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PAC 12 Power Ranking: Oregon Burning

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Oregon and USC are on fire, and not in a good way.

Oregon v Colorado Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I know you want to get right into the rankings, so I won’t belabor my roundup introduction. Needless to say, we have much to discuss.

Roundup Dots

  • Stanford and Washington are the stories of the conference as they get ready for their Friday night showdown. Both teams are highly ranked and are considered the greatest barrier standing in the way of the other for the North Division title. Stanford extended their winning streak over UCLA to nine straight years while Washington was able to end their 10 year drought of wins in the state of Arizona. Both teams have shown their tender flanks, which makes the contest in Seattle all the more appetizing.
  • This time a year ago, we were debating whether or not Oregon was starting “The Decline”. Now we are all debating just how hot Mark Helfrich’s hot seat is. The Ducks are quickly becoming a team whose identity is tied more to their dressing room than their game plans. It is tough to ignore how poorly Oregon has done in developing quarterbacks and restocking their defense. Fans have been scrutinizing Helfrich for a while. A shocking home loss to Colorado - a team that hadn’t beaten Oregon since joining the conference - seems to be a turning point.
  • Perhaps you saw that LSU fired “the Hat”, head Coach Les Miles. In doing so, they elevated former USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron to the same role for the Tigers. Ironically, it is almost exactly three years to the day that Lane Kiffin was left on a tarmac and Orgeron was elevated into that role for USC. After watching USC melt down and give up a two TD lead at Utah last Friday, one has to wonder if history is about to repeat itself.
  • After giving the Huskies fits, Arizona RB JJ Taylor saw his season come to an end after breaking his ankle. It is another tough blow for a Wildcat team that is probably the most beat up of any in the conference.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Power Rankings - Week 4
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings

12. Oregon State 1-2 / 0-0

Last Result: Boise State 38, OSU 24

NCAA Football: Boise State at Oregon State Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

I followed this one closely as I wanted to see how OSU stacked up against a good football team. The results were kind of mixed. On one hand, OSU’s D did a nice job forcing BSU into a few early turnovers and showed a great deal of grit even when they really couldn’t generate stops. On the flip side, Boise pretty much shredded OSU by throwing the kitchen sink at them offensively. I also have to admit that I was hoping to see a little more efficiency out of QB Darrell Garretson. Why he cannot get WR Jordan Villamin involved in the offense befuddles me. That he was out of the game (whether injury or performance) in the second half concerns me.

I'm not loving the Beavs right now.

POG: WR Seth Collins (9 recs, 106 yds)

Up Next: vs @ Colorado

11. Washington State 1-2 / 0-0

Last Result: BYE

No news is good news for a WSU team that is trying to find its identity. Getting QB Luke Falk back on track and generating a few more explosive plays has to be the top priority with the Ducks coming to town.

Up Next: vs Oregon

10. Arizona 2-2 / 0-1

Last Result: #10 UW 35, Arizona 28

No matter what you thought of how well or poorly UW played, there are two things about Arizona that can’t be argued. First, their overall level of team speed was every bit as advertised, particularly on defense. Clyde Yancy’s linebackers, in particular Cody Ippolito and Paul Magloire, Jr, deserve special recognition for how effectively they executed Arizona’s blitz game.

The second thing is that QB Brandon Dawkins is a real weapon. While he won’t soon be confused with the second coming of Robert Griffith, he is a real game-changer. His running back corps was decimated. His offensive line was overmatched. And even still he carried his team with timely throws and exquisite inside zone read execution.

While true that Arizona will travel to UCLA this week pretty banged up, I think they are worth moving up.

POG: QB Brandon Dawkins (180 yds rushing, 167 yds passing, 3 total TDs)

Up Next: @ UCLA

9. USC 1-3 / 0-2

Last Result: USC 27, #18 Utah 31

Coming into this week, the story was all about the quick hook applied to QB Max Browne and the hope that freshman Sam Darnold could provide “the” spark. Now?

