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PAC 12 Power Rankings and Recap: Week 2

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USC steps up.

Stanford v USC
USC made a big leap in the power rankings this week.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Another exciting week in the PAC 12. USC took control of their own destiny. Oregon continued their momentum with a big win over a Big Ten foe. Utah beat out an unholy rival in the Holy War. WSU won a thriller in overtime with an unlikely hero. UCLA, UW and Colorado did what they do.

Let’s sort this stuff out.

The Cool Chart

Week 2 PAC 12 Power Rankings
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings

12. Oregon State (1-2 / 0-0)

Last Result: Minnesota 48, Oregon State 14

Is there a team more looking forward to in-conference play than the Beavers? Images of boats rowing all over the rain-sodden Reser Stadium are sure to stick in the craws of OSU coaches as they try to process the disaster that befell them last weekend.

Weather aside - and it was wet - the Beavers look like a lost team. We can harp on the issues that they are having at QB with a very stiff looking Jake Luton . Or we can bemoan the inability to get off the field on third downs (Minnesota converted 70% of their attempts). Or we can complain about the lack of a rushing attack (80 team rushing yards).

But it ultimately comes down to some pretty severe lapses on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The offensive line looks truly abominable right now and cannot seem to do anything in either pass or run blocking. The d-line looks just as much in shambles with disruptiveness and no sacks to their credit last weekend. Until these issues get fixed - and they may well be personnel issues - the outlook looks bleak in Corvallis.

Player of the Game: MLB Manase Hungalu (10 tackles)

With a nod to S David Morris (17 tackles), I thought that Hungalu was the most dialed in and high-energy player on the field for OSU on Saturday. He had to back up that poo-show of a d-line and he did it with energy and hustle. His 10 tackles are a testament to that.

11. Arizona State (1-1, 0-0)

Last Result: San Diego State 30, Arizona State 20

Let the Todd Graham watch officially begin.

I don’t really have a ton of offensive complaints about ASU at this point. They are handicapped with a poor offensive line despite the emergence of Manny Wilkins and some of his receiving threats (welcome to your 15 mins of fame Frank Darby!). My issue really is with what is happening on the defensive side of the ball.

SDSU came out with a game plan to neutralize ASU’s pass rush by effectively taking the ball out of their QB’s hands and putting into the hands of RB Rashad Penny. Penny would go on to destroy ASU scoring all three of SDSU’s TDs (one each by rush, reception and KO return).

That Graham could come up with no answer to contain SDSU’s rushing attack or even to neutralize Penny and to make someone else beat them is yet another flag of caution for fans of the Sun Devils. The clock is ticking in Tempe.

Player of the Game: WR Frank Darby (3 recs, 111 yards, 1 TD)

Opponents keep keying on WR N’Keal Harry and QB Manny Wilkins (who is really blossoming right now) keeps making them pay. Last weekend, it was the gritty Frank Darby who made the big plays on his way to POG honors.

10. Arizona (1-1 / 0-0)

Last Result: Houston 19, Arizona 16

The loss by the Wildcats means that the state of Arizona was 0-2 in PAC 12 games hosted within the state.

Arizona put up some fight against a pretty good Houston team. I was surprised by both the offense (or lack thereof) and the defense (better than expected) put up by the Wildcats. That they couldn’t pull off what would have been a pretty good win against Houston is disappointing and, I think, a sign of the struggles still to come.

Houston v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

To make things more difficult, Arizona now has a QB controversy. Khalil Tate was brought in to relieve starter Brandon Dawkins in the fourth quarter with an Arizona comeback fully in play. But his late INT sealed the deal for Major Applewhite’s Houston team. How this plays out over the course of this week remains to be seen.

Player of the Game: CB Lorenzo Burns (7 tackles, 1 INT)

Burns made the huge play in the fourth quarter to put the comeback on the table for Rich Rod. He was also a factor throughout the game with his sure tackling.

9. California (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Weber State 20, Cal 33

There is a clear separation in the tiers of the PAC 12 teams between #9 and #10 in this poll. Surprisingly, Cal is on the better side of that equation.

However, the glow of their major upset over North Carolina in Week 1 may have dimmed a bit given UNC’s clobbering at the hands of Louisville last weekend and with Cal’s ok-but-not-impressive win over Weber State.

Let’s be clear here, Cal had a three point deficit going into the fourth quarter, surrendered nearly 10 yards per attempt to a FCS QB not named Vernon Adams and had to be carried to victory by a former walk-on. So I’m not really going to entertain a “Cal is ranked too low” argument here (shocking, I know). I’m particularly concerned with three areas: secondary play, musical chairs at RB and a poor follow up at the QB position for Ross Bowers. We’ll have to watch these things as the next few weeks play out.

Still, a win is a win.

Player of the Game: RB Patrick Laird (12 carries, 191 yds, 3 TDs)

Laird was nearly half of Cal’s total offense against an FCS team that held the lead early in the fourth quarter. His contributions were critical given how little else was working for the Bears. Did he save the game for Cal? Maybe.

