Published on November 3, 2018 by: Kyle Risko
With the exception of our first place and division leaders holding strong, the conference was a mess last week. Good teams looked like bad teams and bad teams looked like maybe-not-so-bad teams. Utah and Washington State are the front runners in the race to the Pac-12 championship and are #8 and #15 respectively in the initial release of the CFP rankings. Both are in great position to make some noise. Here are my power rankings after week 9.
1. Washington State (7-1 Overall, 4-1 Conference) (Previous Rank: #1)
No surprise here as the Cougars beat a solid Stanford team 41-38 to notch another win on the road to keep their Pac-12 and national championship hopes alive. Wazzu currently leads the conference and is 13th in the nation in scoring, as they are averaging just under 41 points per game. Pair that with a defense that is only giving up 25 points per game and the Cougs have got themselves a nice recipe for winning. WSU sits at #8 in the first CFP rankings, within striking distance of that #4 spot. The Cougs get Cal at home this week, but DO NOT sleep on those Bears.
2. Stanford (5-3 Overall, 3-2 Conference) (Previous Rank: #4)
Even with a loss, the Cardinal jump up two spots to #2. This makes no sense right? Well, Washington and Oregon lost to bad teams and looked terrible doing it, so I had no choice. Stanford put up a fight against Washington State, so they get the nod here and put themselves in position to stay at #2 as they travel to Seattle this week. Big game for both teams if they hope to jump WSU for the North title.
3. Washington (6-3 Overall, 4-2 Conference) (Previous Rank: #2)
Cal did not score an offensive touchdown and still beat Washington 12-10. For this reason alone the Huskies had to drop a spot to #3 on this week’s rankings. Browning was benched and the offense spiraled, only scoring 10 points. The one thing the Huskies can hold on to is their defense. They give up the fewest points per game in the conference and the 8th fewest overall in the country at 15.2. Stanford comes to town this week so they had better lick their wounds quick if they want to stay alive in the race for the North.
4. Oregon (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #3)
I know what you’re saying, “How can Oregon be ranked below Washington when they beat them head-to-head?” The Ducks got pummeled by Arizona, that’s how. Losing 44-15 to a team that hasn’t beaten anyone and has looked terrible on offense all year? That can’t go unpunished.
5. California (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #5)
The Bears stay at #5 even with a huge win over UW in Berkley. While the offense is struggling, the Golden Bears defense has been steady. Cal is ranked 3rd in the conference in scoring defense, only giving up 22.3 points per game and currently ranks 7th in the nation in passing defense, only giving up 165.5 yards per game through the air. I just don’t think they are better than the three teams ahead of them. If they travel to Pullman this week and knock off the #8 ranked Cougars, I will definitely be singing a different tune.
6. Oregon State (2-6 Overall, 1-4 Conference) (Previous Rank: #6)
Big 41-34 come from behind win for Oregon State over Colorado! This was the Beavs first conference win of the season and their first conference road victory in 4 years! Jermar Jefferson rushed for 135 yards and Jake Luton passed for 310 yards and 3 TDs, and almost all of that came in the second half. A big reason for the upset was that Colorado was without Shenault for a second game in a row and they look mediocre without him. The Beavs stay at #6, but they have a lot to be happy about – for now. OSU hosts the Trojans this weekend, and I bet they hope JT Daniels is still a little woozy.
1. Utah (6-2 Overall, 4-2 Conference) (Previous Rank: #1)
Utah remains at #1 with a dominant win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Their defense continues to cause problems for opposing teams, only giving up 16.8 points per game. Huntley continues to keep the offense on track and Zack Moss is like a cement truck rolling through defenses. The Utes control their own destiny and travel to ASU this Saturday with Oregon and Colorado to follow. Utah is ranked #15 in the CFP, so they are starting to gain some respect on the national level.
2. USC (4-4 Overall, 3-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #2)
USC lost to Arizona State in the LA coliseum 38-35. JT Daniels did not play due to concussion protocol and the defense could not stop N’Keal Harry. He had almost 100 yards receiving and had a 93-yard punt return for a TD. Although the Trojans lost to my worst ranked team in the South, are ranked in the bottom half of the conference in almost every important statistical category, are currently on a two game losing streak, and were absolutely embarrassed on nationally televised games three times this year, I still keep them at #2 – because, well, everyone else in the South is worse. USC still has a chance to win the South if they beat their remaining opponents – starting with Oregon State this weekend in Corvallis.
3. Colorado (5-3 Overall, 2-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #3)
The Buffs drop a game to Oregon State after being up big most of the game. Colorado continue to struggle without Shenault, who should be coming back this week as they travel to Arizona. The Wildcats are hot, so this will not be an easy game for Colorado. The Buffs still have a chance at the South with a matchup against Utah in Boulder looming.
4. Arizona (4-5 Overall, 3-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #6)
The Wildcats jump up two spots with a huge 44-15 stomping of Oregon. Khalil Tate returned after sitting out last week and looked like the Heisman candidate we thought he could be. He passed for 189 yards and 3 TDs, but kept plays alive with his legs. The real stars of the win were JJ Taylor, who rushed for 212 yards and 2 TDs, and the Wildcat defense, who held the Ducks to 270 yards of total offense and a terrible 3rd down conversion rate. Colorado comes to town, so Arizona has a chance to upset a few Pac-12 championship hopefuls in back-to-back weeks.
5. UCLA (2-6 Overall, 2-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #4)
Not much to note here. UCLA lost to Utah as expected and their two week tear through the Pac-12 ends for now. DTR sat out with a shoulder injury and Wilton Speight did not perform well. In addition to the loss, the Bruins drop a spot with Arizona’s performance. UCLA travels to Eugene this week then to ASU, before finishing the season with two home games against USC and Stanford. So, it looks like tough sledding for the Bruins for the rest of the year.
6. Arizona State (4-4 Overall, 2-3 Conference) (Previous Rank: #5)
ASU drops a spot with a win against the Trojans. Unfortunately, this win had more to do with USC injuries than Arizona State brilliance. N’Keal Harry is the real deal, I witnessed it in person. He might be all the Sun Devils have though as Manny Wilkins has been hit or miss throughout the year. ASU faces the first place Utes in Tempe this week with a chance to play upset and really shake up the South.