Ohhhh, boy.

I suppose you could say that Darnold provided some spark for the Trojans. He certainly seemed to get JuJu Smith-Schuster involved, which is huge. But the reality is that the USC offense remains completely out of synch as evidenced by three straight possessions ending in turnover to start the contest. What was a QB controversy is now a coaching controversy.

On top of that, one cannot ignore how, in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, the Trojan D folded like a Filipino acrobat.

This team is a mess and the Utah loss was devastating. At 0-2 in conference, I’m not sure USC can come back from it.

POG: DB/ KR Adoreé Jackson (7 tckls, 1 FR, 2 PBR, 100 yard kickoff return for TD, 11 yds rushing)

Up Next: vs ASU

8. Oregon 2-2 / 0-1

Last Result: Colorado 38, Oregon 41

The Ducks started life without WR Devon Allen and LT Tyrell Crosby hosting an opponent that most fans would expect to be manageable. What would happen next would become the most shocking development of the weekend.

Obviously, the Ducks are reeling right now. The defense is not playing very well and it really starts with a completely inadequate defensive line. Offensively, the Ducks are still showing their explosiveness - it was encouraging to see Darren Carrington go off - and didn’t seem to miss a beat with RB Royce Freeman on the sidelines. QB Dakota Prokup is playing ok, but not good enough to be a difference maker. Right now, we simply don’t know if Oregon’s offense can score enough points on any given weekend to beat anybody.

POG: LB Troy Dye (10 tckls, 1 sack, 1 INT)

Up Next: @ WSU

7. California 2-2 / 0-1

Last Result: Cal 41, ASU 51

Cal and Oregon kind of look like the same team to me right now. They both are able to score from anywhere on the field and they both have unbelievably unreliable defenses. I’m going to rank Cal ahead of Oregon this week based on QB play.

I wasn’t huge on Davis Webb to start the season, but I’ve come around. The man put on a QB clinic running the Bear Raid against ASU. He was standing tall in his pocket, making his reads and dropping dimes all over the place, including to the PAC 12’s leading receiver, Chase Hansen. He is right there with Jake Browning as the top looking QB in the conference so far in the early going of the season.

POG: QB Davis Webb (32/56, 478 yds, 5 TDs, 2 INTs)

Up Next: vs #18 Utah

6. Arizona State 4-0 / 1-0

Last Result: Cal 41, ASU 51

I think it is time for us all to go back and check the Sun Devils. I recorded and re-watched this team specifically to get a gauge on where ASU is at. What I saw was a team that was coming into its own as an offense and flying all over the place on defense.

That Cal hung 41 on ASU was to be expected. ASU is an average defense that plays aggressive and, as demonstrated by three turnovers, creates opportunities for their offense.

But it was QB Manny Wilkins and his offense that really impressed. I get that Cal’s defense is horrible. Still, Wilkins was running RPO with better decision-making than I would have guessed. I was also impressed with the toughness of some of ASU’s receivers. Big sophomore Jalen Henry had a coming out party showing off some toughness in five key receptions. ASU is rising.

POG: WR Jaylen Howard (5 recs, 83 yds)

Up Next: at USC

5. Colorado 3-1 / 1-0

Last Result: Colorado 41, Oregon 38

It was supposed to be an easy home win from Oregon. Without LB Derek McCartney and QB Sefo Liufau, the Buffs were not supposed to have enough juice to keep up with the Oregon scoring machine.

Somebody forgot to tell freshman QB Steven Montez. With the help of some remarkable receiver play and a dominating defensive line, Montez put on a show for the ages and announced to the world that Colorado is not to be taken for granted. Mike MacIntyre’s emotional speech after the game was a perfect capper.

