Posted on 9/25/2019 by: Kyle Risko and Tony Krikorian
Just when you think you have a little understanding-a little grasp of how the conference is shaping up-the Pac-12 throws a curveball at you. This was the most Pac-12-esque week in football that we’ve seen in a long time. Four incredible finishes, three Top 25 upsets, two confused hosts, and a partridge in a pear tree. Here’s our Power Rankings after Week 4, but we are just guessing at this point.
1. Cal Golden Bears (4-0); Previous Rank: #5
Cal is the only remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12 after a 28-20 victory on the road against Ole Miss. This is the first time all year(s) that Chase Garbers and the offense have looked good. Garbers threw for four touchdowns and completed 65.7% of his passes. I know, I know. Like our buddy Billy Shakespeare said, “One great performance doth not make a trend.” BUT, if Garbers and the offense can be this efficient and effective, they will win a lot of ballgames. Linebacker Evan Weaver racked up 22 tackles, including the game-winning stop at the one-yard line. Pair him with the scary-good secondary and the Golden Bear’s defense is really something to behold. If both sides of the ball are clicking like they were this past weekend, Cal has a legitimate chance to win the North and the conference. They take on ASU this Friday night.
2. USC Trojans (3-1); Previous Rank: #7
If you look at the box score, you would think there was no way that USC won. But, haven’t you ever heard the saying, “Don’t judge a box score by its cover?” The Trojans beat undefeated #10 Utah 30-23 in one of the biggest wins in the Pac-12 this past weekend, putting them in the driver’s seat to win the South and creating this massive jump up to #2. Kedon Slovis was hurt early in the 1st quarter and third-string quarterback Matt Fink put on a dynamic performance. Did he play Three-Flies-Up at times with Michael Pittman? Sure. Did he miss a couple easy throws? Indeed. But did he show some massive guts by coming in and not blinking an eye? You betcha! Fink threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns against what is supposed to be a stingy Utah defense. He connected with Pittman Jr. ten times for 232 yards and a score. Right now, USC has leaned on their wide receivers to make big plays, but if the Trojans want to win the South and potentially the Pac-12, they will have to fix the run game and be more stout on defense. That’ll have to start sooner rather than later as USC heads up to Seattle to take on the Huskies this weekend.
3. Oregon Ducks (3-1); Previous Rank: #3
The Oregon Ducks won their first Pac-12 opener since 2014 by beating the Stanford Cardinal in a sloppy 21-6 bout. Quarterback Justin Herbert led the way with three touchdowns passes and completed 79% of his passes. Tight end Jacob Breeland has become Herbert’s main target, especially with three of the Duck’s top receivers out with injury. Over the next few weeks Oregon will get Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman, and Brenden Schooler back and it will be interesting to see how much more explosive this offense can be with those guys on the field. But for now, the Ducks are leaning on Herbert’s efficiency, a great offensive line, and a defense that is turning out to be one of the best in the conference. The next time we see Oregon will be in two weeks when they play host to Cal, which is sure to be a great matchup.
4. Washington Huskies (3-1); Previous Rank: #6
Until last weekend, BYU had given Pac-12 team fits-keeping it close against Utah and then beating USC in overtime. But, the Washington Huskies had a 45-19 statement win against the Cougars this past weekend. The Huskies were led by quarterback Jacob Eason, who threw for three touchdowns and 290 yards with an 85.7% completion percentage. The Huskies also had a great game from running back Sean McGrew, who rushed for 110 yards. Aaron Fuller had a tremendous impact on the game as well, catching 8 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown as well as returning a punt for 88 yards and a score. UW is on a great trajectory right now, with their offense and defense improving tremendously. Washington hosts USC this weekend in a huge conference matchup.
5. Utah Utes (3-1); Previous Rank: #1
The Utes fall quite a bit after a 30-23 loss to USC in the Coliseum. Before coming into the matchup, the Utes were led by strong play from quarterback Tyler Huntley and a punishing run game from Zack Moss. They also had one of the most athletic and dynamic defense in the country. Unfortunately for the Utes, none of that was enough to win, even against a 3rd string USC quarterback. Moss got injured against the Trojans and without him bulldozing over defenders, the offense struggled to score at times. Defensively, the Utes gambled that they could play man-to-man all night, but that came back to bite them as the USC receivers, especially Michael Pittman, won most of the 1-on-1 matchups. The Utes also racked up over 15 penalties and had a field goal blocked. Utah is definitely not out of the picture, but if Moss is hurt for an extended period, the Utes will have to rely heavily on the defense and figure out how to manufacture points. It doesn’t get any easier as Washington State’s explosive Air Raid rolls into town this Saturday.