8. Utah (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Utah 19, BYU 16

I’m still not sure what to make of Utah quite yet. I do know that it is hard to draw conclusions from rivalry games, especially ones that are played on the road. Still, there are some early season trends that I’m picking up on.

Utah v BYU
QB Tyler Huntley carried Utah to victory in the Holy War.
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

On the good side, I think the d-line is showing what we thought they’d show. Lowell Lotulelei has been very good and has been complemented well by Kylie Fitts and Leki Fotu. Darren Carrington has been a revelation at WR. I also think we are seeing what QB Tyler Huntley brings to the equation with both his arms and his legs. In fact, his 389 yards passing/running was pretty much the entirety of the Utah offense against BYU.

On the flip side, there are some issues. I don’t like that no other receivers are emerging and I’m concerned that Zack Moss (11 rushes, 21 yards) by himself isn’t good enough an option at RB. I also don’t think that Huntley can keep playing this style in PAC 12 play and remain out of the emergency room. Finally, 22 penalties in two games is a pretty shocking stat from a Kyle Whittingham team.

I need to see more before I get on this bus.

Player of the Game: QB Tyler Huntley (389 total yards, 1 TD)

I almost went with Lotulelei here ... he was dominating even if his stats don’t show it. But 300 yards passing, 89 yards rushing and Utah’s only TD made this pick somewhat easy. Bottom line is that Troy Williams probably loses this game for Utah.

7. #19 Stanford (1-1 / 0-1)

Last Result: Stanford 24, USC 48

I told you all last week: you were ranking Stanford too high.

In seriousness, this is where things start to get difficult in the power rankings. Stanford is clearly NOT the “seventh best” team in the PAC. However, opening up with a loss to USC probably takes Stanford out of playoff contention and certainly puts them at a disadvantage in the race for the PAC 12 North. Those are relevant factors in assessing the “momentum” portion of our subjective ranking methodology.

I also have to say that the poor showing by Keller Chryst was something between “disappointing” and “shocking”. He looked horrible behind an offensive line that was dominated by a USC front seven that I still consider good-not-great. I also am stunned to see a so-called “physical” Stanford team give up 623 yards in total offense - the most a David Shaw team has ever surrendered. Of particular concern here was the secondary - the supposed strength of the defense - that was absolutely shredded by the USC receiving corps.

There are warning flags here.

Player of the Game: RB Bryce Love (17 carries, 160 yds, 1 TD)

Not only was Love the best player on the field for Stanford, he may have been the only guy who showed up anywhere on the roster. Maybe you could throw some love to true freshman Conor Wedington - he acquitted himself pretty well against his first test against serious competition. Still, Love was a man on an island out there and he stepped up. He ran tough and showed his explosiveness with his 75 yard jaunt.

6. Colorado (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Texas State 3, Colorado 37

More of the same for Colorado. The defense looks good. The offense looks questionable. Shay Fields is an excellent receiver. Phillip Lindsay is the heart of the team.

Beyond that, I can’t tell a lot about where Colorado actually stands relative to rest of the PAC.

Player of the Game: DE Leo Jackson III (5 tackles, 3 sacks)

Tough call here between Jackson and DB Evan Worthington (9 tckls, 2 TFLs, 1 PD) who was probably involved in more of the overall game. But 3 sacks is 3 sacks. Jackson looked good.

5. Oregon (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Nebraska 35, Oregon 42

The good news here is that Oregon outscored Nebraska by 28 points in the first half. The bad news is that the Ducks were stonewalled and outscored by 21 by the Huskers in the second half. That they held on to win a game that could easily have been TAMU’ed away is a testament to Jim Leavitt and his young defense. But it makes it hard to read exactly where Oregon is at.

One thing that we can say is that QB Justin Herbert is the real deal. He terrorized Nebraska and makes pretty average receivers look very good. I really like the way he is spreading the ball around showing a kind of trust in his group that even Jake Browning hasn’t yet achieved. If you are going to start a rebuild, QB is the best place to do it.

Player of the Game: QB Justin Herbert (25 / 33, 365 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT)

Credit to RB Royce Freeman for a great game and CB Ugo Amadi for making the game saving INT in the fourth, but this was a real demonstration by Herbert. I’m very impressed with him.

4. #21 Washington State (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Boise State 44, WSU 47 (3 OT)

If this had been a convincing win pulled off in regulation, I might have been inclined to bump the Cougs up to the three spot. That said, a thrilling triple OT game against a good Boise team is nothing to sneeze at. This was a good win for the Cougs.

Surprisingly, it was QB Tyler Hillinski who came in for an injured Luke Falk who triggered the comeback. After a slow start, he triggered the comeback that saw WSU close a 21 point deficit in the fourth quarter. That Falk stayed on the sideline despite looking like he could’ve come back in the game is sure to generate some debate this week. But the results can’t be denied.

