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PAC 12 Roundup and Power Rankings: Week 7

The playoffs are out but the Ducks are back.

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Sand sharks are interesting creatures. Female sand sharks are generally about eight feet long. When they reproduce, females will gestate for about a year and then, typically, give birth to a pair of baby sharks. I use the term “babies” loosely here because the typical newborn sand shark is already 3.5 feet long and able to hunt on its own almost immediately.

What is interesting about sand sharks isn’t that they can feed just after birth. In fact, the most interesting thing about sand sharks is that they feed before birth. You see, most females will have upwards around 12 fetuses competing for the right to be born. The fetuses will typically feed on the unfertilized eggs in addition to each other until there are just two remaining. This kind of in utero competitive cannibalism is great for the surviving shark(s), but does not help to aggressively perpetuate the interests of the species as a whole.

Teams in the PAC 12 are like unborn sand shark babies. They constantly feed on each other to the detriment of the league as a whole. This past weekend is a great example of PAC 12 cannibalism. With the defeat of Washington at the hands of Oregon, the PAC 12 has assured itself that there will not be a playoff team out of the conference for the second straight year and the third time in the past four. In addition to that we saw a two-loss USC team take out the PAC’s last remaining undefeated team and a zero-win UCLA team blow up a three-win Cal team in Berkely.

Parity in the PAC is a well understood dynamic. It has been present in the league just about every season since Oregon’s undefeated run of 2010. This parity isn’t restricted to just the “muddled middle” of the conference. In just the past few years, we’ve seen big upsets every year such as:

  • Arizona State upsetting UW in Tempe in 2017
  • WSU destroy Stanford in 2016
  • an unranked Stanford whipped #6 USC in 2015
  • Utah upset #8 UCLA in 2014

These kinds of outcomes are definitely part of the charm of the conference, but also one of the biggest detractors in establishing a strong, national reputation. It has been observed by many analysts that the conference is very committed to this kind of parity and, in fact, does not follow the blueprint that other conferences use in trying to give its better teams fair chances to avoid these kinds of pitfalls through how they schedule.

Consider this:

There is a real debate to be had as to whether or not the manner in which the conference schedules is in the best interests of the conference itself. However, there is no doubt that week 7 is just another example of a long west coast tradition of eating your own.

Let’s see how this cannibalization affects this week’s power rankings, shall we?

The Cool Chart

Week 7 PAC 12 Power Rankings
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings: Week 7

12. Arizona (3-4 / 2-2)

Arizona 10, Utah 42

The biggest loss of this one wasn’t on the scoreboard. When Khalil Tate went limping off the field, so did Arizona’s hopes of getting back into the post-season. Tate’s ankle injury is officially “day to day”. However, he’s been dealing with that ankle all season and this aggravating incident does not bode well for a near-term recovery.

NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona
Is Rhett Rodriguez destined to be the face of the Wildcats for the next few weeks?
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

In a twist of irony, Rhett Rodriguez - the son of former head coach Rich Rodriguez - came in from his spot as the third string QB and put up a competent outing in relief of both Tate and ineffective backup true freshman Jamarye Joiner. But RhettRod isn’t going to be nearly enough to fill the gap left behind by Tate.

POG: DB Demetrius Flanagan-Fowles (7 tckls, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)

Next Up: at UCLA

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


The Beavers benefit this week from Arizona’s misfortune. That said, their surging offense will continue to be more than offset by a defense that is as sturdy as wet tissue. I’m sure Jonathan Smith will be focusing on coming up with a new strategy to help compensate for their defensive woes with some scheme adjustments that might help shave a few points off of each game and give that offense a chance to win a game or two.

Next Up: vs Cal

10. Cal (3-3 / 0-3)

UCLA 37, Cal 7

Wow. The Cal house has completely and utterly collapsed since they briefly appeared in the Top 25 two weeks ago. Losing to a winless UCLA team on their own field is the ultimate in transgressions and now calls into question the Bears’ prospect to go bowling.

