Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 9: Welcome back, Utah
A third of the Pac-12 was off in Week 8 and the best conference in the country still provided one of the most entertaining slates of games.
Washington was nearly (and inexplicably) upset by Arizona State at home. USC has seen its season start to veer off-track and now faces a massive inflection point. Oregon rolled. UCLA made a quarterback change and rolled.
It’s once again time to update the Power Rankings, so let’s dive in.
12. Stanford Cardinal (2-5, 1-4 Pac-12)
The Cardinal lost by one to Arizona at home. That’s looking like a good loss. They pulled off a wildly improbable comeback to beat Colorado. Any win is a good win at this stage in a program’s rebuild. But against USC, Oregon, and UCLA, Stanford has been outscored 140-23. This Stanford program isn’t close to being ready to compete with the top half of the conference. I like what we’re seeing from Ashton Daniels in recent weeks, but Stanford has a long way to go in the trenches. UCLA outgained Stanford on the ground 237-46 if you adjust for sacks.
11. Cal Golden Bears (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12)
Last week: 10
The Bears were on a bye last week, so this section is taking the week off as well.
10. Arizona State Sun Devils (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12)
Last week: 12
Hat’s off to Kenny Dillingham and the Sun Devils. They went in with a plan and executed the plan. No one in the country thought this would be a 7-3 ASU lead going into the fourth quarter. But the Sun Devils fight and Dillingham cuts it loose.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12)
Last week: 9
The Buffs were on a bye last week, so this section is taking the week off as well.
8. Washington State Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12)
Last week: 8
Oregon put Washington State to bed in the middle third. The Cougs had a 10-3 lead after a Nakia Watson touchdown run with 9:22 to play in the second quarter. Over the last half of the second quarter and the first half of the third quarter (15 minutes of game clock), Wazzu was outscored 21-3 and the game was flipped. From there, Oregon could do what it wanted and Washington State offered little resistance. The Cougs have given up 14 rushing touchdowns and 5.2 yards a carry to opposing teams in conference play so far. That, combined with their own inability to run the football, is causing major problems.
7. UCLA Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12)
Last week: 7
UCLA beat up on Stanford as Ethan Garbers replaced Dante Moore at quarterback and posted the best QBR of any Pac-12 passer during the weekend (90.8). Garbers completed 71% of his passes, threw two touchdowns, and didn’t turn the football over. UCLA’s ground game produced, and the offense had its best day in weeks. UCLA hasn’t won consecutive games in conference play yet, so a big one against Colorado is coming up. With a glut of one-loss teams ahead of them in the conference standings, they’re not out of the title race yet, but the Bruins can’t afford another stumble.
6. USC Trojans (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 4
If you must know, a very long, very heavy sigh was let out upon getting to this section in the writing process. USC is judged differently than its peers. But such is true for programs like Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, and Alabama as well. When Lincoln Riley arrived in Los Angeles, he embraced that fact. Maybe we all misinterpreted Riley after a 34-32 loss to Utah when he said the Trojans don’t show up to work each week hoping to win a national title. It’s likely he was giving you another coaching platitude — “We take things one day and one opponent at a time” — and that just didn’t land. But it was jarring to hear the head football coach at USC balk at national championship expectations. Riley is in L.A. to win games like the one he just lost on his home turf. USC remains a flawed team, and Riley doesn’t seem interested in fixing those issues. Run the damn football. When your quarterback is making mistakes under pressure and your offensive line keeps allowing pressure, if you average 10 yards a carry on your 10 first-quarter rushing attempts, figure out a way to keep going to that well.
5. Arizona Wildcats (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12)
Last week: 5
The Wildcats were on a bye last week, so this section is taking the week off as well.
4. Utah Utes (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 6
Y’all ever seen the video of the truck driving down a freeway with a white coffin on its bed, then that coffin door opens and a man pops up out of it and deadpans to the camera? That’s Utah. Welcome back to the title discussion. Somehow, some way, Utah has opened the first seven games of its season without its starting quarterback and with a slew of other key contributors and still managed six wins. Kyle Whittingham very much deserves National Coach of the Year attention. The Utes have turned over every stone, and this latest one revealed that Sione Vaki is the most explosive two-way athlete in all of college football. Back-to-back 150-plus-yard days on offense for a player who leads the defense in tackles. Utah is coming.
3. Oregon State Beavers (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 3
The Beavers were on a bye last week, so this section is taking the week off as well.
2. Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12)
Last week: 2
Bucky Irving might be my favorite player in the country. He’s a joy to watch, his teammates love him, and defenders have to just despise him. Irving had 180 yards of total offense and three touchdowns for the Ducks as they rolled past Washington State. On the other side, Oregon had six sacks. It was exactly the kind of game you hoped to see at the line of scrimmage coming off a loss. Dan Lanning’s Ducks have proven over the last two weeks they’re the real deal.
1. Washington Huskies (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12)
Last week: 1
Washington doesn’t get dropped for one bad game. It is still the only unbeaten team in the conference and one of a handful of unbeatens remaining in the country. Washington struggled with Arizona State after an emotional win over Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. had his first truly bad game of the year. I buy into the notion that good teams are allowed to play in clunkers so long as they win them. Just don’t do it again.