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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings: Week 6

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A new star shatters record books, ESPN shatters the illusion of impartiality and two undefeated teams remain.

NCAA Football: California at Washington
It’s UW vs the world.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

You know where we have to start this week’s PAC 12 roundup.

ESPN’s full frontal assault on UW, Chris Petersen and the PAC 12 in general was a shameless display that seized control of Saturday’s college football narrative and didn’t let go of it until sometime around 2am Sunday morning, just as UW’s game against Cal was wrapping up.

The day started with Kirk Herbstreit’s misplaced rant on College Gameday. The issue was kept alive by various commentators throughout that broadcast and only seemed to gain momentum as the topic was raised during telecasts of several other games. Fuel got dumped on the fire when ESPN’s trotted out PAC 12 commissioner Larry Scott to do “damage control” during the Husky game and force fed him talking points that the network wanted to get across. ESPN’s sideline reporter for the UW game took the drama a step further with his not-funny bit with the cupcakes. KJR’s Softy Mahler reported afterwards that the very same sideline reporter told him that “Chris Petersen needed to stay in his lane” and then begged Softy to treat that as an off-the-record comment.

If anybody was previously holding on to any illusion that ESPN is an impartial steward who puts the interests of the schools and student athletes (who, incidentally, line it’s P&L with huge revenues) at the forefront, consider yourself enlightened.

An issue that Chris Petersen raised with a focus on the gameday experience for fans who he wants to see come to Husky Stadium on Saturdays has now ballooned into an all-out war. ESPN has declared as much and has put their machine to work to discredit both the UW program and, by extension, the accomplishments being put forth by teams like WSU, Stanford (and Bryce Love) and USC.

So, what else is going on in the PAC?

  • WSU’s win over Oregon makes them bowl eligible and answered any questions about whether or not WSU ought to be in the national conversation. Their ranking at #8 is curious to me given the fact that Wisconsin (#7) has not beaten a single ranked team and that TCU’s (#6) big win was over an OKST team ranked lower than US. I supposed WSU ought to just be thankful to be ranked at all. Right Kirk Herbstreit?
  • Khalil Tate had a record-setting day (more on that below) that thrust his name into the same conversation as guys like Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Marques Tuiasosopo, Michael Vick, Robert Griffin and Fran Tarkenton. The big question now: does Arizona have a QB controversy
  • Just two teams in the PAC - and just 13 in the nation - remain undefeated. UW and WSU are setting the standard for the conference and, in fact, joined just five other programs in becoming bowl eligible this past weekend.
  • Falling to 0-3 in the conference has made Colorado an interesting story. They are no longer a threat to win the division, but they may very well become a bit of a spoiler to teams remaining on their schedule. That list includes WSU, USC and Utah.
  • Outside of the PAC, the big news were the upsets of Oklahoma and Michigan by Iowa State (a 33.5 point underdog!) and Michigan State, respectively. These developments are huge for the PAC 12 in that they both significantly ding the resumes of any B1G and Big 12 champions. That both OU and Michigan still have the opportunity to take out other playoff contenders like Ohio State, TCU and Penn State also remains a tantalizing prospect for PAC 12 fans.

On with the rankings.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Power Rankings - Week 6
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings - week 6

12. Oregon State (1-5 / 0-3)

OSU 10, USC 38

The Beavers are still in there fighting which, I think, is a testament to the way Gary Andersen conducts himself,and his staff. In fact, you could make the argument that the Beaver defense is really showing marked improvement after having run a gauntlet of UW and USC.

POG: LB Manase Hungalu (8 tackles, 1 INT)

Hungalu can't do it all by himself, but he keeps grinding in the middle of that OSU defense. He was once again the best player on the field for the Beavs.

11. California (3-3 / 0-3)

Cal 7, Washington 38

The question on the table after the beat down that Cal suffered at UW is whether or not there is enough juice left in the roster to get to bowl eligibility. The Bears continue to effectively execute big play prevention on defense, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot if they can’t get defensive stops or if they can’t score. With all of their injuries - a list that includes guys like WR Demetris Robertson, RB Patrick Laird, WR Melquise Stovall and RB Tre Watson - and a porous offensive line, I’m not sure that there is a fix in the near future.

