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PAC 12 Recap, Overreactions and Power Rankings

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After six weeks, the Ducks are flying high.

California v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Yes. I’m a day late. I guess I’m not totally over it.

Let’s overreact.

Overreactions of the Week

The Ducks are the class of the North.

It took all of my willpower not to puke just a little bit in my mouth as I wrote this. But with wins over both Stanford (easy) and Cal (hard) on their ledger, this sentiment may not be a complete overreaction.

However, there is just one problem with this: Oregon still has to travel to Montlake.

No matter how you feel about where the Huskies are right now, that road trip is no small task for Mario Cristobal and his team. The Dawgs matchup as well against Oregon as they do any contender that they play in the North. That’s not to say that they matchup “great”, but it is to say that Oregon passes the ball much more than both Stanford and Cal do which, as we know, plays into a UW strength.

The problem is that Oregon, right now, has the best defense in the conference. By a lot. And that is worrisome for a Husky team that has surpassed 30 points against Power 5 opponents not named Oregon State just once in the last two seasons (31 points against UCLA on 10/6/18).

Fair Pay to Play is going to ruin the game.

We dug into this subject in some detail last week. And, to be clear, I’m not saying that it is an overreaction to imagine that Fair Pay to Play will change college athletics. It will. That is the point.

But I’m not prepared to say that it will ruin college athletics. Without rehashing everything from my previous article, here are a two things I want to emphasize.

Number 1: we don’t know how this ends

SB 206 was simply the first shot across the bow in a situation where the rules on the ground are quickly changing. Lawsuits will be filed. The NCAA will argue (as they have successfully in the past) that private institutions have the right to set their own bylaws. They will also conclude their own analysis of future rules changes and move towards the middle on this issue further changing the prospects of what implementation of fair compensation for NIL looks like.

We simply don’t know where the final product will land. But we do know that there is way too much demand for college sports for there not to be ample motivation for every party involved in this debate to find a resolution.

Number 2: pay to play already exists

This point was covered ad nauseum in our discussion but bears repeating: there is already money in college athletics.

Shocking, I know.

SB 206 essentially creates a free market for athletes to do things like sign endorsement deals, collect sponsorships to train for the Olympics or get compensated for having their image show up in future EA Sports NCAA Football video games. And, as you all know, free markets tend to be more efficient than black markets.

The Huskies suck.

I have to admit, this was my first reaction when I watched the shit show that was Saturday night. In fact, I was secretly relieved that the game was played so late so as to spare my two kids the horror of watching it.

Part of me still laments the state of Huskies football and the fact that this is a program that seems totally stalled out in second gear unable to win any kind of game against top 15 talent kinds of teams while continuously vulnerable to losses against teams stacked with seemingly less talent or faced with less to play for. Alas, this is a subject for another time after more of this season has played out.

But no matter how you feel about the evolution of the program, it is hard to deny that this team still possesses both talent and capability. They don’t “suck” nearly as much as they “infuriate”.

The Cool Chart

What a hot mess.

PAC 12 Power Rankings Week 6
Chris Landon

The PAC 12 Power Rankings - after Week 1

12. UCLA (1-5, 1-2) ▼

Oregon State 48, UCLA 31

If you want to stay out of the basement of the PAC 12 Power Rankings, here is a hint: don’t lose to the Beavers ... at home.

Playing with backup Austin Burton in place of starting QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Bruins demonstrated that they continue to be a young team in a state of disarray. If you thought it was hard to be a Husky fan right now, consider what it’s like for Bruins Nation.

Actually, I thought the offense was at least OK though Oregon State’s defense had something to do with that. I continue to be mind-boggled by just how bad the Bruins defense is. Even with players like Darnay Holmes and Khrys Barnes playing fairly high level ball, this unit can’t stop anybody. And its not like it is a physical talent thing. DC Jerry Azzinaro simply doesn’t have his team playing assignment-sound defense.

We now have to raise the prospect that UCLA is certainly going to fail to become bowl eligible this season. That their remaining schedule includes defenses like ASU, Utah, Cal and Stanford has me wondering if they’ll even top 20 points in more then one game the rest of the season.

POG: WR/RB Demetric Felton (11 carries, 9 catches, 1 KR, 179 total yards, 1 TD)

We’ve been talking him up a little bit this season. After having all but been forgotten last week, it was good to see Chip Kelly emphasize Felton in the gameplan against OSU. He’s the ultimate utility tool.

Next Up: BYE

11. Washington State (3-2, 0-2) ▼

BYE

Even with a BYE week, WSU couldn’t stay out of the news. A he said / she said split seems to have resulted in the dismissal / resignation of defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. Mid-season coaching staff shakeups are rarely indicative of anything good. WSU seems to be in a state of chaos.

