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Power Rankings: The Separate State of Washington

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Only two undefeated conference teams remain, and they both hail from the Evergreen State.

Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Thousands of Pacific Northwest households can claim “houses divided.” As long as there has been a rivalry, there have been multitudinous examples of disloyal offspring, traitorous siblings, and poor choices in marriage partners polluting the Evergreen State.

Washington - a football state divided.

Yet it has been thirteen years since both the University of Washington and Washington State University last found themselves both ranked in the top 25 at the same time.

What is more, both teams are the only teams left in the North Division that go into November still controlling their own destinies as it relates to the winning the conference championship.

Raise your hands if you predicted that to start the season.

For the Huskies, the stakes are tremendous. They are one of five remaining undefeated FBS teams and they hold a 47.5% probability (per advanced stats) of closing out the regular season as such - up over 20% from what their probability looked like a week ago. Tomorrow, they will most likely appear as the #4 seed in the first CFP rankings released by the committee.

WSU has won six in a row for the first time since that 2003 season and their first five conference games for the first time since 2002. Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking Mike Price-era stuff here. With four to go, they also have a clear path to a conference championship if they can hold serve in the games in which they will be favored and find a way to win in what most likely will be a home underdog role at the Apple Cup.

There are no other Pac-12 teams that can win the North straight up. Either UW or WSU is guaranteed to finish no worse than three losses and both have tiebreakers over Stanford. The North Division is definitely going to a Washington school.

In the South, things are a little more interesting. Technically, five of six teams can still win the division with Arizona the only team fully eliminated. Practically speaking, this is an exercise between three teams. Colorado is currently in first and does control its own destiny. They do have a loss to USC, and still have a road trip to Utah on their schedule.

The Utes are better positioned than Colorado. They also control their own destiny as they already own a win over USC and still have Colorado ahead.

USC is the hottest team in the South right now, but they will need some help. Most notably, they will want both Colorado and Utah to stumble along the way so that they can get into a tie-breaker situation with the Buffs.

The picture is clearing up, but there are still enough variables to make your head spin.

The Cool Chart

Week 9 PAC 12 Power Rankings
The Utes climbed to #2 despite their defeat.
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings

12. Arizona 0-5 / 2-6

Last Result: Stanford 35, Arizona 10

Despite a mathematical shot at bowl eligibility, Arizona’s season has essentially slipped away. Even the return of QB Anu Solomon, who entered the game halfway through and lasted for just two miserable possessions, couldn't provide a spark in what was a listless and depressing game in Tucson.

With a tip of the cap to WR Samaje Grant, who put up a valiant effort in his first career start at RB, I'm going to go ahead and declare this bird cooked. The only question left for me is whether or not RichRod will be around for dessert. The silly season is about to begin, and this is a man with a legendary wandering eye.

POG: RB / WR Samaje Grant (64 yds rush)

Up Next: @ #25 WSU

11. Arizona State 5-4 / 2-4

Last Result: ASU 35, Oregon 54

The Sun Devils exit Week 9 as nearly as thrashed a football team as their in-state rival. According to Todd Graham, he has ten starters injured and mostly unavailable including QB Manny Wilkins, QB Brady White, RB Demario Richard, WR Tim White, OL Sam Jones, LB Salamo Fiso, CB Kareem Orr, and DB Armand Perry.

Arizona State v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

To add insult to injury, I heard that radio announcer and former ASU Rose Bowl-winning QB Jeff Van Raaphorst is struggling with laryngitis and that Sparky has a mean case of hemorrhoids.

ASU should get credit for putting up a fight against Oregon. They were able to rack up 438 yards in total offense and freshman QB Dillon Sterling-Cole racked up over 300 passing yards. But it is hard to win with 3 INTs and over 700 yards surrendered on D.

This is ASU’s fourth loss in the last five and they are still trying to get bowl eligible. Their last three opponents are Utah, UW, and Arizona. With two of those three being on the road, including the Territorial Cup, there are good reasons to be concerned.

