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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings: Championship Week

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Stanford and USC will face off for the PAC 12 championship.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Southern California
Sam Darnold will lead the high-octane USC offense against Stanford in the PAC 12 championship.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s see. What is going on in the PAC this week?

Well, UCLA has hired Chip Kelly. That’s kind of a big deal.

ASU fired Todd Graham and has compiled a weird list of possible replacements. That was surprising (or not).

Oregon State kicked all of their assistant coaches to the curb, but still haven’t closed the deal on Beau Baldwin. We now have rumors of 70-year-old Dennis Erickson making a comeback with Jonathan Smith coming as a coach-in-waiting. Go figure.

Then there is the matter of this Friday. USC and Stanford will be playing in the least consequential PAC 12 championship game of the decade. I’m betting on the team in red. No, the other red.

Oh, and you may have seen that UW DESTROYED WSU IN THE APPLE CUP THEREBY RESTORING ORDER TO A CHAOTIC UNIVERSE AND INSPIRING A WHOLE NEW GENERATION OF CHILDREN TO GO TO THE UW SO THAT THEY CAN CURE CANCER, INVENT COLD FUSION, AND SOLVE WORLD PEACE.

That’s cool.

Speaking of which ...

The Cool Chart

Pac 12 Power Rankings: week 13
Chris Landon

Power Rankings

12. Oregon State (1-11 / 0-9)

OSU 10, Oregon 69

Not much you can say about this stinker. The Beavers were an unexpected hot mess from week 1a and haven’t relented in their suckiness one bit. It’s pretty clear that just about everybody plus the ball boy quit on interim head coach Cory Hall last weekend. That he was the only one asked to stay after every other assistant was told to clear out their offices may not mean much, but is an intriguing twist in what is becoming a very drawn-out coaching search.

POG: S David Morris (10 tackles, 2 TFLs)

Morris was a busy man on Saturday. At least he tried.

11. Colorado (5-7 / 2-7)

Colorado 13, Utah 34

I don’t believe that too many people who have watched Colorado disappoint game after game this year were holding out hope that a bowl game was in their future before they fell to Utah. This was just one of those weird transitional seasons where too much turnover and too many bad breaks seemed to hold the team back.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah
It has been a long season for coach Mac.
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not there is a hangover going into next year remains to be seen. I’d be wary of it given the fact that the players and coaches all had much higher hopes for this season.

POG: LB Drew Lewis (11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL)

Lewis hasn’t had quite the impact this season that I thought he would have after having such a strong camp. But the senior certainly delivered big in what is likely the last game of his football career.

10. California (5-7 / 2-7)

Cal 27, UCLA 30

So close, but not really.

The Bears gave UCLA just about everything they could handle, but ultimately succumbed to a last-second field goal on their way to postseason elimination at the hands of their UC system rival.

But the book is not closed on Cal. Justin Wilcox put up a much better debut season than anyone expected and demonstrated to future recruits that Cal really is not that far away. If he can keep his coaching staff together, they have a chance to take a big step forward next year.

POG: Patrick Laird (32 rushes, 177 yards)

This guy is the heart and soul of this team. 32 rushes for 177 yards? Grit and grind, baby. This is not your mother’s Golden Bears.

9. UCLA (6-6 / 4-5)

Cal 27, UCLA 30

Jedd Fisch is now 1-0 as a head coach and has earned himself the opportunity to get a second win.

It is amazing what can happen when your five-star QB decides to throw passes to his five-star WR and hands it off to his five-star RB who runs behind his five-star offensive lineman.

Oh, and hey there Chip Kelly. Welcome back to college football and “friendships, relationships and championships” (be honest, did John Canzano write that for you?).

Things are going to get fun in Westwood.

POG: WR Jordan Lasley (12 catches, 221 yards, 1 TD)

Lasley, when he has his head on straight and isn’t being an idiot, can be a downright dominating receiver. He was clearly the difference in what was otherwise an evenly matched and highly contested battle with Cal.

