The conference is heading into the final act of its 2018 season. As many expected, the show has had its ups, its downs, its twists and its turns.
Don’t believe me? Just check the Cool Chart.
In fact, it is really interesting to see how several teams have basically returned to their starting position in the preseason despite taking some wild side trips through the fall. Some highlights from the crazy spaghetti chart below include:
- Utah, Arizona, Cal and Colorado returning to their starting positions at #4, #5, #9 and #10 respectively
- Oregon State (#11), Oregon (#7), USC (#5), Washington (#2) are all within one spot of where they started.
- WSU and ASU are the real big surprises that have continued to separate themselves from their preseason expectations
- Between those two, only WSU has been on a steady upward trajectory (obviously) with ASU taking a more circuitous route to now being in a position to control their own destiny in the South
There are still three action-oriented weeks ahead and all of this can still get more twisted. In fact, with significant injuries now piling up and affecting teams like Utah and UW, weird things might still just happen.
Just enjoy the process, right?
The Cool Chart
Power Rankings: Week 10
12. UCLA (2-4 / 2-7)
UCLA 21, Oregon 42
During his entire tenure at Oregon, Chip Kelly lost only seven football games. How fitting is it then that he would his lose his seventh of the 2018 season back in the stadium where it all began for him?
I’m dropping UCLA here because a) they cannot get bowl eligible and b) they still have a QB problem. Dorian Thompson-Robinson started but was pulled after taking a hard sack in the third quarter. Whether that was injury related or performance (DTR had an awful pick in the endzone earlier) went unstated. But it is pretty clear that Chip hasn’t really committed to either him or Wilton Speight at all this year. With the post season off the table, I’m guessing it’ll be DTR the rest of the way.
Up Next: at Arizona State
11. Oregon State (1-5 / 2-7)
USC 38, OSU 21
USC was determined to take Jermar Jefferson away from the Beavers. They ended up doing just that holding the freshman star to 58 incidental yards in OSU’s demoralizing home loss to the Trojans.
Jake Luton did show that he is capable of compensating. He tossed over 300 yards at a respectable 7 yards per attempt (not horrible for a team playing from behind and having to be a little predictable). But he couldn’t overcome OSU’s poor defensive play.
It will be interesting to see how OSU finishes for Jonathan Smith. Will they fold it and succumb to a brutal close of at Stanford, at Washington and vs Oregon? Or will they rally and go down with a fight? That’s really about the only question left to answer for this Beavers team.
Up Next: at Stanford
10. Colorado (2-4 / 5-4)
Colorado 34, Arizona 42
I’m moving Colorado up a few spots this week for a few reasons. The first big reason is that they are still just one win away from bowl eligibility and, along with Cal, could give the PAC a whopping 10 bowl eligible teams. That said, it is looking increasingly like both Cal and Colorado will be playing for bowl eligibility when they match up in the last week of the regular season.
The other reason I’m moving Colorado back up is that they are soon getting Laviska Shenault back. The offense has been good with him gone, but he could still be a huge boost for them.
Up Next: vs #8 Washington State
9. California (2-4 / 5-4)
Cal 13, #8 WSU 19
This is a pretty tough drop for Cal in these power rankings. Especially after you consider how tough the Bears have played defense against the two Washington schools over consecutive weeks. Had you told any Bear fan that Cal would have had 29 points cumulatively scored against them in this pair of games, they may have kissed you on the lips right there.
Nevertheless, Cal is now in dire straits as it tries to get bowl eligible. They need one win among their last three. The problem is that two of those games are against two teams with winning records while the last is a road trip to a Colorado team that will likely have Laviska Shenault back.
One thing is clear, Cal would be well served to quit having Brandon McIlwain throw the ball. The running half of Cal’s QB tandem was awful as a runner (-2 yards) and a passer (1 killer INT in seven attempts). Chase Garbers isn’t going to give Justin Wilcox the big plays he is looking for, but he’ll at least give Cal’s D a chance to win games for them.