POG: QB Steven Montez (333 yds passing, 135 yds rushing, 4 total TDs)

Up Next: vs Oregon St

4. UCLA 2-2 / 0-1

Last Result: UCLA 22, #7 Stanford 13

I admit that for a hot minute, I thought UCLA was going to pull off the home upset. UCLA’s defense was flat out owning Stanford’s offense and had managed to keep the Cardinal out of the end zone all night when the Bruins grabbed a four point lead with 6 minutes to go.

What happened next was absurd melt down that tainted an otherwise stellar showing for the UCLA defense. The Cardinal were able to drive quickly - really on the back of one big passing play - and score the game winning TD with 24 seconds left to the game.

UCLA’s offense is a mess right now, but you can give them some credit for their opponent. I’m still waiting for the magical Josh Rosen to appear and for RB Soso Jamabo to become a real factor. I might be waiting for a while longer. Nevertheless, that Bruins D - and in particular that LB corps - looks like the real deal.

POG: LB Kenny Young (6 tckls, 1 INT, 1 PBr)

Up Next: vs Arizona

3. Washington (#10) 4-0 / 1-0

Last Result: #9 UW 35, Arizona, 28 (OT)

Everybody had one question for UW as they tripped into Tucson: are you for real? Asked … and answered. Kind of.

The Huskies had one of those games where they were dominating at most things but struggled mightily in some aspect of each of the three phases, almost to the point of their undoing. The offense was challenged with third down and short yardage situations. The defense was stout except in handling the QB keeper in the zone read. The special teams...well, they were not good.

A win in Tucson is not a small feat, but the fact that it was closely contested is informative. I have to drop UW this week mostly due to the fact that Utah “won” their game while UW simply “survived” theirs. But there was still much to like about what we saw from Chris Petersen’s crew (hello, offensive line). The emergence of both Joe Mathis and Lavon Coleman were two such things. Special love to Coleman who surpassed his entire rushing total for last season in this one game.

POG: BUCK Joe Mathis (5 tckls, 1 FR)

Up Next: vs #7 Stanford (Friday Night)

2. Utah (#18) 4-0 / 1-0

Last Result: USC 27, #18 Utah 31

It was a tougher contest than the Utes expected. They had to overcome a 2 TD deficit and convert a handful of fourth downs. But win the contest - against a key South rival- they did. That the win was secured by the offense and QB Troy Williams with a backbreaking, 6 minute, 15 play, 93 TD drive to finish the game is noteworthy. I had written about the Troy Williams X-factor in my weekly preview. His final drive was the kind that locals will talk about for a decade. That Utah seems to have found a WR (Tim Patrick 6-100-1) and a RB (Zack Moss 23-94) just adds to the positive vibe for this team.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It probably should be concerning to Utes fans that the Trojans were able to handle the vaunted Utah defense. Nonetheless, Utah is still undefeated and in a great starting position in the race for the south. They are in a better position that UW right this second, so I’m bumping them this week.

POG: QB Troy Williams (21/34, 270 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT, game winning TD drive)

Up Next: @ California

1. Stanford (#7) 3-0 / 2-0

Last Result: Stanford 22, UCLA 13

Husky fans are sweating how close the result at Arizona was as they prepare for their Friday night showdown with Stanford. Cardinal fans might be feeling the exact same way.

QB Ryan Burns, his offensive line and his receiving corps had their hands full all night at the Rose Bowl. RB Christian McCaffrey saw his record 10 game streak of topping 200 all purpose yards come to an end. The Cardinal had a negative turnover margin. And yet, Stanford found a way to win.

I’m still not overly impressed with Ryan Burns. But you cannot deny the game winning drive that he marshalled, including a crazy fade route for the clinching TD. Even better? Stanford’s D looked much better than I’ve been giving it credit for. DE Solomon Thomas was quite simply crushing the QB side of the UCLA offensive line every snap. It was remarkable.

POG: DE Solomon Thomas (3 tckls, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 FR, 1 TD return)

Up Next: @ #10 Washington (Friday Night)