Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 12: Oregon State handles business to set the stage for potential chaos
Washington and Oregon are barreling toward a rematch in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The Huskies went back and forth with Utah in an electric second quarter inside Husky Stadium, then put the clamps on the Utah offense in the second half to leave with a seven-point win. Meanwhile, Oregon started with a bang against USC and then stumbled and bumbled a bit in the second half to a nine-point win.
The quarterbacks are dueling. The offenses are humming. The title game is nearly set.
Hear that in the distance? Sounds like a chainsaw.
The 8-2 Oregon State Beavers can ruin the Pac-12’s season. A College Football Playoff berth looks like it could be on the line if Oregon and Washington both make it to Vegas unscathed. If the Beavs beat either, it gets much more difficult. And after a three-point road loss in Tucson, Oregon State has rebounded very nicely to set itself up for… well, everything. The season-long goal. It’s right in front of the Beavs.
It’s once again time to update the Power Rankings, so let’s dive in.
12. Washington State Cougars (4-6, 1-6 Pac-12)
It’s really, really hard to understand what has happened to Washington State. On Sept. 24, Washington State moved up to No. 13 in the AP poll after beating Oregon State at home. The Cougs were 4-0. In all likelihood, Wazzu is going to end up missing a bowl game this season. The 42-39 loss to Cal on Saturday put the nail in the coffin. Can Wazzu beat Colorado? Sure. Can it beat Washington? Uh… Cougar quarterback Cameron Ward turned the football over four times — two of them scoop-and-score touchdowns for Cal — in a three-point loss.
11. Stanford Cardinal (3-7, 2-6 Pac-12)
Last week: 8
Stanford has not been able to match positive results with follow-up performances this year. Immediately after wins, the Cardinal has lost 56-10, 42-7, and 62-17. Stanford got absolutely throttled by Oregon State, which scored 41 points in the second and third quarters.
10. Colorado Buffaloes (4-6, 1-6 Pac-12)
Last week: 10
No sense piling on. The Buffs fought hard, and that’s something positive Deion Sanders will be able to take away from this season that has gone the wayside. His team continues to fight week in and week out. They’re flawed and undermanned. But a 34-31 loss to Arizona on a walk-off field goal isn’t a result that should have heads hanging low. Sucks to lose close, but that’s typically a hallmark of a team bound for improvement. Colorado has been part of seven games this season decided by one possession.
9. Cal Golden Bears (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12)
Last week: 11
A good win for Cal. Penalties were an issue. Third downs were also problematic — particularly the short stuff. But the weak point of this team all year has been the defense; Washington State ran 97 plays and only scored 39 points. That’s a pretty fine day at the office, all things considered. Cade Uluave and Nohl Williams each had fumble returns for touchdowns and the Bears generated a ton of pressure. Easy to do against Wazzu, but still a good sign. Cal has games against Stanford and UCLA. Both are on the road, but maybe the Bears can build some momentum from this kind of performance and push for a bowl game.
8. UCLA Bruins (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12)
Last week: 7
UCLA is slumping. The quarterback situation is a disaster, the defense is starting to make critical mental errors (frustration? disunity??), and the buzz is growing very loud about Chip Kelly as the leader of the program. Kelly is 33-33 as the UCLA coach in nearly six full seasons. The last two games are going to be very interesting. UCLA needs to show something positive for AD Martin Jarmond, who should already be asking if this will work in the Big Ten. If UCLA gets blasted by USC next Saturday, things will get interesting in Westwood.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12)
Last week: 9
It’s a team decimated by injuries with absolutely nothing to play for this season and they are consistently a pain in the a** for every team they go up against. This group is pretty inspiring, to be perfectly honest. Arizona State was outgained 5.2 to 3.6 by UCLA and won. Teams that get outgained on a per-play basis don’t win. ASU just found a way.
6. USC Trojans (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12)
Last week: 6
It was somehow both worse than it looked and not as bad as it could have been. USC was run ragged in the first quarter by an Oregon team that had such little respect for the Trojan defense it went for two after multiple touchdowns because it knew it would be back on the next drive. But Oregon got a little sloppy after its early fireworks and let USC hang around in the game. USC once again looked off on offense. There were flashes of the Trojans’ ability, just far too inconsistent to matter. As disappointing as UCLA has been, I think 7-5 could happen, and that would be an unmitigated failure of a season for USC. Big week coming up.
5. Utah Utes (7-3, 4-3 Pac-12)
Last week: 4
A 35-28 loss on the road to Washington is, by no means, a bad loss. It did cost Utah a chance to defend its Pac-12 crown, though, and that means it’s time for an interesting discussion in Salt Lake City. Does this season just get washed away because of all the injuries? Do fans view this year as a failure? Or could it even be deemed a success that Utah was in this position in November despite all it has had to endure? I might be leaning toward the latter. Utah was very much in the game with Washington. A pick-six-fumble-safety-whatever sequence in the third quarter flipped things. Kyle Whittingham has gotten absolutely everything he could out of what has been available to him on Saturdays.
4. Oregon State Beavers (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12)
Last week: 5
Kudos to the Beavs for staying focused on the team in front of them and not on what was coming. Oregon State has a Pac-12 championship game appearance within reach. Beat the Huskies, then beat the Ducks, and maybe a trip to Vegas is waiting at the end of the tunnel. But first they had to beat the Cardinal. It was fair to wonder if Oregon State would look past Stanford, and then the Beavs dropped 62 points on the Cardinal. Outstanding. This is what coach Jonathan Smith has been building towards for all these years. Damien Martinez scored four touchdowns against Stanford and is firmly rolling. DJ Uiagalelei threw for 240 and two scores without breaking a sweat. It’s now “put up or shut up” time for the Beavs, who can cause maximum chaos in the Pac-12 beginning this Saturday.
3. Arizona Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12)
Last week: 3
Dread it. Run from it… If ever there was a proof of concept game, a showing that said this group was not just a flash in the pan riding a hot streak but actually a team that had arrived, it was this one. Hear me out. On the road against a team fighting like crazy, Arizona got all it could handle. Noah Fifita played his worst game since being inserted as the starter. And then, after a missed Colorado field goal, with the game on the line, Fifita and Co. drove 67 yards in 11 plays and 4:57 to kick a walk-off field goal and win 34-31. OK teams lose to bad teams all the time. Even good teams lose to bad teams. Damn good football teams find ways to win when they don’t have their best stuff.
2. Washington Huskies (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 2
Washington got 104 yards on the ground from Dillon Johnson, it got 111 yards on three receptions from Rome Odunze, it got an interception that set up a safety at the end of the third, and it got an interception that killed the game at the end of the fourth. Players stepped up and made plays. When it gets this late in a season and an unbeaten record is on the line, it just gets harder and harder each week. UW keeps finding ways to get the job done.
1. Oregon Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 1
Oregon was outstanding in the first half and then pretty poor in the second half. Penalties continue to be a major area of concern. Fortunately for Oregon, it didn’t need its ‘A’ game to beat USC at home in that environment. This was also a first. We saw Oregon start slowly against Cal but really accelerate as the game wore on. Throughout the season, Oregon has put teams away early and kept its foot on the gas. Maybe the Ducks just started feeling themselves a bit too much given the way the game started. If Oregon plays around with its food again in Tempe next Saturday, Arizona State might do some damage to the Playoff hopes. Weird things happen in the desert.