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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings: A Flawed Conference

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No more undefeateds and a muddled path to the playoffs.

Washington v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fair warning here: your power rankings going into week 8 look like a bowl of spaghetti. The kind with a weird mashup of vegan-themed, multi-colored noodles.

Yuck.

Of course, if you are into chaos and intrigue, you’ve come to the right place. The upsets of both UW and WSU over the weekend have forged a whole new outlook for the conference. We are now halfway through the season and no fewer than six teams quite literally control their own destiny when it comes to the conference championship. So, that’s kind of unexpected.

The coming and going of Friday the 13th also coincided with some other strange, unusual and occasionally horrific developments in the PAC 12. Let’s see here:

  • Bill Moos, the now former Athletic Director, decided to quit WSU and move to greener pastures. The WSU alum shocked everybody around college football by taking the open Nebraska job in a transaction so secret that even Howling Husky hadn’t heard about it.
  • Cal’s victory over WSU included five interceptions by the Bears defense. The Golden Bears haven’t had five interceptions in a game since, yup, they played UW in 2006. Carl Bonnell gifted the Bears five INTs while Marshawn Lynch made UW defenders look like pedestrians in an Addis Ababa intersection.
  • The Huskies haven’t been held to 7 points or less since LSU held Sark to a field goal in 2012. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time the Cougs were kept out of the endzone - ironically in a game against ASU. Obviously, the seven and three points scored by Chris Petersen’s and Mike Leach’s teams, respectively, are “worst-ever” in each of their tenures with their teams.
  • The Ducks managed just seven points in their loss to Stanford. They haven’t been held to such a low output since UCLA shut them out in 2007.
  • Speaking of which, UCLA’s embarrassing loss to Arizona included the surrender of 457 rushing yards - just 27 shy of the all-time worst mark set by the 1994 team against Nebraska.

So, yeah, freaky Friday happenings all over the PAC this weekend. Let’s jump into the rankings.

the Cool Chart

PAC 12 Power Rankings heading into Week 8
Chris Landon, UW Dawg Pound

the Power Rankings

12. Oregon State (1-6 / 0-4)

Colorado 36, OSU 33

Last week I was praising the way Gary Andersen sticks to his process. This week someone named Cory Hall led OSU into their matchup against Colorado.

Much can change week to week in the PAC.

And for a half of football, something seemed to awaken for a dormant Beaver program.

… And then it extended into the second half.

It was smash mouth. It was enthusiastic. It was emotional. It was “check-your-guts-and-let-it-all-hang-out”. Along the way QB Darrell Garretson found a passing game, Ryan Nall found the end zone, and OSU found a coach.

It wasn't enough, but raise your hand if you woke up Saturday thinking that you’d see OSU mount a fourth quarter, possible game winning drive.

Yeah, me neither.

POG: RB Ryan Nall (24 carries, 172 yards, 3 TDs)

When he's healthy, he is a physical, tone-setting force. With a cool nickname. I hope he puts the “Wrecking Nall” on his LinkedIn profile. Colorado had no answer.

11. Oregon (4-3 / 1-3)

Oregon 7, Stanford 49

The Ducks have no passing game (5 completed passes total against Stanford), minimal rush defense and questions of depth all along the roster. They've lost three of their last four and have been out scored in their two games without QB Justin Herbert by a total of 82-17.

I remember when 17 points in one game would have been a season low for Oregon. But in two? The Ducks haven’t seen such infutility over a two game stretch since 1992 (ahhh, the good years).

The next three are @UCLA, Utah and @Washington. Until Herbert gets back (possibly by UW), things look pretty bleak in Eugene.

POG: RB Royce Freeman (18 carries, 143 yds)

Freeman was quite literally Oregon’s only offense all night. At this point, one has to wonder what the banged up Freeman has accomplished from a draft stock perspective in making the choice to return to Eugene.

10. Colorado (4-3 / 1-3)

Colorado 36, OSU 33

Some might want to pin OSU’s best game of the season on an inadequate or unprepared Colorado team. If you watched the game, you know nothing could be further from the truth. Colorado ran into an amped up, emotionally charged” ‘ready-to-hit-somebody” OSU team.

They took the blow … and then they answered. And what an answer it was. A win on the road takes the monkey off of Mike MacIntyre’s back and puts the Buffs in a position as spoilers. With Utah, USC, and WSU still on the schedule, there is still much chaos yet to be sowed.

POG: RB Phillip Lindsay (28 carries, 178 yds, 2 TDs)

Lindsay became the second PAC 12 back to pass the 1000 yard mark on the season in yet another workhorse type of effort. He wasn't quite as good as Nall, but he was there to take the handoff and grind out positive yards on every snap. It was impressive.