8. Arizona (7-5 / 5-4)

Arizona 30, Arizona State 42

The Wildcats finish up the PAC 12 regular season as one of only five teams to have a winning record in conference. That is a remarkable accomplishment given how young this team is and how beat up it was going into the end of the year.

Still, the loss to ASU in the Territorial Cup is a huge disappointment. The difference between 6-3 and 5-4 seems to be the difference between being viewed as an “upper tier” PAC 12 team versus an “muddled middle” team.

Rich Rod can rightly claim that the Wildcats exceeded expectations for the year. And they still have the opportunity to set up Khalil Tate for a 2018 Heisman run with a big bowl game. But, for now, they are middle of the PAC player in our Power Rankings.

POG: LB Colin Schooler (13 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs)

We haven’t had a the chance to call out Schooler too many times this season. That the is the curse of being a MLB on a young and marginal defense. But this guy along with LB Tony Fields and CG Lorenzo Burns is part of a freshman nucleus that is well on its way to making Arizona relevant as a defense. Great game for him.

7. Arizona State (7-5 / 4-5)

Arizona 30, Arizona State 42

Just when you think things can’t get any more strange in the desert ...

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State
This is the last picture I’ll ever post of Todd Graham. Probably. I wanted to make it a good one. I’ll sure miss the Madonna head set.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ASU storms from behind to win the Territorial Cup against as a home dog only to wake up the next morning to find their head coach fired and rumors of guys ranging in styles from Jimmy Lake to Herm Edwards being in line to take over next.

This program just seems like it is always in flux and just waiting to break out.

POG: N’Keal Harry

Harry has been a regular feature in our weekly POGs and, frankly, I’m wondering if he isn’t the most deserving offensive player-of-the-year candidate in the conference.

6. Utah (6-6 / 3-6)

Colorado 13, Utah 34

I think most of us kind of saw this one coming. Utah seemed to have been gaining momentum slowly but surely since the return to the lineup of QB Tyler Huntley. Colorado seemed to be playing out the motions. Some good QB play, some tough running by RB Zach Moss and, most importantly, a return to form by that Ute D-Line all came together to make Utah bowl eligible.

I’m giving them the nod over ASU here based on momentum—and the fact that they have a head coach. Let’s see if this remains true after Texas A&M AD Scott Woodward completes his job search.

POG: LB Cody Barton (10 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs, 1 PBU)

This was a dominating day for Barton, the likes of which we’ve not seen from a Utah LB yet this season.

5. Oregon (7-5 / 4-5)

OSU 10, Oregon 69

I’m not sure if it was completely satisfying ... but WOW! A 35 point second quarter? 69 points overall? Two 100 yard rushers (Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit) and one 100 yard receiver (Dillon Mitchell)? 9 TFLs, 2 INTs, and 1 FF?

It was a complete rout on both sides of the ball in a rivalry game. I’d consider that at least “mostly” satisfying.

Now Oregon fans just need to hang on and see if their coach is still with them when they take the field in whichever lower-tier bowl game picks them up.

POG: RB Royce Freeman (19 rushes, 122 yds, 2 TDs)

The PAC 12’s all-time leading rushing scorer (ironically beating former OSU RB Ken Simonton’s record) wrapped up his last regular season as a Duck in style. I’m not exactly sure if he’ll pull a Leonard Fournette and forgo his bowl game, but he certainly has nothing left to prove at the college level. He leaves Oregon as one of only four RBs in NCAA history to have amassed over 5,000 yards rushing and 800 yards receiving. We won’t see another one like him.

Thank God.

4. (21) Washington State (9-3 / 6-3)

WSU 14, UW 41

It would be easy to pile on here and drop WSU below Oregon. I could, in fact, think of no greater insult.

The truth is, however, that WSU has earned not only the four spot in the power rankings but recognition of being the last of the “tier 1” PAC teams of 2017. The results speak for themselves.

