Utah’s big win over UCLA. Williams can certainly thank his big offensive line against what looked like a tired and slow UCLA front four (hello, Eddie Vanderdoes), but he did his part in breaking off TD runs of 3, 43, 64 and 55 yards. He was incredible.

And it was a good thing as Utah didn’t have much else going on. Troy Williams was barely average at QB while the vaunted Utah D was completely shredded by a UCLA offense that was completely one-dimensional with a backup QB at the helm.

It is hard to know what Utah team will show up against UW next week.

POG: RB Joe Williams (duh)

Next Up: vs #4 Washington

2. Colorado 6-2 / 4-1

Last Result: Colorado 10, Stanford 5

Sure, it wasn’t pretty to watch, but traveling down to the Farm and beating a wounded Stanford team is not an achievement to take lightly. To do so without the benefit of their vaunted passing attack or without allowing the team’s former Heisman finalist to even score a single touchdown is impressive.

The Buffaloes haven’t just broken out in 2016. They’ve demonstrated an ability to win games in a variety of ways. Against Oregon, it was that passing attack (with a backup QB, no less). Against Arizona State, it was Philip Lindsay and the rushing attack. Against Stanford, it was a defense that held Christian McCaffrey to just 114 all-purpose yards, allowed less than 6 yards per pass attempt, and generated three interceptions.

Colorado’s offensive line had a hard time protecting Sefo Liufau, which might be a red flag to watch. However, it is hard to argue that Colorado is anything less than the South favorite at this point.

POG: LB Kenneth Olgubode (11 tckls, 1 TFL)

Next Up: vs UCLA

1. #4 Washington 7-0 / 4-0

Last Result: OSU 17, #5 Washington 41

It isn’t often that a 24-point victory over a conference opponent in a game that was effectively decided in the first quarter leaves you with question marks. But that is what happened with UW given Jake Browning’s career-low 50% completion rate and the Huskies’ not-so-special teams.

Still, the Huskies are in an incredible position. They are fourth in the nation in total offense, sixth in the nation in total defense, fourth in sacks, and first (easily) in turnover margin. With Ohio State’s loss to an unranked Penn State team, there is now a clear line of sight for UW to the CFP, not to mention a very plausible scenario where UW could make it in as a one-loss team. In fact, UW getting in as a 2- or 3-seed now seems like a real possibility.

POG: WR Dante Pettis (4 recs, 114 yds, 2 TD)

Next Up: @ #19 Utah