POG: RB Karen Ballage (62 rush yds, 106 rec yds, 2 TDs)

Up Next: BYE

10. Oregon State 2-6 / 1-4

Last Result: WSU 35, OSU 31

Oregon State blacked out their stadium to host WSU, and for one glorious half they looked like a competent football team. In fact, after building up a 24-6 halftime lead on the back of an effective offensive attack, I was already starting to take credit for my upset pick. I even convinced my wife to whip me up a victory milkshake (chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, banana...delish).

But the Beavs pulled off their own version of Cougin’ It and crumbled defensively in the second half. Even after being gifted back a fourth-quarter lead, they couldn’t close the deal.

The good news is that OSU looks like a team that can rush the ball and that there are still a few teams left on the schedule who don't really like to stop it (Arizona, Oregon). There is still a lot for Gary Andersen’s team to play for.

POG: RB Ryan Nall (131 rush, 71 rec, 3 TDs)

Up Next: @ Stanford

9. UCLA 3-5 /1-4

Last Result: BYE

They got the week off. But now we know that the Rosen injury was more serious than initially thought and that he might still be a few weeks away. This is a team that has essentially given up on their rushing attack and has literally overhauled their offensive playbook mid-season. I've never seen anything quite like it.

I suppose the good news is that they still have talent and have been competitive in their losses. Still, I wouldn't want to be Jim Mora right now. He looks very close to losing this team.

Up Next: @ #21 Colorado (Thursday Night)

8. Oregon 3-5 / 1-4

Last Result: ASU 35, Oregon 54

Isn't it ironic that the moment that Mark Helfrich finally solves his two-year quest of trying to develop a homegrown QB to replace Marcus Mariota, he finds himself on the proverbial hot seat as his Ducks struggle to their worst season in decades?

Arizona State v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

That seat cooled off just a bit as freshman QB Justin Herbert tied a school record for passing yards in a game in Oregon’s dominating victory over ASU in Eugene.

This was Oregon’s 10th straight win over ASU, but it was achieved in a brand new fashion. It was the Ducks’ passing attack featuring the tight ends that set the pace for Oregon. Of their stunning 734 yards gained, 489 came through the air. Herbert averaged 11.6 yds per pass and completed 3 TDs to tight ends. He was exquisite, especially when you consider it was just his third start.

The defense is still horrible, but Herbert is the real deal. He's leading a revolution of the Oregon offense and I'm glad that UW already has them in their rear-view mirror. I can see the Ducks making noise to close out the season.

POG: QB Justin Herbert (489 yds, 4 TDs, 0 INTs)

Up Next: @ USC

7. Cal 4-4 / 2-3

Last Result: Cal 24, USC 45

Cal is enduring a brutal stretch in their schedule that includes two weeknight games and culminates with a visit from the undefeated Huskies. They are not holding up well. It took them two overtimes to dispatch the lowly Ducks, which set them up to get creamed by the Trojans. They limp into Saturday a team struggling to keep it together.

Defensively, they are a mess, particularly on the line. Cal is showing almost no ability to hold firm in their gap fits, as opposing rushers are routinely getting into the second level. Injuries are certainly a factor.

Offensively, Cal is still scoring points but they are becoming more of a dink and dunk offense. QB Davis Webb is averaging less than 4.5 yards per pass over his last three while his young receivers Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson continue to drop passes at an alarming rate.

Cal is quickly running out of time to get things turned around.

POG: WR Melquise Stovall (94 yds rec, 1 TD)

Up Next: vs #4 Washington

6. Stanford 5-3/ 3-3

Last Result: Stanford 35, Arizona 10

Stanford had a return to form last weekend. Christian McCaffrey looked like his old self in piling up 225 all-purpose yards while the Stanford D completely stifled Arizona and each of the 3 QBs that they rolled out in what was a convincing win.

It's hard to move Stanford up much in the poll, however. The turn at QB to Keller Chryst did not go so well. In fact, he was awful. The new starter completed less than half his passes, netted just 104 yards on 30 attempts, and threw a pick. To his credit, he took several downfield shots, but was woefully inaccurate.

The good news is that the D looks to be returning to form as they return to health.