NCAA Football: California at Washington
Justin Wilcox has his hands full in coaxing three more wins out of this Cal roster.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
POG: DL Tevin Paul (3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs)

Paul is a 270 lb interior lineman that, let’s face it, got his ass handed to him on several of the rotational snaps he took on Saturday night. But hell if that kid didn’t get back up every single play. As a redshirt freshman reserve, I thought that he played without fear and made some plays. I think that deserves recognition and is a sign of the new attitude that the Cal staff is instilling in Berkeley.

10. Oregon (4-2 / 1-2)

WSU 30, Oregon 10

Remember this?

LGB just about took Byron Hout’s head off in a game in 2009 (edited for entertainment effect)

You have to go all they way back to the first game of the 2009 season - before the era where Legarrette Blount was a washed up, 30-something NFL QB - to find the last time an Oregon Ducks team was held to 10 points or less in a game.

Though Royce Freeman’s availability in this one was a pleasant surprise, it is obvious the Ducks passing game - already lacking playmakers at receiver - is pretty much nothing with Justin Herbert. You have to give the Ducks D some kudos. They performed admirably against the surging Cougs. But until Herbert returns, Eugene will be known as the home of the Oregon Sitting Ducks..

POG: DE Jalen Jelks (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL)

One stat that jumped out at me was that the Duck D was able to hold the Cougs to just 10 points off of the three turnovers the offense surrendered. Jalen Jelks was a big part of that as a disruptor playing in both that classic 3T role as well as an edge contain guy. He was a big part of what was an effective rush defense.

9. Colorado (3-3 / 0-3)

Arizona 45, Colorado 42

Colorado is certainly not the 9th best team in the conference. But the hole they’ve dug is so deep that getting all the way back out may not be an option.

I feel for coach Mac. For the most part, the Buffs were good across all of their units. The one contingency that they failed to account for was the impact of the backup QB once he got into the game. Everything else - the pass defense, running back containment, offense, then kicking game - was executed pretty well.

It's a real hard pill for CU fans to have to swallow.

POG: RB Phillip Lindsay (41 carries, 281 yards, 3TDs)

Lindsay was a true workhorse back on Saturday night. His 281 yards were a career high and the fourth most in program history. He now is fifth in the nation in rushing.

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

Arizona 45, Colorado 42

Raise your hand if you saw Khalil Tate coming. The sophomore QB entered early into the game against Colorado in relief of a dinged up Brandon Dawkins and went on to rewrite some record books. His 327 yards rushing set a new NCAA yardage mark for rushes by a QB. More importantly, his five total TDs covered up just about every other wart the Wildcats had on display that night.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Colorado
Khalil Tate for Heisman.
Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

I suspect Dawkins will be back in there next week, but for now the Wildcats can enjoy a bump in the power poll following their first conference win of the season.

POG: Khalil Tate (327 yds rush, 11/12, 141 yds passing, 5 total TDs).

Yeah, well duh.

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

BYE

Nice BYE week for ASU. I’m sure that they enjoyed staying up late and watching what UW’s defense did to the Cal offense. I’ll venture a guess that all of them woke up this morning and headed out to practice holding hands and professing their thanks to ESPN and to the football gods for putting the Huskies on their schedule next.

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

BYE

UCLA also benefits from the misfortunes of others as they move a couple spots up the power rankings. Whether by default or because you earned it, a move up is a move up.

5. (23) Utah (4-1 / 1-1)

Stanford 23, Utah 20

I suppose we all saw this coming with Utah. That they got this far with so few options on offense is a testament both to just how good Utah’s defense is and how huge the Darren Carrington addition has been.

But Stanford presented Utah with a challenge they haven't faced yet - a power rushing team that is careful with the ball and is about as strong defensively.

I think we know what Utah is by now. Their defense is going to keep them in the game on most nights (384 yards to Stanford is pretty good) and the offense has to be smart with the ball so that they can get the occasional big play out of Carrington and so they can win the field position game with Mitch Wishnowsky. It's not sexy, but it’ll keep them in the race for the South.