For better or for worse, Cal has put all their eggs in the Brandon McIlwain basket. And for the second straight week, ball control from the QB was an issue. BMac threw two picks and lost two interceptions to all but guarantee that UCLA would win the game. On top of that, he managed just 12 yards total rushing.

That’s not good.

I’m also a little concerned about that defense. The passing D was about as ineffective as you could get against UCLA’s freshman QB. The run D was more effectual with the linebackers, in particular, playing well. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.

POG: LB Jordan Kunaszyk (22 tckls, 2 TFLs)

Next Up: at Oregon State

9. UCLA (1-5 / 1-2)

UCLA 37, Cal 7

The Bruins have put together complete efforts two weeks in a row and might be showing signs of finally grasping some of the changes that Chip Kelly is trying to implement.

Of course, playing Cal and benefiting from a plus 5 turnover margin is a pretty good way to get a win.

The Bruins continued their trend of efficient offense in this one. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was 13 of 15 for 141 yards while RB Joshua Kelley averaged over 5 yards a carry on his way to 152 total rushing yards. No turnovers and a near 50/50 mix of passing and rushing yards complete that picture.

NCAA Football: UCLA at California
Joshua Kelley is emerging as a workhorse for Chip Kelly’s Bruins
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Still, UCLA is s work in progress. Cal was in this game until the 17 point fourth quarter outburst put it out of reach. Given the five turnovers, one might have expected a little bit more of a cushion.

POG: LB Keisean Lucier-South (6 tckls, 3.5 TFLs, 1 TD)

Next Up: vs Arizona

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


The Sun Devils definitely needed this BYE week. Both QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry have been significantly dinged up and probably would not have been able to play had ASU been on the field last weekend.

We are going to learn a lot about ASU this weekend as they host Stanford in Tempe this Thursday. I think ASU considers itself the Stanford of the South under Herm Edwards. Can the Devils out-Cardinal the Cardinal?

Next Up: vs Stanford

7. Stanford (4-2 / 2-1)


The Cardinal needed this week off after suffering two straight defeats. The health of RB Bryce Love remains uncertain. Getting him healthy and getting their lines of scrimmage back to Stanford-like levels are priorities 1a, 1b, and 1c.

Up next is a trip to the desert to play an ASU team that is playing as efficient and as physical as any team in the South not named Utah.

Next Up: at ASU

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

Arizona 10, Utah 42

Utah still has some work to do to get back into the South race. But USC’s win over Colorado means that Utah has the ability to control their own destiny which is about a good position as Kyle Whittingham could have hoped for at this stage.

The much-maligned Utah offense had a good outing led by the efficiency of QB Tyler Huntley and the stellar efforts of an offensive line that created lanes for RB Zack Moss, Huntley and RB Armand Shyne to all break off chunk plays and score TDs. The Utes were aggressive in this one - they even gave Britain Covey the chance to throw a couple of balls, one of which turned into a 68 yard TD pass to Huntley.

The Utes seem to be on the upswing after having the chance to beat up some lesser competition. Their matchup against USC this week has major implications for both teams.

POG: QB Tyler Huntley (201 yds pass, 68 yds rec, 64 yds rush, 4 TDs, 74% comp %)

Next Up: vs USC

5. Colorado (5-1 / 2-1)

#19 Colorado 20, USC 31

This was always going to be a watchout game for the surging the Buffs. That it came up to bite them isn’t terribly surprising. By itself, a loss to a flawed USC team in LA isn’t necessarily a slip from which no recovery is possible. However, the sight of star receiver Laviska Shenault limping badly off the field at the end of the game surely sent shock waves down the spines of Buffalo fans.

The Trojans did a great job taking away the Buffalo passing game including Shenault. QB Steven Montez presented our first glimpse of “Bad Steve” this season reminding us all that he isn’t entirely infallible.

Still, the Buffs fought hard, played some excellent run defense and mounted a comeback. They showed that they are a legit upper tier PAC 12 team.