Next Up: at #18 Arizona State

10. Oregon State (2-3, 1-1) ▲

Oregon State 48, UCLA 31

Give the Beavs credit. They’ve been steadily improving on the defensive side of the ball to the point that they can give their excellent offense chances to win games against similar level teams. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday when OSU’s D kept UCLA’s offense to a not-great-but-manageable 5.5 yards per play.

Oregon State v UCLA
Jake Luton had a career day against UCLA and wasn’t even the best player on the field (thank you very much, Isaiah Hodgins).
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

That was all that QB Jake Luton needed. Emphasizing the rapport that he has with star WR Isaiah Hodgins and taking advantage of some tough running fro RB Artavis Pierce (who has now taken over from a dinged up Jermar Jefferson), Luton had the game of his life with 5 TDs, 11 yards / attempt and zero interceptions. His decision-making has really sharpened and, in fact, he is fourth in all of FBS in terms of consecutive passing attempts without an interception.

I’m bumping the Beavs.

POG: WR Isaiah Hodgins (10 catches, 123 yds, 3 TDs)

At what point do we start talking about Hodgins as PAC 12 OPOY? He’s taken over the mantle of the conference’s best receiver from Laviska Shenault and is bringing it every week. He was matched up all game with UCLA’s Darnay Holmes at took some vicious hits over the middle. And yet he just kept bringing it all day long. Amazing effort.

Next Up: vs #15 Utah

9. Colorado (3-2, 1-1) ▼

Arizona 35, Colorado 30

Laviska Shenault is injured ... again ... and it was just enough playmaking not on the field to keep Colorado from pulling out what was a great overall effort against Arizona in Boulder.

I’m not exactly sure what to do with Colorado. On one hand, they are good enough to beat most teams in the PAC on any given Saturday. QB Steven Montez has made enough plays and guys like WR Tony Brown and RB Alex Fontenot are capable even when Shenault isn’t in the lineup.

On the other hand, the Buffs just can’t seem to make the plays when they count. Defensive breakdowns and missed opportunities - such as the fourth quarter drop by Brown that essentially ended the game - seem to be a weekly occurrence for this team. Maybe this is a classic “on-their-way-not-there-yet” situation for Mel Tucker and his team.

POG: WR Tony Brown (10 catches, 141 yards)

Really impressive day for the Colorado wideout depsite that one fourth quarter drop. He balled out in the absence of Shenault and made some eye-popping plays.

Next Up: at #13 Oregon (Fri)

8. USC (3-2, 2-1) ▼

BYE

The Trojans suffered yet another distraction over the BYE week when college football analyst Mark May said that rumors of Urban Meyer becoming the next coach of USC are true and that it is a “done deal”.

Happy BYE week. Notre Dame is up next. Good luck.

Next Up: at #9 Notre Dame

7. Washington (4-2 / 1-2) ▼

#15 Washington 13, Stanford 23

The unranked Washington Huskies aren’t quite eliminated from the race in the North. However, given the fact that their two losses are both to North division rivals, they are effectively tied with WSU for last place in the division. It’s crazy to think that we are already at the point where mental calisthenics are required to envision the scenario where UW gets back in the division race.

But, hey, that’s where we are. The Huskies are pretty much just playing for pride at this point.

The injury to Richard Newton is back-breaking. Especially given the lack of development seen so far in the other upperclassmen backs. The inability of the Huskies to eke out improvement in either the pass rush and the receiving corps - a plague that has vexed this team for the third straight season - is another bad sign. Finally, we now know “#BadJacob” is a real thing and it has the fan base wondering what his real ceiling is. It may not be quite so high as Hugh Millen would have us believe.

Next up, UW’s semi-annual trip to the desert where things never go wrong /eyeroll. This is a team in trouble, to be sure. But it is also a team that now has the opportunity to loosen things up, take some more chances on young players and invest a little bit in the future. There is still plenty of tinder for a spark to light afire.

POG: LT Trey Adams

There were a few bright spots from the Stanford debacle including guys like Levi Onwuzurike and Newton. One player that jumped out to me was Trey Adams. He was the one bright spot on an offense that looked more like the second coming of Ronnie Fouch’s offense than one led by a future first round QB draftee. Filling his shoes after he departs this year is going to be difficult.

Next Up: at Arizona

6. Stanford (3-3, 2-2) ▲

#15 Washington 13, Stanford 23

When I pulled together my Gekko Files preview of Stanford in the summer, this was the version of Stanford that I envisioned. An offensive line with emerging talent that was going to help re-establish ball control. A defensive line that was active and could create some havoc. A smothering secondary that took away reads from QBs. I even picked Stanford to beat UW in my game-by-game picks to start the season.

But, c’mon, I didn’t realize that the Cardinal would be without Walker Little, without KJ Costello and down to 6 scholarship OLs before it was all done.

