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PAC 12 Round Up and Power Rankings

The division races are coming into focus.

Washington State v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Looking for the big PAC 12 headlines from this weekend? Here is what you need to know:

  • The North looks like it is not-quite-officially-but-pretty-much down to the winner of the Apple Cup. UW could still blow it against OSU ... but we are not taking that bet.
  • Utah may be ok despite injuries to both their starting QB and RB
  • Cal and UCLA are the two teams who won’t win their divisions but seem to be closing strong
  • ASU is still the only team in the South that controls its own destiny, but it is Utah that still might be the favorite
  • Laviska Shenault’s return wasn’t enough to buoy Colorado ... or even to make them competitive
  • The PAC 12 OPOY race seems like it will come down to either Gardner Minshew or N’Keal Harry though it is Oregon’s Dillon Mitchell who has become the first conference receiver to clear the 1000 yard mark.
  • Given that the leagues only dominating pass rusher, Porter Gustin, is out for the season, the DPOY race seems to be down to a battle of inside backers. Ben Burr-Kirven has a 20 tackle lead over Jordan Kunaczyk. But Kunaczyk has a more complete resume with 11 TFLs and four sacks compared to BBK’s 3 and 1, respectively.
    Arguments could also be made for both Colin Schooler (the reigning Freshman DPOY) and Utah’s Chase Hansen. They look like carbon copies of one another with 19 TFLs each, 2 INTs each and just one difference in sacks (Hansen with 5, Schooler with 4).
    This will be a tight race over the final two weeks.
  • Oh yeah, WSU is really good. It’s not pretend anymore.

Let’s get into the rankings.

The Cool Chart

PAC 12 Power Rankings Week 11
Chris Landon

Power Rankings: Week 11

12. Oregon State (1-6 / 2-8)

OSU 17, Stanford 48

Well, there isn’t much left to say about OSU. The 17 points doesn’t exactly communicate how good their offense was against Stanford. 404 total yards with just one turnover isn’t exactly horrible.

But the 48 Stanford points does portray just how poor this Beavers defense played. They simply had no answer for the Cardinal passing attack which literally could do whatever it wanted whenever it wanted.

The only question that I have is whether or not this means UW and their own passing attack might have a chance at similar results this week.

Up next: at #17 Washington

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

#8 WSU 31, Colorado 7

It turns out that the return of Laviska Shenault (120 total yds, 1 TD), as gimpy as he clearly was, wasn’t enough to put Colorado back on the winning track. The one-time South division front-runner has now dropped five in a row and has been eliminated from the South race.

Colorado v Arizona
The whispers are starting to percolate around Coach Mac.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is a remarkable fall from grace that has put Mike MacIntyre’s name back into the hot seat discussion. While I think that we are still at least a season away from that being a serious issue, you cannot overstate the disappointment that the Colorado fanbase feels over how poorly the Buffs have finished this season.

There are just two weeks left for the Buffs to get bowl eligible. The task looks tough with those games being vs Utah and at Cal. We shall see.

Up next: vs Utah

10. UCLA (2-5 / 2-8)

UCLA 28, Arizona State 31

Wilton Speight (75%, 335 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) got the start and led UCLA to a very competitive and exciting game.

Alas, the young Bruins still couldn’t put the whole thing together. The good news if you are a Bruins fan is that you can see how this thing is supposed to come together. Offensively, the Bruins had two plays over 30 yards and at least three others over 20 yards as UCLA was able to generate some big plays through their tempo. A pick six and a couple of nice plays behind the LOS hint at what the future might hold for their defense. The Bruins want to emphasize big plays on both sides of the ball.

There are just not enough of them this year.

That said, I think UCLA has one more win (at least) in them. And I can’t help but to cast my gaze to their Battle for LA in the Rose Bowl this weekend.

Up next: vs USC

9. USC (4-4 / 5-5)

Cal 15, USC 14

USC lost to Cal for the first time since 2003. To add insult to injury, they lost to them in LA in front of a smidgen of the typical fanbase, many of whom were affected by the litany of tragedies that have affected the region in the last week.

We’ve talked at length about USC’s lack of toughness in their psyche and their lack of physicality in their play. The Trojans claimed a 14 point lead going into the half in this one. A botched snap in the third quarter led to a JT Daniels safety ... which led to an “offense vs defense” skirmish on the sideline. That breakdown led to a bunch of yapping on the field between the USC defense and the Cal offense, including an animated exchange between Cal’s Vic Wharton and CB Olaijah Griffin. That led to the very next play where Wharton lit Griffin up in the most embarrassing way possible on an long TD reception to give Cal the lead for good.

USC is a shell of what the PAC needs them to be. Not only can they no longer win the South, but they are at risk of not even getting bowl eligible. They have their trip to UCLA next week before their matchup against #3 Notre Dame. Whether or not Clay Helton makes it to that last game remains to be seen.

Up next: at UCLA

8. Oregon (3-4 / 6-4)

Oregon 25, Utah 32

Oregon started really slow against Utah as they watched the Utes put 10 points up in the first quarter. The Ducks didn’t even muster 10 yards in the first quarter.

Give the Ducks credit for getting back in the game. The Justin Herbert to Dillon Mitchell (8 recs, 169 yds, 2 TDs) connection is certainly flourishing. But that seems to be the only thing still working for a Ducks team struggling to find their identity.

This team seems to be entering the stretch run tentatively. At this point, neither of their remaining two games (vs ASU, at OSU) look like sure things.