Saturday was simply one of those days for the Cougs. Road trips are inherently difficult for any PAC 12 team, but especially so for the Cougs. Add to that the inherent matchup advantages that UW’s defense has against WSU and their style of offense (a deep secondary paired with a D-line that collapses down on pocket passers from the middle of the line), and you have a recipe for the kind of beatings that UW has laid on WSU each of the past few years.

The question on the table for WSU is how they will bounce back as they head into a bowl game that might be somewhat below the stature expectations many fans held prior to the Apple Cup. You can expect a pretty good B1G team to oppose them, so they don’t have the luxury of taking their time to get ready.

POG: P Erik Powell (4 punts, 53 yd avg, 2 i20, 3 50+ yarders)

It might seem like I’m rubbing salt in the wound by calling out the punter as the POG, but Powell was really good. This is all the more impressive given how badly he had played all season up until the Apple Cup.

3. (13) Washington (10-2 / 7-2)

WSU 14, UW 41

Washington wraps the regular season as the #3 team in the PAC 12 power rankings. The blowout of Washington State in the Apple Cup was a great pick-me-up for a team that needed to show that they were still capable of dominating other ranked teams. It was also a reminder of just how good this team can be when the defense is creating chaos and the offensive line is winning its one-on-one matchups.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington
You may have heard of Myles Gaskin. He’s good.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

There are still warts, to be sure. Jake Browning didn’t need his arm in this one, but it is undoubtedly disappointing to many that his follow-up to the Utah game was a 93-yard stinker with a YPA of less than 5.5. This has irritated the small-but-vocal segment of the fanbase that thinks UW’s record-setting QB is holding back the rest of the team.

Fortunately, the UW receiving corps has some serious talent coming back next year (hello Hunter Bryant, Chico McClatcher, and Ty Jones) not to mention the arrival of some high potential redshirts and true freshman (e.g. Terrell Bynum, Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne). It was really good to see Ty Jones have his best game of the season both in terms of targets and catches (and the onside kick recovery) even if the total output was muted.

POG: Vita Vea (stats are for losers and quarterbacks)

Special tip o’ the cap to RB Myles Gaskin (192 yds, 4 TDs, PAC 12 OPOW) for an unbelievable rushing performance behind the unbelievable blocking of C Coleman Shelton. But, let’s be honest, Vita Vea was the story of the game. He absolutely wrecked every single one of WSU’s attempts at double- and triple-teaming him, allowing UW to generate a ridiculous amount of pocket pressure on QB Luke Falk, mostly just rushing three-man fronts. That pressure turned into four Falk turnovers and a YPA that was under 5.5 (until some garbage time stats were counted in). It was one of the most dominating displays that we’ve ever seen from one of the most dominating linemen ever to have donned a UW jersey.

2. (14) Stanford (9-3 / 7-2)

Notre Dame 20, Stanford 38

I think we can say that the Cardinal have found their QB. A breakout performance by K.J. Costello, a gritty performance by RB Bryce Love, and a dominating performance by the UW defense in the Apple Cup conspired to provide Stanford fans with one helluva great final day of the season.

It’s also appropriate, I think, to call out the Stanford defense. The progress that this unit has made as the season wore on, especially considering all of the injury problems that they’ve endured in the secondary, has really buoyed an offense that has been inconsistent at best. Holding #8 Notre Dame to 20 points and then providing the game-turning interception (thank you, LB Curtis Robinson) that triggered the three TD outburst in the fourth quarter is indicative of just how far they’ve come.

Whether they can carry that momentum all the way through the PAC 12 championship remains to be seen. But they are peaking at the right time.

POG: QB K.J. Costello (14/22, 176 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs)

I don’t think you can get a whole lot more efficient than 4 TDs on 22 attempts. Granted, several of those balls were jump balls thrown to his very tall receivers. But give the kid credit for putting his receivers in a position to make a play. His last two predecessors could not get that done.

1. (11) USC (10-2 / 8-1)

BYE

Have fun in the PAC 12 championship, Clay Helton. Your fans still want to fire you, but you have earned the right to tell them all to go sit and spin.