With just three more weeks in the regular season, the bowl picture for the Pac-12 is starting to come into view. Six teams have already achieved bowl eligibility:
In addition to those six, only Arizona State would be considered “likely” (though that might be a stretch) to get eligible. Cal is within striking distance with the possibility of getting eligible if they can win two of their final three.
Outside of those teams, it is highly unlikely any other Pac-12 team will reach the milestone of six wins. UCLA and Oregon would have to win every game left on their schedule. Oregon State and Arizona are already ineligible.
Including the Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 is affiliated with seven bowls. Assuming ASU gets eligible, the conference would have seven bowl teams to match against that list. This is a far cry from a year ago, when the conference had 10 bowl teams.
The playoffs linger as a wild card situation. If UW can make it into those playoffs, then the lowest priority contracted bowl - the Cactus Bowl - will become an at-large bidder. If ASU somehow fails to get bowl eligible in that scenario, or if another PAC team gets invited into a New Year’s Six game (Colorado?), then the Las Vegas Bowl would also become an at-large attraction.
With that, here are my current forecasts:
College Football Playoffs: #4 UW vs #1 Alabama
Rose Bowl: Utah vs Ohio State
Alamo Bowl: WSU
Holiday Bowl: USC
Foster Farms Bowl: Colorado
Sun Bowl: Stanford
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State
Cactus Bowl: at large
I reserve the right to change these bowl projections as frequently as I change my underwear. That is to say more frequent then some, but less frequently than, apparently, Utah fans.
Let’s get on with the rankings.
The Cool Chart
The Power Rankings
12. Arizona 2-7 / 0-6
Last Result: Arizona 7, Arizona 69
There really isn’t anything left to say about Arizona. They are clearly in the toilet and, after watching that shitshow against WSU, it would appear that the players have packed it in.
Things actually looked good for Arizona early in the game. I’m talking “first play of the game” kind of early, as a long pass play to Nate Phillips went 75 yards for a TD on the first play of the game. But a penalty resulted in that one getting taken off the board and the rest is history.
There are three more games left on the schedule and I think it would be a win if Arizona can simply use the opportunity to start developing their younger players with liberal rotations. There will be no bowl season practices, so now is the time. That includes getting serious reps for young QB Khalil Tate.
POG: WR Cam Denson (4 recs, 77 yds, 1 TD)
Up Next: vs #16 Colorado
11. Arizona State 5-4 / 2-4
Last Result: BYE
Nothing really changes much for Arizona State after the bye week. They still have a bowl game to play for as motivation and they are getting a few more players back, but there isn’t a lot of momentum to build upon. There are not too many reasons to expect them to be all that competitive against ASU.
Up Next: vs #13 Utah (Thursday Night)
10. Oregon State 2-7 / 1-5
Last Result: OSU 15, Stanford 26
This was another difficult day for the Beavers. They simply can’t get anything going offensively. Ryan Nall is their only realistic playmaking option and he suffered a concussion that might threaten his availability against UCLA. Outside of two big plays, including a 75-yard TD pass to Victor Bolden, there simply isn’t anything clicking for the Beavs.
OSU is now officially eliminated from bowl contention. Up until this last game, you could at least say that the Beavs were a tough out. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep their motivation.
POG: WR Victor Bolden (4 recs, 107 yds, 1 TD)
Up Next: @ UCLA
9. Oregon 3-6 / 1-5
Last Result: Oregon 20, USC 45
Welp, we can put a fork in the Ducks. They had a chance to make a statement against a quality opponent, but a 17-point deficit racked up before the first quarter was even half over put that opportunity out of reach.
It was the same ol’, same ol’ for the Ducks. The defense was as stiff as a soaked paper towel. Their offense was spotty. Their special teams were anything but. It was a complete letdown after a motivating victory over ASU a week ago.
QB Justin Herbert does continue to show that he has the composure and the tools to be effective as a QB. He is still a young QB, though, and he needs more help if there is going to be any hope of a bowl game in 2016. Whether or not he can get it remains to be seen. That offensive line is a concern, and now it looks like you can add RB Tony Brooks-James to the line of walking wounded in Eugene.
POG: P Ian Wheeler (I had to pick somebody)
Up Next: vs Stanford
8. UCLA 3-6 / 1-5
Last Result: UCLA 10, #15 Colorado 20
I’m not sure that I’ve seen as brutally ugly a football game as the one that I saw play out in Boulder last Thursday night. It was a game marred by lapses in composure, poor fundamentals, and shoddy coaching decisions. It was so bad that I had to blindfold my children—and mind you, I’m the same dad that has let these same girls watch the three Star Wars prequels.
That’s how bad this game was.
The good news for UCLA is that the defense was highly effective, particularly in bottling up the dangerous Colorado receivers. LB Jayon Brown, DE Takkarist McKinley, DB Randall Goforth, and DB Jaleel Wadood all stood out for the Bruins. With that D playing like they are, they can stay with most remaining teams on their schedule. Whether or not the offense can generate a rushing game to take the heat off of backup Mike Fafaul remains to be seen.
An interesting subplot here is the job security of Jim Mora. He now sports a worse record (24-19) in Pac-12 play than former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell (24-18), a man widely viewed as a villain in UCLA football lore. In fact, a dubious record is still in play for Mora. Only one time in history have the Bruins lost nine games in a season. Mora has three chances to make sure that doesn’t happen a second time.