Up next: vs ASU

7. California (3-4 / 6-4)

Cal 15, USC 14

Give Cal their due. They muscled up and flat out out-physicalled the Trojans for the second straight season. This year, they even went as far as to pull off the win.

California v USC
Did Chase Garbers guide Cal to an inflection point in their program’s trajectory with their win over USC?
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I wonder if this game will represent a turning point for the Bears. The UW win was big, but it feels kind of cheapened by the fact that their offense couldn’t cross the goal line and they needed a pick six against the backup QB to squeak it out.

This one, however, felt different. Cal’s D played lights out, particularly in pass defense. But it was the offense that made the physical statement when things got chippy in the third quarter. And it was Chase Garbers making big big plays with his arm AND taking shots as a runner in order to get tough yards that won the game for the Bears.

There is definitely a different air of confidence around this team after they scored their first victory over USC since that legendary triple-OT game in 2003. This one feels earned by the entire team and like something that Justin Wilcox can build upon.

Up next: the Big Game vs Stanford

6. Stanford (4-3 / 6-4)

OSU 17, Stanford 48

Like just about all of you, I did not watch any of Stanford vs OSU. Shocking, right?

Actually, it is. There are very few PAC 12 games that I ignore altogether during the season. I like to lay eyeballs on teams before I rank them here. That said, the box score tells the story pretty neatly on this one.

Four TD passes from KJ Costello to 6’8” TE Colby Parkinson indicates what we already knew to be true: Stanford’s one dimensional offense continues to be jump-ball oriented.

That Bryce Love got just 11 carries counts as further evidence that the transformation of Stanford into something new is underway. Another interesting development here is the continued emphasis to get RB Dorian Maddox more meaningful reps. He seems destined to take over Love’s mantle next season.

Regardless, Stanford is now eliminated from the North title chase. David Shaw will almost certainly play with an eye towards spreading reps around to some of his younger players as they work to maximize bowl positioning.

Up next: the Big Game at Cal

5. Arizona (4-3 / 5-5)

BYE

Arizona coaches and players awoke on Sunday morning to find that their path to the South title is still out there and that it might have gotten a bit easier. They have two more games to play this season. Win them both, hope Utah loses at Colorado ... and they will represent the South in the PAC 12 Championship.

And they aren’t even bowl eligible yet. How crazy is that?

Up next: at #8 Washington State

4. Utah (5-3 / 7-3)

Oregon 25, Utah 32

No Zack Moss? No Tyler Huntley? No worries.

Utah still doesn’t control their own destiny, but they are just one win away from wrapping up their PAC 12 schedule and forcing ASU to win two road games in order to take the division title from them.

Jason Shelley was the story against Oregon. While many thought that the offense would crater under his leadership, Shelley showed that he might be a better all around passer than Utah’s starter. He is still a “slash” kind of QB, as demonstrated with his two rushing touchdowns. But the moment clearly was not too big for him. That Armand Shyne, who himself was once the starting RB ahead of Zack Moss before two knee surgeries changed the pecking order, was able to generate 174 rushing yards was gravy.

Utah is still on track. They need a little help, but they’ve got a solid path to their first South title.

Up next: at Colorado

3. Arizona State (4-3 / 6-4)

UCLA 28, ASU 31

ASU pulled out a hard-fought win against an exceptionally feisty UCLA team on Saturday. The divisional win eliminated the Bruins from the nutty South race and maintained ASU’s opportunity to control their own destiny.

UCLA v Arizona State
N’Keal Harry is making his push to be the OPOY in what will certainly be his final season at ASU.
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Win their next two and the South is theirs.

The challenge they have is that their next two games are on the road against Oregon and Arizona. Neither of those can be counted as easy wins. But the Devils are peaking right now just as Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry look to wrap up their legacies at ASU. With Eno Benjamin (now the league’s leading rusher) running like a mad man, the momentum is with them.

Up next: at Oregon

2. #17 Washington (5-2 / 7-3)

BYE

The Huskies are in a great position play for the PAC 12 North title in the Apple Cup. While this week’s matchup against Oregon State isn’t exactly an exhibition game, it gives the Huskies an opportunity to gear up for what could be the most consequential Apple Cup that they’ve played in since the 2008 affair that ultimately sent UW to its only winless season in program history.

But they have to take care of the Beavs.

Up next: vs Oregon State

1. #8 Washington State (6-1 / 9-1)

#8 WSU 31, Colorado 7

Another week and another example of WSU more easily taking care of business against an opponent that the Huskies struggled with. Though we all know that the transitive property is pure folly when comparing teams, these things cumulatively do serve to bolster the confidence of those in the Cougar locker room.

Gardner Minshew was not sharp against Colorado. Whether it was the wind, the altitude or just nerves, Minshew’s inaccuracy was a hindrance to the offense. No worry, WSU’s D was up to the task of shutting down Laviska Shenault, Steven Montez and Travon McMillan. They forced three fumbles (recovered two), picked off a pass, and generated three more sacks to bolster their conference leading total of 30 (contrasted to UW’s 15) for the season.

This year’s version of WSU is undoubtedly the most mentally robust that we’ve seen in the Leach era. We’ve seen nary a sign of a meltdown wile we’ve seen plenty of signs of this team being able to play through adversity. The Cougs are legitimately the class of the conference and it seems like it isn’t even close.

At least not yet.

Up next: vs Arizona