POG: DE Solomon Thomas (4 tckls, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFLs)

Up Next: vs Oregon St

5. #25 Washington State 6-2 / 5-0

Last Result: WSU 35, OSU 31

A win is a win in the Pac-12, but one has to wonder how much luck more WSU is going to be able to conjure up in keeping their winning streak alive.

Washington State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Going into the Corvallis trip, the one thing you could point to that WSU was doing well was playing rush defense. That disappeared in a fiery ball of Ryan Nall as the Cougs surrendered over 6 yards per rush to the Beaver offense.

I don't really know what WSU is at this point. They do seem to be getting more vertical in their passing attack, this despite the physical punishment Luke Falk is taking on a weekly basis (he’s going to break soon, folks). They also have that irritating knack of just being able to hang around and linger. Kind of like a head cold. Or herpes.

Regardless, the Cougs are now ranked in the top 25. With that, I'm looking for a convincing win next weekend.

POG: QB Luke Falk (415 yds, 5 TDs, 0 INT)

Next: vs Arizona

4. #21 Colorado 6-2 / 4-1

Last Result: BYE

This is a classic case of not falling as much as getting passed. True, they are the only team in the South with one loss. Still, UW’s victory over Utah helps USC and indirectly hurts Colorado. And I didn't see anything from Utah to lead me to believe they wouldn't be a favorite against Colorado if the game were played today. Otherwise, nothing has changed for a Buff team ready to go out and build on the half-game lead that they still have in the division.

Up Next: vs UCLA

3. USC 5-3 / 4-2

Last Result: Cal 24, USC 45

USC might be the hottest team in the conference, Washington included. QB Sam Darnold is playing at a high level and has likely locked up Freshman of the Year honors in the PAC. His play is elevating everyone around him in clear and measurable ways.

The latest beneficiary is the rushing attack, which absolutely mauled Cal last Thursday night. RT Zach Banner, who is so absurdly immobile that he can't get into a 3-point stance, was a one-man wrecking crew ripping open enormous holes for RB Ronald Jones to run through. It was like Banner was the Harlem Globetrotters to Cal’s Washington Generals. It would have been comedy if it weren't for the fact that it looked so painful.

As it stands, USC still lacks control of their own destiny. That honor belongs to Utah. However, they are the most dangerous team still alive in the race for Roses.

POG: RT Zach Banner (398 team rushing yds, 0 sacks)

Up Next: vs Oregon

2. #16 Utah 7-2 / 4-2

Last Result: #4 UW 31, #17 Utah 24

The Utes are what they are at this stage of the season. They are a big, mean, grind-it-out kind of club that is going to try to turn every game into a wrestling match. If they are able to get their opponent on the mat with some turnovers and special teams plays, as they did against UW, they can beat any of them.

What especially impressed about Utah in their home loss to UW was how Troy Williams really turned it around in the second half as both a rusher and a passer. Utah now gets the benefit of increased confidence as they head into a perfectly timed bye week.

The Utes still control their own destiny and seem to be on an incline in terms of their overall game.

POG: S Chase Hansen (9 tckls, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT)

Up Next: BYE

1. #4 Washington 8-0 / 5-0

Last Result: #4 UW 31, #17 Utah 24

The Huskies passed their latest test: a road game against a nationally ranked opponent in a difficult environment. In doing so, they held serve and will in all likelihood show up as the four-seed in the first ranking to be published by the College Football Playoff Committee come tomorrow.

Some Husky fans might be rumbling a little bit of what appears to be the second straight game in which QB Jake Browning appeared to be human. His grasp on the Heisman race might be loosening a bit. Fortunately, the Husky rushing attack seems to be peaking at just the right time. As the Northwest weather turns inclement, it is useful to have three solid backs and a deep offensive line. UW has both assets in their portfolio.

There are big games left to be sure as UW still has both the hottest team in the PAC (USC) and what looks like its second-best team (WSU) still ahead. Game on.

POG: CB Kevin King (6 tckls, 1 PBU, 19 yds surrendered on 7 attempts)

Up Next: @ Cal