9. California (4-3 / 1-3)

WSU 3, Cal 37

It's hard to overstate what happened in Berkeley last Friday night.The Cal bears came out as the second coming of ASU circa 2015, generated seven turnovers, tallied nine sacks, and beat a top ten team for only the second time since Ryan Priest was born.

Many people will point to the unbelievable games that Ross Bowers and Vic Enwere pulled off. And, of course, those are valid points. Whenever anybody does something like this - the football version of a posterization - it is a big deal.

But let's not fool ourselves. Tim DeRuyter threw out the old Cal strategy of mega-bend-try-not-to-break and designed an aggressive blitzing strategy that would have made Todd Graham blush. Recognizing that Luke Falk is notoriously slow at running his progressions, the strategy both worked perfectly and created a blueprint for the rest of the league to follow.

Does this change the trajectory for Cal? I'm not sure. This is still a banged up team with little depth. The blitz from everywhere strategy may have worked once, but I'm not sure Cal has the athletes to pull that off again in conference play.

Still, enjoy the moment Bear fans. That was a special ass-kicking.

POG: LB Jordan Kunaczyk (11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, I FF)

The region around the stadium may have burning on Friday, but JK was on fire inside of it. Those numbers are ridiculous for a guy who had hardly broken into the stat sheet all season.

8. UCLA (3-3 / 1-2)

UCLA 30, Arizona 47

If you think it sucks being a Husky fan right now, consider the alternative. You could be a Bruins fan watching the talents of your all world QB getting flushed down the drain in a spectacular swirl of powder blue and gold bodily waste.

The sh** show in Westwood continues.

Fear not Bruins fans, your trip through purgatory will soon end. The Jim Mora era is nearly over and the only question on the table is whether or not Chip Kelly wants the job.

POG: RB Bolo Olorunfunmi (10 cars, 102 yds, 2 TDs)

Big Bolo made a return to the lineup after being named the week 1 starter only to not be heard from again and had a solid effort. His 49 yard run was a highlight in an otherwise dismal game.

7. Arizona State (3-3 / 2-1)

Washington 7, ASU 13

Give the Devils their due: they came ready for a throw down in the desert and flat out whipped the #5 team in the nation. This was no more apparent than what we witnessed with a short handed Sun Devil front seven time and again creating havoc along the UW line of scrimmage. It was pure domination even without the high blitz rates we are used to seeing from ASU.

Beyond that, ASU was pretty much what they've been most of the year. Manny Wilkins is probably one of the three best QBs in the conference based on ability and his passing game playmakers are really good. But that offensive line is a problem - they couldn't muster more than 2 yards per rush - and the running backs pay the price.

I'm not sure if ASU can really become a factor in the South (my guess is ‘no’), but for now they are in the race.

POG: Renell Wren (3 tackles, .5 sack, 1.5 TFL)

The stats don't tell the tale, but Wren absolutely owned Coleman Shelton and the guards all night long. He created opportunities for Christian Sam, JoJo Wicker and Alani Latu by occupying blockers and pushing the pocket in. His pressure had Jake Browning dancing in the backfield like he was a little school girl.

6. (23) Utah (4-2 / 1-2)

Utah 27, USC 28

Kick the extra point, get the game to overtime and give your team a chance to win. That was the easy decision, but that is not what Kyle Whittingham chose to do. Instead, he watched his team give up a 21-7 halftime lead and lose the ability to control its own destiny in the south race.

I get it, though.

USC had dominated the second half. The Ute D was gassed. The offense had been stonewalled for two quarters (think UW / ASU first half). Utah hasn't won in the Coliseum in eight years.

Taking a chance on the win from the 2 yard line seems reasonable to me.

Nevertheless, we are where we are with Utah. Like Colorado, they are now in the role of dangerous spoiler.

POG: RB Zach Moss (20 cars, 141 yds, 1 TD)

Moss had what was easily the best game of his career. He was decisive and physical at the point of attack. There were a few plays where he sent USC middle linebackers back on their asses after collisions in the hole. It was fun to watch.

5. Arizona (4-2 / 2-1)

UCLA 30, Arizona 47

For the early part of the season, you could see that something was starting to come together with Arizona and some of its young players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In the past few weeks, an extra ingredient has been added to the recipe: Khalil Tate.

Northern Arizona v Arizona
Khalil Tate is blowing up right before your eyes.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The sophomore QB backed up his player of the week performance from a week ago with another huge game rushing the ball and efficient night passing it to lead an upset over UCLA.

The Wildcats have now scored 40+ points in five of their seven games and the 605 yards in total offense they put up on UCLA is the most since RichRod’s team put up 616 against a very bad Colorado team in 2015.