Player of the Game: QB Tyler Hillinski (25/33, 240 yds, 3 TDs)

Let’s face it, Hillinski was the better QB of the two and I’m not even sure its that close. The bloom is really falling off of the Luke Falk rose given how tentative he seems to be with the ball and his inability to push the ball downfield. Hillinski gave an immediate spark and showed that WSU’s receivers might be getting more open than Falk thinks. I’m sure Falk will get the chance to get his job back, but it was telling that Leach said after the came that they wanted to be “careful” with their senior QB. When has Mike Leach ever been “careful” about anything?

3. #25 UCLA (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Hawai’i 23, UCLA 56

Not much to see here. UCLA pretty much had their way with Hawai’i in just about every phase of the game. The defense looked good. WR Theo Howard emerged as a new weapon. WR Darren Andrews continued to be one. TE Caleb Wilson kept marching along in his journey towards becoming the top tight end in the conference. Along the way, they had the opportunity to give a lot of players important reps.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention that Josh Rosen fellow. 22 for 25 for 329 yards and 5 touchdowns. That’s not too bad.

The one cause for concern continues to be the rushing attack. In a strange twist, Nate Starks got the start. After having seen him replace Bolu Olorunfunmi in the last game, I was surprised to not see Sosa Jamabo get that job. Of course, hearing that Jamabo, WR Jordan Lasley and DT Boss Tagaloa were “unavailable” for the game might have had something to do with it. Regardless, something is still amiss in the UCLA backfield.

Nevertheless, the epic comeback against TAMU didn’t really leave a hangover. UCLA looks solid and ready to roll.

Player of the Game: QB Josh Rosen (329 yards passing, 5 TDs, no INTs, 13.2 YPA)

Over his last six quarters of football, Josh Rosen has been far and away the best QB not just in the PAC 12 but in the nation. And that is adjusting for competition.

His stat lines reads 41 for 51, 621 yards, 9 TDs, 0 INTs, and 12.2 YPA. I get that not all of those passes were pitch perfect … but that is insane production against two FBS level foes.

2. #6 Washington (2-0 / 0-0)

Last Result: Montana 7, Washington 63

I think things are looking pretty good at Montlake right now. While there isn’t too much you can draw from a matchup against an FCS opponent, it is pretty hard to look at what transpired on Saturday and not conclude that just about everything is falling into place for UW. The defense didn’t allow an offensive score against Montana. The passing game is starting to expand beyond just Dante Pettis. The rushing attack is continuing to roll. QB Jake Browning is looking like his old efficient self, seemingly making the right decision on just about every RPO play and even showing off his wheels a little bit.

Montana v Washington
Will Dissly was carrying his Montana brethren all over Montlake last Saturday.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

UW is putting a lot of new looks on tape right now – Browning running the read/option, Salvon Ahmed playing a jack-of-all-trades role, some new trick plays and, yes, tight ends as receiving options. There is a lot there for UW opponents to absorb. Just as Chris Petersen likes it.

Player of the Game: TE Will Dissly (5 rec, 79 yards, 2 TDs)

The senior tight end had never caught five passes in a season before last weekend. Now he’s showing up like the second coming of Mark Bruener. Could you imagine the terror that must have flashed in the minds of Montana’s defensive backs when the saw the picture of UW’s 270 pound “blocking” tight end rumbling down the field?


There were a lot of good candidates for UW in this one: Browning, Ahmed, Justiss Warren got two sacks in garbage time, Byron Murphy just missed another two INTs, and WR Andre Baccellia seems to have found a bond with his QB. But how can we miss the opportunity to honor the one-time Montana state player of the year after his career performance against his home town team?

1. #4 USC (2-0 / 1-0)

Last Result: Stanford 24, USC 48

USC jumps to the top spot after dismantling one of the PAC’s better teams in a pretty one-sided affair. After a bit of a rocky start against Western Michigan the week before, the rust was firmly shaken off of the Trojan machine. QB Sam Darnold suffered two INTs, but was otherwise efficient in getting the ball spread across all of his playmakers. Meanwhile, RB Stephen Carr continues to emerge as a future star for Tailback U.

Most impressive to me was the physicality in which USC applied their beat down. Their O-Line flat out whipped Stanford’s front seven much of the night. Their defensive backs completely took Stanford’s receivers out of the game. And their edge rushers were very aggressive.

To my eye, I still think USC has a few more questions to answer than UW – particularly in their defensive front seven. But the offense has put up 91 points and over 1100 yards over the past two games. In terms of power rankings, though, this win is a clear tie-breaker. USC has taken the first big step in getting into the PAC 12 championship and building their playoff resume.

Player of the Game: DE Uchenna Nwosu (4 tckls, 1 sack, 5 PBUs)

If you watched the game, you probably noticed what seemed like an ungodly number of Keller Chryst passes batted down at the line of the scrimmage. In fact, there were seven such passes. Seven!!! Five of those were delivered by Uchenna Nwosu. I don’t believe that I’ve ever come across such a stat. Commemorating it with POG honors seems to make sense.