That Stanford not only squeaked one out but dominated the Huskies probably says more about how bad the Huskies are than how good the Cardinal are. But it is still an impressive victory no matter how you slice it. That UW defensive line is going to be having nightmares about Cameron Scarlett and how on play after play after play he kept knifing through arm tackles and fell forward to extend drives. Defensively, the problems that we had seen out of Paulson Adebo the past few games disappeared entirely and the blanket-like Stanford secondary was in full effect.

Washington v Stanford
Cameron Scarlett is the latest in a long line of PAC 12 running backs to shred the supposedly vaunted Huskies Defense.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I don’t know where Stanford can go from here but this will go down as what will most likely be their best win of the season.

POG: RB Cameron Scarlett (33 carries, 151 yards, 1 TD)

It was kind of a toss up between him and Adebo. But you can’t deny what this under-appreciated senior did for the Cardinal. His 151 yards were a career high and his 33 carries were indicative of the kind of workhorse back he can be.

Next Up: BYE

5. California (4-2, 1-2)

Cal 7, #13 Oregon 17

Yes, it is a little weird to have Cal moving up to #5 despite having just lost their second in a row and playing without their starting QB. But such is the case when the teams in front of you barf all over themselves and leave their fans feeling lost and hopeless.

The truth is that Cal played the Ducks pretty much straight up until their depth challenges caught up with them. And I don’t mean just “hung in there”. I mean they stood Oregon up, punched them in the mouth and made Herbert and co. earn it. The defensive effort coming from guys like Ashtyn Davis, Cameron Goode and Evan Weaver was a sight to behold. Makes you wonder why UW doesn’t have that kind of defense.

POG: DB Ashtyn Davis (7 tckls, 1 INT, 1 PBU)

I think guys like Evan Weaver and RT Jake Curhan were certainly candidates for this award, but Davis stole the show. If you want to see what dominating DB play looks like, put a tape of this game on and watch Davis. He was a force.

Next Up: BYE

4. Arizona (4-1, 2-0) ▲

Arizona 35, Colorado 30

Hey, scoreboard don’t lie. And with Arizona’s win over Colorado, they became one of just two PAC 12 teams without a divisional loss. I know, I know ... look who they’ve played. But that is kind of irrelevant now. Undefeated is undefeated and the fact that they’ve gotten there having survived minor injuries to Khalil Tate and JJ Taylor says something.

It’s hard to not look at Arizona and note two very positive trends. First, I think the Wildcats are getting great play out of their linebacking corps of Colin Schooler, Tony Fields and Andy Pandy. Second, their offense is become much more balanced allowing Tate to shine more as a pocket passer. That kind of balance can only be viewed as a good thing.

Taking on a bitter and down Husky team might be viewed as either a good or bad thing depending on how you think UW bounces back from the Stanford trip. Either way it is a huge opportunity for Kevin Sumlin.

POG: LB Tony Fields (11 tckls, 1 PBU)

WIth apologies to Khalil Tate who set a career best with 404 yards passing, this game belonged to Tony Fields. I’ve often wondered if he was actually a more versatile overall LB than Schooler. Last weekend was evidence that he might be. He was everywhere showing of his disruptivness and his athleticsm.

Next Up: vs Washington

3. (18) Arizona State (4-1, 1-1) ▲

BYE

The Sun Devils are now the third highest ranked team in the conference. Who would have thought that?

Next Up: vs Washington State

2. (15) Utah (4-1 / 1-1) ▲

BYE

The Utes benefit from the Huskies choke job to move up. With no Oregon on the schedule and with Washington looking much softer than the UW the Utes have faced the last couple of years, Utah’s prospects in the South are looking up.

California v Oregon
Justin Herbert and the Ducks are in firm control of the North.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Next Up: at Oregon State

1. (13) Oregon (4-1, 2-0)

Cal 7, #13 Oregon 17

Oregon probably should have won much more handily than they did, but three first half turnovers really stymied Justin Herbert and that Duck offense.

I can’t say that Oregon’s offense has really emerged as something to fear. That offensive line isn’t really as dominating as was advertised. Certainly not at the level of an Oklahoma, Wisconsin or Ohio State - the kinds of teams it was compared to at the start of the season. That said, it may be moot. As long as the Oregon Defense keeps playing like they did against Cal (and like they did against Stanford and Auburn, etc), they Ducks are good shape.

That UW shat the bed at the Farm puts the North squarely in their control.

POG: S Jevon Holland (3 tckls, 1 INT, 24 yd pt return)

I don’t think we are talking enough about the player that Jevon Holland has become. While he only had three tackles, he showed up big time with his interception (and subsequent 40 yard return) as well as a solid punt return to flip the field in his only attempt.

Next Up: vs Colorado (Fri)