POG: LB Sunia Tauteoli (11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs)

Utah’s leading tackler had the responsibility for getting Bryce Love on the ground whenever he had the opportunity. For the most part he did that with a few of his tackles happening behind the line of scrimmage.

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

Stanford 23, Utah 20

Interesting to see Stanford go back to Keller Chryst in their big win against Utah Saturday Night. The Fightin’ Love, of course, emphasized establishing the running game against their South division rivals and had success. That Chryst didn’t ruin it is progress. Of course, KJ Costello also got snaps in the game. So I guess you could say that the Stanford Love have themselves a bit of a controversy.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Utah
The Stanford Love are climbing back up in the rankings.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless, I think we have a pretty good handle on what kind of team Stanford is going to be. The only question is how much better can the defense get as the temperatures begin to dip and the depth chart gets healthier.

POG: DB Quenton Meeks (4 tackles, 1 INT)

Meeks came back after nursing some minor injuries and took on much of the responsibility for containing Utah standout Darren Carrington. He fared very well in that task before saving the game for the Love with a huge fourth quarter interception that ended what certainly was going to be a Utes scoring drive.

3. (13) USC (5-1 / 3-1)

Oregon State 10, USC 38

The Trojans definitely got a bit more right on offense after having been embarrassed by WSU a week ago. QB Sam Darnold averaged 9 yards an attempt and was helped immensely by both the return of Steven Mitchell, Jr and the continued emergence of WR Tyler Vaughns. He was responsible for yet another two turnovers (a fumble and INT) which is a drag on the overall performance of the team.

For now the Trojans are back in a good place and, thanks to the Utah loss, are in the driver’s seat for the South title.

POG: S Marvell Tell (10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)

It was hard to pick one standout from this unit. The junior safety Marvell Tell had a good game. He was used as an extra man in the box for much of the game and seemed to get in on a lot of plays.

2. (9) Washington State (6-0 / 3-0)

WSU 30, Oregon 10

The Cougs are doing it with defense. I get that playing an Oregon offense without a serviceable QB is kind of like trying to hit a Clayton Kershaw slider with a broomstick. But the Cougs did what they needed to do. They completely took the Ducks running attack away from them and forced Oregon to try to beat them with a true freshman QB in his first start and a receiving corps who are down to a backup safety, a blocking tight-end and the waterboy.

That’s what good teams do.

I’m still a little concerned about the WSU offense. They really can’t seem to generate much by way of explosive plays and QB Luke Falk continues to not try to push the issue. 6.7 yards per attempt isn't usually associated with productive offense. His traditional stats look great, but he really isn’t doing much to help WSU win games. This remains a situation to watch.

POG: S Hunter Dal (10 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 FF)

Huge game for Dale and the entire WSU D. His 10 tackles led the team and he had one of the four WSU sacks on the game. His FF on Braxton Burmeister in the third quarter pretty much ended the game.

1. (5) Washington (6-0 / 3-0)

Cal 7, UW 38
NCAA Football: California at Washington
Can anyone score on this UW defense? BBK says “I can tackle you with my eyes covered”
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies just keep rolling. The defense continues to choke out opponents at a ridiculous rate. Against Cal, they pitched their second defensive shutout of the season (Cal’s TD came from a fumble return), barely allowed the Bears to even cross midfield until late in the contest, and didn’t allow Cal to even hit 100 yards in total offense. What!?!. Vita Vea, Greg Gaines and the entire middle of the Husky D were dominating.

Offensively, the big plays continue to be an area of struggle. Luckily, the Huskies efficiency continues to be excellent. Hunter Bryant emerged in a big way as a receiver and seems to be Browning’s clear “#2” guy.

With four of the remaining six games at home and a top 5 position in the AP poll, UW is sitting pretty..

POG: TE Hunter Bryant (9 recs, 121 yda, 1 TD)

I thought for a hot second about celebrating Jusstis Warren’s TD out of the fullback position, but I can’t ignore Bryant’s contributions. The true frosh TE is really emerging as a receiver in the offense and was clearly a “first option” for Browning on a half a dozen plays. I had suspected that Bryant would be a matchup problem for Cal. That he broke out in such a big way is very welcome news.