POG: LB Jayon Brown (19 tckls, 1 FR, 2 TFLs)
Up Next: vs Oregon State
7. Cal 4-5 / 2-4
Last Result: Cal 27, #4 Washington 66
Go ahead with the “Cal is too high” jokes, but I’m not sure where else to put them. They hung with UW for a half, legitimately keeping up with UW from an offensive perspective before the Huskies were able to make a few defensive adjustments to get that passing attack under control. Is there any doubt that, right now, Cal would be favored over Oregon or UCLA on a neutral site? I don’t think so.
Like the Ducks, the Bears are a big mess on defense. Unlike the Ducks, injuries are a factor in addition to a shared lack of competent talent. There are no easy fixes for Cal, but they still have an opportunity to get bowl eligible. An upset over WSU would seem a necessary first step.
POG: WR Chad Hansen (5 recs, 70 yds, 1 TD)
Up Next: @ #23 Washington State
6. Stanford 6-3/ 4-3
Last Result: OSU 15, Stanford 26
The bad news for the Cardinal is that despite their win over OSU, they have been eliminated from contention for the Pac-12 title. There will be no Rose Bowl this year.
The good news is that the Cardinal are bowl eligible and back to a winning record in the PAC. The defense had another good day and David Shaw is no doubt pleased to see his running back tandem of Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love breaking out to the tune of 288 yards (365 total as a team), 199 of which accrued to the former Heisman runner-up.
The passing game remains a huge concern. Keller Chryst played every snap in his second straight win as a starter. However, he failed to average even 4 yards per attempt on the day and his 60 yards passing were actually less than his 83 yards rushing. This is a pro-style, not-nimble QB we are talking about here.
POG: RB Christian McCaffrey (241 APY, 1 TD)
Up Next: @ Oregon
5. #16 Colorado 7-2 / 1-1
Last Result: UCLA 10, Colorado 20
I’m dropping Colorado here as I’m starting to get the sense that Pac-12 coordinators are catching up to the Colorado offense. The Buffs have managed just 30 points in their two games combined and have failed to pass the 20-point plateau in three of their last four. That’s a notable step backwards for a team that had scored 40 or more in four of their first five and which has the season record (so far) for scoring the most points in a game against the Michigan Wolverines (28 pts).
Fortunately, the Buffs’ defense is playing at a high level. Seniors Chidobe Awuzie and Kenneth Olugbode, in particular, are killing it and had big games against UCLA.
Up Next: @ Arizona
4. #26 USC 6-3 / 5-2
Last Result: Oregon 20, USC 45
The Trojans are doing everything right as they look to bounce back from a disastrous season’s start. Unfortunately, they are getting almost no help from either Colorado or Utah and their margin is getting very thin.
In fact, if USC can’t somehow find a way to beat UW in Seattle with the ESPN College Gameday crew looking on, their odds of getting into the Pac-12 title game will suffer tremendously. They’d be facing a situation where Utah would have to lose not once but twice more to close out the season. Possible, but not likely.
Their play on the field warrants a higher ranking. But they are not sitting in as good a position as their rivals, so I’m dropping them to four.
POG: RB Ronald Jones (20 rushes, 174 yds, 4 TDs)
Up Next: @ #4 Washington
3. #23 Washington State 7-2 / 6-0
Last Result: Arizona 7, WSU 69
The big criticism that many harbored about WSU as they were ripping off five straight Pac-12 wins was that they seemed awfully lucky. Once they got a team on the ropes, the Cougs seemed unable to put them away.
Well, the Arizona Wildcats never even got the chance to get on the ropes. The Cougs kicked them in the teeth and then tossed them into the stands from the middle of the ring a la Thunderlips and Rocky Balboa in Rocky 3. It was the most impressively dominating win that we’ve seen out of WSU during the Mike Leach era, bar none.
I’d like to give the Coug D a shoutout here. Sure, they were playing a compromised and thinned Arizona offense, but they put up a complete game that absolutely passed the eyeball test. DB Shalom Luani, in particular, made significant contributions and has certainly emerged as WSU’s most valuable player.
POG: DB Shalom Luani (5 tckls, 1 sack, 1 INT)
Next Up: vs Cal
2. #13 Utah 7-2 / 4-2
Last Result: BYE
Nothing to see here. The Utes are still the odds-on favorite to win the South thanks to their win over USC and the fact that they have Colorado ahead of them. I’m not ready to put WSU ahead of them yet as there aren’t different outcomes with common opponents to consider.
Up Next: @ Arizona State (Thursday Night)
1. #4 Washington 9-0 / 6-0
Last Result: Cal 27, #4 UW 66
It was a bit sluggish to start as the Bear Raid attack took Cal’s swings at UW’s defense, but it wasn’t too long before the Huskies found their rhythm and put Cal away. In fact, after giving up two field goals on drives where UW did not surrender a single first down and then surrendering two solid TD drives, the Huskies went from “sluggish” to “dominating” on their way to the huge win.
The Huskies have now won 12 straight games dating back to last season. That is a full season’s worth of undefeated right there, my friends. The Dawgs haven’t done that since the 2000-2001 season, if memory serves.
In addition to the wins/losses, the Huskies are killing off the record books. Jake Browning became the first Huskies player - and the only FBS player this season - to have two games or more with 6+ passing touchdowns. In the process, he became the program’s all-time leader in TD passes in a season. He still has at least four more games to go. Maybe six.
Meanwhile, the Huskies defense limited Cal’s offense to 27 total points and only seven in the second half, well below Cal’s typical output. Sidney Jones came up huge once again and is unquestionably the top CB in the entire PAC right now. There was great play at every level and ample evidence to demonstrate that UW is ready for the postseason.
POG: CB Sidney Jones (3 tckls, 2 INTs, 2 PBUs)
Up Next: vs USC