6. Colorado Buffs (3-1); Previous Rank: #8
The Buffs went to the desert and beat undefeated Arizona State 34-31. Quarterback Steven Montez threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns (all to WR Tony Brown) showing once again his value and the potential this offense has. Colorado put up 34 points largely without Laviska Shenault, who was injured early in the game. The biggest problem for Colorado at this time is that their defense is struggling. They gave up 31 points to an ASU offense that hasn’t been great. If the Buffs want any chance at winning the South, they have to shore things up on the defensive side of the ball. They are currently giving up 30.8 points and 466 yards per game.
7. Washington State Cougars (3-1); Previous Rank: #2
Ok, wait a second. I stopped watching when the Cougs were up by 32 points. I woke up in the morning in disbelief when I saw the final score. Losing 67-63 to UCLA at home, after being up by so much, is utterly unacceptable. I wanted to put Wazzu further down the list, but ultimately cooler heads prevailed, as I think they are one of the better teams in the conference still. Anthony Gordon put up video game like numbers, throwing for 570 yards, nine touchdowns and broke Gardner Minshew’s single-game touchdown record. Ball security, special teams, and defense led to the Cougs’ downfall. They need to fix these things moving forward, especially because they are about to face way better teams than the Bruins. WSU heads to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes in what is sure to be an incredible game as both teams are looking to bounce back after tough losses.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1); Previous Rank: #4
After starting 3-0 and being ranked in the Top 25, the Sun Devils came up short against the Buffs, losing 34-31. This is the second year in a row the Herm Train has led a massive upset against a ranked Michigan State team, only to falter the week after. Quarterback Jayden Daniels threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns and is increasingly becoming more comfortable. Brandon Aiyuk is proving to be a viable threat at wide receiver and Eno Benjamin rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns. ASU seems like they’re close to being really good, but they are not quite there yet. The Sun Devils need to get better on the offensive line and continue to develop on the defensive side of the ball. Although they are only giving up 13.8 points per game, the Sun Devils will soon face teams with some really good offenses. They have a chance to back bounce in a big way as they head to Cal to take on the Golden Bears.
9. Arizona Wildcats (2-1); Previous Rank: #10
The Wildcats had a bye and still were able to move up a spot. They reeled off two straight victories after losing to Hawaii in their opener. The Wildcats have a lot of questions that need to be answered, both offensively and defensively, but their last performance against Texas Tech was promising. Quarterback Khalil Tate is still one of the most dynamic players in the entire conference, but he needs help. Will JJ Taylor get more touches? Will the wide receivers show improvement? We will have to wait and see. Defensively, the Wildcats are second to worst as far as points and yards allowed per game, but they looked much better in their last effort against Texas Tech. The Wildcats have a chance to prove themselves and take a step in the right direction as they face off against UCLA this weekend.
10. UCLA Bruins (1-3); Previous Rank: #12
I’m, not sure how or why-and I probably never will- but UCLA somehow pulled off one of the biggest come from behind victories in the history of college football. They were down 32 points in the third quarter and came back to beat Washington State 67-63. The Bruins had big time performances from all over. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for five touchdowns and rushed for two more. Demetric Felton had 150 yards receiving and a touchdown, and also returned a kickoff for a score. Kyle Philips returned a punt for a touchdown. The defense created 6 turnovers- 2 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries. All of that combined to have everyone asking: Why would you do this UCLA? I mean good for them, but couldn’t they have done this against a team that wasn’t undefeated or supposed to be a team that could win the conference? Death by parity thanks to the Bruins. UCLA travels to Arizona this week and looks to continue their winning streak.
11. Stanford Cardinal (1-3); Previous Rank: #9
Awww Stanford, the lovable Trees. Their rough season continued this past weekend, losing to Oregon 21-6. The Cardinal are spiraling downward with no real positive to latch onto this season. Offensively they struggle to put up points and defensively they are having trouble stopping anyone. Not a good combo. Stanford will look to snap their three-game losing streak and get back on track as they travel to Oregon State this weekend. I wanted to put them at #12 in the rankings, but this matchup will soon enough let us know who deserves to be there. Word on the street is that people think the Beavers have a shot to win this one. What a fall from grace for David Shaw and the Cardinal…
12. Oregon State Beavers (1-2); Previous Rank: #11
The Beavers had a bye in Week 4, but they had a nice win against Cal Poly the last we saw them. Quarterback Jake Luton and the offense have proven to be good so far, and they are only going to get better with former 4 star USC wide receiver Devon Williams deciding to transfer to Corvallis. Defense is Oregon State’s main concern. The Beavers are currently giving up 30 points and 452.7 yards per game. If they can improve a little on that side of the ball, they may have a shot to win a couple conference games, especially against Stanford and UCLA.