Up Next: at USC
8. Stanford (3-3 / 5-4)
Stanford 23, Washington 27
The Cardinal played a strange game against Washington on Saturday night. With their team at mostly full strength, they managed to fall behind to the Huskies by 21 points before they picked up their first first down of the game. However, after Bryce Love retweaked his ankle, after JJ Arcega-Whiteside got knocked out of the game (out of the season?) and after their third string right guard was inserted into the lineup, things started to click for KJ Costello and his offense. TE Kaden Smith had a breakout game (8 catches, 107 yds, 1 TD) in the process.
Still, those early turnovers and and that big 21 point lead was too much to overcome. Give Stanford’s D credit for locking down UW’s offense to Cal levels of productivity for most of the game. But the outcome was still a loss and the Cardinal are still not bowl eligible.
Up Next: vs Oregon State
7. Oregon (3-3 / 6-3)
UCLA 21, Oregon 42
The Ducks pretty much had their hopes of the North coming back to them crushed with both Washington schools winning over the weekend. Not that the odds were great to begin with, but they are almost certainly gone now (WSU would have to lose all three and UW would have to lose to Oregon State). Thus, a fall in the rankings despite a nice win that saw both Justin Herbert and Dillon Mitchell come back to the lineup after a trip through the concussion protocol.
The Ducks are now bowl eligible and have a great shot at adding two if not three more wins to the ledger. Their trip to Salt Lake ought to be an interesting test for them both in terms of their style of play against a physical D and as a temperature check on their mental toughness now that it is clear they aren’t going to win the North.
Up Next: at Utah
6. Arizona (4-3 / 5-5)
Colorado 34, Arizona 42
Now we begin the string of South teams who made their moves in the Power Rankings on account of them winning the games they needed to win in order to keep their South title hopes alive.
Khalil Tate had his best game of the season (5 TDs, 350 yds, 22 attempts) as he was dropping long balls all over the field against Colorado. JJ Taylor had his best game rushing the ball (40 attempts, 192 yds) to complement Tate’s efforts and provide Arizona with a complete offensive performance.
Arizona is still alive, but may have peaked too late. Their path to the division crown is very suspect. Because they have losses to both Utah and USC already, they need both teams to drop one of their remaining two conference games each while winning their final two (including their rivalry game vs ASU). Tough, but possible.
Up Next: BYE
5. USC (4-3, 5-4)
USC 38, OSU 21
It was interesting to see USC’s DC Clancy Pendegrast sell out so obviously to stop OSU’s rushing attack in their win over the Beavers. What does it say about your so-called blue blood program that you can’t count on your elite athletes to compete with the lowly Beavers out of your normal base D?
Not a whole lot.
Still, USC has a puncher’s chance to yet still win the South. Because they have losses to both Utah and ASU on the year, they don’t control their own fate. They must win both of their remaining games, hope that ASU drops one of their final three and hope that Utah drops one of their final two. If you do the math, you can also see that there exists a scenario where USC loses one of their final two and still wins the South ... but that just seems too remote to mention.
The question is whether or not USC can get enough out of JT Daniels to carry them against the tougher defenses that they will play. He was not sharp against OSU. Though he didn’t have to be with Aca’Cedric Ware topping 200 yards and Vavae Malepeai clearing the 100 yard mark. That kind of rushing attack will cover up a lot of ills.
Next Up: vs Cal
4. Utah (4-3 / 6-3)
Utah 20, ASU 38
I don’t really want to say the Utes are in trouble. After all, they are already bowl eligible and their two remaining conference games are eminently winnable. The problem is that by falling to ASU, Utah ceded control over their own destiny. In essence, they still need ASU to lose one of their final three in order to claim the South title.
Oh, did I mention Tyler Huntley is hurt. A devastatingly brutal broken collarbone means that Utah’s new QB is Jason Shelley. If that name rings a bell, it is because Shelley’s father is a former UW receiver (who might be better known more for his escapades off the field than on it.)