POG: Laviska Shenault (46 yds rushing, 72 yds receiving, 1 TD)

Next Up: at #x Washington

4. USC (4-2 / 3-1)

#19 Colorado 20, USC 31

NCAA Football: Colorado at Southern California
Michael Pittman had a huge game against Colorado.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans reintroduced themselves, just as they seem to do every October, back into the PAC 12 conference championship race with a resounding win over Colorado. It wasn’t exactly poetry in motion - the Trojans struggled to run the ball, converted less than a third of their third downs and committed 13 total penalties - but QB JT Daniels and man-child WR Michael Pittman Jr. provided all the offense that was required to put the Buffs away.

I don’t really think that the Trojans are better than Colorado right now, but they got the win and now control their own destiny. That’s worth a big pop in this week’s power ranking.

POG: WR Michael Pittman Jr (5 catches, 144 yds, 2 TDs)

Next Up: at Utah

3. #17 Washington (5-2 / 3-1)

#7 Washington 27, #17 Oregon 30 (OT)

There are worse crimes than losing an overtime nail-biter in Autzen Stadium on the second week of back to back road games when the home team is coming off a BYE. But the Huskies had a lot of aspirations taken away from them on Saturday. The College Football Playoff is now off the table and all of those seniors will have to grapple with the realization that a chance for redemption for 2016 will not happen for them. In addition, the Dawgs lost the chance to control their own destiny in just winning their own division. That didn’t work out very well for them a year ago.

The good news here is that most of what we think makes up the strengths of this team were on display against Oregon. The UW secondary dominated Oregon’s passing game and prevented big plays per their typical formula. The rushing attack flourished, even as the rotation of Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin gave way to Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. The offensive line protected Jake Browning pretty well even in light of several pressures from Oregon’s active D.

But this team is flawed. The receivers caught a grand total of 84 yards and continue to show that they cannot stretch a D. The pass rush was awful. Playcalling (a telegraphed QB sneak, a McGrew-Cat, oddly timed fade routes) continues to be challenged. The special teams were a mess. The run defense isn’t nearly as reliable as many like to think. These things combined make UW a mortal team and help keep them tethered to the other good teams in the division.

The big issue now is for this team to deal with the disappointment of so many goals lost and the resulting drop in enthusiasm that is sure to come from the fanbase. The Rose Bowl is still out there and UW still has a BYE week ahead of it. There is much still out there.

POG: DB Byron Murphy (6 tckls, 2 PBUs)

Next Up: vs Colorado

2. #25 Washington State (5-1 / 2-1)


The Cougs were handed a huge gift when the UW fell to Oregon. WSU now has a chance to grab a clear line of sight to the PAC 12 North title with home games against their two biggest rivals still ahead of them (Oregon this week and Washington in the Apple Cup). It is true that they still have to contend with Stanford. Still, they are one of four teams left in the conference that control their own destinies. That’s a nice position to be in.

This week’s game will be critical to the fates of a few teams in the PAC. And there is this:

Next Up: vs # 15 Oregon

1. Oregon (5-1 / 2-1)

#7 Washington 27, #17 Oregon 30 (OT)

The Ducks didn’t really prove on Saturday that they were the better team. It took a couple of dropped Husky interceptions and an icing of a walk-on freshman kicker for them to even get that game to overtime.

That said, the Ducks demonstrated against UW that they don’t need a dominating Justin Herbert (who was anything but) to win. RB CJ Verdell had a workhorse kind of effort rushing the ball while the Oregon D was active and disruptive against that soft Husky offense all game long.

The Ducks were not necessarily able to seize control of their own destiny in the PAC 12 North. But that is more of a technicality then anything given the unraveling that we are seeing out of Palo Alto. Oregon’s relatively favorable schedule (true, three of their next four are on the road, but the toughest competition is past) plus their overall state of health puts them, at least for now, in the most advantaged position in the conference to advance to the Rose Bowl. For that, they move up to the top spot in our Power Rankings.

POG: RB CJ Verdell (29 carries, 111 yds, 2 TDs)

Next Up: at Washington State