With all of this offense and a rising young defense, expect Arizona to keep surging in the South as they get both Cal and WSU in their next two games.

POG: LB Kylan Wilborn (4 sacks, 1 FF)

I would only pass on Khalil Tate (who had 230 yards rushing and over 10 yards per attempt in the passing game) if something really special happened. Wilborn’s performance made him the first Arizona player in 20 years to record four sacks in a single game. Oh, and he is a true freshman.

4. (15) Washington State (6-1 / 3-1)

WSU 3, Cal 37

Welp, that probably wasn't exactly how Mike Leach saw the Cal game going. Getting blown out on national television is kind of like Woodstock...that is, if Woodstock were actually held in East Berlin in 1969.

Perspective is required here.

Perspective #1: if WSU wins out, they win the north.

Perspective #2: most of those seven turnovers were of the “bad luck” variety. That's not to say that Cal didn't earn them or that Luke Falk was blameless, but three tips and a “knee almost down” situation led to four of those. Cal caught every break.

Perspective #3: WSU played efficient offense when Cal wasn't blitzing. They were simply unprepared for a defensive look that Cal hadn't shown this year

I think we saw some very real warts here. Luke Falk does not handle pressure well. The Coug o-line outside of that right tackle may have been overrated. That Coug D can be overpowered in the run game.

But let's not overreact here. WSU has what it needs to win every game left on the schedule. They still have a lot in front of them.

POG: RT Cole Madison

I wasn't taking notes while watching the game, but I thought the one guy who seemed to have control of his job was Madison. I'll be curious to hear if his grade support this off the cuff observation. My impression was that he was a bright star in a dismal black hole of a Coug offense.

3. (22) Stanford (4-2 / 3-1)

Oregon 7, Stanford 49

Beating Oregon by such a lopsided margin will earn just about any team a few spots in my weekly power poll. That the Stanford Love did it with their star RB on the bench for almost all of the second half and with Keller Chryst finally getting some kind of passing attack going is a very promising sign.

The Cardinal are starting to play some defense, as well. It might be hard to judge given the status of the competition, but just getting back to health in the secondary is a cause for concern among fans of other programs. And now that UW has dropped a conference game, Stanford is a legitimate threat in the North.

Given all of this, I’m officially giving back to David Shaw the Cardinal mascot. I’m sure he will be thrilled.

POG: WR JJ Arcega-White (6 recs, 112 yds, 2 TDs)

Arcega-White caught half of Chrysts attempted passes and turned two of them into TDs. Since I can’t give Love this award every week, I thought honoring a WR might be nice.

2. (12) Washington (6-1 / 3-1)

Washington 7, ASU 13

Serious injuries to Jordan Miller and Trey Adams along with ongoing offensive struggles and “slow starts” are sucking the oxygen out of the Huskies and their quest for a second playoff appearance.

Washington v Arizona State
Missing two chip shot field goals took six points off the board that proved to be the difference.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We learned during the ASU contest that the Dawgs are still an elite defense - less than four yards per play surrendered against the Devils - but that their passing game is in need of serious resuscitation. Jake Browning is terribly hesitant, the receiving corps is a disaster and the offensive line doesn't seem to be taking steps forward. That the Dawgs had to spend most of the third quarter in three tight end sets despite the fact that ASU rarely rushed more than four speaks volumes about the trust factor in the offensive line right now.

Still, UW sits in a strong position relative to the PAC. They only have one road contest remaining and could still create playoff buzz if both they and USC win out to meet on the P12CG.

POG: CB Myles Bryant (11 tackles,1 TFL, 1 PBU)

The Sun Devils came right after Bryant much of the night both in the passing game (with N’Keal Harry no less) and with the rush. Time after time, Bryant mad himself a factor in plays by beating his man 1:1 and making the tackle. How often is your CB your leading tackler? I thought he had yet another remarkable performance.

1.(11) USC (6-1 / 4-1)

Utah 27, USC 28

Hey everyone, guess what? Sam Darnold failed to throw an interception for the first time this season! Yay, Sam.

We will ignore for a moment that he still managed to lose three fumbles on the night. Details are for losers and football coaches who can't win in the desert (too soon?)

Regardless, the Trojans are in the pole position for the South title and for all intents and purposes eliminated Utah from the race. That's a good week’s worth of work and worthy of a bump to the one position in a conference that doesn't seem to have any stud teams.

POG: QB Sam Darnold (27-50, 358 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs)

I know. He sucked in the first half. And, I know, he gave away three fumbles. Still, that second half was all about him putting his team on his back and winning the game. Pure and simple.