I wouldn’t judge too harshly what Shelley did in backup duty last weekend. The redshirt freshman is a surprisingly strong-armed QB who is probably a better passer than Huntley, if not quite as mobile.
Utah fans probably ought to be more concerned about a defense that just gave up 536 yards and 38 points to a division rival and who continues to see their receivers drop passes at an alarming rate. Kind of like this one:
Up Next: vs Oregon
3. Arizona State (3-3 / 5-4)
Utah 20, ASU 38
The Sun Devils made a huge statement with their blowout win over Utah on Saturday. It was one of those games where you can see the potential of what Herm Edwards is trying to put together with N’Keal Harry (161 yds, 3 TDs) catching the ball and Eno Benjamin (175 yds, 2 TDs) running the ball.
On top of that, ASU continues to emerge as a top PAC 12 defense. For the eighth time this season, they held a team under 30 points and now have the fourth best scoring defense in the conference just following the “elite 3” of UW, Utah and Cal.
The Devils are one game off the pace in the win column. However, they do have wins already over both USC and Utah. Thus, they do control their own destiny. Win out and they win the South. I’m bumping them ahead of Utah and into the third spot in this week’s Power Rankings.
2. #20 Washington (5-2 / 7-3)
Stanford 23, Washington 27
Think what you will about how good or how not good this team is right now. That isnandifferent debate. The bottom line is that the Huskies are in a great position to win the North.
Saturday was a reminder what can happen when UW’s defense can generate some extra possessions (three interceptions) and provide their challenged offense with some decent field position. It was just the second multi-takeaway game of the season (the first being Utah) and UW’s offense translated that into a quick 21-0 lead.
Of course, what happens when the defense quits generating turnovers and doesn’t get the offense favorable field position? That would be what happened for the rest of the game where Stanford outscored UW 23-6 with Washington struggling to move the ball much past their average starting position of the 22 yard line.
Nevertheless, you could see that there was some energy on the field for the Dawgs. The INT by Greg Gaines, probably the play of the year by whom I consider the clear cut MVP of this team, whipped up a flurry of emotion on the sideline the likes of which we haven’t seen all year. If the D can keep generating turnovers, you have to like that the Huskies get a BYE and a tune up game against OSU before the showdown in the Apple Cup.
Oh, and for you all who like the roster details, how fun was it to see Hunter Bryant on the field? He was joined by freshman Dominique Hampton in making his UW debut this season. It will be interesting to see if the Huskies hold him back against OSU in hopes of preserving his red shirt.
Next Up: BYE
1. #10 Washington State
Cal 13, #8 WSU 19
The PAC’s top ranked team remains atop the Power Poll. Husky fans will certainly be encouraged to see that Cal’s D, which has many of the same fundamentals as UW’s, was able to hold WSU to 19 points overall. That score probably should have been more (I’m thinking specifically of the WSU interception return that they ended up fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback), but the Cal D showed that points prevention could be done against Gardner Minshew and his merry band of receivers. Minshew averaged just 6.5 YPA. That is among his poorest performances of the year so far.
That said, the game winning drive, which Easop Winston Jr pretty much dominated, was a work of art. The missed XP created some intrigue, but everything about it felt like a good team breaking the backs of their opponent at just the right time.
I also thought WSU’s D looked good, albeit against one of the most frustrating offenses in the conference not named Washington. The Coug rush D was active and stingy. Logan Tago continues to shine as a rush end. He generated a ton of havoc and recorded 2.5 TFLs for the game.
The Cougs are definitely for real. They have a tough road to hoe over the next two weeks with a trip to Boulder and a home game against Arizona ... two teams starting to get healthy at the wrong time. Nevertheless, those two games are mostly meaningless. Assuming that UW beats OSU the weekend after next, the Apple Cup is the only game that matters for the North division title. WSU could lose both their next two and nothing would change in that regard.